Master gardener gives guidance on new, inventive seeds

Posted: Friday, January 22, 2010

It's this time of year that David Lendrum, co-president of the Southeast Alaska Master Gardeners Association, said the seed catalogs come rolling in.

They tempt anyone with even a faintly green thumb to buy this and that, to invest in the "heartiest" variety of the latest, exotic fruiting plant or to purchase any of the ten thousand offerings.

But Lendrum, who has completed the 40-hour training required to reach master gardener status, said that despite the overwhelming choices, there are about 50 worth considering.

"And those 50 should do really well here," he said.

A few of those include some spicy oriental vegetables, such as Chinese celery, which Lendrum said is good for cultivation in Southeast. Also on his list of recommendations is a cross between parsley and celery, called parcelery.

And for those looking for some good vegetable recommendations, Lendrum said a new pea variety called Estancia is good for our wet climate.

"It's a pea variety that doesn't make leaves," he said. "In a place that rains as heavily as it does here, it's a good bet."

He also mentioned a new Swiss chard called Northern Lights, which comes in a rainbow of colors.

Also a good pick, according to Lendrum, is the Arctic King lettuce, which is hardy to 28 degrees.

"It's like bib lettuce, the real delicate tender one," Lendrum said.

And for a little color, Lendrum said there are a few must-haves to brighten an otherwise dingy garden.

"Delphinums, they get big," he said. "And there's a new Millenium delphinium with big, full-sized flowers that grow to shoulder height. They're sturdier than past varieties, which helps it stand up to wind and rain."

For planters, a new pansy called the Canpanula is a double-ruffled pansy, meaning they have a double layer of petals. Lendrum said these are not only beautiful, but also much more fragrant than traditional types.

Also new this spring is a blooming pulmonaria called Excalibur, which blooms at the same time as the early primroses.

"These make a carpet on the ground that the primroses grow up through," Lendrum said. "They used to be called the 'boy girl plant' because the flowers come up pink and turn to blue."

A popular flower in Juneau, Lendrum said, is the hydrangea.

"There are some beautiful new hydrangeas and these are ones that make a strong pink-flowered cone in July, August and September," he said. "They're called the Quickfire and the Pinky-winky."

All these varieties can be found in seed catalogs such as Cook's Garden, Burpee, Park Seed or Lendrum's favorite, Territorial Seed.

"They are a tremendously responsive company," he said. "(Plus), it's designed for cool, wet, maritime climates like ours."

For a full PowerPoint presentation on Lendrum's recommendations for new plantings send an e-mail to

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