As if to celebrate the winter solstice, the first seed catalog came in the mail this year before Christmas, rather than in the time-honored week between Christmas and New Year’s when all the catalogs arrive at once. The company trying to get a jump on the competition was Jung’s, a venerable old seed house from which I’ve ordered in the past. I like it because it’s big and comprehensive and no-nonsense–no promises of 58-pound tomatoes, no dubiously named cultivars. It includes the Latin names of the most of the plants it offers (it’s one of my pet peeves when catalogs don’t), and the company has been family-owned and -operated for 103 years.
I like to glance through the catalogs prior to actually getting down to business in an attempt to quickly discern plant trends for the coming year. Judging by Jung’s, hot items for gardeners this year will include coneflowers (Echinacea x ‘Hot Papaya,’ this
big, bold, shaggy double number, caught my eye), hydrangeas (one called ‘Renhy’ but being sold as ‘Vanilla Strawberry’ is on the cover), zinnias, dahlias, and pumpkins, of all things. There’s a truly bizarre heirloom pumpkin from France, ‘Galeuse D’Eysines’ (pictured above), that looks like a dead brain (or a live brain, really, I suppose), a variety called ‘Red Warty Thing’ (perhaps my all-time favorite name), and the cutest little mini, ‘Batwing Mix’, that’s orange on top and deep green, almost the black-green Eagles football jersey green (go Iggles!) on the bottom. The “Small World of Color Blend” is a sort of Benetton ad of the pumpkin world, with a mix of white, pink, gray, pastel orange, and striped pink-and-blue varieties. But my favorite–and it took me a minute–is the new ‘One Too Many,’ a.k.a., “The pumpkin that looks like a bloodshot eyeball”–and it does! Usually the only pumpkins I grow are those that come up accidentally from the Halloween jack-0′-lantern seeds in the composter, but I may actually have to buy seeds of this puppy. I only wish pumpkin vines could be less of an acreage commitment. They do like to take up room!