I went to my local Italian grocer this week and chose seed packs for the contest. I tried to stick with varieties that winners can grow in a variety of conditions whether that’s location/climate, season, small spaces, big spaces, and containers. Some of these can be direct sown and some should be started indoors. Something for everyone!
Italian seed packets tend to be very generous and these are no exception. Each packet contains enough seed to sow a farm or share with several friends.
Below you’ll find write-ups on each variety that I chose. Many of these varieties have become available through companies that sell heirloom seed, but I still find that Spigarello is not commonly available. My local grocer didn’t sell it last year and I was so glad when they listened to my pleas and stocked it again for 2013.
There is still time to enter the contest but you must do so over here. Enjoy!
It’s not like me to hone in on the flowers and disregard the plant, but it happens. It certainly did the other day when I took this picture of beautiful bell-like flowers on a tour of a local community greenhouse (a post with photos is forthcoming). I could have sworn they belonged to a succulent in the genus kalanchoe, yet when I brought the photo up on my screen I knew my memory had failed me.
Meaty, dense, huge, and prolific: I didn’t intend to grow ‘Mennonite Orange’ last summer, but boy am I ever glad I did.
- 80 days
- Open-pollinated heirloom
- Beefsteak, Slicer
- Ripens: Mid-season
- Story: Originally from Pennsylvania but grown in Southern Ontario.
- Container Growing: You’ll need a really big pot, 16″+ deep.
Barry’s cyclamen have begun their yearly emergence from dormancy and his small, cold greenhouse is alive with them. My own few pots of Cylamen coum (gifts from Barry, of course) have also begun to emerge, although I have noticed that they are behind his.
What you see in this photo isn’t even half of Barry’s collection — there has got to be at least a hundred — pots upon pots upon more pots that he raised from seed seven years ago. He has transplanted some outside into the garden where they have propagated into a million different leaf patterns, colours, and forms. It’s fun to pull back the leaf mulch and observe these tiny new creatures. What new designs will we find? Barry keeps his favourites in pots in the glasshouse where he can enjoy them more closely.
Back in September I wrote about sinningia, an African violet relative with an unusual tuber that grows above the soil. At the time my plant was in full bloom. It is now going into dormancy and has been losing leaves. The photo above is what it looked like yesterday in its current home underneath lights in my basement. [Please note that the leaves are green. They look yellowy/red because of the back light coming from fluorescents.]
I was prompted to write about the plant because I received an email this week from Tim Tuttle, the person who created the hybrid I am growing, ‘Kevin Garnet.’ A few of you asked if the plant was named for the pro basketball player of the same name. Well, Tim has answered. Here’s what he had to say:
I had to laugh about the comments about the name being in honor of the basketball player. It is NOT named for the basketball player, but rather for my nephew who happens to have the same name. I made this hybrid about ten years ago and named it in honor of my older nephew Kevin.
If you’re interested in learning more about less common Gesneriads (African violet relatives), Tim keeps a blog called A Passion for Petrocosmea, the focus of which is on this peculiar genus. I find the conditions in my home are too dry to grow them well — my single attempt to keep one failed miserably and I have shifted away from most humidity-loving plants as a result. More room for succulents! Still, I find Petrocosmea incredibly fascinating as many of them grow in an almost unreal, nearly-perfect, circular form. They’d make an interesting step forward if you have a lot of success with African violets. I only wish I’d tried them when I had better growing conditions.