Garfield, that furry fellow found regularly in View, has lent his name to one of the new flowers for 1988. Now the many fanciers of this cat can stick him on the window of their car (upside down seems to be the preferable pose), and also plant a Garfield marigold in their front yard.
According to the press release, it "matches Garfield's exact shade of orange," but don't expect black stripes. If you saw the Rose Parade, these were the marigolds used to cover the Garfield float, and it took more than 100,000 flowers grown on 12 acres in California.
Garfield is a French-type marigold, which means it has smaller flowers but in more profusion, and it grows about 10 inches tall. It, like many of the new flowers for 1988, are only available by ordering from seed catalogues, in this case the catalogue of W. Atlee Burpee & Co., 80382 Burpee Building, Warminster, Pa. 18974. Like most seed catalogues, it is free.
Seed catalogues show up in the mail at this time of the year. The idea being that you can order the seed now in time for spring planting. In California, many of the seeds in catalogues would be better planted in the fall, or even in August, but the tradition of receiving catalogues in January is for the benefit of snowbound Eastern gardeners who can hardly wait for the ground to thaw.
The best catalogues are full of dreamy photographs that tempt you to grow things you have never even heard of, but seed is still relatively cheap and less of a gamble than a lottery ticket. Most good gardeners have at least one tale to tell of trying something unheard of that has since become one of their favorite flowers. Even the failures make good stories, a year or two after the defeat.
One I am going to try, and expect failure, is a new delphinium also found in the Burpee catalogue. I know the plants will grow here, I just don't know if I can coax them to grow from seed, but the photo and description are too tempting.
This new strain of delphiniums is named Fantasia, and in the photos it looks like big, full-size delphiniums, but the text says it only grows to 27 inches tall. I'll give it a shot. Heck, the seeds are only $1.30 for a packet, less than a single delphinium plant at the nursery.
One of the All-America winners for 1988 is also a perennial, and this one I am definitely going to try. It is a new Shasta daisy named Snow Lady and it is "the dwarfest, most compact yet," according to the catalogues, at only 10-12 inches tall. What I like is that it is an old-fashioned single flower with just a simple circle of petals--a real daisy.
This and the delphiniums (and most perennials) would have been better started from seed back in August, but March is not too bad a time to plant them, though then they will not flower until midsummer at the earliest.
Park Seed Co., Cokesbury Road, Greenwood, S.C. 29647-0001, also sells Snow Lady. And in their list of new flowers is another perennial, an echinacea named Bravado. What distinguishes this purple coneflower from the ones at nurseries are the petals, which do not fold back but lay flat like an ordinary daisy. This should make it more visible in the garden, though I sort of like the way the petals shoot back on the old coneflowers.
Park Seed, it seems to me, has always favored flowers, while Burpee favors the vegetables (a subject for another column) and sure enough there are many tempting flowers in the '88 catalogue. I have sometimes found some of the more exotic flowers in the Park catalogue impossible to grow, such as the yellow delphinium that used to appear in its pages but doesn't this year, but I have also found some real treasures between these pages.
This year's order form has some potential treasures on it already. There is a new gomphrena, which is a strawflower for drying with globular flowers. The flowers on this new strain, named Strawberry Fields, are red and should dry that color.
There is a true geranium (not a pelargonium, which we call geraniums) named Johnson's Blue, which is supposed to be a bright blue and which I hope will look as nice as the blue geraniums so popular in England.
There is a new godetia, a native wildflower, named Grace Hybrid that looks to good to pass up.
Also, there is a new vinca roseanamed Pink Panther, which every gardener living in the hot inland areas of Southern California should try because it is the toughest of the summer annuals, and this one is "a truly exciting color, bright cherry pink, the closest to actual red yet."
Then there is a real long-shot, the Australian drumstick flower, which has bright yellow, globe-shaped flowers. Actually, it might not be such a long shot because I think I saw this growing at the Huntington.
For the real gamblers of the garden, who like only long shots, consider the catalogue of J. L. Hudson, Seedsman, P. O. Box 1058, Redwood City, Calif. 94064. This catalogue has no photographs to entice you, costs a dollar, and most of the plant names are unpronounceable, such as Alyogyne hakefolia or Caesalpinia ferrea , but they carry treasures from all over the world that are unavailable in any other catalogue.