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 - - (877) 564-6697
Fedco - - (207) 426-0090
Sandhill - - (563) 246-2299 - (no print catalog, no orders by phone.)
Nichols - (800) 422-3984 (No print catalog.)
Geoseed - (888) 645-2323 
Jelitto - - (502) 895-0807
HPS (800) 322-7288

The Garden Watchdog has a directory of more than 7,000 mail order gardening companies with reviews from gardening customers.  

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.