42 Top Seeds for 2013 ~From Some Favorite Gardeners and Seed Sources

– Posted in: Seeds, Sustainable Gardening

I’m a seed-aholic. No matter how hard I try to control myself, each winter I can’t resist experimenting with new introductions. Oh yes, and I must have another variety of amaranths, nicotianas…or whatever. I convince myself that it’s inexpensive ~ after all, another $2.75 spent on what will surely be dozens of beautiful flowers …and as a steward of my piece of land, it’s important for me to do.

What started as a post on my selection of 15 top seeds for 2013 has grown into a list of the Top 42 Seeds for 2013 from some of my favorite gardeners and seed companies .


Red Giant Mustard –Dan Benarcik at Chanticleer turned me on to what has become one of my all time favorites.

Red Mustard Leaves at Chanticleer Photo Courtesy of Fran Sorin

Red Giant Mustard at Chanticleer
Photo Courtesy of Fran Sorin

Red giant Mustard at Teapot Garden ~ Chanticleer Photo Courtesy of Fran Sorin

Red Giant Mustard at Teapot Garden ~ Chanticleer
Photo Courtesy of Fran Sorin

Red Mustard Leaves Taken at Chanticleer Photo ~ Fran Sorin

Red Giant Mustard
at Chanticleer
Photo Courtesy of Fran Sorin

Amaranth- I use it because of its ‘in your face’ quality and velvet plumes. Prolific self seeder.

Amaranths in Sorin garden Photo Courtesy of Fran Sorin

Amaranth in my WILD cutting garden
Photo Courtesy of Fran Sorin

Self Seeded Amaranths in perennial plantings Photo Courtesy of Fran Sorin

Self Seeded Amaranths in perennial plantings
Photo Courtesy of Fran Sorin

Bull’s Blood Beet – When I saw it several years ago at Nan Ondra’s garden, I knew that I had to have it. I use it as an ornamental – with its low growing burgundy leaves, it’s perfect for the front of the border or in containers or window boxes. Oh and did I mention that it actually produces beets?

Hyacinth Bean ‘Ruby Moon’ – (Dolichos lablab) – The first year I tried it growing up my entry way arbor in the backyard, I was shocked by its rampant growth ~ and fell madly in love with its purple seed pods. From Select Seeds.

Hyacinth Bean 'Ruby Moon' Photo Courtesy of Select Seeds

Hyacinth Bean ‘Ruby Moon’
Photo Courtesy of Select Seeds

Pole Beans Goldmarie and the runner bean, Pole Beans Golden Sunshine – Thanks to Jonathon Wright’s rambunctious vegetable window boxes perched on an upper entry way ledge at Chanticleer, I was turned on to Goldmarie and Golden Sunshine. Jonathon’s were festooned to perfection (beautiful is an understatement). I have used them for the past 2 years draping down my window boxes onto an outer wall – and love ‘em.

Pole Beans Goldmarie and Golden Sunshine at Chanticleer. Photo is courtesy of Fran Sorin

Pole Beans Goldmarie and Golden Sunshine , Kale ‘Nero de Tascano’ at Chanticleer.                              Photo Courtesy of Fran Sorin

Pole Beans Goldmarie and Golden Sunshine. Photo ~ Courtesy of Fran Sorin.

Pole Beans Goldmarie and Golden Sunshine                                                 Photo Courtesy of Fran Sorin

4. Poppy ‘Lauren’s Grape’ –I’m a sucker for poppies. When I saw it several years ago at a garden in Somerset, England, its purple violet color took my breath away. It wasn’t easy to locate seed in the United States ~ I finally found it at Select Seeds.

Poppy 'Laurens Grape'. Photo Courtesy of Select Seeds.

Poppy ‘Laurens Grape’. Photo Courtesy of Select Seeds.

 Kale ‘Nero de Toscana’ Organic – Its dark green leaves alone make it worth growing. I’ve used it in spring containers with blue hyacinths and daffodils and pansies and in window boxes with practically anything . They survive high winds, heavy rain and cold weather . In other words, this is a plant not to be missed. At Select Seeds.

Kale 'Nero de Toscana (Organic). Photo is courtesy of Select Seeds.

Kale ‘Nero de Toscana (Organic). Photo courtesy of Select Seeds.

Nasturtium – I would grow it just for its outstanding leaves. But each season when I see the bright orange, red, butterscotch yellow, and deep velvet red flowers,  I’m reminded how much they bring to a container, window box, or trellis.

