The holiday season, which is winding down, always seems to arrive faster than we expect, but once it's over, the next three months drag as though they will never come to an end.
This is winter in northeast Ohio and unless you are a gardener lucky enough to escape to a sunnier climate, like the rest of us, you are probably trying to find ways to get through the next quarter-year without suffering cabin fever.
So what does a gardener do when they can't garden? As early as December, the seed catalogs begin going out and browsing through their pages is one way a gardener can help pass the time not gardening. The first catalog I received this year was from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. They also can be found online at www.rareseeds.com.
This book has to be my favorite catalog so far. I don't mind browsing Internet sites to find rare seeds, particularly those not found locally, which is how I prefer to shop, but the photos in the Baker Creek book are fit to be framed.
I have an interior decorator friend who specializes in decorating-on-a-dime and one of her favorite ways to spruce up a design is by framing photos from magazines or other sources that would make anyone else think the portrait was purchased that way. When I look at the photos in the Baker Creek catalog, I can't help but wonder how these colorful vegetables would look hanging on my kitchen walls.
This season I am thinking of dabbling in dried beans. When I go to the grocery store and see the bags of dried beans on the shelves, I notice particularly the more colorful beans and wonder where I can get these varieties to grow in my own garden. Baker Creek has them.
Ojo de Cabra, a pole bean whose name translates to "eye of the goat,'' have peaked my curiosity. Sure they also have the old standby, Kentucky Wonder pole bean variety, but they also list beans with names like Rattlesnake pole, Saint-Esprit A Oeil Rouge (Holy Spirit in Red Eye), Good Mother Stallard and Snow Cap.
Moving further into the catalog, I start noticing the cabbage. The husband is not a fan of cabbage unless it is properly fermented into sauerkraut, but that doesn't stop me from growing varieties I can shop into salads. The more colorful the better and I'm beginning to notice names such as Nero Di Toscana (Black Palm Tree), Mammoth Red Rock and Tete Noire.
As I turn the pages, I see cosmic purple carrots, Mexican Sour gherkins, Turkish Orange eggplant that could easily be mistake for tomatoes, and speaking of tomatoes, several pages are dedicated to varieties that are green, orange, pink, purple and even striped. Large Barred Boar tomato is distinctly colored with pinkish- brown and metallic green stripes, while a variety call Pork Chop is described as ''a true yellow that starts off yellow with green stripes that ripen to gold.''
Just when you think you can't fill your wish list with anything else, the vegetable and herb section gives way to flowers. Just because they are heirloom varieties, don't think you've seen many of these in your grandmother's garden. There are giant cockscomb, everlastings that will bloom and look exactly the same when dried as they grew on their stems. There are celosia plumes in colorful pastel shades, hollyhocks with names like Black Currant Whirl, Dwarf Queeny Mixed and Majorette Double Champagne.
And then there is something I've never seen in a catalog before, three full pages of zinnias of all shapes, sizes and colors and wildflowers from Shasta daisies to Dame's Rocket. This is just one catalog. I can't wait to discover what comes next.
After browsing the catalogs and making lists, it will be time to get out the graph paper and work on designs, but that will come later, when the snow is deep and the temperatures are frigid. The physical part of the gardening may be over for the season, but the mental part is just beginning.