As the seed catalogs arrive the gardener highlights or folds over pages of interest. While the garden is in its brown phase, colorful pages take us into the future and the past with memories of failures and successes. I always hesitate at flowering sweet peas and wonder if anyone moves to a climate that would suit them. Sweet pea land would have long, cold springs and I confess that I don’t like cold. Places like Vancouver, BC or upstate New York make more sense. If only sweet peas weren’t so photogenic. Of course, professional photographers take the pictures, they make dusty miller and liriope look sexy.

Sometimes the season is just right, like the year our spring was ridiculously long and cool. The sweet peas were beautiful and it was 1995, so rare that the gardener remembers.
Dahlias are another that fill a page well and send the highlighter to block out selections. As one of the last flowers we cut from the garden, the knee jerk reaction is to buy more, forgetting how they hated the heat and sulked every day. Finding just the right place in the garden is the trick.

Spring catalogs are also an indicator of garden trends. White Flower Farm is listing dried flower wreaths, something that hasn’t been popular since the eighties. Houseplants fill four full pages, equal to the space occupied by roses or dahlias. A mistake on their part might be the lack of notations on native perennial or shrub. Although “wildflower” and “pollinator” are sprinkled around.

Select Seeds catalog lists a new dwarf nasturtium named ‘Baby Rose’ and I see this mixing well in a bed of dwarf lettuce. Pages are dedicated to native species and cultivars, a smart move on their part where monarch butterflies and hummingbirds function as models.

My lettuce trial of last spring was a huge success with the help of Johnny’s Select Seeds catalog. Their true mini heads were my favorites. The last thirty pages of their catalog covers supplies, a place where I can relate to how things have changed but stayed the same in the growing field. An entire page is dedicated to long-handled tools or weeders; more highlighting or page folding – I could use at least one of these.

If this spring is anything like last year, it’s not too early to stock-up. My tomato and lettuce seed have been ordered and there were a few work arounds as some were sold out already. If I can share some more advice, highlight to your hearts content but then reconsider, sleep on it before you commit, or wear sunglasses to diminish the brilliance of it all.