The National Garden Bureau launches a campaign to revitalize the ease and pleasure of growing from seed. This logo will be used to identify educational information on gardening from seed or bedding plants from seed. National Garden Bureau members will encourage the art and craft of gardening with seed using the Great Gardeners Use Seed™ logo. This is a commitment to reach teachers, youth, and adults teaching the benefits of gardening with seed and plants from seed. Founded in 1920, the Bureau’s original mission was to disseminate basic instructions for backyard gardening. In the 21st century, the Bureau has published Today’s Garden and the “Year of” fact sheets and offered the same valuable gardening advice on the website, www.ngb.org In addition to general public education, the Bureau has sponsored programs that teach youth science with the use of garden-based activities. The Bureau acknowledges that previous generations were taught to garden by their parents, grandparents, or other family members. Millions of children and older youth have not had the opportunity to sow a seed and nurture the plant grown from seed. Garden-based activities – the GrowLab® Program Over 50 GrowLabs have been donated to teachers for classroom use. A GrowLab® is a tabletop structure that serves as a germination chamber and growing laboratory for children to sow seed, nurture growing plants, learn botany and become familiar with plant needs. Teachers are given guidelines, seed, soil, and the tools to lead youth through the growing process. Each spring the Bureau contacts the teachers to learn if they have needs for materials to continue using the GrowLab®. Teachers applaud this program. The Bureau works with the National Gardening Association to provide the GrowLabs and necessary supplies. Teacher’s Educational Kits The Bureau partners with the National Gardening Association to distribute educational kits to teachers. There were two educational kits created this year. Since 2005 is the ‘Year of the Melon,’ the fact sheets and melon seed were sent to teachers who requested the kit on the NGA website. Each year more than 500 educational kits are sent to teachers upon request. This year 37,000 teachers received seed packets donated primarily by the National Garden Bureau members and a poster sponsored by Dole Foods. This educational kit was organized by NGA to celebrate National Gardening Month in April. The kits were sent to teachers who subscribe to the Weekly Reader. The Bureau is supporting numerous projects that teach the miracle of seed, growing plants from seed and bedding plants from seed. This NGB Today’s Garden proudly features the following AAS winners that have earned the status of “heirlooms.”
Everything Old Is New Again
It is curious that at the same time modern hybrid plants are getting attention, heirlooms are garnering more appeal among home gardeners. So, what are heirlooms? They are cultivated plant varieties that have been grown for at least 50 years, time-tested and open-pollinated. Chiefly of European descent, heirloom seeds have been passed down from one generation to the next. Through the centuries, people selected out and conserved seeds of those plants with enhanced characteristics such as flavor, vigor, scent, and local hardiness. Heirloom seeds were often among the few belongings immigrants brought to America. Many heirlooms are still being kept in families and some are now available to gardeners everywhere. What accounts for the ever-growing interest in and cultivation of more heirlooms? People are rediscovering the great diversity—flavor, color, texture, fragrance, size, form, and shape—of flowers, vegetables, and herbs that have been around for many years and enjoyed by people of many nations and cultures. You may already be growing heirlooms and not realize it. More than 40 of the All-America Selections varieties can be considered heirlooms because after more than 50 years they are still available. Among the initial AAS introductions—from the early 1930s—was the Gleam Series of Nasturtium, Tropaeolum majus. ‘Golden Gleam,’ with its brilliant gold flowers—and spicy flavor—made its debut in 1933, followed by the handsome deep red ‘Scarlet Gleam’ and the ‘Gleam Mix,’ both in 1935. Hollyhock ‘Indian Spring,’ Alcea rosea , a 1939 AAS winner, bears single and semi-double blossoms in shades of pink, rose and white on impressive 7-foot stems. A favorite pink Cleome, ‘Pink Queen,’ Cleome Hasslerana , came on the scene in 1942. In 1947, the ever-popular French Marigold ‘Naughty Marietta,’ Tagetes patula, with its bright yellow petals marked with maroon at their centers, made its debut. ‘Purple Robe’ nierembergia, Nierembergia hippomanica , which was awarded AAS status in 1942, is still the only purple nierembergia grown from seed. Zinnia ‘Persian Carpet,’ Zinnia haageana , (also called Mexican zinnia), an AAS selection for 1952, bearing variegated fully to semi-double flowers in shades of red, gold and white, is popular for attracting butterflies. Two favorite Morning Glories, Ipomoea purpurea , iridescent ‘Pearly Gates’ and ‘Scarlett O’Hara’ date back to 1942 and 1939, respectively. Tithonia ‘Torch,’ Tithonia rotundifolia , (Mexican sunflower) came onto the scene in 1951. The AAS heirlooms include several classic vegetables: Cucumber, Cucumis sativus , ‘Straight 8’ (1935), ‘Salad Bowl’ lettuce, Lactuca sativa , (1952), ‘Clemson Spineless’ okra, Abelmoschus esculentus , (1939), and ‘Cherry Belle’ radish, Raphanus sativus (1949). It may be a shock to realize seeds that were introduced during your childhood are designated as heirlooms. These open-pollinated varieties have withstood the test of time as AAS Winners and heirlooms.