Friday, October 22, 2010

yellow itoh peonies

one of the holy grails of peony breeding was to introduce the deep yellow of tree peonies into the tradional peony. the new catergory are called intersectionals or itoh peonies, named for the japanese breeder toichi itoh. his is a story of perserverence. in 1948, he took on the challenge and some say after 20,000 crosses, he bred the first intersectional hybrid, a white that would become the seed parent for 36 hybrids. these hybrids would bloom after his death in 1956.
from these hybrids, modern breeders like Don Hollingsworth from nearby Maryville, MO (who knew?) have created hybrids like ' Garden Treasure' (pictured).
last winter i asked for trial plants from the one of the Monrovia sales rep and surprisingly received three yellows to trial. i was shocked when i found out the retail price is $100 per plant. i would not have been so bold to ask if i knew the price. the price for being on the cutting edgre. i was surprised to read these yellows don't burn up in the sun like tree peonies. i'll keep you .updated on their progress.
if i did have money to burn, i'd try 'kopper kettle'. that rusty color also comes from the tree peonies. it will be fascinating to see where it goes from here.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

blue pumpkins of australia

when australians think of pumpkins, they think blue. Without Halloween to drive the jack-o-lantern industry of thick skin type pumpkins. Australian pumkins are all about taste.

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds offers three aussies, just part of their overwhelming ninety squash varieties. 'Queensland Blue' (bottom left)is the most popular in australia. this variety is the one grown in my grandparent's market garden. in the moderate climate, this type of pumpkin can be stored for 5-6 months. i'll try to convince some farm friends to try it next spring.
next is 'Jarrahdale' (top left) named after a small town near perth. it weighs in at 6-10 lbs 100 days. baker's creek describes it an excellent variety.
i hadn't heard about 'treamble' (top right) until Baker's. it also known as the shamrock pumpkin due to three lobe form. baker's describes a fine, rare variety for eating.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Collecting Antique Seed Packets

I've always been a collector from Christmas ornaments to watering cans. Now that I'm in an apartment I've been looking for an inexpensive catergory that didn't need a lot of storage. I just happened to see a blurb on collecting seed packets. And where else do you start but ebay?
My first packets just arrived. I got a dozen for $15.00 which looks lilke a steal since individual packets range from $3.00 to $18.00.

My first packets are from the Tillinghast Seed Company in La Connor, WA. They were the first seed company in the Pacific Northwest. They started selling cabbage seed and went national with a full range of seeds in the 1920's. My packets could be printed any time between the 30s through the 50s.
Several of the varieties are still on the market including 'Orange Gleam' nasturtium and 'Fire Chief'' petunia. Chief was a Gold Medal All America Selection in 1950 and the first true red petunia. I found a newspaprer clipping from the St. Petersburg Times hailing the new winner. 'Fire Chief' had been the only other gold medal variety since the 'Scarlett Ohara' in 1938 which is also still on the market today.

'Cream Star' was the AAS winner in 1940. I've grown Tithonia 'Torch', the orange mexican sunflower that was the AAS winner in 1951. 'Torch' is widely available in seed packets.

Heucheras New Hybrids Explosion

for many years heucheras were dark green plants with insignificant flowers. then a dark purple seedling was bred at Kew Gardens in London. i can personally tell you that Kew is wonderful. (name dropping over). it turned out to be the world acclaimed 'Purple Palace' named after Kew Palace found on the grounds (who knew?)

the next historical event was 'Snow Storm' from Dan Heim at Terra Nova in 1988. (above right). some would say its creation kicked off the explosion of what you see in today's 'Key Lime', Peach Melba and 'Midnight Rose' and whereever we go from here.
Photo credits: MOBOT & Terra Nova