Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Go Thru This Seed Catalog and

        Shortly after the new Richters seed catalog arrived a few days ago, my spouse handed it to me along with a highlighter and told me to mark what I want. Good grief, after all these years he should know better than to do a thing like that! I went through the catalog all right, but I didn't mark my choices right away because I knew I'd want far too many. My initial list is a full handwritten page.
       I have to consider costs here, especially since some of these plants are said to be difficult to start from seed and plants are sooo much more expensive. Then there’s the question of time and space for starting so many plants as well as the work of setting them out in the gardens. I should select only plants that will work in the projects I started last summer or that I’m planning now. No "that sounds interesting" plants that I have no place I want to put. So let me see if I can whittle this list down.
       Bergamot/Bee balm. Attracts bumble bees, but not honey bees. Red flowers, medicinal uses, aromatic, teas. Likes sun, but takes some shade in hot climates. Divide or take root cuttings in the spring, stem cuttings in the summer. I visualize patches of this in the fruit guilds.
       Bugle. Low growing, creeping perennial, purplish foliage, four to six inches height, zone 6. Oops. We’re in zone 5. Likes partial shade, medicinal uses, not edible. Great for edging and rock gardens as well as ground cover. Ajuga genevensis is a taller variety that likes shade. A. replans is common bulge. I’m so desperate for ground covers that I want to try this even if it is listed as zone 6.
       Calendula. Continuous bright flowers if deadheaded. Medicinal and culinary uses. This self-seeded some last year, so maybe I can get away with a pass on it.
       Double chamomile. There’s a saying regarding chamomile that "the more it is trodden, the more it will spread." Sounds invasive, but it is also said that this plant will aid plants growing nearby. Full sun, can aid in speeding composting, an infusion spray will prevent damping off. It’s an insect repellent when sponged on skin, and has medicinal uses. This can go in guilds too.
       English chamomile. Chamomile nobile "Treneague" is a non-flowering variety used for lawns. I’d like to see how this does as a grass substitute.
       Evening primrose. For the moon garden! Full sun, long flowering season, medicinal and culinary uses.
       Lovage. Full sun to part shade. Self-seeding, culinary, medicinal, tea. Six feet tall, hardy, to four or five feet wide so few plants needed. Best to sew in late summer, divide every four years. Need fertile soil, heavy mulch. For the guilds. I need some taller plants.
Black locust stumps wrapped to discourage growth,
surrounded by frost-killed nasturtiums.
       French marigolds. Interplant with roses, potatoes and tomatoes. Said to control insect pests and certain weeds. Cut flowers, pleasing scent. I grew somelast summer and was impressed by the size of the plants and the number of blooms. I don’t know about the insect and weed control, but I want them again, along with Aztec marigolds, which have the same properties and are also rich in lutein (and a good addition to chicken feed).
       Nasturtiums. I love nasturtiums! They grow in the shade, in poor soil, the flowers, seeds and leaves are edible, attract beneficial insects, provide habitat, and living mulch. I have some seeds left over from last year and expect some self-seeding from last year’s crop, so I can pass on these.
       Pyrethrum. Natural insecticide that is non-toxic to mammals and is nonaccumulative. Likes alkaline soil. Cut flowers, 2 feet tall, daisy-like. Hard to start from seeds. Good to have on hand, so I’ll put in for a plant or three.
       Dog Rose. This sounded interesting in the catalog, but with further research I find it is a potential invasive species like multiflora rose, with the addition of being a climber with sharp, hooked prickles. Pass!
       Creeping speedwell. A low growing perennial ground cover that prefers shade. May escape into lawn. Okay! Sounds very interesting.
       Sunflower. The one that sounds most interesting in the catalog is supposed to have extra-large seeds for eating. I’m picturing the stalks as a barrier along side one of the guilds, perhaps interplanted with climbing nasturtiums. I’d be interested in hearing if anyone has tried something like this and how it worked.
       Tansy. Repels ants, roaches, flies and mosquitoes. Used as a meat preservative before refrigeration. Two to three foot tall stems with fern-like leaves. Only the leaves are used medicinally. This is strong stuff that has been used to cause abortion so use sparingly. Difficult to start from seeds. I’ll try a plant or two.
       Visnaga (honeyplant). Ammi visnaga. Medicinal for muscle spasms and bronchial asthma and some other applications. Member of carrot family. I want to try this one, but I’m concerned that it could turn out to be another Queen Anne’s lace.
       Silver King Wormwood. A. ludoviciana "Silver King." White flowers and silver foliage. Medicinal uses. A weak tea made from some wormwood can be used as a garden spray to discourage slugs and aphids, but the spray can retard plant growth if overused. Another perfect choice for the moon garden.
       Yarrow. Like tansy as repellent, aid to other plants, and compost helper. This stuff grows wild around here so I’d probably be better advised to dig up some of that and transfer it to the guilds.
       I eliminated a few! For the rest, the potentials I see here make me more eager for spring. (On the other hand, I’m looking forward  to the relative inactivity of the next few weeks.)
       I’d welcome comments and advice on these selections, or on other plants you might recommend after reviewing posts on my gardening goals and efforts


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