The promise of spring, the bounty of summer, and the rich colors of autumn—it’s easy to love gardening during the milder months. The winter months (at least for those of us who don’t live in
If you’ve never seen this catalog before, you really need to check it out. They have a web site, so you can dip into a few sections and read about their offerings on-line. But for serious study, you really need to have a print copy of the catalog in hand. Except for a few color pictures on the front and back covers, there are no photos: All of the 220 long, skinny pages are packed with tiny print describing thousands of common and obscure offerings. This is not a catalog to simply flip through, looking for your favorites or the newest offerings. If you really take the time to read all of the descriptions—even those for plants you’d never actually want to grow—you’ll be treated to a wealth of information on nomenclature, history, geography, and yes, horticulture, too. The writing ranges from straightforward, basic descriptions to hysterical ramblings. You really need to read it while alone, or you’ll risk alarming your pets and companions with sudden outbursts of laughter.
I just had to treat you to a sampling of descriptions from the newly arrived 2008 catalog, to tide you over until you can get your own copy…
Anthriscus sylvestris ‘Ravenswing’
Most aptly named is this somewhat macabre variety in which the leaves emerge your average green but then proceed to turn to a sombre purple-black. Very popular and we wonder if they grow it in the
Aster diplostephioides (=resembling Diplostephium: this must be one of the most unhelpful of all specific epithets – that’s what taxonomists call the second part of the standard scientific name – apart from being unpronounceable to a normal mortal, why someone would wish to compare a Himalayan plant to a virtually unknown plant growing a zillion miles away in the Andes is a mystery!)
Impatiens roylei (syn. I. glandulifera). Policeman’s Helmet, Jumping Jack, Indian Balsam
If you want to fall out with your neighbors, this is the plant to grow! For if ever a species earned the name Impatiens (=impatient), this is it; when ripe, the slightest touch of the seed capsules makes them explode with vigour and eject the seeds a considerable distance – to walk through a stand of the plants at this time is like being under fire. As a consequence, introduced from the
Translating these names, you come up with something like the Bee-Balm-Leaved-Bee-Plant which is still much nicer than its official English name Bastard Balm! Quite simply, it is perhaps the finest of all the many Dead-Nettle type of plants and if you would normally eschew such things, think again with this one! With honey-scented leaves, a fragrance long retained when dried, it bears in summer few-flowered whorls of very large, white or pink blossoms with a large lower lip a contrasting purple in colour. Once established, particularly in dry shade, it has a remarkable tenacity to life surviving long periods of high summer temperatures without rain. Sometimes used in making a Maibowle type beverage – a festive compound of sweetened and flavoured wine, popular with Continental students!
My major problem with this catalog is trying to decide which seeds I can’t possibly live without. And now I have another tough decision: Do I want them desperately enough to try out my new seed-importing permit?
Any other Chiltern Seed devotees out there?