Marianne Binetti

Small seeds can produce big gardening dreams

If you’re apprehensive about buying genetically engineered seeds, pay heed to the “safe seed pledge” sworn to by many seed companies, usually printed in catalogs and on websites.
If you’re apprehensive about buying genetically engineered seeds, pay heed to the “safe seed pledge” sworn to by many seed companies, usually printed in catalogs and on websites. MCT

The second week of January means summer is just a click or a postage stamp away. Yes, this month you can order flower and vegetable seeds either by a click of the computer or by mailing off your wish list to a traditional seed company.

The reason to order seeds now before the ground has even thawed is that half the fun of growing from seed is the anticipation. Seeds are cheap compared to buying entire plants, and this means you can feel free to experiment, dream big and even get carried away a bit as your winter dreaming produces bountiful bushels of fresh produce and overflowing beds of colorful flowers — all possible from a tiny packet of seeds.

Seed catalogs are the source of buried treasure, offering such jewels as purple carrots, lemon cucumbers and canary bird vines. You don’t even need to plant and grow the seeds yourself. Gift a gardening friend a few seed packs and see what pops up.

From Ed Hume Seeds: Here are three unique plants to try from the Ed Hume seed company based in Puyallup. The company specializes in varieties for the Pacific Northwest gardener.

Black Nebula Carrot

You may have seen purple carrots mixed with yellow and orange carrots at the grocery store, but this variety is not purple — it really is a dark, inky color all the way through from the skin to the core. The black carrot still tastes and cooks like an orange carrot, but the added color gives any recipe a fresh look. Just imagine a fresh carrot salad with grated black carrots mixed in with traditional orange carrots — a colorful, healthy and unique treat. You can still harvest carrots in the month of October around here and so the black nebula carrot was made to celebrate Halloween.

Lemon Cucumber

Yup, this is a cucumber with a sweet taste that looks just like a sour lemon. The shape is round and the color is yellow. Think of the fun you’ll have serving this in summer salads. Ed Hume gives special advice about all his seeds when you order or buy a pack from Ed Hume Seeds. For lemon cucumbers he suggests you harvest when the cukes are the size of a golf ball. Smaller is better when it comes to these unusual cucumbers.

Tip: you can grow bush cucumbers in a large patio pot or train traditional, trailing cucumbers to climb up a trellis. Urban gardeners don’t need a lot of room to plant and reap a bountiful harvest.

Canary Bird Vine

Now here is a fast growing annual vine with a look so unusual that you are going to want to post the name right next to the plant or you’ll be answering the door all summer. Anyone walking past your garden will want to stop and ask about this plant. The flowers are bright yellow and rather bird like, but the foliage is the real star. Lovely, lobed, blue-green leaves look like they belong in the tropics — with canary birds. The canary bird vine is from the same family as the nasturtium so it should be easy to grow. The growing advice from Ed Hume says not to fertilize or overwater this plant and to plant the seeds in a warm, mostly sunny site. I have never grown Canary bird vine but this might be the summer I give it a try. I can see those bird-like blooms winging up a porch post or flocks of the yellow flowers covering the arbor in my vegetable bed. Maybe I’ll nail a metal bird cage to a tall post and plant the canary bird vine at the bottom. Trying new plants by ordering seeds is an inexpensive way to add something new and exotic to your garden.

So there you have it — a dreary winter day, but suddenly with new seeds to order my winter garden is growing into the dream garden of my fantasies.

Reach Marianne Binetti through her website at or write to her at P.O. Box 872, Enumclaw WA 98022