Gardeners experience a common conundrum. Each year seed companies fill catalogs with hot new flowers and vegetables, tempting gardeners away from varieties they've come to know and love.
What's a gardener to do?
Do we plant our favorite old reliables, or try eye-catching new varieties instead, especially if limited space doesn't allow both? New types might become our new and improved favorites, or an entire growing season could be wasted, wishing we had stuck with past preferences.
New vegetable and flower varieties from all the seed companies could fill a sizeable book, and I count 98 new offerings from Burpee Seeds alone, which is probably the most visible national seed company with its 142-year history of colorful mail-order catalogs and well-stocked seed racks in many stores.
Reviewing or trying all 98 new 2018 Burpee offerings would be impossible, but following are 13 of their exclusives that I find most intriguing, and I've summarized Burpee's descriptions.
Atlas Tomato: Introduced as the first-ever beefsteak type for container-growing on decks and patios. The large, one-pound fruits grow on compact, determinate (bush-like) plants, and are described as having old-time flavor. Maturing in 65 to 75 days, Atlas would be a mid-season producer for the Upper Midwest.
Forecast Zinnia: Zinnias are easy-to-grow, thriving in heat and sun. This colorful assortment merits planting because the 28-inch plants are resistant to powdery mildew, which can be the downfall of many zinnia varieties.
Fioretto Cauliflower: Having smaller florets than standard cauliflower types, the flavor is described as nut-like and sweeter than large-head types. With an early 60-day maturity, it also maintains crispier texture during cooking.
Mission Giant Yellow Marigold: Burpee re-selected this heirloom variety whose large, lemon-yellow mum-like flowers are well-suited for cut flowers. The 30-inch plant height creates a nice flowerbed background.
Ring Leader Jalapeno Pepper: Described as a heavier yielder with earlier maturity.
Bragger Cucumber: Bred as a sweet cucumber that never gets bitter, each plant can produce 70 fruits beginning 45 days from planting.
Tattoo Papaya Vinca: With vibrant, deep rose-pink flowers, the neat, mounded plants are well-suited for pots. Vincas thrive in heat and sun.
Garnet Treasure Zinnia: Huge double-flowered rich scarlet blossoms stand out on 24-inch plants making an eye-catching flowerbed display.
Behold Eggplant: Pretty fruits are purple with white stripes, have few seeds and the flavor remains sweet, never bitter.
Party Dress Morning Glory: Morning glory is an annual vine, easy to grow from seeds, and deserves increased planting to decorate trellises and lattice screens around decks and patios. Party Dress is earlier to bloom than older types, growing to a height of seven feet in one season, with magenta flowers.
Lemonade Cosmos: Pastel yellow flowers grace an old-fashioned, easy flowerbed favorite. The 20-inch plants are also suitable for containers.
Sunray Yellow Sunflower: Unique dwarf, well-branched plants bear up to 14 four-inch sunflowers per plant. At 20 inches tall, Sunray gives the fun of sunflowers without the towering height. Well-suited to patio containers or flowerbeds.
Confetti Sweet Pepper: Attractive plants with eye-catching variegated leaves yield plants with a colorful assortment of early-maturing fruits perfect for fresh eating at all growth stages. Compact habit is great for container gardening.
Click here for a full-size version of this image you can save to your company and print. All photos courtesy of W. Atlee Burpee Company.
Don Kinzler, a lifelong gardener, worked as an NDSU Extension horticulturist and owned Kinzler's Greenhouse in Fargo. Readers can reach him at email@example.com.
He also blogs at growingtogether.areavoices.com.