First Catalogues of 2008

Photo by Gayla Trail

The first seed catalogues of 2008, Richters Herbs and West Coast Seeds (in that order), recently arrived in my mailbox, a sure sign that spring is just around the corner even if the outdoor temperatures say otherwise.

I’m going to admit here that while I have the words, “Start to plan this year’s gardens” jotted down for Wed. January 2008 as a reminder in my day planner, I haven’t actually started much of anything. Okay who am I kidding? I haven’t started anything period. Nothing is started. I did a bit in the fall when my hand was forced by the Great Canadian Garlic Collection but nothing has happened since. The fact that I had to write it down as a reminder at all is a sure sign that I am either busy (which I am) or that my personal garden style, which tends more towards whim and fancy doesn’t lend itself to hardcore planning. It’s not that I don’t plan, it’s just that I make “plans” that are always amenable to last minute changes. While I am great at “selling” others on a leftover seedling that I’ve got to get rid of, I am also easily persuaded by the seeds and seedlings of others. Come planting season for every plant I get rid of, there are an equal number of unplanned additions that are welcomed into the fold for one reason or another.

My gardens are small and limited by any number of factors (i.e. light, location) which means that one or two unaccounted plants can throw even the most flexible arrangement out the window. As an example: I don’t like eggplant. In fact eggplant makes my mouth itch, but I have been persuaded to grow another gardener’s leftover eggplant seedling/s on more than one occasion.

But not this year! This year I am going hardcore on the planning. Don’t even try to stop me. I am unstoppable. I am an undeviating, relentless machine for planning. Once I get started. Which I haven’t.

So of course, like every year, as the catalogues arrive on my doorstep I am circling everything with a fervor knowing full well that I will never find the space for my wishlist. I haven’t made any purchases so far but here’s what I have found of interest in the first two catalogues.

Just a note to state that neither of these companies are paying me to write about them. If that ever were to happen I would indicate as such.

From Richters Herbs

  • Medinette Basil – It is no secret that I love basil and am always on the lookout for varieties to try. This one is touted as a compact basil with leaves that are larger than your typical bush basil. Sounds good to me.
  • Calypso Orange Calendula (Calendula officinalis ‘Calypso Orange’) – I particularly love calendula in my community garden plot because it is beautiful and long-blooming, self-seeding in the garden, the flowers and leaves are edible, it has great skin-healing properties, and it grows well as a companion alongside other less attractive food plants. The calendula always seems to invite all kinds of spiders and beneficial insects into the garden and I rarely leave a visit to my plot without taking home a handful of fresh blooms to put in a vase or dry. Richters is promoting this variety as particularly medicinally potent variety with dark centres that make it worth trying for the beautifying factor.
  • Society Garlic (Tulbaghia violacea) – Tastes like a mild garlic but it not a garlic at all but an amaryllis. I am particularly sold on the pretty flowers that are said to bloom throughout the summer.
  • Afrodite Parsley (Petroselinum crispum crispum) – Although parsley has a special place in my heart as the first plant I ever grew, I have to admit that I don’t particularly like to grow it and pretty much haven’t since the early 90s. But I’ve been thinking this is the year to pick it up again and this curly variety described as looking like “lush moss” might have me sold.

From West Coast Seeds

  • Orca Beans – Okay let’s face facts here: I have such a backlog of beans waiting in cue to be grown in my gardens that there is no way these are going to make it anytime soon. The catalogue states this type is “fun for kids” but as a gardener who gets excited about pretty beans I have to say these are fun all around. So pretty! And an heirloom to boot. And you know me, give me a good back story and I’m sold.
  • Purple Sprouting Broccoli (Brassica oleraceae) – This cold-hardy, spring sprouting biennial sounds fascinating but my guess is that it’s not really suitable for my climate. I’d love to hear from anyone who has tried it.
  • ‘Atomic Red’ Carrot (Daucus carota) – I’m pretty partial to ‘Purple Haze’ but this bright red carrot sure is hard to resist.
  • ‘Black Spanish Round’ Radish (Raphanus sativus) – Now that I have mastered the radish it is time to branch out into new terrain.
Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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18 thoughts on “First Catalogues of 2008

  1. Gayla,

    What are your favorite most fool-proof seeds for a first timer? I have a nice sunny patch in the back yard where I’m going to do a raised bed. Definitely want to do tomatoes and basil and probably snap peas and green beans. Any favorite varieties that you find especially successful?

