Tuesday, January 31, 2017


Years ago petunias were offered only in solid colors -  typically red, pink, white and purple. Now they come in yellow and even black. There are loads of new petunias being offered for the 2017 growing season and here are a few of them.

The big "break through" in 2016 for new petunias  was "Blue Skies" produced by Selecta, a company that serves the North American market with vegetative propagated bedding plants and poinsettias.

"Blue Skies"

It looks like a purple/blue flower that has been splattered with white and every bloom is different.   It was an instant success and "flew off the shelves."  This year that plant has a big sister, "Pink Sky."  I've only seen photos of this plant, but I am definitely going to grow it.

"Pink Skies"

Another trend that is being tried in many color combinations is to have the eye of the petunia be one color and have the rest of the pedals blend out  to another color.

Potunia Purple Halo

 Sweetunia Johnnie

"Crazytunia Moonstruck"

There are oodles of new patterns turning up on petunias blooms as well.  One that I will definitely try this summer is "Amore Queen of Hearts."

"Amore Queen of Hearts."

It will be interesting to see if the heart pattern is prominent in "real life."

Years ago all petunias were started as seeds.  Petunias that you purchase in six-packs are still started from seed, but now most of the petunias you see in hanging baskets and sold individually in pots are grown from cuttings.  They are more vigorous growers and generally benefit from more fertilizer.    Because they don't put their energy into producing seeds they produce more blooms.  Most of these petunias from cuttings don't need dead heading.

The downside is that they are more expensive.  The greenhouse owner not only pays quite a bit for each cutting, they pay royalties and a propagation fee.  The only way to grow more of the same plant is to take cuttings, which is legally prohibited.  The plants are registered and trademarked.  There are actually plant police who come around to large greenhouse operations to make sure their copyrighted plant is not being used for making more cuttings.

Petunias will remain one of gardeners favorite flowers and they just get easier to grow and of course the choice is now huge.

Monday, January 23, 2017

More Award Winning Plants for 2017

Europe’s top award for new plants is the Fleuroselect Award. These are flowers grown on trial grounds across Europe “…proven to clearly supersede existing varieties in terms of breeding innovation and beauty.”

If a new plant wins both the AAS designation (see previous blog) and the Fleuroselect “quality mark” I will definitely give it a go.  This year one flower falls in that category -  Profusion Red zinnia.  


Profusion Red Zinnia - AAS Photo

(Profusion Cherry zinnia also won both awards in 1999).  The Profusion series (and Zahara series) are shorter zinnias with tons of flowers and they are resistant to powdery mildew.

Others that have won both awards in the recent past include Fresh Look Red celosia  and Tidal Wave Red Velour petunia, both good plants that I grow.  

Fresh Look Celosia

Senator Rose Bicolor  is one of three flowers that won the Fleurosecect award for this year.  Its pink flowers stand out against the bronze foliage and I have always found that the darker foliage stands up the best in full sun.

Senator Rose Bi-color Begonia- Fleuroselect photo

The AAS program has recently added “ornamentals from vegetative cuttings.”  These are plants that can not be grown from seed, only from cuttings of the same plant.  Starting in 2019 there will also be an AAS award for herbaceous perennials.  

While I study new award winning plants carefully, I also browse the reviews of plant performance in the many trial garden sites on the internet.  Most of these plantings are sponsored by a university or a large wholesaler of plants.  If one plant gets top scores from  several northern trial gardens I am probably going to try it.

The trial gardens at Ball Seed in Illinois

Seeds for two of my favorite AAS winners seem to have disappeared - Green Comet broccoli and Bonanza Bolero marigold.  I assume this is because there are only a few vegetable seed companies left in the world and they are eliminating the older varieties in favor of new, “improved” hybrids.  

Like most gardeners, I have my favorite varieties that I grow every year and at the same time  I am also easily tempted to try something new.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Award Winning New Plants - The Best of the Best?

The best known award for annual plants in the US is the All American Selections (AAS) program.  New flowers and vegetables are grown side-by-side with comparable available varieties and are evaluated by garden performance, size, taste, disease-resistance  and any other characteristic important to the home gardener. 

2017 Winner Okra Candle Fire

Judges deem the performers that  show clear superiority to their comparison as AAS winners.  There were 16 AAS winners this year, including a red zinnia, a miniature watermelon, and a purple okra. 

There was a time when I grew every new AAS winner each year.  This stopped in 1992 when “Thumbelina Carrot” (above) was designated an AAS vegetable.  No way was I going to go to the trouble of germinating and weeding carrots to harvest a root “roughly the size of a golf ball” at the end of the season.  New is not always better.

AAS was founded in 1932 and hundreds of plants have been designated winners.  Very few of the early winners have had staying power.   Most of those “new” prize-winning seeds are no longer available, demonstrating that they either did not live up to the judges’ expectations or they have been superseded by an improved variety.  

