Third week January, the Christmas tree goes away and with it goes a flash of color. Outside we are left with tan wisps of grass swaying against crusted snowdrifts.
Another Montana winter descends, when the earth turns to subtle shades of brown. Skies switch between gunmetal gray to sunny crisp bluebird days. Cold and wind converse in a daily visit over the willow fence out back.
Ah, but slipping in through the mailbox is a whiff of spring. I warm up my green thumb in preparation to turn the pages of hope. Seed catalogs have arrived! Yes, I will fantasize five kinds of eggplant in the greenhouse, rows of plump deep green broccoli, and hundreds of heirloom tomatoes falling in perfect ripeness into my garden trug.
That’s the trouble with mailbox hope. It’s just that, an illusion fueled by my desperate desire to bring colorful abundance into my life in the deep of winter. Seed packets with their luscious images are inexpensive daydreams at $3.95 or even $2.75. Seed catalogs are filled to the brim with flights of fancy!
I will save the Seed Savers Exchange 2011, http://www.seedsavers.org/ catalog because the colors of the veg on the cover: cream striped purple eggplant, yellow plum tomatoes, blood red amaranth, purple string beans, and crimson lettuce, my hues of comfort and joy. I fight with my love of color and try to remain true to reason, asking myself, “Realistically, how much can I plant, till, tend, and harvest this coming garden season?”
The Cook’s Garden, http://www.cooksgarden.com/ catalog claims that I will become a “gourmet gardener” by buying their collection of kitchen garden seeds. The vegetable-stuffed yellow pepper on the front of their catalog makes me want to do just that, cook up a stuffed pepper. Yes, but think what has to happen in order sit down to a fresh-cooked meal of your own garden veg!
Irish Eyes Garden Seeds, http://www.irisheyesgardenseeds.com/ is where my French fingerlings, all-reds, and Peruvian purple seed potatoes have come from. Their Yellow Finns are the best. Their farm is Certified Organic and opposes GMO’s in all forms. On page 17 of the 2011 catalog are instructions on how to grow potatoes in a 4-foot square home-built wooden tower. I admit, I am inspired. After all, how else can I have a ‘virgin’ potato patch each year to rid my crop of the dreaded tuber scab?
Johnny’s Selected Seeds, http://www.johnnyseeds.com/, employee owned, purports to build a community of growers. On the front cover, community gardeners bend over to weed the abundant Food Project, http://thefoodproject.org/veg patch on a bustling city corner. Johnny’s seeds have been reliable since 1973, “helping families, friends, and communities feed one another.” If I buy Johnny’s seeds, will I be taking a trip down community building lane?
Baker Heirloom Seeds, http://rareseeds.com/, now owner of the 1811 Comstock Ferre seed company, claims to be “2011’s Pure Seed Book!” Hmmm, with a Missouri pioneer bent throughout their catalog I wonder, will the long skirts and ruffles rub off on me when I buy from their sumptuous hand-illustrated catalog? With over 1300 varieties of veg how can I not want to grow a Belarusian Heart Tomato, fruits up to 2 pounds and are mostly heart-shaped? After all, I do collect heart-shaped rocks, why not tomatoes? Or, could I grow beyond plain old orange pumpkins skipping to pink, red, green, brown, and blue varieties of heirloom exotic squash.
What happened to planting a seed for the pleasure of digging, having black fingernails, and eating a juicy tomato while sitting next to the vine? Mind-boggling is 2011 garden messaging. With the increased interest in growing your own, seed companies have jumped on the wheelbarrow to offer over-the-top abundance of vegetable varieties. Modest will be my choice to plant seeds saved from 2010, buy a few new varieties, and stick with the tried and true. But for a plain old gardener, it sure is fun sitting by the fire to be entertained with seed catalog flights of fancy, the likes of which have never before graced our coffee table!
No flight of fancy, this!