Rather than dreaming of sugar plums, this post-holiday time of year gardeners are probably dreaming of next year’s garden bounty and beauty. Seed catalogs arriving in the mail help that vision with their beautiful photos of all types of "new and improved" plants. Lots of hype, some of it worthwhile and some not so.

As you scan catalogs or click on sites online, be prepared for how enticing the descriptions and photos are of all these wonderful gems that one can’t bear to pass up. Makes one wonder how they come up with outrageous plant names and wondrous descriptions.

AAS selections are an indication of outstanding plants that grow in a wide range of climate conditions. All America Selection’s mission is “to promote new garden seed varieties with superior garden performance judged in impartial trials in North America.”

Saving seeds works, as long as they’re not hybrids, which don’t reproduce dependably. I depend on many non-hybrid standbys like gaillardias, coneflowers, salvias and the like — all easily divided perennials or reseeding, plus easy care and hardy. But I do have a couple of beds where I rely on annual hybrid Profusion zinnias to blast forth color all summer and well into fall’s cooler weather. I like them because they’re dependable, uniform low height, no insect or disease problems, no deadheading and lots of color. Last year, I ordered a group of packages, each with different colors. In the backyard, I planted the red-orange-pink grouping, and in the front, yellows and whites.

I’ve also ordered a different cucumber, as our standby Baby Persians are hard to come by and my seed saving in the past was hit and miss.

Most of us want a variety of tomatoes, perhaps one or two cherry types, a couple of slicers, maybe some paste for making sauces. It doesn’t pay to buy seeds unless you’re into growing a field of tomatoes. Same goes for peppers. Many of us just head to the annual Master Gardener plant sale — the 2019 sale is April 27 — to have a great selection of tomatoes, peppers and other plants.

For anyone looking for a seed catalog overflowing with tomato selections plus other herbs and vegetables, try Totally Tomatoes (Wisconsin) online or phone 1-800-345-5977.

Other seed sources include:

Just thumbing through these catalogs or online will cheer you up on a cold, gloomy day and put you into the right mood for an exciting 2019.


A WSU Master Gardeners of Chelan County column appears weekly in The Wenatchee World. Mary Fran McClure is one of four columnists featured.