Seed Porn

It was a grueling winter in most of the country; certainly in Boston, where the first day of spring still looked like this:

But I am a gardener, and gardeners know that winter is as vital a season as any other.  It gives the earth and its human cultivators a chance to recharge, re-assess, rehydrate.   A gardener in winter has the chance to engage in long, leisurely fantasies about the growing season to come, unhampered by the realities of pests, diseases, or evil bunnies.   Also to buy things. 

Plant fantasies and the acquisitive impulse unite gloriously in the seed catalogues that start filling my mailbox as early as November.

In November, truth be told, I'm kind of sick of the garden, having spent the season's final sad, muddy hours at the tedious tasks of winding hoses and bagging dead tomato plants.   But by the New Year I am ready to devour these catalogues, reading them like novels, drooling over the descriptions, swooning over the pictures.  

Yep, January 1 is the official beginning of Seed Porn Season.  And if you have any doubts about the accuracy of the name, get a load of this entry from the John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds catalogue for turnips -- turnips:

If that doesn't turn up your personal thermostat, I can't imagine what does.  

I do like the Scheepers catalogue for its torrid prose, and for its delightfully pretentious capitalization of vegetable names (note that the white-fleshed beauties in question are not "turnips" but "Turnips").   But really, I can be delightfully pretentious on my own, without any help.   To really feed my garden fantasies, I often favor the Johnny's Selected Seeds catalogue, a massive tome (226 pages) from hearty growers in Maine.   Johnny's caters to small farmers as well as home gardeners.   I buy my seeds in packets; but Johnny's also includes prices for 5 lbs. at a shot--5 lbs. of lettuce seed, for your reference, includes approx. 2.5 million individual seeds.   That's a lotta lettuce.  The Johnny's catalogue sends me deep into my Farmer Laurie fantasies.  Here's the kind of thing you get from Johnny's:

Yes, I want to expand my lettuce markets!    Here's a variety that travels well; here's one that makes a splash at the farmers' market; here's one that will be a novelty with my farmstand customers.

Have I mentioned that the farm in question is about 150 square feet?  In partial shade?   And that I feel compelled, in any given year, to grow ten or 15 different kinds of vegetables in it?  So lettuce gets about 10 square feet.  Which, given hyper-intensive cultivation, will get me about 40 heads of lettuce, if all goes perfectly.  Which it won't.

They say you shouldn't go to the grocery store when you're hungry.  On a similar theory, you shouldn't place seed orders when you're really starved for spring.   I placed my lettuce seed order on February 2, just after Punxatawney Phil delivered some wicked bad news about the endless stretches of winter still ahead.   I bought six varieties of lettuce in all, including Panisse:

And a long-time favorite, Flashy Trout Back:

And then I fell for the siren call of the glorious Skyphos:

How could I resist? It's the surest-heading of the red butterheads!   It's got intermediate resistance to lettuce mosaic virus!   I don't know what lettuce mosaic virus is, but I know I don't want it.  And it's resistant (robustly!) to downy mildew races 1-26 and 28!   I strongly suspect that if downy mildew hits my garden it will be the dreaded Race 27; but nonetheless, Skyphos seems like a garden must-have.

At $5.95 it's a little steep for a packet of seeds.   But I get 500 seeds for that low price!   More than enough to plant the...let's see...five or six heads of Skyphos I can plausibly grow in my garden.   And of course, I could always save money by buying in bulk -- 500,000 seeds for a mere $3,630 -- and finding 50,000 gardener friends to with whom to split them.

But gardening isn't about economy.   It's about raising some little bits of life under growlights in darkest February, when I would otherwise be driven to despair (or music videos).   Here was the scene in my basement during our last snowstorm, a few mere weeks ago:

And it's about the chance to get outside in the end of March, as the last bits of snow are melting, and plant these precious seedlings in my coldframe.   Just look at these luscious beauties, lolling in the voluptuous warmth of their makeshift greenhouse:

If that doesn't turn up your personal thermostat, I can't imagine what does. 

 

 

4 comments

  • Mom
    Mom
    Skyphos is gorgeous!

    Skyphos is gorgeous!

  • Stephen Ansolabehere
    Stephen Ansolabehere
    Clearly the gardening industry needs to rebrand its catalogues: The Joy of Sacks (of Fertilizer), Venthouse (for greenhouses), and Playbokchoy

    Clearly the gardening industry needs to rebrand its catalogues:
    The Joy of Sacks (of Fertilizer),
    Venthouse (for greenhouses),
    and
    Playbokchoy

  • Megan
    Megan
    a cornucopia of smut, can't wait to eat some of it (how public is this??)

    a cornucopia of smut, can't wait to eat some of it (how public is this??)

  • Bill Bachman
    Bill Bachman
    I now feel curiously aroused while looking in our vegetable crisper. Thanks a lot.

    I now feel curiously aroused while looking in our vegetable crisper. Thanks a lot.

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