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Flowers from Seed: Take Your Pick

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Spring showers supposedly bring May flowers. What really brings May flowers is the stack of January seed catalogs next to a gardener’s chair. Seed catalogs, filled with the forecast of a sunny future, picture new and heirloom seeds, plants, and highly desirable equipment. What gardener is not aching for colored seed trays or a super terrific soil that makes seedlings into super seedlings? The preparation and desire for spring creates another shipping frenzy that could easily be labeled “Green Friday.”

Every year there is a plethora of new and exciting plants. Thankfully, the experienced, solid standbys do not disappear. Many options date back to the time that seeds first were available to buy via mail or the general store. Prior to that, seeds were shared neighbor to neighbor. There are so many seed varieties that come complete with history and experience.

New varieties are the highlight of seed catalogs. Hardy, well-loved varieties are there but new flowers are as enticing as the smell of a new car. When building an order, it pays to start with varieties in demand that will sell out; then add your long-time favorites.

Flowers that have improved through seed company tooling include zinnias. Now ranging in flower and plant size, smaller plants are perfect for containers and borders, yet still have larger flowers. Some flowers reach up to five inches across and are easily visible from a distance. A new addition to zinnia varieties is ‘Queeny Lemon Peach.’ The Queen series contains vibrant, dahlia-like flowers with red centers. The new ‘Queeny Lemon Peach’ has a lemon-yellow base with hints of green and a bright orange center. These newbies are great in the garden and in a vase indoors.

Begonias are often overlooked. The new variety ‘Viking XL Red on Chocolate’ is amazing. Bright red flowers hovering over large chocolate mahogany leaves will easily fill containers and take your breath away at the same time. The leaves start off green and then mature to chocolate tones. Plants are bushy and compact. They bloom steadily up to the first frost.

Petunias are amazing flowers with many sizes and colors. A new variety with a long, long name provides a long, long season of growing enjoyment. If you are looking for a splash of color, check out ‘Splash Dance Calypso Cherry.’ The waves of large fuchsia blooms with white spots grow in mounds one foot tall and two feet wide. The colors are unique and spectacular. This big-motor flowering plant does well in containers and in full sun.

Nasturtiums are an old-time favorite with new varieties that move to the front of the line. Nasturtium ‘Bloody Mary” has exciting colors and designs. Flowers are red, yellow, and burgundy striping with an open face surrounded by oval, dark green leaves. They love our heat and sunshine. ‘Bloody Mary’ flowers are a show stopper in comparison to solid-colored flowers.

Seed companies still send out paper catalogs, they know gardeners do not have the patience to go from site to site versus flipping dog-eared colored pages. Just as with new 2023 vegetables, some new flower varieties will be in huge demand and sell out. Your best friend for seed-starting information is the back of the seed packet where you will find germination instructions and exterior planting requirements.

If you are wondering why you want to go to the trouble of planting seeds as opposed to grabbing a plant off the shelf, remember that Mother Nature smiles on gardeners who take a seed and create beautiful flowers for the world to enjoy.

Julie Silva is a University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardener of Tuolumne County.