Gardeners have been called creatures of habit, and it's true for the most part when it comes to deciding what to plant each year. Gardeners are loyal to varieties that have performed well, and those that flop tend to fall by the wayside.
Most of us, however, can always find a little room in the garden for something new every year. New varieties always are fun to try, possibly leading to a new favorite.
New varieties that show potential for 2012 include:
Big Daddy hybrid tomato
An indeterminant plant that produces giant-sized tomatoes weighing 15 ounces or more. A Burpee exclusive, it is touted as being a breakthrough in taste, size, disease-resistance and yield. See www.burpee.com.
Fantasy F1 Hybrid Swiss chard
The first hybrid Swiss chard offered to gardeners. Traditionally grown chard varieties all are open pollinators. The addition of a hybrid variety brings improvements that include increased productivity, taste and disease-resistance. The plants have reddish-purple stems bearing red-green leaves. The taste is "mild and juicy with no harsh aftertaste."
Introduced by Thompson & Morgan, it has good resistance to downy mildew, an especially common disease locally in spring and fall. See www.tmseeds.com.
Canennatta F1 Cayenne Pepper
A strong, upright plant ideal for pots and containers. A 2012 All America Selections (AAS) winner, producing 3- to 4-inch-long fruit with mild heat. Dense foliage helps resist sunburn. Bred by Floranova, it is available from Burpee. See www.burpee.com.
Sweet Heat F1 Bell Pepper
Introduced by Horticultural Products and Services, this is a bell with mild heat that turns red faster than traditional bell peppers. Use for grilling, stuffing and in salsas. Similar heat to that of Mexibell, a popular variety in the late 1980s. See www.hpsseed.com.
Kaleidoscope Mix F1 Flower Sprouts
A hybrid cross between Brussels sprouts and kale. A truly new vegetable, flower sprouts resemble rosettes growing on tall, colorful stalks. A Johnny's Selected Seeds introduction, it is described as a "tender, mildly flavored sprout which has the taste and texture of red Russian kale." See www.johnnyseeds.com.
Faerie F1 watermelon
A "half-sized" melon with 8-inch-diameter fruit, this is truly a garden novelty. A 2012 AAS winner, it has a creamy-yellow rind with pinkish-red flesh. The slightly oval fruit weigh between 4 and 6 pounds. Bred by Known-You Seed Co., it is available from Park Seed. See www.parkseed.com.
An English cucumber with long, straight fruit that reach 12 inches in length. These are the types of cucumbers found wrapped in plastic in produce cases. They produce all female flowers and
display resistance to powdery mildew, which can be a major problem in Southern Oregon.
A Territorial Seed Co. introduction, it has a "sweet flavor with no trace of bitterness and is
thin-skinned so peeling is unnecessary." See www.territorialseed.com.
Indigo Rose Tomato
An Oregon State University introduction, Indigo Rose produces round, 2-inch fruit that are indigo in color (nearly blue). Its fruits contain "more disease-fighting anthycyanin than any other tomato variety." It's an indeterminant grower available through Territorial.
David James has been writing gardening stories in Southern Oregon for 35 years. Contact him at email@example.com.