As each growing season approaches, a diversity of catalogues arrives, and there’s something in each that helps keep us up to date with gardening trends.
Generally sent free if you’ve ordered something the previous year, they can be had for the price of a phone call or two stamps. The glossier publications do occasionally charge, but if you’re a real enthusiast that’s acceptable.
Our main seed orders for vegetables and flowers have arrived, but just before the main growing season gets under way I like to browse catalogues in search of the little extras.
It’s difficult to resist the old stagers, such as Suttons, established in 1806, and Thompson and Morgan (1855), who still lead the field with supplementary publications covering plants, fruit and vegetables. Order the main catalogue and you’re in for the complete set, which can be so informative.
Unwins and Mr Fothergill’s are other favourites that extend the choice and allow us to compare prices.
When it comes to selecting vegetable seeds or plants there’s always a Marshalls, DT Brown or Robinson’s list to hand.
Marshalls, established 1955, is urging us to try something different, and amongst its offerings are two potato varieties, both main crop. Pink Gypsy has a white and pink skin, fluffy texture and good disease resistance, while Highland Burgundy Red has red flesh that holds with steaming. There is an improved Borlotti bean, Supremo, and a dwarf French bean, Yin Yang. The latter appeals on two counts – it’s ideal dried for winter casseroles and the beans are black and white.
Although DT Brown sells flower seeds, it’s the fruit and vegetable range that attracts most gardeners. I could not resist its world’s hottest chilli plant collection offer last year, which is repeated at £14.95. Raising these plants from seed demands warmth, good light and an early start so the easy route is to receive them in plug form around mid-May.
Four plants – Naga Morich, Bhut Jolokia, Carolina Reaper and Trinidad Moruga Scorpion Yellow – arrived well-packed, were potted up and performed well in the greenhouse.
Robinson’s seed and plant catalogue is a family-run firm that has existed since 1860. It has built its reputation with vegetable displays at top shows, specialising in celery, leeks and its mammoth improved onions. We grow the latter every year for the kitchen, rather than exhibition, but they are a good shape, capable of reaching two to three kilograms. Most importantly, they store well and are sweet to taste.