  2. uh huh. i got my richter’s fix earlier this week. ordered up a mess of seeds and such. i have the same problem with circling.

    what fun!

  3. Darn good question Laura – I’d love to know the same thing.

    I’m very much looking forward to adding my name to a number of organic seed catalog lists once I get to Portland in June.

  4. I love looking at seed catalogues too…my favourite is the Seed Savers, of course, but West Coast and Richters are fun to look at, too. I still need to take you to Richters! Maybe this year?

  5. Laura & Victoria: That’s a fairly big question — I’ll answer as a separate article. In the meantime check out this article on tomato varieties.

    Amy: I like Seedsavers too but their catalogue hasn’t arrived in the mail yet. I don’t get a catalogue from every company I have purchased from — all that paper and printing is wasteful — but it is hard to deny the pleasure of the highlighting and circling and being able to choose seeds ANYWHERE. Yes I’d love to go. I forgot to mention that the Herb Fair is canceled this year. Boo!

  6. Hi Gayla, just thought I’d say an interview with you in Gardens Illustrated has hit the stands in the UK. Looks great – they seem quite taken with the guerrilla gardening thing!

  7. Thanks Carrie. I’m waiting on my copy to come in the mail. I didn’t know it was out already. There was a lovely little review in the Dec issue but I could not find it anywhere here in Toronto.

  8. If I remember rightly, I gave up on the purple sprouting broccoli because the plants were so huge – I think they were more shrub than vegetable. Maybe not a good variety if space is an issue.

  9. Hey Gayla I was in a Borders Bookstore her in San Antonio, Texas recently and my boyfriend came across a girl sitting down reading your book along with a lot of other garden books and he ran up to me and was like “look look someone else here knows about your you grow girl too” I thought it was cute, because he was so excited to see someone else down here know about you. You really do reach far from Canada! BTW: thanks for the xmas list you posted here on the site. I hadn’t checked up here in a while, but he did for christmas and ordered me lots of goodies! he said you grow girl saved him this christmas because he had no clue what to get me this year. lol so thank you Gayla!

  10. No herb fair??!! double boo! I got the same cataglogues the other day and am super excited about planning this year as well. Some of my goals are to grow less tomatos as i’m always planting more than i should or have room for, starting things out earlier in my cold frame, and getting spinach to grow. Spinach doesnt’ do well for me, slugs like it.

    Amy: one of the funnest afternoons i’ve ever had was at Richters last year. What a blast!

  11. Sam: Thank you! I will keep that in mind if I decide to try it out this year.

    Irene: I love your story. And I love that the list helped. In the future I will be even more mindful of the fact that non-gardeners are using it too! Wanna make sure you get some good stuff.

    Andrea: Slugs. Ugh.

  12. Speaking of seed starting, I”m making the leap and getting a grow light of some sort since the window-sill starting is either too cold or too undependable here in New England. Which one to get, though? There are so many- and wow can they get spendy. I’ll have one table (like a drafting desk) full of starts- a very manageable set and similar to what I’ve managed in the past on the window sills, counters and random sunny spots around the house.

  13. We are so happy we found your site! We are avid gardeners ourselves and are thrilled to find a community that we can relate to. We’ve even dedicated a whole web site to Viet Herbs! Thank you so much for creating such a great gathering place of like minded gardeners!

  14. You’ve got me excited for spring too!

    Beware – Tulbaghia is STIIINKY!! I’d think twice before planting it anywhere where it will be close to noses. :)

  15. Sarah: Good to know. All descriptions make it sound like a much more civilized version of garlic. This is why I always try growing and experiencing plants firsthand before speaking about them with even the remotest sort of authority.

    Thanks White on Rice Couple!

  16. Hi Gayla: I grew the Atomic Red carrots 2 years ago along with a row of Yellow (French Gold) the place i bought them from (Along the Garden Path) the are not around anymore. The Yellow Carrots where boss. Trying another type of Yellow called Solar this summer. The Atomic Red where not that great. A few big one a few small a few deformed ones. Yellow (French Gold) i would give them 4.5/5. they where a bright yellow almost like a bannana popcycle, very nice.

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