New Varieties for 2004

'Fresh Look Gold' celosia

After the last leftovers have been eaten and the stockings put away, my attention turns to the New Year and next year's garden. Fortuntately, seed companies are in sync with my desires, and my mailbox fills up with catalogs showcasing their new vegetable and annual flower varieties. Every year it gets harder and harder to fit all the varieties I want to try into my finite garden space. So, I have to be discriminating about the new ones, paring down my wish list to the varieties that really seem new, different, and unique.

So just when I thought I was done with lists, here's my list of new vegetable and annual flower varieties that I think are worth a try in 2004. After each description are the names of mail-order companies carrying these varieties. Their Web sites are listed at the end of the article.

Sunrise Serenade' morning glory

New Annual Flowers:

Fresh Look Red' & 'Fresh Look Gold' celosia. These two, new, All-America Selections plume celosias thrive in summer's heat, humidity, drought, rain ? you get the idea, and never need deadheading. They grow 12 to 18 inches tall and, like all Celosia plumosa, the flowers can be cut and dried to make everlasting bouquets. (Park Seed)

'Queeny Purple' hollyhock. This All-America Selections dwarf hollyhock grows only 20 to 30 inches tall and features 3- to 4-inch-diameter, frilly edged, reddish purple, double blooms. This annual will flower prolifically the first year from a February or March sowing. (Burpee Seed, Park Seed)

Sunrise Serenade' morning glory. This heirloom morning glory features unusual, double, ruby-red flowers. It's a strong climber with dark green.(Seed Saver's Exchange)'Sunrise Serenade' morning glory 'Shooting Stars' nemesia. This yellow-and-white-flowered nemesia only grows 1 foot tall and has a strong branching habit and a delightful coconut fragrance. (Thompson & Morgan)

Sugar N Spice' sweet pea. Container gardeners looking for a window box full of sweet peas should check out 'Sugar N Spice'. Growing only 1 to 2 feet tall, this mixed-colored sweet pea is fragrant, blooms on short nodes, and doesn't require pinching. (Thompson & Morgan)

'Tiger Eyes' viola. This eye-catching viola features gold-colored flowers with black veins. Great for borders or containers. (Thompson & Morgan)

'Eau de Cologne' nicotiana. Nicotiana make great bedding plants. However, until now only the tall, white-flowered nicotiana had a strong fragrance. 'Eau de Cologne' mix features red, pink, yellow, and purple flowers that grow 2 feet tall and have the strong evening fragrance of heirloom nicotianas. (Thompson & Morgan)

'Amy' melon

New Vegetables:

'Romano Gold' bush bean. Dwarf bushy plants produce thick, light yellow, flat pods on disease-resistant plants. More productive than other wax Romano types. (Stokes Seeds)

'Citrus' cauliflower. This early-bearing hybrid produces orange heads that turn even brighter when cooked. (Johnny's Selected Seeds)

'Graffiti' cauliflower. This hybrid produces purple heads that turn bluish-purple when cooked. Best sown for a fall harvest. (Johnny's Selected Seeds)

'Japanese Climbing' cucumber. First introduced to America in 1892, this heirloom has vigorous, clasping tendrils that easily grow up trellises and fences. The 8-inch-long, light green fruits can be used for pickling or eating fresh. (Seed Savers Exchange)

'Bistro' mache. This unique, mild flavored, dark green, European salad green has a nutty flavor and tender texture. It's best picked when 5 to 7 inches tall and used in salads or steamed. (Nichols Garden Seeds)

Amy' hybrid melon. An All-America Selections, 3-pound, casaba melon, 'Amy' features smooth, yellow skin, and firm, sweet, white flesh. (Stokes, Park Seed)

'Tom Thumb' pea. This heirloom is one of the best dwarf shelling peas for container culture. The 1- to 2-foot-tall bushes are tolerant of temperatures down to 20 degrees F. They make great deck plants or can even be used as an indoor centerpiece. (Seed Savers Exchange)

'Orange Thai' hot pepper. A great addition to your hot pepper medley, these bushy plants produce 2-inch-long, tasty and attractive chili peppers that start green and turn orange. (Seed Savers Exchange)

'Topepo Rosso' pepper. 'Topepo Rosso' looks like a small beefsteak tomato, but it's actually a thick-walled, sweet pepper. Compact plants produce an abundance of fruits that start green and turn red. They can be used fresh, for stuffing, or for pickling. (Nichols Garden Seeds)

Strawberry spinach. Compact plants produce triangular, tooth-shaped, lamb's quarter-like leaves that are great in salads or steamed. Also, edible, mulberry-like fruits are produced along the stems. (Seed Savers Exchange)

'Success' summer squash. This new, straight-neck summer squash is a boon for organic gardeners since it has strong powdery mildew resistance along with a buttery flavor. (Territorial Seeds)

'Sunny Delight' summer squash. This yellow, patty-pan summer squash produces successive flushes of squash that are blemish-free. It has good tolerance to virus diseases. (Nichols Garden Seeds)

Sunshine' winter squash. This amber, cup-type winter squash features bright orange skin and orange, sweet, nutty, creamy, string-less flesh. This 2004 All-America Selections winner also stores well. (Stokes Seeds, Park Seed, Nichols Garden Seeds)

'Glory' tomato. This unique hybrid is a cross between two heirlooms, producing 11-ounce, soft, sweet, meaty, red fruits on indeterminate vines. (Park Seed, Nichols Garden Seeds)

'Pink Accordion' tomato. This heirloom features 4- to 5-inch-diameter, pink fruits with deep scalloping like an accordion. 'Pink Accordion' is indeterminate with sweet, meaty, low-acid flavor. (Territorial Seed Company)

'Plum Crimson' tomato. This extra-large, saladette-type tomato features dark red fruits on determinate plants. The fruits are high in cancer-fighting lycopene. (Stokes Seeds)

'Purple Russian' tomato. This indeterminate heirloom from the Ukraine features plum-shaped, purple, 6-ounce fruits. The plants have good cold tolerance, and the fruits don't crack or have green shoulders. (Seed Savers Exchange)

'Extazy' watermelon. 'Extazy' is a 4- to 5-pound watermelon that's just the right size for two people for dessert. It's seedless and is adapted across the country. (Stokes Seeds)

'Sweet Beauty' watermelon. An All-America Selections winner for 2004, this bowling-ball-shaped, red watermelon weighs just 6 to 7 pounds and matures earlier than most. (Park Seed)

Burpee Seed Company (www.burpee.com)

Park Seed Company (www.parkseed.com)

Johnny's Selected Seeds (www.johnnyseeds.com)

Stokes Seeds (www.stokesseed.com)

Territorial Seed Company (www.territorialseed.com)

Nichols Garden Nursery (www.nicholsgardennursery.com)

Seed Savers Exchange (www.seedsavers.org)

Thompson & Morgan (www.thompsonandmorgan.com)