2017 Winner Celosia Asian Garden

Some remain stalwarts in many gardens today.  Sensation cosmos was an AAS winner in 1936 and Early Prolific Yellow squash won in 1938.  Red Sails lettuce won in 1985   Other previous AAS winners that I grow are Rocket snapdragons, Snowcrown cauliflower, Carmen peppers, the Profusion series of zinnias, certain petunias from the Wave series and Bright Lights chard.  Two widely grown tomatoes that have received the AAS award are Celebrity (1984) and Big Beef (1994). 

2017 Winner Yellow Patio Choice tomato

More about new plants winning awards in the next blog....

Sunday, January 8, 2017

A New Year and New Plants

My brother lives in San Francisco and he doesn't understand Vermonters' penchants towards bright and flashy flowers.   I explain that our growing season is short and we want to pack in as much showy bloom as we can.  Along with craving hot weather and bright days we crave color.  What follows are a few of the new bright blooming flowers I will be offering this year, started from seed.  

One catalogue calls Dianthus Jolt Cherry "...a shocking blaze of super charged color all summer long." I like this new series of dianthus because it is easy to grow, branches out nicely and makes a good "cut." It is a cross between Sweet William and annual dianthus. It is 16 - 20 inches tall and continues to set flowers all summer without setting seeds. And it is very flashy.

Dianthus Jolt Cherry from PanAmerican Seed

The Select Seeds catalogue says of nasturtium Cherrelle "...our new favorite double nasturtium with great flower power, outstanding in early summer and early fall when the summer heat wanes.  "This is a large-flowered new introduction with full-bodied double flowers held well above the unspotted green foliage. It is semi-trailing.

Nasturtium Cherrelle

Profusion Red zinnia won both the All American Section (AAS) and Fleuroselect Award for 2017. The Profusion series of zinnias are prolific bloomers of 2" flowers.  They are disease resistant, easy to grow, and continuously bloom  all season.  Judges appreciated the true red color of this zinnia which doesn’t fade in summer.

Red Profusion Zinnia from Sakata 

I like using begonias for hanging baskets,  in particular the newer sun tolerant versions.  Because they do not have a robust root system they don't need as much water as other plants in baskets.  Santa Cruz looks terrific in a hanging pot, but the falling flowers can be messy and are best used as outdoor baskets.

Santa Cruz Begonia

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Seed Catalog Recommendations for 2017

I recently wrote an article about my current favorite seed catalogs and it dawned on me that it would be a good blog entry.  I have been ordering seeds and vegetative cuttings for months now and will start blogging soon on new varieties that I anticipate will be hits.

Meanwhile, Here I am scouring the seed catalogs ...

And here is the article!