Nasturtium Photo Courtesy of Fran Sorin

Photo Courtesy of Fran Sorin


Nasturtium 'Empress of India' Photo Courtesy of Fran Sorin

Nasturtium ‘Empress of India’
Photo Courtesy of Fran Sorin

Rhubarb Chard – I’ve never failed with chard. Although I have favorites, I like to try new varieties. Although my opened seed packet from this past season is Rhubarb Chard from Seeds of Change,  I’m not sure that the chard in the photo below is Rhubarb. Any thoughts?

Rhubarb Chard Photo Courtesy of Fran Sorin

Rhubarb Chard
Photo Courtesy of Fran Sorin

Ricinus – Although it’s a poisonous seed, I have grown it for years in my garden. I have never found another plant to replace it. How about you?

Ricinus  Photo - Fran Sorin

Ricinus communis
Photo courtesy of Fran Sorin

Sweet Peas – I don’t think I’ll ever have enough sweet peas. They are beyond intoxicating. I have tried more varieties that I can remember. One open packet I have from last season is Sweet Pea’Cupani’s Original’ from Select Seeds.

A true story. I had made contact with Nigel Nicholson to visit with him on my next trip to Sissinghurst. For those of you who may not know, his parents, Sir Harold Nicholson and Vita Sackville West, were the creators of Sissinghurst – one of the most famous gardens in the world.

I knocked on the door of the cottage where he lived (on the grounds of the garden). The first thing that I noticed -besides Nigel- when I entered was vases of sweet peas throughout the living room. If my memory serves me correctly (it was several years ago), he told me that he had brought them in from the garden that morning. Something about the way he said it touched my heart ~

Sweet Peas. Photo is courtesy of Fran Sorin.

Sweet Pea ‘Cupanis Original’ ~Photo courtesy of Fran Sorin

Zinnias- I used to limit them to my cutting garden. But when I noticed a few bare patches in a bed in late spring, I started sowing some in my front bed and never stopped.

Zinnias in cutting garden Photo Courtesy of Fran Sorin

Zinnias in cutting garden
Photo Courtesy of Fran Sorin

Orange Zinnia In Cutting Garden Photo Courtesy of Fran Sorin

Orange Zinnia In Cutting Garden
Photo Courtesy of Fran Sorin

HELEN YOEST of Gardening With Confidence. 

For my wildlife habitat, Helen’s Haven, I grow lot’s of Zinnias. In my experience, Zinnias are one of the best flowers to provide nectar for butterflies. Starting after frost, I’ll direct sow every two weeks for a continuous renewal of this good looking plant. This year, I’m trying Renee’s Butterfly Zinnias and Cutting Zinnias.

Photo Courtesy of Gardening With Confidence

Photo Courtesy of Gardening With Confidence

In the vegetable garden I’ve dubbed, Le Petite Potager, I grow lots of staples, but also colorful oddities to get the attention of my kids. DollarSeed has mix of seeds they call Kaleidoscope of Carrots-Atomic Red, Bambino Orange, Cosmic Purple Lunar White, and Solar Yellow, that are sure to interest them.

As a child, my next door neighbor grew Four O’clocks–this and a few roses, but not much else. I thought they were the most exotic flower in the world. Fifty years later, those flowers opening in the afternoon still haunt me, so this will be the year I grow them in my garden. Sometimes, it just takes me a while to get around to doing stuff. ;~\ I’ve ordered Marbles Mixed #FL448 (Mirabilis jalapa). Yellows, reds, oranges, and whites, in the “Marbles” series with lots of stripes and slash. Baker Creek Heirlom Seeds.

 My wildlife habitat is water-wise. Even with 44 inches a year, Raleigh benefits from this sustainable design style because those inches aren’t evenly distributed during the year. In my rock garden, I grow Allium Nodding Onion  seeds, from Botanical Interests as an edible, native, water-wise plant that gives me a beautiful flower in the color of lavender-pink.

DOUG GREEN of Doug Green’s Garden

We’re big fans of Pumpkin ‘Brode Galeux D’Eysines’ (there’s an ague accent on Brode) It is the ugliest darn thing – all warty but it’s very, very solid inside with superb sweet flesh. It makes the best pumpkin pickles I’ve ever tasted!

Pumpkin 'Brode Galeux D'Eysines'. Photo Courtesy of Doug Green

Pumpkin ‘Brode Galeux D’Eysines’. Photo Courtesy of Doug Green

Beatina. This is a perennial spinach hardy in USDA 7 – maybe into 6. We overwinter it in pots in the cold cellar and grow it out again for seed collecting. Very large, thick but tender leaves that can be used raw or cooked and one of the sweetest greens you’re ever going to taste. Eagle Ridge Seeds. It may be difficult to find in the US but Mayo distributed seeds to commercial grower/propagators so it’s in the pipeline.

