Posts Tagged ‘Botanical Interests’

There are 162 days until Thanksgiving, so you’d better hurry if you plan on decorating this year.  For a cornucopia of color, get your seeds in the ground before the end of June, popping in everything you need to stuff that horn in November.

Start by planting two staples of fall décor – miniature gourds and tiny pumpkins.  These must-have accents nestle into centerpieces and are easy to grow in our hot, dry summer. Each vine produces enough decorative fruit to make any decorator happy, but because they like to ramble, give them room or train them up a trellis. 

Customize your plants to fit your decorator’s style, by planting a mix of orange and white mini pumpkins.  If you favor a flat pumpkin, orange Jack be Little or white Baby Boo is what you need.  But for perfectly round, miniature Jack O’ Lanterns, check out Little October at Botanical Interests .

For a striking red accent, grow Love Lies Bleeding (Amaranthus caudatus), an amaranth with long, pendulous seed heads.  Pop in full sun, giving these three-to-four feet tall plants elbow room and a stake for support.  Water, but keep them a bit on the dry side.  Clip mature flowers and hang them in a cool, dark location to dry.  Seeds of change  has this.

Ornamental corn is available in a variety of sizes and colors, from diminutive, two-inch strawberry ears to huge, nine-inch Seneca Red Stalker whose stalks and ears delight in fall on porches, tables, and doors.  Direct sow seeds in full sun, planting at least five rows to ensure pollination.  Water often so ears get large, then wait to harvest until after the silk turns completely brown and the kernels are dry and hard. 

Pluck the ears from the stalk by pulling them down, peel back the husk to reveal the kernels, and then hang upside down in a cool, dry location that is free of mice.  Leave the husk attached to the cob for a decorative look, or peel it completely off before drying the ears.  For a large selection of colors and sizes, check out Seed Savers Exchange .

Normally seen springing up from straw mulch by accident, wheat is an unusual addition to cut flower gardens.  But its spiky, bearded seed heads are gorgeous in arrangements and bundled in sheaves on the table.  Plant it like grass seed by sowing onto a prepared bed, covering it with one-quarter-inch of soil.  Keep the ground moist but not water-logged.  Johnny’s Selected Seeds has black tipped wheat, or try Silver Tip, a wheat/rye cross with huge seed heads.

  Small to medium sized sunflowers are cheerful in dried arrangements, and keep long into the fall once prepared.  Harvest when flowers are partially open, cutting the stem off at the length you want for arranging.  Then bundle the sunflowers into groups of three, making sure the heads aren’t touching, tie with twine and hang them upside down in a cool, dark place to dry.  The flowers will unfurl as they dry.

Try the pollen-less Pro Cut sunflower series; the orange, yellow peach and bi-color blooms were developed for cut flower use. Johnny’s Selected Seeds has them.  

Make your own fall wreath or swag with broomcorn (Sorghum bicolor).  The name is misleading – this isn’t corn – but the seed sprays of this sorghum come in bronze, burgundy, black, and cream.   Harvest after the seed heads have colored up but before the stalk becomes hard and woody.  Cut the stem, then hang the sprays upside down to dry.  But if you want them to have a decorative arch once dried, stand them up in a vase for drying.  Victory seeds has an heirloom mix.

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If you’ve been wondering when to start your seeds indoors, take a look at Botanical Interests’ Indoor Seed Sowing guide.    This handy chart walks you through planning to have your seedlings ready in time for planting. 

If you’re unsure of when you should plant out, Fedco Seeds has a very thorough chart that includes dates for setting out.  Please note that if you live at elevation, or in far northern areas, you should go by soil temperatures needed for planting out, rather than a fixed date.

Gardeners in Colorado can check out this timetable for seed starting, written for Colorado State University Extension by Dr. Steven Newman.

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Botanical Interests first-ever catalog!

Garden blogger Jodi Torpey posted a note on the unveiling of the new Botanical Interests seed catalog, extolling the beauty and unique offerings found within its pages.  I’d like to jump on the same bandwagon and urge gardeners to check out the first catalog ever produced by this Broomfield, Colo., based seed company.

 Within its pages, gloriously illustrated with the botanical drawings the company’s seed packets are famous for, you’ll find the reasons I have to pace myself whenever I see their seed racks at local garden centers.  The plants are beautiful, whimsical, fragrant or delicious; they perform like champions every time I sow them.

Though I’m a die-hard vegetable gardener, the Cherry Brandy Rubeckia flower on the cover caught my eye, and it was all I could do to stop myself from moaning out loud as Curtis Jones, who co-owns the business with Judy Seaborn, handed the catalog to me.  It’s hard to focus on the interview I was there to get when I just wanted to curl up in the nearest chair to lose myself in those pages. 

