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New vegetable and flower varieties

04/22/03 12:00AM By Charlie Nardozzi
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(Host) Commentator Charlie Nardozzi has inspected his gardening catalogs for new plant hybrids, and shares his favorite finds.

(Nardozzi) There's something about our society that is fascinated with the new. Whether it be new cars, new fashion, or the latest foods, Americans love to be on the cutting edge of the next wave. Gardeners are no exception. I'm always amazed every year at the number of new vegetable and flower variety offerings. Although some are truly unique, many leave me wondering. Do we really need another variety of green bean or a different shade of pink impatiens?

I'm a discriminating gardener, so as I comb through catalogs during this snowy weather, I'm looking for varieties that really pique my interest. Here are some I'd like to try this summer, and maybe you will too!

It's hard to imagine something new in the world petunias. Every since the low growing, vigorous "Wave" series hit the streets in the mid 1990s, it's been just more variations on that same theme. But yes, there truly is something noteworthy. 'Aladdin Orange' is the first petunia to feature bright orange colored flowers. Being Italian and loving orange, I'm tired of pastel colored flowers and love this real shocker. 'Aladdin Orange' would look great in a container with the new white colored Easy Wave petunia - the first selection in the Wave series to feature white flowers.

Ornamental grasses have caught many gardeners interest the past few years, but how about ornamental grains? The All-American Selections winning 'Purple Majesty' ornamental millet grows 3 to 5 feet tall with 8 to 12 inch long purple flower spikes with purple leaves. Not only does this plant look great in the garden, it attracts birds to feed on the millet seed, and the flowers are great for cutting.

In the edible world one new plant has really caught my attention. I love avocados, but unless I'm relocating to southern Florida or California, growing my own is a pipe dream. Not anymore, says Wayside Gardens. They're introducing the 'Don Gillogly' dwarf avocado. It grows less than 10 feet tall, is self-pollinating, can grow indoors, and they promise will fruit for you within 14 months. This I've got to see to believe.

There's always a wealth of new tomato varieties on the market. Many are reintroduced heirlooms that offer exciting shapes, colors, and flavors. One that has caught my eye is the 'Purple Calabash'. This Cinderella pumpkin shaped, 3 inch wide, deeply ribbed fruit has exotic dark purple skin and flesh. Everyone likes to capitalize on a success. Burpee has taken the most popular heirloom, 'Brandywine' tomato, and hybridized it into the new 'Brandy Boy'. This is a hybrid version of the famous delicate flavored, pink fruited heirloom is supposedly more productive, without sacrificing any flavor.

This is just the tip of the new variety iceberg, so I'd encourage all gardeners to take a few of these frosty days and scour gardening catalogs to find 1or 2 new varieties that suit your imagination.

This is Charlie Nardozzi in Hinesburg.

Charlie Nardozzi is an all-around gardening expert with a special fondness for tomatoes and roses.
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