Tomato. ‘Mayo’s Delight’ a grower named it after Mayo and it’s a large, firm tomato with excellent cool weather growing characteristics. We were very surprised this year how good it was in the heat. One of the best tasting fruits this summer. That’s a quarter in the picture.

Tomato Mayo's Delight Photo Courtesy of Doug Green

Tomato Mayo’s Delight
Photo Courtesy of Doug Green

Sources  – the usual suspects in heirloom vegetables. Terroir Seeds (now owns Underwood Gardens as well), Fedco, Southern Exposure Seeds, Bakers and the Seed Savers.

REBECCA SWEET of Gossip In The Garden 

Summers in my garden wouldn’t be complete without growing my two favorite beans from Renee’s Garden. The first is Spanish Musica (flat, long , crunchy and the juiciest bean I’ve ever tasted) which sometimes grows into these sweet little curlicue shapes.

Spanish Musica Bean Photo Courtesy of Rebecca Sweet

Spanish Musica Bean  ~ Photo Courtesy of Rebecca Sweet

The second is the Rattlesnake heirloom pole bean with its stunning maroon stripe – guaranteed to lure any kid into the garden!

I love mixing edibles and ornamentals together in a garden bed, and the heirloom variety Bull’s Blood Beets are one of my favorites from Peaceful Valley. The garnet colored foliage adds such pizzaz to the garden (not to mention delicious tasting beets)!

After visiting Native Seeds in Arizona this year (a non-profit organization promoting seed conservation) I’m very excited to try my hand at growing Amaranth Mountain Pima Greens. Not only is the flower guaranteed to stop folks in their tracks but the calcium-rich leaves are edible, too. At Native Seeds.

I’ve always wanted to grow the stunning Cup and Saucer Vine (Cobaea scandens), with its conversation-starting purply-blue and white flowers, and finally have the perfect opportunity! I have a very old grapevine that died last year and plant to use its structural trunk and branches as a support for this fast growing vine. At Botanical Interests.

 Select Seeds Picks

Amaranth Chinese Giant

Amaranth Chinese Orange Photo Courtesy of Select Seeds

Amaranth Chinese Orange
Photo Courtesy of Select Seeds

Scabiosa Summer Fruits

Painted Tongue Gloomy Rival

Dahlia Sunny Reggae

Painted Tongue Gloomy Rival

Marigold Kees Orange

Feverfew Giant Tetra White


Baker Creek Seeds Picks

Armenian Cucumber

Rayada Eggplant

Mizuna Lime Streaks (greens)

Mizune Red Streaks (greens)

Australian Yellow (lettuce) http://rareseeds.com/vegetables-d-o/lettuce/australian-yellow.html

Mother Mary’s Pie Melon

Odessa (summer squash)

Strawberry Crown (winter squash)

Dester (tomato)

Jubilee Bush (watermelon)

NOW IT’S YOUR TURN. If you have a list of Top Seeds For 2013, write about them on your blog with a link back to this post on Gardening Gone Wild. Place your link in the comment section below so that all of us can link back to your blog and see what you’ve picked.

AND SOME EXCITING NEWS! Our friend Susan Morrison, who blogs at Blue Planet Garden Blog has created a gardening app. I thought it was so cool that I wanted to share it with you.

Foolproof PlantsFoolproof Plants for Small Gardens (Sutro Media 2013) is a new garden app that highlights some of the best options for ornamental plants that stay a manageable size. It includes over 90 plants, 450 photos and a highly searchable database that allows you to search by plant category, USDA zone, or desirable characteristics like flower color or drought tolerance.  $2.99, available from iTunes for iPhone and iPad, and from Google Play for Android Smartphones.

Fran Sorin

Fran is the author of the highly-acclaimed book, Digging Deep: Unearthing Your Creative Roots Through Gardening, which Andrew Weil, M.D., recommends as "a profound and inspiring book."  

A graduate of the University of Chicago with Honors in Psychology, she is also a gardening and creativity expert, coach, inspirational speaker, CBS radio news gardening correspondent, and Huffington Post Contributor.

Learn more about Fran and get free resources that will help you improve your life at www.fransorin.com.

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Fran Sorin
22 comments… add one

Leave a Comment

Jason February 2, 2013, 1:18 pm

I am really curious to grow amaranth and Hyacinth Bean. Maybe this will be the year. And I am determined to grow nasturtiums in my containers, which will be another first. I have heard, though, that nasturtiums can be difficult because they really want a lean soil. Is that your experience?

