Avant Gardener – 120913

Hosts Derek and Carolyn discuss more seed catalogs arriving in the mails and some of the seed varieties – new and old – that they will be planting in the coming year. A favorite is always the Seed Savers Exchange with its offerings of mostly heirloom varieties. The Fells were well pleased with an heirloom lima bean called the ‘Christmas’ lima bean, also known as ‘Large Speckled Calico’ because the beans are white with maroon markings. Also Derek notes that even after frost the pods hang on the vines for an indefinite period, allowing the beans to be harvested up to Christmas for use in soups and stews. Derek also likes to grow a sweet corn called Golden Bantam Improved. The original ‘Golden Bantam’ was introduced by Burpee Seeds in 1902, but the Improved strain has ears that are longer than the original. He also recommends a French heirloom lettuce, ‘Marvel of Four Seasons’ introduced in 1885. Although the variety will grow through four seasons in many parts of France, Derek cautions that over most parts of North America summers are too hot for it and so it is best planted as a crop to mature in spring or fall. It is a butterhead type with red leaves and a buttery-yellow center. The Totally Tomatoes catalog features a new tomato variety, ‘Indigo Rose’ (bred at Oregon State University) which is partially black and partially red and slightly larger than a cherry tomato. The interview with an expert this session is with Gary Doerr, North American marketing manager for Blooms of Bressingham, a British company that has bred many award winning perennial varieties including the hardy blue geranium, ‘Rozanne’ and shade-loving heuchera ‘Palace Purple.’ In the email segment Derek advises a listener on starting parsley from seed, and whether curly parsley or plain leaf parsley is the best variety to grow. Carolyn answers a lady who wants to know how to condition branches with winterberry so they last long in arrangements. Another listener, from Florida wants to know if poinsettias are poisonous since he has read contradictory reports about this, and also whether it is possible to save a poinsettia by planting it outdoors in a frost-free location.