Renee’s Garden Still Provides Traditional Seed.

Old fashioned nasturtiums never really get old.

Before I was in kindergarten, my great grandfather gave me a few seeds from the nasturtiums in his garden in Sunnyvale. I really can not remember ever not growing nasturtiums since then. My first nasturtiums were the basic yellow and orange. In high school, I added some ‘Jewel Mix’ to see what other colors there were. As they too reverted back to the basic yellow and orange, I tried a few other varieties, and eventually realized that nasturtiums really are as excellent as I always thought they were.

‘Amazon Jewel’ is the first climbing nasturtium that I tried in many years. I typically do not like climbing types because they provide so much overwhelming foliage with fewer flowers. Yet this past year, I actually wanted the foliage to frame an exposed picture window through summer. By the middle of summer, the twining (annual) vines had already climbed string to the top of the window, and wanted to climb farther. Their bright yellow through orange, and even reddish orange flowers peeking in the window seemed to violate the privacy within, but were a pleasant bonus nonetheless.

‘Buttercream’ appealed to me because it was the closest to a simple white nasturtium that I had ever seen; and white is my favorite color. As the name implies, it is actually very pale yellow. It is striking because it is not striking. Who would expect such a profusion of pastel from a nasturtium? It means that there is no excuse for those who do not like flashy colors to shun nasturtiums. ‘Creamsicle’ is a bit more colorful with various shades of orange ranging from soft pastel to almost bright orange; another score for those don’t like the colors of a pinata.

‘Copper Sunset’ is as brightly colored as traditional nasturtiums, but only in coppery shades of orange uncluttered with yellow or red. ‘Cherries Jubilee’ is various shades or red and rich reddish pink.

In the past many years, the seeds for all my nasturtiums and almost all of my other flower seeds, as well as many herb and vegetable seeds came from Renee’s Garden at  . Few other seed suppliers market nasturtiums. Those that do have only very basic nasturtium varieties. Renee’s Garden specializes in all sorts of cool heirloom varieties, even those that may be stigmatized as old fashioned. (Aren’t ‘heirloom’ and ‘old fashioned’ the same?)

Of course I tried other flowers besides nasturtiums. Clarkia, feverfew and chamomile have actually naturalized over the past few years in areas of the garden that get a bit of water. The clarkia is almost a native, so is venturing even farther. The ‘Maximilian’ sunflower is perennial, so bloomed more impressively this past summer than it did in the previous summer.


My niece loves!

My neice finds seeds for most of her favorite vegetables, flowers and herbs, like this prolific chamomile, at Renee’s Garden.

Even after a few years of trying most of the seeds available from Renee’s Garden Seed catalog, my niece still wants to grow them all every year. Sadly, her compact garden and landscape designer father who thinks he owns it can not accommodate all the seeds that she wants. She is therefore forced to limit selection to her favorites and those that she has not yet tried.

‘Cupani’s Original’ and ‘Perfume Delight’ are still her favorite sweet peas because they are so very fragrant. The big softly blushed pale yellow flowers of ‘April in Paris’ are a close second. Although not as fragrant, I wanted her to try ‘Electric Blue’ for its shaggier darker green foliage and smaller but refined deep blue flowers.

Perhaps as a strategy for an alliance, my niece’s oppressive father planted ‘Buttercream’ nasturtiums, which was a new variety with semi-double cream colored flowers. She rebelled with the brilliant red shades of ‘Copper Sunset’. The softer orange shades of ‘Creamsicle’ was a diplomatic compromise.

Both could agree on the soft lavender and pink shades and white of ‘Gulf Winds’ alyssum, the rich deep pinks of ‘Mountain Garland’ clarkia, and the traditional ‘Mrs. Scott Elliot’ columbine, since all three are so complaisant with mixed annuals and perennials. Taller and more vigorous cosmos got their own space. ‘Dancing Petticoats’ provided a mixture of cheery pink shades. ‘White Seashells’ looked sharp against the deep green privet hedge.

Since utilitarian vegetable plants are inconsistent with such a designer landscape, my niece grew vegetables that are as flashy as foliage plants. I suggested richly colored ‘Scarlet Charlotte’ chard, with a bit of ‘Italian Silver’ that exhibits distinctive white petioles and veins. She went for the more colorful ‘Garden Rainbow’, ‘Neon Glow’ and ‘Bright Lights’.

Some (but not all) of Renee’s Garden vegetable seed mixes have a distinct advantage of color coding. The various seeds withing these mixes are dyed with different colors so they can be planted separately if desired. Since seed packets usually contain more seeds than are actually needed, vegetable seed mixes are a practical way to get fewer but enough of a few different types of seed in single packets.

More varieties of seeds are available from the online catalog of Renee’s Garden Seed at than at retail nurseries. Yet with so many fun varieties to try, the retail seed racks certainly have more selection than any garden really needs. If it were at all possible to try them all, my neice would have figured out how to do it already.

