It’s a cold, gray, soggy mess outside, but baby, I’ve got my plant and seed catalogs to keep me warm. Spread out across the desk in front of me, they conjure visions of summertime in my head. Not only do garden catalogs give me a great mental jump-start in winter, they open up a whole world of cool, unusual, or hard-to-find plant varieties that might not otherwise be available locally. This is so important to me- I really want to give our Oliver Winery visitors the opportunity to see new things and to leave feeling inspired about gardening and the natural world in general. This year I’m focusing heavily on growing unique and attractive herbs, annuals, vegetables and tender plants from seed, as this is such an easy, inexpensive and gratifying way to fill the garden with tasty food, bright color and character.
After I’ve thoroughly perused all my catalogs and compiled a big “Mother List” list of potential new plants, I go back through it to decide if I actually have a place for everything. If a plant makes the cut, (not all do), it gets highlighted, ordered, and placed on a new list. My next step is to plan how to combine all the new arrivals, a process to which I give considerable care and thought. Take those purple artichokes I’m planning on growing, for instance. Being big, architectural, thistle-like plants, they will function as a dramatic focal point, and would look sharp with the feathery foliage of bronze fennel (which is already out in the garden and is easily transplanted). The twining, dark stems and lavender flower sprays of purple hyacinth bean ‘Ruby Moon’ would look stellar climbing up bamboo supports, and the burgundy-splashed foliage of Thai basil ‘Holy Red and Green’ could keep the purple theme going. Strawflowers in shades of apricot will add sparks of heat and contrast to the mix, as will the terracotta blooms of Thunbergia ‘Sunrise Surprise’ weaving among the hyacinth beans. And so it goes.
As orders of seeds arrive in the mail, I organize them according to when they will need to be sown.
Although it is still January, I have already started several batches of early season, spring bloomers under grow-lights in our service building. Among these are Viola ‘Psychedelic Spring’ (how can anyone not like a name like that?) and sunset-hued, biennial wallflowers, which are completely new to me. And this is only the beginning. With seedlings already on the go, it seems to me that spring is just around the corner. I can hardly wait!