     January provides an antidote for cabin fever - the arrival of seed catalogs.  In choosing my seed catalogs I consider the selection, the price, the descriptions and past experiences with germination and service from those companies.  Some catalogs seem to be written by a PR company.   I want to sense that the person writing the descriptions has actually grown the plant.  I have been gardening for 50 years and my choice of seed companies has settled down to seven main sources. 
     Most gardeners in the northeast, including myself, like Maine’s Johnny’s Selected Seeds catalog.  They offer straight forward descriptions for the serious gardener and a nice variety of garden tools.  I appreciate their  selection of sunflowers and cut flowers.  But, before I order anything from Johnnies I look for the same seed at another Maine company,  Fedco,  because the quality is the same and the price is guaranteed to be lower.   
     Fedco is a cooperative, owned by employees and customers, and profit does not drive the business.    They offer a lot of open-pollinated and heirloom seed, and a limited selection of hybrids. They often source their seeds from smaller farms and germination rates are published on the packets.  The catalog is quirky, offering lots of information as well as a dose of political rambling. It’s printed on plain newsprint, all black and white.   Sketches, vintage etchings, expert advice and humor fill each page in a chockablock fashion that make it a fun read.
     I grow loads of different heirloom tomatoes and if I can’t find what I want at Fedco  I go to Sandhill Preservation Center in Iowa.   This is a family operation selling only open-pollinated seeds.  Although they have a web site where you can drool over more than 300 varieties of red tomatoes,  they do not take orders online or on the phone and they do not accept credit cards.  I don’t mind writing a check and putting it in an envelope. 
     Because of the expense and the problems small businesses face with bulk mailing they have decided this year to no longer offer free print catalogs.   They grow the seed they sell for over 80% of the varieties they offer and put their effort into preserving and growing heirloom plants rather than marketing their business. The choice is amazing and the prices are very reasonable.
     Another  seed catalog that is online only  is Nichols Garden Nursery out of Oregon.  They offer a great choice of common and hard to find herbs and vegetable seeds.  You can find golden bantam corn, butter crunch lettuce and green arrow peas at Nichols.  You can also find Zaatar (“wild marjoram”),  Agretti (“land seaweed”) and Melokhiya  Corchorus olitorius:   “The most widely consumed vegetable in Egypt… Mild tender leaves thicken broths and soups and added to medleys of braised greens and stews. Dries well to use in winter soups.”  Nichols gives growing descriptions and often cooking directions.  I also buy their herb blends for cooking.  
     I buy most of my flower seeds from GeoSeed in South Carolina. Although the catalog says “Seed for Professionals” I called the company and was told anyone can order.  If the order is under $100, the shipping and handling charge will be $6.00.  Not only does this family-run business have a huge selection, its prices are terrific.  
     For example, at Burpees, buying 50 seeds of  Oklahoma Mix zinnia costs $4.95.  At Geoseed buying 1,000 Oklahoma Mix Zinnia costs $4.95.  Because it is essentially a commercial business, you are committed to buying a Trade packet, so in this case, unless you have a lot of zinnia-loving friends, 1,000 seeds might be going overboard.  However the more expensive seeds are sold in smaller amounts.  They offer 100 Zahara Starlight Rose zinnia, one of my favorites, for $3.70.  Burpee offers 50 of the same seeds for $5.95.  GeoSeed does not sell vegetables.
     For perennial seeds my go-to catalog is Jelitto.  They offer more than 3,700 varieties of seeds.   Many perennial seeds can be tricky to germinate.  Jelitto carries a line of pre-treated, ready-to-sprout (no cold stratification needed) seed that they designate "Gold Nugget" seed.  They are pricey, but  the results more than justify the extra cost for me.
       Horticultural Products and Services (HPS) out of Randolph Wi., is geared towards the grower, but they also offer smaller seed packets at excellent prices.  They have a broad selection of annual flowers, herbs and vegetables and I always end up getting some seeds from them as well.
     Inevitably I realize I’m missing something at the last minute and then its off to the local stores to check out their seed racks.  


Johnnies - www.Johnnieseeds.com - (877) 564-6697
Fedco - www.fedcoseeds.com - (207) 426-0090
Sandhill - www.sandhillpreservation.com - (563) 246-2299 - (no print catalog, no orders by phone.)
Nichols - www.nicholsgardennursery.com (800) 422-3984 (No print catalog.)
Geoseed - www.geoseed.com (888) 645-2323 
Jelitto - www.jelitto.com - (502) 895-0807
HPS -www.hpsseed.com (800) 322-7288

The Garden Watchdog has a directory of more than 7,000 mail order gardening companies with reviews from gardening customers. http://davesgarden.com/products/gwd/  

Thursday, July 21, 2016

So Many Daylilies - and ALL on SALE

I suppose there are still some gardeners who associate daylilies with the common Hemerocallis fulva, an orange flowered species native to much of Asia.  This plant spreads by underground stolons and roots, making it difficult to fully dig out.  A tiny piece of stem quickly becomes a stand of dull orange daylilies.  In my area it is known as the "ditch lily' because it  fills in ditches and crowds out other plants.  Some states actually list this daylily as an invasive plant.  They have their place, but not in a daylily garden.

If I wanted a bright flash of orange in my perennial bed I would try "Primal Scream" daylily or perhaps "Holiday Delight."



Fulva is muddy compared to these beauties.


Another color folks often avoid (too "common"?) in daylilies is yellow.  "Omomuki" has wonderful yellow tones with a nice ruffled edge.  I also like the way Mary's Gold stands out in any garden.  It has huge strong blooms and is a good grower.  Ferengi's Gold is another pretty yellow daylily with great ruffling on the pedals.




Daylilies bloom mid summer and are cheerful additions to any garden.  They come in every shape and color, although hybridizers have yet to come up with a true blue.  Ours are all large field-dug plants in gallon containers for $7.99 each.  We have a sale going on right now - buy three and get the fourth one free.

The daylily shown above is "Larry's Obsession" and no, I don't have it for sale.  A Missouri resident, Larry Gooden, paid $6,300 at a Canadian-American daylily meeting to name this flower.  (Photo from National Gardening Association.)

Saturday, July 16, 2016


ALL of our daylilies are on sale for $7.99 each.  AND if you buy three, the fourth one is FREE.

These are large plants with many blooms, fans and scapes.  The selection is great right now and I doubt you can beat the prices anywhere.  Sorry - no mail order.  Amanda's Greenhouse - Rt 215 so., Cabot, VT.  Open Tuesday - Sunday, 9 am - 6 pm.






Sunday, April 10, 2016

MORE "New" Flowers for 2016 at Amandas Greenhouse

Customers often ask for flowering vines.  Morning glories and clematis sell well.  This year I am trying clerodendrum, which is an annual grown from cuttings.

