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We are being inundated with seed catalogs this year. It will be hard to find room among the tried and true to experiment with all the new things I'd like to try. Here are some edibles that caught my eye—as well as a few flowers.
Cucumber 'Green Light' is tops on my list. An All-America Selections National Vegetable Winner, it sounds like the cuke of my dreams. It bears all female flowers which will produce about 40 fruits per plant in 30 to 37 days from transplants or 37 to 42 days from seed. To conserve space, grow the 80 inch long vines on a trellis. The 3-1/2 inch long mini-cukes are spineless with tender skin, similar to my all-time favorite 'Diva'.
Broccoli 'Burgundy' is a purple sprouting broccoli with intense color and good flavor. It is completely edible (crown and steam), so less waste. Plus, this purple broccoli provides essential nutrients and antioxidants. Tender enough to eat raw or cooked. (Cook lightly to preserve the color.) Plants are 24 to 36 inches tall and start producing edible shoots in 60 days.
Lettuce 'Bronze Mini-Romaine' is perfect for containers or edging. The 8 inch tall red heads are slow to bolt in hot weather and reach a harvestable size in 21 to 40 days. Planting a few seeds every week will give you a constant supply for salads. Would do well in a window box on your balcony.
Image: Lettuce 'Bronze Mini-Romaine', courtesy of Bonnie Plant
Acorn squash 'Starry Night' is a new one from Johnny's Selected Seeds. If you are disappointed by acorn squashes that don't last long in storage this one promises to be different, lasting from fall harvest into the new year. It has attractive speckled skin, smooth creamy texture and sweet flavor. Each bushy plant produces about a half-dozen 2 to 2-1/2 pounds fruits and it has good resistance to powdery mildew.
Photo: Acorn squash 'Starry Night,'courtesy of Johnny's Selected Seeds
Pumpkin 'Blue Prince' is another AAS winner. Similar to 'Jarradale' it is a 7 to 9 pound, blue-skinned winter squash that can be used decoratively or eaten... or both! The 18 inch high, 5 foot long vines are mildew tolerant. The deep orange flesh is very sweet and not stringy. It matures in 110 days from seed or 90 days from transplants.
Photo: Pumpkin 'Blue Prince' is another AAS winner.
Watermelon 'Mambo' is also an AAS National Vegetable Winner and one to try if you struggle with 'Sugar Baby'. This has similar sized, round fruits, weighing about 10 to 12 pounds each. A high germination rate makes them easy to grow from seed. It offers a high yield even in cool cloudy weather, maturing in 75 days from transplanting or 90 days from seed. Since they hold well on the vine without over-ripening, you don't have to worry about losing the precious fruits if you are late in picking them. I can almost taste the juicy red flesh!
Photo: Watermelon 'Mambo,' an AAS Winner
Since downy mildew has become such a problem for basils, Rutgers University has bred new DMR (downy mildew resistant) varieties that have strong resistance to this destructive disease.
'Rutgers Devotion' is a Genovese-type with large, cupped, dark green leaves on a compact plant.
'Rutgers Obsession' is a compact growing Italian large leaf variety with glossy dark green pointed leaves. Both types are highly productive, fully mature in 74 days. If downy mildew has been plaguing your garden, give one of these a try.
We always manage to find room for a few new flowers. The first two are AAS National Herbaceous Perennial Winners for 2020:
Echinacea 'Sombrero Baja Burgundy' has 3 inch, violet-red flowers on a sturdy, branching, 18 to 20 inch tall plants. Grown in full sun, it blooms from midsummer to frost. Hardy to zone 4 and deer resistant, it is a favorite with birds and pollinators. We sell lots of coneflowers to florists and use them in our own bouquets, so this sounds like one we'll have to try.
Rudbeckia 'American Gold Rush' is a disease resistant and drought tolerant black-eyed Susan that blooms from July thru Sept. The compact plants grow about 2 feet tall in full sun and bear lots of 2 inch bright golden yellow flowers with classic black centers. Hardy to zone 4 it is also deer resistant and pollinator friendly.
Photo: Rudbeckia 'American Gold Rush'
Clematis 'Stand By Me'. Since I am a clematis addict I have to try this plant. It is not terribly new - honored as a Plant of Distinction by the University of Georgia in 2017 - but I am just now seeing it pop up in all the catalogs. It is a bush type rather than a climber that gets about 3 feet tall and has lots of blue, nodding bell flowers. Good for full sun to part shade and hardy in zones 3-7. Sign me up!
Photo: Clematis 'Stand By Me,' courtesy of Walters Gardens