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Volume 14, Issue 5 ~ February 2 - February 8, 2006

The Bay Gardener

By Dr. Frank Gouin

Buyer Beware “New and Improved” Varieties

Wait a year or two before trying new seeds or cultivars

Mail-order nursery and seed catalogs have been arriving since early December and will continue through spring. Each will advertise “New and Improved” varieties and cultivars on their front covers and first five pages. You can rest assured that these mail order nurseries and seed distributors are followers of P. T. Barnum’s philosophy: There are suckers in every crowd.

Mail-order nurseries and seed distributors are constantly competing to introduce something new because there big bucks are to be made. However, “new and improved” does not guarantee that the plants will perform as expected or survive as described in your garden.

In haste to beat the competition, most new and improved varieties and cultivars have received only limited testing and mostly in the breeder’s own test gardens. How the plants will perform in your soils and under your climatic conditions may be totally different, so beware. I am not suggesting that you ignore the advertised marvels, but I do suggest that you wait a year or two before giving them a try. Save a few catalogs for three to five years to see how many new and improved varieties and cultivars reappear in succeeding years. I have seen many varieties or cultivars that were listed in catalogs for two to three years, but never seen again.

If you can’t resist, try only a few plants and only a packet of seeds, and follow their planting and care recommendations as directed. If the plant or plants perform as expected or better than expected, you have yourself a winner. But if the plant or plants fail, all you have lost is time and a little cash.

Some attempt has been made to develop All American Selections for new varieties and cultivars, but the number of test gardens available are limited and not widely distributed.

However, this is not the case for roses. If the new variety of roses are advertised as an All American Rose, that means something. Pick up the Bay Weekly next week for the scoop on All American Roses.

Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at frgouin@erols.com. All questions will appear in Bay Weekly. Please include your name and address.

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