(Photo courtesy Jolly Farmer)
Clerodendrum is a vining "tropical" appearing plant.  The blooms have white outer petals and bright red inner petals.  It is commonly grown further south where it is known as "glory bower."  The selling points to me are that it was described as "easy to grow" and "a fast climber."

The 'Sunpatiens' series are excellent new guinea impatiens for full or partial sun and they are exempt from the impatiens downy mildew.  

                                                                             (Photo courtesy Jolly Farmer)
Sunpatiens Spreading Tropical Orange scored at the top of many university trial gardens last year. The flowers are vibrant and long lasting and the plants can easily be planted 20 inches apart as they will fill in the space within six weeks.

There are MANY kinds of dahlias and they can be grown from seeds, cuttings, or tubers.  

                                             HYPNOTICA BOCOLOR ROSE DAHLIA
                                                                                (Photo courtesy Jolly Farmer)
I offer dahlias started from seed in six packs and dahlias started from cuttings in 4.5 inch pots ($3.99).  Last year Hypnotica  lavender dahlia from cuttings performed beautifully, so this year I am adding Hypnotica Bicolor Rose.

Bacopa sutura is an ideal plant for containers as long as it is kept watered.   It has white  flowers which tumble out of window boxes and baskets.   This flower always looks wonderful in the spring, but it peters out for me as the season goes on.

J B Party Bacopa is actually a relative of bacopa and is described as "a Jamesbrittania type of bacopa."    It performs in a similar manner with warmer colors and better heat tolearance.  It should be good for baskets and mixed containers.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

New and Unusual Annual Flowers for 2016

When it comes time to order new plants for the next growing season, I am the proverbial kid in the candy store.  I want to try out everything that's new.  Unfortunately most of the recently developed cultivars are grown from cuttings and they are sold in flats of at least 50 starts.  So I am forced to experiment with a large number of plants.  I always hope my customers share my curiosity.                                           

Night Sky Petunia is one of the more unusual new plants I have to offer this year.  I’m not crazy     about this speckled look, but I don’t care for black petunias either and customers seem to love them. 

Photo Courtesy Fleuroselect

Xanthos means yellow in Greek and that’s what this new cosmos bipinnatus is all about. Xanthos Cosmos is dwarf, early flowering and uniform.    The soft yellow should be great for bouquets. Cosmos really need deadheading to keep the new flowers coming.


Bidens is kind of a sprawly plant which is ideal for mixed containers, but not so great as a stand-alone plant.  Until recently Bidens has been limited to solid yellow.  Bidens beedance red stripe is a new take on this cultivar.  Its star-shaped orange/red blossoms with yellow centers will spill down the edges of window boxes, large pots, and planters.  Bidens is long blooming and drought resistant,

photo courtesy Westhoff

The Estrella series of Verbena come from Germany.  The blooms are close to foliage unlike many other verbenas that tend to be leggy.   Estrella Voo Doo Star is good for baskets and is drought resistant.

Photo courtesy Westhoff

Crazytunia Cheesecake with it's red and white star appearance did well in my greenhouse last year, so I will give this Starlight Blue a try this season.  I will soon share MORE "new" annuals to be offered at Amanda's Greenhouse.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

New Annual Flowers for the 2016 Growing Season - Calibrachoa

It’s time to rev up my blog again.  I have been planting seeds and rooted cuttings have started to arrive.   One of the most popular of these cuttings is calibrachoa (spell check makes it very hard to write that word). This plant features loads of small bell-like flowers that resemble miniature petunias. The original species is native to South America, but all calibrachoas are now hybrids and there are hundreds to choose from.  

Last year I ran out of calibrachoas (often requested as “million bells” by customers) in the middle of May, so this year I will double production, as well as introduce some new varieties. 

The Callie series are nice for hanging baskets and I have used the Callie Light Blue (above) for two years in front of the Cabot Village Store.    This year I am adding Callie Dark Blue and Callie White

I have had good results with the Noa series of calibrachoas, so I will add from that line  Noa Sunset,  Noa Mega Pink and Noa Cherry Blossom. All three of these scored high in last year's trial gardens.



                                                              NOA CHERRY BLOSSOM
       Photos courtesy Danziger Flower Farm

I seem to have selected a lot of new very bright flowers when pondering the orders this winter.   Among them are Aloha Tiki Neon and Minifamous Cherry Red.



While Calibrachoa is closely related to petunias, in 1985 it was determined that this plant had 18 chromosomes, while petunia had 14.   In 1988 wild samples were collected from South America and, after breeding, the first 'Million Bells' was released in 1992.   Their trailing habit make them ideal for hanging baskets, containers or as a small area ground cover.  They are actually a tender perennial, so can also survive low temperatures.