Bontaical Interests Cherry Rudbeckia on their 2010 calendar

Behind us in their order fill room, where they pull and pack catalog orders for shipment, the wall was filled with racks of packets and boxes of seed collections.  These collections are an exciting way to get all-in-one gardens; from flowers that attract bees or please your cat to edibles for children’s gardens or gourmet kitchens.

I want these plants; I want them all, which is something Judy understands.  Chatting with her as their Labrador, Buddy, softly snored on the floor between us, she chuckled over the question “when you have all of this to choose from, what do you grow for yourself?”  In hindsight that was a silly question to ask someone who loves to garden – even Buddy let out a snort upon hearing it.

 “What do I grow on ‘Judy’s mini-farm’?” she said, laughing, “I love everything here, that’s the problem.”  A recent trip to a trade show had her rubbing her hands in anticipation over the new varieties she’ll trial in her yard.  With 32 raised beds, Judy takes a practical approach to trying nearly every seed they offer, planting beds a few at a time to keep her hobby manageable.

 Testing the plants themselves and offering only the finest, most dependable varieties, Botanical Interests has thrived in the 15 years they’ve been in business.  And with the addition of catalog shopping, gardeners will be watching this company grow.

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Today’s post can be heard on the public radio show Crop to Cuisine, hosted by Dov Hirsch.

Crop To Cuisine

There are time honored traditions in the gardening world, habits you find yourself falling into the longer you garden.  Some, like planting peas on St. Patrick’s day or getting your corn knee-high by the fourth of July, are shared bits of wisdom passed down from generation to generation.

 There’s a rhythm to the seasons, activities that punctuate our year in preparation for the next phase of gardening.  But big company marketing and business plans based on bottom line are wiping out one way of life that this gardener, at least, misses.

I’m speaking of seed catalogs that once arrived like the first heralds of spring in our mailboxes in January.  While others might suffer the post-holiday blues, gardeners can’t wait to get their hands on these pages of plant promises.

Pouring over brightly colored photos and tantalizing descriptions as snow falls outside gets us dreaming of spring.  But this year, the rhythm was broken by the catalogs arriving in late fall, right around Thanksgiving.

I admit, I was outraged by this; I don’t want my seed catalogs cozied up against ads for wool-lined moccasins and Snuggies.  Robbing us of that January surprise is the gardening equivalent of the Grinch that Stole Christmas, so I bundled up the bunch and set it aside for the proper time for perusal.

 Which is now.  Getting a jump start on your garden plan is a smart move this year, since seed sales are expected to be brisk. Last year, millions of U. S. households tried food gardening for the first time, and if you started your shopping late, you might have found your favorite seeds were gone.

There’s wisdom in shopping early, but unless you want to end up with more plants than places to put them, take a cozy morning and draw up your garden plan. Begin with measurements of the square footage you can devote to your garden, then sketch out the garden on graph paper. I use one square per square foot, drawing in paths, raised beds and trellising.

Next, make a list of vegetables, herbs or fruit you’d like to plant. Look up the space each one needs to grow, and note that next to the item on the list. Draw the plants into your garden sketch, planning for them to have enough room to grow to mature size. Place taller plants to the north of the garden so they don’t shade the shorter ones.

As your map fills in, you’ll be able to tell if you’ve plenty of room for everything on your list or if you need to scale back your expectations. In my case, I won’t grow potatoes this year; they take up a lot of room and my interests are leaning toward more peppers. You might decide that planting fewer of everything is best.

Once you know what plants fit in your garden, you’re ready to shop. The choice of seeds versus seedlings is a personal one; it depends on whether you have the room to care for seedlings as they grow for eight weeks. Purchasing plants ready to pop in the ground is an easy way to jump into the garden.

But if you want a kitchen garden your foodie friends will envy, start your own seeds. Hundreds of varieties fill stands at local garden centers and catalogs are a good way to educate yourself on the cornucopia food you can grow.

Bold gardeners will plant at least one new variety each year, but new plantings can be risky, what with the sheer variety of new or untried plants.  You can easily get lost in the belief that a gardener can do no wrong, because those catalog writers gush about every plant they offer.  The best advice would be: plant what you like to eat, and toss in a new variety or two as an experiment. 

Not all plants do well here, so look to local companies such as Botanical Interests, Abbondanza, Rocky Mountain Seed company, or Lake Valley Seed to steer you to choices that thrive in Colorado. Then get with a buddy to plan your purchases, stretching your dollar while increasing your gourmet choices. Order early, and you won’t be disappointed.

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