Garden planning season brings feelings of bold anticipation as we look forward to the season ahead. Perusing catalogs for new or different varieties is part of the fun, and 2018’s new vegetable varieties have something for everyone, whether you want to grow beautiful breadseed poppies or scarlet runner beans as long as your arm.
Prettier Peas and Better Beans
You’ve probably seen pictures of peas with bold purple blossoms and pods, but why not try them yourself? ‘Blauwschokker’ soup peas are easy to envision scrambling up a hand-woven twig trellis, blooming pink and then producing plump purple pods. Taller ‘Spring Blush’ snap peas are worthy contenders for the spring garden, with tender green pods blushed with pink, plus abundant edible tendrils.
One of the best filet bean varieties is ‘Crockett’, known for its shiny, dark green pods borne on bushy, disease-resistant plants. A more exotic filet bean selection, ‘Velour’, produces lilac flowers followed by slender purple pods that turn green when cooked. Purple-podded beans are easier to pick than green ones because you can see them amidst green leaves and stems.
If you live where summers are hot, you might want to try ‘Bettersnap’ southern pea, which has tender pods that can be eaten young, as green beans, or you can allow them to mature, rather like bush type asparagus beans.
New Vegetables Varieties for Foodies
Most vegetables can be roasted on a grill, and grilling intensifies the flavor of summer squash and zucchini. ‘Green Griller’ zucchini has a blunt oval shape that can be sliced crosswise or lengthwise for easy grilling.
Personally, I’m excited about growing Chinese cabbage with lacy magenta hearts, which look almost too pretty to eat. The 'Scarlette' variety (known as ‘Scarvita’ in the UK) will be stunning in the summer garden, and I can’t wait to work with the beautiful leaves in the kitchen.
Every year I like to try a new spice pepper, which are small-fruited varieties packed with complex flavor, but with very little heat. This year I’m looking forward to growing ‘Trinidad Perfume’, which looks like a habanero but is not hot. In late summer, its yellow lantern-shaped fruits will light up the garden.
Tempting Tomato Varieties
With thousands of varieties available, choosing which tomato varieties to grow is never simple. Last year when my garden group visited in July, the tomato that got the most attention was ‘Indigo Rose’, a high nutrition salad tomato that is almost purple in full sun (as shown in the photo at the top of the page). It was a fun tomato to grow, but this year I’ll continue my quest to trial highly-regarded cooking varieties by growing ‘Jersey Devil’, a pepper-shaped red tomato renowned for its flavor and productivity.
Red slicing tomatoes are the gardeners’ favorites, and the new ‘Chef's Choice Red’ is an All-America Selections winner for 2018, producing heavy crops of medium-size red beefsteak tomatoes. Across the pond, sparsely seeded ‘Orange Wellington’ won an Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society, in part for its ability to resist cracking after heavy rains.
Fun Flowers to Attract Pollinators
My 2015 article, Growing Poppies for Seeds and Bees, discussed the benefits poppies bring to the garden, especially breadseed poppies, which attract honeybees and produce edible seeds. ‘Monticello Old’ breadseed poppy features the variable pink shades I see in my own re-seeding strain, but I’ve been wanting to try a new color. ‘Maanzaad breadseed poppy’, sold as Hungarian breadseed poppy in the US, features crepelike white petals splashed with lavender, and is considered one of the most productive varieties for nutty seeds.
Enough! Spend some time lost in seed catalog pages yourself, making notes and turning down pages for things like ‘Orchid Cream’ nasturtium (pale yellow petals splashed with wine-red), or new vegetable varieties for 2018 like bronzed and buttery ‘Grenadine’ lettuce. Planning the new season’s garden feels pleasurable because it is.