Garden catalogs sow seeds of hope in dead of winter


Multiple copies of about 40 garden and nursery catalogs hit our mailbox each autumn, so I have lots of options to choose from. This year I’ve culled the possibilities to 15 companies with tons of items from each. That’s just a starting point, however, and the process of culling items is underway.

Every year I try something new. We eat a lot of kale and brussels sprouts, so I’m considering trying kalettes from Johnny’s Selected Seeds. I’ve seen them for sale in groceries — rosettes of tiny, curly kale leaves sprouting from stems where you’d expect to see the little cabbage shapes of brussels sprouts. I’m also longing for red brussels sprouts from Pine Tree Nursery, which are supposed to stay red after they’re cooked.

Another novelty on the list — red-podded snow peas. They won’t stay red after heating, so the catalog warns. But they’re different and perfect for snacking when I’m out watering and weeding the vegetable garden.

Other items are tempting, but not enough to put them on any list. I’ve fallen for Velour Berry petunias and will try Yellow Wave this year instead of pink. But I’m skipping freckled Starry Stars petunias. This is the first time I’ve seen seeds for them and there are several colors available, but I’ve learned I have too much sun to allow the freckles to decorate the petals. I’ll stick with solid colors.

Annuals look interesting, too, but outside of window box plants, experience tells me my enthusiasm for them is higher right now than it will be in April when I have to start the seeds. That probably means I’ll pass on black wheat, colored corn and eucalyptus. I’d like to have them for dried arrangements, but the fact is I never get around to drying and arranging much of anything.

Preserving energy is for stuff we eat, so peanut plants are still in the running. I’ve tried them before and gotten a puny crop. If I try again, it will be in containers where I can give them more heat and sun than in the garden.

I’m more willing to try seeds I can broadcast and forget. That’s why several kinds of columbines and poppies are on my list. The seeds are easy to get started; just clear the desired spot and toss them on the soil. Pat to ensure contact and the seeds do the rest.

Plants and seeds aren’t the only things I’m ordering. We had great success using planter’s paper in the vegetable garden last year and I’m getting larger rolls this year. The paper blocks weeds but self-composts so it doesn’t make a permanent barrier like plastic products.

Also on the list is insect barrier. I’ve had it with lacy kale leaves and partially munched brussels sprouts. The cute white cabbage moths flitting through our garden will just have to find another place to raise a family.

I’m late with my orders this year. Some items may be out of stock, some will lose their appeal before I get the order placed. But paging through the catalogs is a reminder winter won’t last forever, a comforting idea when snow flakes drift past the window.

Work shops for the PW Garden Club’s seminar Feb. 8 are filling fast. Please reserve your spot at



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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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