Winter is supposed to be a good time for sitting inside, warm in front of the log burner, eating hot bread and reading seed catalogues. Winter gardeners' imaginations are as fertile as the seeds they drool over, and the new season's resolutions are as long as the lists of possible purchases.
There are many versions of my mid-winter seed list before the final one is neatly written on the order form. The first draft may be no more than huge pencilled circles by the pretty colour pictures. This can be very puzzling when re-reading the catalogue in later years - was I really interested in that flower? The second draft is scribbled, full of additions and alterations.
Flowers I Grow From Seed
If I was a terribly serious gardener I would draw up a working list with columns for height, season, form, colour, needs, etc. And camculate the area to be planted, work it back to the number of seed packets needed, allow for ten percent loss on germination, that sort of thing...
2013 Seed Catalogue
An Alphabetical List?
And how should this list be ordered? Should it be purely alphabetical, or by colour, or by height? A strategic plan is definitely called for. The inputs ($100 worth of assorted seed varieties) must relate firmly to the outputs (trays of happy healthy seedlings, clearly labelled, proposed locations noted). Excess or unsuitable seedlings cannot be tolerated. But what is the best way to discipline a mid-winter seed order?
This year's seed catalogue has inspired me. I am creating the most thoughtful super-list of suitable annuals and perennials ever. I can already see swathes of bold new plantings, clutches of co-ordinated colours.
By page 21 I have Morning Glory Kniolas Black climbing one archway, underplanted with Gilia Birds Eye, carnations called King of the Blacks, and Black Velvet pansies.
By page 28 I have a trendy lime and white garden flowering beautifully in front of the bay window. Lime green zinnias (Envy) jostle with Bells of Ireland with the graceful spikes of Mignonette behind, and white petunias (White Storm) sprawling elegantly in front.
Self Seeding Plants
Self seeders make a great contribution to my flower gardens, and this winter I can see new colours on old faces. Large drifts of yellow Aquilegias will replace the rather dirty pink collection which has self seeded in the glass-house garden.
I'm seeing a rival Eschscholtzia, the 'Fleuroselect Award Winner' Rose Chiffon, which will look so much better and stronger than the hoards of subtle cream Milkmaids in the Hen House Garden. And I'd like to boost the cosmos population - vigorous mulching has reduced this great annual to a few pale lilac stragglers.
There will be tubs and baskets to rival those I see in the glossy magazines, dripping with annuals in lemon and purple shades. I've already chosen some favourite Nasturtiums (Whirly Bird Cream and Top Flowering Yellow) and an 'All American Winner' petunia called Purple Pirouette.
Blue Pansy Trio
New Pansy Stocks
Hoping not to insult my annual pansies and violas, I have ordered in new stock. My list includes the Penny Lane mixture violas, the colours of which (I am assured) are chiffon yellow, golden yellow and deep violet.
I will pay good money for these seeds, so I am confident they'll be remembered in the mid-summer watering circuit.
Pink or Blue?
I have space for well behaved blue plants, and so geranium Splish Splash is high on the list. I'm obviously not in a pink mood, for Statice Pink Pokers and Erigeron Pink Jewel were in the original page by page draft, but have since been crossed out. The colours of the Sunflowers are amazing, and I love the thought of growing an annual called Moulin Rouge.
Do I have enough whites? And I've never ever grown Amaranthus, but I like the sound of the name. Should I try one called Hot Biscuits, with stylish 'autumnal coloured amber bronze panicles', or should I just leave the autumn colours to autumn?
What About Orange?
What about orange? - new marigolds for the vegetable garden, or a sweet pea called Prince of Orange? I rather fancy the Marigolds - these cheerful summer flowering annuals are always worth sowing. And they are perfect (and approved) companion plants for many of the vegetables I grow.
By the time I've decided what I'm actually going to order it could be well past the time for sowing seeds. It's time for action, a postage stamp, and a promise to clear the glass-house benches on the next rainy day. Then I can wait as my colourful dreams germinate and grow. But which of the above seed choices will make the final cut?