Many seed catalogs are here and I try to get my order in soon, as a number of things call for starting 12 to 15 weeks before the last frost.  As usual I want to try something I have never had before.  And there are hundreds of those!!!

          LISIANTHUS (Eastoma species) is one flower that I have failed to get started more times than not. It is also called “Prairie Gentian”, and “Texas Bluebell”. It is said to be “temperamental” by some sources.  There are 2 heights. A short 8 to 10 inch one and a taller series 24 to 38 inches. I like the tall ones.  Both are said to have 33,000 seeds per ounce.  This will give you some idea of ability to grow properly.  If your planting media is coarse, the tiny seeds can “fall in” and get lost.  One thing I have noticed this year, the companies are all selling pelleted seed.  They are slow to germinate so directions say: 1. Do not cover. 2. Start 12 to 13 weeks before the last frost, 3.  Keep soil moist but not wet. 4. Soil temperature must be above 75 degrees F. 5. Reduce soil temperature after germination.  I intend to try again as the flowers last and last in a bouquet. 

          For the DANDELION (Achorus intybus) eaters there are special kinds for sale with 35 to 48 days after planting before eating. The Italian ones are actually CHICORY but are listed with the DANDELION for salad greens. The true DANDELION (Taraxacum officinale) is in the herbs as an annual, and in some as a perennial.  Roots are roasted for a coffee, leaves as a blood cleanser, diuretic, or liver stimulant.  The seeds cost about 3 cents each.  I have a new little book, “The Teeth of the Lion”, telling the story of how it got to the United States and why. It is listed as the first new plant to “invade” the United States but they were not brought as a flower, but as medicine.  French, Spanish, and English all record bringing DANDELIONS to the new world.

          I have noticed a great number of red lettuces in the spring’s offerings.  It looks like a gorgeous plant to line the paths but it doesn’t like hot weather and does well in areas of light shade.  My collection of rabbits would make its life short so it would need to go in a fenced area early in the year. My cockatiels like red lettuce so I have decided to try “Antago” perhaps inside the fence with the lilies.  It has tightly curled outside edges of the leaves.  Since lettuce is mainly water it will also need a constant damp soil. 

          Last fall I bought some BLACK PEARL PEPPER (Capsicum annium) plants to fill in a space. It was hot and they grew so very fast with deep purple leaves, producing shiny blackish purple fruit that later turned red.  It was a 2006 All America selection, said to be very hot, and with a warning not to rub ones eyes after touching the plant.  I don’t eat hot peppers so it didn’t cause me any trouble but its shiny color was super gorgeous with its light green background of a tree peony. So this year I have seed coming to have more of the plants.  It has a 140 days to ripening date so I will probably start the seeds under lights the first of March.  This is probably why I didn’t find the plants available until August.  They like full sun. 

          Johnny’s Select Seeds gave three ways to check your watermelon for ripeness:  1. The tendril nearest the point on the vine where the fruit attaches is browning or dead.  2. The spot where the fruit rests on the ground is yellow. And 3. You hear “punk” not “pink” or “pank” when you snap the melon with your fingers. With three ways to tell if it is ripe, it should be easy.  When I was a kid we grew watermelons in the corn field and drilled a hole. Not too bright an idea as they didn’t keep well after that but it worked “fair” as we only drilled the ones we had already decided were ripe.

          One plant I have never grown (or seen) is OSCAR (G physocarpus).  I found it in the BUTTERFLY WEED section of the catalog.  Instead of the long pods, it has round, fuzzy ones to be used in fresh or dried bouquets.  It is suppose to get 5 feet tall and as with other ASCLEPSIS it likes poor, well drained soil. The seed is coming so I will let you know how dramatic it turns out. 

          Did you know that BUTTERFLY WEED (Asclepsis tuberosa) is named for the Greek god “Asklepios”, the god of healing. It is also known as pleurisy root and was used by the Indians to treat asthma, bronchitis, and as a poultice to treat bruises, swelling rheumatism, and sores.  It has a beautiful, bright orange blossom followed by a long pod. We used to play with them when I was a small girl.  If you slit it length wise there is a baby’s head (seeds), covered by a white blanket which later becomes a parachute to send seeds out into the world.  My plant is growing in the parkway as it likes poor soil and full sun.  Its roots are so deep it is almost impossible to transplant after its first year.  Monarch butterflies prefer its leaves to lay their eggs and feed the larvae.  As the Monarchs travel north from Mexico they stop and lay their eggs and die.  Their children, sometimes several generations later seem to know how to get back to Mexico for the winter. 

          For several years I have had the eyeball plant (Spilantes oleracia). It’s found in the herb section to help the immune system as an antiviral and antifungal.  It has a round yellow flower with a rounded red eyeball in the center.  Some years you can find plants in the garden center or you can start your own seeds inside.  It is fairly fast growing so you have plenty of time to start it outside and have it bloom.  I have never had it reseed so I need new plants every year. 

            In Seymour’s catalog I found LILAC POMPON POPPY SEED. It is said to have pale lilac powder puff heads that look like feathers a few feet away.  It is an annual and I am going to try to add it to my other POPPIES. They all have a bad habit of dying back as soon as seeds are ripe. Most need to be planted very early in the spring or the fall before. 

Pinetree catalog has 4 inch “Cow pots” made of composted cow manure (no smell).  They remain compact until planted in the garden and then in 4 weeks dissolve and feed your new plants.  I have sent for a package of 12 to see what happens. Also their catalog has 20 pages of tool, books, and gadgets for the gardener. How about bat guano collected from caves? Or fox urine or coyote urine in fluid ounce bottles or shaker granules.  They have State and federal agencies permits in order collect it from home grown animals.

The “Cow Pots” are supposedly perfect for tomatoes.  This year I have seeds of the RED LIGHTENING, SUNGOLD, and CELEBRITY TOMATOES. I have a daughter in Phoenix who loves fresh Tomatoes. She plants hers in January and February and by late June they have burned up so if she comes in August or September I need to have a good supply.

Copyright 2008