Zinnias are a favorite of mine as well. I particularly love ‘Orange Profusion’.

carolyn magnani February 2, 2013, 5:03 pm

Fran, do you know of a seed source for Otacanthus caeruleus (Brazilian Snapdragon)?

Rebecca Sweet February 3, 2013, 11:57 am

The timing of this post couldn’t be any better, Fran, as I have a pack of red mustard seeds just waiting for me to plant them. After seeing your gorgeous photos, I know just where I’ll plant them! I’d leave a longer comment, but the garden’s calling my name……bye!

Sara February 4, 2013, 2:24 am

Interesting list.

Fran Sorin’s visit to Sir Harold Nicholson: maybe more than just ” a few years ago” as he died in 1968! was the visit to him, or Nigel?

Fran Sorin February 4, 2013, 10:11 am

Oh Sara – A big WHOOPS!! Thanks so much for that correction. OF course it was Nigel ~ talk about wishful thinking.I’m going to make the change in the article right now. Thanks for the catch 🙂 Fran

Fran Sorin February 4, 2013, 10:13 am

Rebecca- Lucky you! I’m in the middle of placing my order now. I have no leftover mustard seeds. Thanks so much for participating in the picks 🙂 Fran

Fran Sorin February 4, 2013, 10:23 am

Jason – i have never had a problem with nasturtiums- i think they can handle a wide range of soils.

I germinate my hyacinth beans indoors to give them a head start. Initially they’re slow growers but once they take off – watch out! Fran

Fran Sorin February 4, 2013, 10:27 am


If you’ve already googled it and come up with nothing, I would go into some gardening forums and try to track it down. Fran

Vidya Sury February 5, 2013, 1:12 am

Loved the walk through this garden, Fran! Always long to nurture some potted plants at least….but can’t, thanks to the pigeons who occupy my balcony. Sigh. In fact, had to clear out all the pots once they started pooping everywhere.

I fantasize about young early morning sunshine in a garden. Ah, some day. Until then, I’ll enjoy this.

Fran Sorin February 5, 2013, 9:20 am

Vidya – Your appreciation of nature comes through in all of the marvelous photos you take.
There’s no doubt that you will have a garden where you can experiment and plant to your heart’s delight….:) Fran

ann February 6, 2013, 7:29 am

Best part of grardening, sitting in house, dreaming about garden and summer days.

Fran Sorin February 6, 2013, 2:49 pm

I do love dreaming about my garden in the winter too. But give me a spring day in the garden and I’m in heaven. Fran

epeavey1 February 9, 2013, 7:40 am

I love pumpkins but have never heard of pumpkin pickles. So how do you make pumpkin pickles? I pickled many peppers last year mostly the hot ones and many too much salsa, this year it will be sweet peppers and cucumbers.
Ellen from Georgia

Betsy February 9, 2013, 10:39 am

“As a child, my next door neighbor grew Four O’clocks–this and a few roses, but not much else. I thought they were the most exotic flower in the world.” I used to feel this way about violas when I was little. Thank you for the reminder.

Vidya – I know how you feel! Just low-light houseplants for me. But someday…

Gareth February 10, 2013, 10:45 am

The pictures are great! I really like the amaranth Chinese orange!!

Fran Sorin February 11, 2013, 6:56 am

Thanks Gareth. It looks like a great variety. I’m going to try it in my garden this year. 🙂 Fran

Di Lucht February 17, 2013, 5:50 pm

In Australia this plan (Ricinus communis) known as the Castor Oil plant. It is a noxious weed and if it gets a foot hold, spreads like the plague choking the very life out of everything in its path.

Fran Sorin February 18, 2013, 11:02 am

Diane -Thanks for that information. I am well aware of its deadly poison but I personally never had any problems with it prolifically self seeding.

I appreciate your warning! Fran

Nicole February 20, 2013, 10:08 pm

This is an enjoyable and inspirational post, mentioning some of my very favourites like nasturtiums, zinnias, swiss chard. Also enjoyed the readers’ comments. My post is at:


Fran Sorin February 20, 2013, 11:11 pm

Nicole – Thanks for sharing your photos – they are magnificent – so much so that I felt that i wanted to pick the eggplant and smell the sweet peppers. Am going to check out your seed source from Italy. Fran

Nicole February 21, 2013, 7:06 am

Thanks, Fran

I have found that the Italian veggie seeds grow well in my climate. I guess the varieties are more suited to a warm, drier climate.

The basil Napolenato is just outstanding for fragrance and taste.

Fran Sorin February 21, 2013, 8:09 am

Nicole – I’m ready to send my seed list out but if the shipping isn’t too expensive will add some from your source. Keep me posted on which ones become the stars of your garden this season. 🙂 Fran

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