Editor's note: This is part of an ongoing series on new varieties of flowers and vegetables available this spring.
With spring inching closer by the day, gardeners turn their thoughts to starting seeds.
Many seeds can be started indoors as early as February. They need up to 12 weeks to establish themselves under tender-loving care in a controlled environment before being subjected to nature.
Some seeds need shorter growth periods. We must wait several more weeks before starting them. Starting them too early makes them too spindly by the time it is safe enough to put them outdoors.
With other seeds we must wait a few more months. Those seeds are best planted after the danger of frost has passed and directly into soil that has had a chance to warm in the spring sunshine.
For those of you ready to start your seeds now, try some of the new varieties of impatiens. The National Garden Bureau has released information about three new varieties of impatiens that will be available through mail-order seed companies or at garden centers this spring.
From Goldsmith Seeds comes the impatiens called Accent Midnight Rose. This is the first dark-leafed variety in the Accent series and features unique dark green foliage and bright rose-pink flowers.
Accent Midnight Rose blooms in shady areas from early spring to winter on free-flowering plants that reach nearly 1 foot high. Twenty-six colors and eight formula mixes are available in the Accent series.
Large, 2-inch flowers dominate impatiens Show Stopper Peach Flair. The salmon-orange blooms are painted with distinctive red streaks that create an impressive look.
Show Stopper Peach Flair grows in a showy mounded habit and blooms nonstop in shady garden spots. It looks terrific in baskets, landscapes and garden borders. The seeds come from Ball Seed.
The last of the new varieties of impatiens for 2001 is Tempo Strawberry Butterfly from Bodger Seeds. This diminutive plant only grows to a height of 6 to 10 inches in the garden, yet packs a powerful punch with large flowers with a strikingly beautiful pink bloom with a deep cherry "butterfly" center.
It has excellent germination results and grows in a compact habit.
The tiny impatiens seeds may be grown indoors in early spring using a soil-less potting mix. Germination is easy. Although impatiens plants are shade-loving, they need full to bright filtered light initially.
Keep the seedlings moderately moist and fertilize monthly. Once they gain some size, the plants benefit from a dimmer light. Generally, directions on the seed packet provide adequate information for starting seeds indoors and nurturing them until they can make the transition to the outdoors.
Another new introduction this year, Sweet Pea North Shore is a Royal Horticultural Society winner. This sweetly perfumed plant has bicolored ruffled petals in rich claret and violet-blue. It is an elegant addition to the flower garden.
Crunchy and colorful
Nothing thrills the veggie lover more than a salad with ingredients picked right from the garden. Begin with Blush Batavian Crunch Blend lettuce.
This attractive lettuce is weather-tolerant and has heavy rosettes with big crunchy and tender leaves in handsome reds and deep greens. Blush Batavian Crunch Blend is a French specialty for home gardeners with bolting resistance, tip burn and lettuce mosaic virus tolerance.
Two new tomatoes are bound to bring taste sensations to salad and burgers this summer. Tomato Granny Smith is a surprise tomato. The fruit ripens with plenty of flavor without ever turning red. Instead, it develops good sugars and acids. It tastes better than any "green" tomato.
Granny Smith matures in 72 days and is resistant to alternaria stem canker, gray leaf spot, fusarium race 1 and verticillium race 1.
For a tomato with a more traditional look, try Porterhouse. This is a giant beefsteak tomato with outstanding flavor. It produces smoother fruit than other beefsteaks and has larger fruit than Big Beef.
The color of Porterhouse is an attractive deep red. Its shape is a hefty deep oblate. Its habit is indeterminate, and its disease resistance is being tested.
Carol Boncella is education coordinator at Lawrence Memorial Hospital and garden writer for the Journal-World.