Mail Order Fakes And Realities

Succulent cuttings are readily available online.

Sea-Monkeys are one of the most famous of mail order scams. Their original $0.49 price was not cheap for children who made the first purchases in 1957. They were nothing like their playful portrayals in comic book advertisements. They were minuscule brine shrimp who were incapable of building castles, playing tennis, or even just smiling for a camera.

Nonetheless, Sea-Monkeys were lucrative for their enterprising inventor. For many such capitalists, profit is the priority. It is no different for the many mail order scams that involve seed and plants. They range from the rare monkey face orchid to multicolored tomatoes. Consumers get either nothing or random seed or plants that are nothing like they expect.

Most mail order scams that involve seed or plants are on e-commerce sites. They mostly include popular buzz words such as ‘rare’, ‘organic’ and ‘bonsai’, even in regard to plants that are not conducive to bonsai culture. Associated illustrations are obviously faked, but somehow convince enough consumers to sustain their deceptive mail order exploitation.

Fortunately, the vast majority of online seed and plant suppliers are very trustworthy and reputable. They provide precisely what they claim to provide. Their commodities become available prior to the season that is best for delivery. Then, delivery happens early during the regionally best season for planting. Products are not marketable out of their seasons.

Many seed catalogs and plant catalogs enact more than seasonal or climactic limitations to their sales. For various reasons, particular species are not admissible within particular states or counties. Some may be potential vectors of disease. Some may be too likely to naturalize and interfere with natural ecosystems. Species limitations are fortunately rare.

Much of the seeds and plants that are available from e-commerce sites such as eBay are from the home gardens of those selling them. The sellers are generally quite trustworthy and reputable, but can make mistakes. It is easy to misidentify some species, especially by common names. Also, such sellers are very often unaware of marketability limitations.

Seed Of Doubt Gains Popularity

Seed for vegetable gardening is scarce.

Many of us who are still sowing spring seed know the doubt. Seed for warm season vegetables and bedding plants is presently scarce. Consequently, we doubt that all the varieties that we want are still available. Many unusual varieties that we purchase by mail order or online are sold out. Some more popular and reliably obtainable varieties in supermarket seed racks are going fast too.

Home gardening is very suddenly more popular than it had been for a very long time. Those who can not work at their respective professions have much more time to work in their gardens. Many want to grow a bit more produce at home, in order to shop amongst others in supermarkets less frequently. Many who have never enjoyed gardening before are now taking a serious interest in it.

This adds a few more complications to planning the garden. Choices really are limited. Some of us must be satisfied with what we get. Instead of trying new and unusual varieties, we might need to try old and common varieties. It might be a new and unusual experience, and an interesting way to learn why they have been so popular for so long. This applies to young plants as well as seed.

Although more varieties are available online and by mail order, it is now more important to purchase them early. Delivery is not as prompt as it was prior to this increase in popularity of gardening. Seed providers are overwhelmed by the demand. Since it is already late in the season, it is probably too late to order seed that start in spring. It is not too early to start procuring seed for autumn.

It is also a good time to share surplus with friends and neighbors who may be experiencing the same scarcity of seed and seedlings. Although it is too late to wait for delayed delivery of seed that gets sown in spring, it is not too late to sow some types if they are already available. If left outside to avoid personal interaction with recipients, seed might need protection from rodents and birds.

Anyone who is experienced with gardening knows that it involves challenges. This is certainly a new one.

Catalog Shopping Has Certain Limits

70621thumbThe temptation is unbearable. The catalog of Adelman Peony Gardens, either in print or at, shows how spectacular peony blossoms can be. There are one hundred and seventy-eight exquisite pictures of the cultivars available for mail order on online purchase. The only problem, and it is a big one, is that peonies are recommended for USDA Zones 2 through 8.

So maybe some of us in Zone 9 might conveniently neglect to read that part of the catalog. Maybe some of us believe that since peonies can not read that part of the catalog, they might not mind getting cheated out of the winter chill they need for good dormancy. Somehow, many of us are able to grow peonies where they have no business growing. Perhaps we should keep that a secret.

So many more plants are available online and by mail order than can be found in nurseries. Most of them are appropriate to local climates. Some are not. Catalogs from the best nurseries are careful to make that distinction obvious by describing what zones their plants are recommended for. That can be a lot of information for nurseries that have many different types of plants available.

Plants that have potential to transmit disease or become invasive might be banned from certain states. Nurseries can send plants to inappropriate climate zones for clients who really want them, but can not send plants to states where they are banned. Black elderberry plants can not be imported into California. Only black elderberry plants that were grown in California can be sold here.

Unfortunately, many plants are sold online without any regulation whatsoever. Anyone can sell any extra seeds, seedlings or cuttings online, whether or not they actually know what the seeds or plants are. Some plants are not really what they were described as when sold. Many others get sent to climates where they will not be happy, and might not even survive. Worst of all, there is serious potential for plants to be vectors of disease and insect pathogens, or to become invasive in formerly uninfested regions.