March 17, 2013

Maine Gardener: As you ease into seedling mode, consider new veggies and flowers


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Other tomato introductions from Fedco are Heather hybrid, a replacement for Monsanto's Celebrity, and the cherry tomato Sweet Treats. The latter is tolerant to cracking, with a taste that is as close to a full-size tomato as one of its testers had ever eaten, and which I'd like to compare side-by-side with Jasper.

Peppers new to Fedco include Odessa Market, an heirloom variety from the Ukraine, which grows rapidly. It is "crisp, juicy, thick-walled and tasty," and quickly turns red with seven to 12 peppers per plant. Hidalgo Serrano was tested by a Topsham grower and said to have "a bright, fruity, hot flavor which lingers in the front of your mouth and makes your taste buds tingle all over." The fruits are 2.5 to 3.5 inches long, are finger fat, and turn red when they ripen.

Pinetree Garden Seeds in New Gloucester has a couple of unusual cucumbers. You can direct-seed cucumbers, but if you are going to grow seedlings, don't plant them until about May 1, and delay putting them in the garden until the first week in June.

Brown Russian, an heirloom introduced from the Ukraine in 1879, can be picked at 3 to 4 inches with yellowish-white skin, but it has a good and unique flavor when it is mature with crackled, rusty brown skin. Crystal Apple is green and apple-shaped, and should be picked young as a novelty cuke.

Pinetree has a new tomato, Wapsipinicon Peach, which comes from Iowa and produces 2-inch yellow fruit with a tinge of pink, a bit of fuzz on the skin, and a nectar-like juicy flavor.

New flowers are harder to find because most introductions are branded, Rich told me, which means you need a license to grow them.

Pinetree is introducing the Magnum series of pansies, which are designed for season-long performance in heat and cold, and compact at 10 inches while maintaining a branching habit. You can get three mixes -- Dream Formula with 11 colors, Pink Shades with two-toned flowers in various combinations, and Primrose, a butter cream to lemon chiffon mix -- as well as Fire Dream, a vibrant scarlet.

Fedco is offering Startrek Celosia, 40- to 48-inch plants with bright-colored rosy plumes at the top. The central plume is surrounded by secondary blossoms to create the effect of a star-shaped cone. Sunburst heliopsis is unusual in that it has variegated foliage, but still produces masses of bright yellow daisy-like flowers.

Johnny's is offering seeds for "Cheyenne Spirit" echinacea, which is a first-year flowering perennial in a mix of colors. This was another All America Selection for this year, an exception to the idea that it is tough to get new flowers as seed. Blossoms are 3 to 4 inches wide.

Baby's breath is a standard filler in flower arrangements, and "Covent Market Garden" is a new variety that works as a "cut and come again" plant. It is being offered by Johnny's.

Other new selections include three varieties of scabiosa; the Fama series, which produces flowers in the first year in white and deep blue; and a mix called the Pincushion Formula Mix. 

Tom Atwell has been writing the Maine Gardener column since 2004. He is a freelance writer gardening in Cape Elizabeth and can be contacted at 767-2297 or at:


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