Seeds! Something to look forward to in winter

There’s not much for gardeners to do this time of year except dream and scheme for what is to come and imagine what the landscape would look like if it wasn’t frozen and buried under inches of dried-out sugar snow.

Until ... the seed catalogs start arriving. Every time I get one in the mail, it’s like Christmas. Opening a seed catalog during the dead of winter gives a gardener’s soul hope for spring, awakening memories of lush, vibrant gardens. I just wish I could read the seed catalogs swinging in my hammock outside in the dappled sun, instead of wrapped like a burrito in a blanket on the couch.

In case you need a little pick-me-up, here’s a rundown of my favorite seed catalogs. There’s some old ones, some new ones, and I’ll definitely be spending way too much on seeds again this year. But it’s a small price to pay for a gardener to have something to look forward to in the winter!

HIGH COUNTRY GARDENS

Gardeners had a bit of a scare last year when this well-respected nursery announced it was closing its doors in Santa Fe, N.M. High Country Gardens decided to keep its mail-order business and has made a comeback, which is great news for Western gardeners. I’ve had great success with everything I’ve ordered from this company. It specializes in drought-tolerant varieties that do well in our climate.

New this year: A Colorado-native wildflower is its plant of the year. Poncha Pass Red Sulfur Buckwheat, originally collected near Salida at the summit of Poncha Pass, is a beautiful, sun-loving miniature shrub. The gardens’ chief horticulturalist collected the seeds on a drive from Denver to Santa Fe, in a paper lunch bag. You can save yourself the trouble and buy one from High Country Gardens instead.

High Country Gardens also offers a wide variety of pre-planned gardens for those who find planning overwhelming or aren’t sure what to plant. Check out its Summer Showstopper Garden — designed to make your neighbors ooh and ahh — with low-maintenance, showy blooms. This garden is especially crafted for narrow strips of ground in hot, dry planting areas, and includes maintenance and care instructions as well as a planting diagram. The company also offers pre-planned seasonal gardens as well as gardens meant to attract butterflies and birds. Go to highcountrygardens.com.

SEED SAVERS EXCHANGE

If you’re looking for a gorgeous catalog to peruse, this jewel-toned glossy beauty is it. Plus, I learn so much from reading about the origination of the Seed Savers inventory. Numerous varieties of vegetables and flowers would have been lost forever if families hadn’t kept planting them and saving the seeds, and now you can grow them, too!

New this year: Interesting “bear paw” and “Hop McConnell speckled” corn, Gulley’s favorite lettuce, Hungarian blue breadseed poppy, two kinds of kale, “Tall Utah” celery, the Collier cucumber and Mamie Brown’s pink tomato. Go to seedsavers.org.

BOTANICAL INTERESTS

This Colorado seed company is still one of my favorites. It offers an impressive variety of heirloom vegetables and flowers, as well as varieties that just do well in our climate. I usually plan on ordering my favorite zucchini (Dirani Lebanese and Cocozelle), and end up getting lured in by all the gorgeous flowers Botanical Interests carries. You can’t beat its variety of zinnia and sweet peas.

New this year: Botanical Interests has a staggering 42 new varieties for 2014, including my favorite, chocolate flowers (yes, they smell like chocolate, and yes, they grow well here!). They also have a new yellow summer squash called “Cube of Butter” that I might have to order. Go to botanicalinterests.com.

SEEDS FROM ITALY

Although this company recently changed hands and locations, it’s still family-owned and reliable. It also rarely increases its prices and it has great customer service.

If you’re looking for non-GMO, guaranteed viable seed that does well in our climate, check this company out. Many varieties of vegetables and flowers that perform well in southern Italy do very well in our high-desert climate. The company’s large packets have so many seeds that I always order with sharing in mind. Overall, its seeds are a great deal.

New this year: Seeds From Italy has more than 30 new varieties of seed this year, including several new kinds of carrots, artichokes, broccolini and broccoli raab. They also have quite the assortment of chicory, which I have never grown. Go to growitalian.com.

KITAZAWA SEED CO.

If you’re looking for unusual varieties to grow, this is the place. Kitazawa Seed carries an astonishing array of Asian vegetables, Japanese heirlooms and other things I’ve only seen growing in exotic locations (Poha berries, Chinese long beans, etc.).

The company, started in 1917 by a Japanese immigrant named Gijiu Kitazawa in California, began selling seeds in plain manila packets with green printing, which are still used today. Although the Kitazawa family closed the business during World War II because they were forced to live in a relocation camp, they re-opened the business with mail ordering after the war.

Although the company’s catalog isn’t a spectacular work of art (it’s plain like the seed packets), it does offer a ton of information. Kitazawal Seed also has recipes for eating the fruits of your labors on its website, which could be very helpful if you grow bitter melon, daikon or chrysanthemum greens. Go to kitazawaseed.com.

Erin McIntyre is an advanced master gardener, writer and Grand Valley native. Please email her at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) with story ideas or feedback.


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