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Seed Time

Published in the six Nashoba Publishing papers on Wednesday, Februray 21, 2001. (Contact info, instead of links, was listed at the bottom of the page.)

My current bill from Apple Meadow Hardware says across the top “There’s a light at the end of the tunnel! The Burpee seeds have arrived. Spring can’t be far behind.” I thought of some seeds I want to find: A nasturtium called ‘Moonlight,’ it has pale, creamy yellow flowers instead of the bright red-orange-yellow range of the usual ones.

Some years I start seeds in the house. At first I would use all the sunny windowsills; when I got more ambitious, I bought a five-foot tall light stand. This year, however, I’m going to try to resist filling it up, as part of my resolution to put less energy into new plants, and more into the ones I have. (The nasturtium seeds can just be put in the ground after the weather is warm.)

My worst temptation is the slim little catalog from the New England Wild Flower Society. The plants they offer are native, but not that common; by growing them I help myself to plants suited to this climate—and therefore more likely to do well than many plants from the nurseries, even common ones. At the same time, growing the natives supports all the creatures who have evolved to depend on the native vegetation. Many butterflies, for example, are completely dependent on one host plant, which gives the caterpillar the necessary nutrients and chemicals which make the adult butterfly’s colors and other characteristics .

Another catalog I love, is The Seedling Specialist, from Priscilla Hutt Williams, who does the gardens at historic Reed House, in Townsend Harbor (did you see those giant hollyhocks last summer?). Every spring she starts a variety of seeds and grows them to the stage where they’re ready to put in your garden. I prefer Priscilla’s plants to the ones you can get at garden centers and farm stands, because hers are not overgrown and pot-bound (with the roots girdling and killing each other); and because she grows them organically, which means I don’t have to worry about spending three days in bed after I handle them.

Priscilla grows over two hundred kinds of seedlings every spring: vegetables, herbs, perennials and annuals; well-known plants, heirlooms, and other interesting varieties. You can pick up a copy of her catalog at the free slide talk she will be giving on Sunday, February 25 at the Nashua River Watershed Association, at 2:00 pm. The topic of the talk? “Heirloom Flowers.”

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© Copyright 2001 Catherine Holmes Clark