Whoever believes there's nothing new under the sun hasn't seen the plants being introduced for the 2013 gardening season.
Think multicolored blooms, high-yield vegetables bred for containers and ornamental edibles packing still more nutrition as breeders try to anticipate consumer demand.
Grafted tomatoes appear to be the hottest new trend in home gardening, while cocktail gardens, featuring plants that make or embellish alcoholic drinks, top this year's niche category.
"We're looking for earlier (maturing) varieties, things that work in smaller spaces and plants that are different," said Kevin Roethle, head of new product development for Ball Seed Co., a division of Ball Horticultural. The West Chicago-based company lists 295 introductions for 2013.
"We're trying to create contrasts," Roethle said. "Deeper colors on leaves and more vibrant blossoms."
Those attributes spur impulse buying, he said. "You're picking up milk and bread at a quick-stop (grocery) and then you wind up walking away with some flowers, too."
Noteworthy plant releases for the upcoming season:
- Pint-size vegetables including the first sweet corn you can grow in a pot. No need to garden in large rectangles when you can plant edibles in 24-inch containers. On Deck Sweet Corn (Burpee) leads the parade of several high-yield vegetables being developed for patios or tight spaces.
- Herbs that are emerging as the hot new flowers. Many herbal varieties look great as standalones or when mixed with traditional blooms. Check out the new Cha Cha chive (The Cook's Garden) with its unique "leafettes" and eminently edible flower heads.
- Niche. Cocktail gardening can be an intoxicating hobby. Grow your own heady mixtures using the Drunken Botanist plant collection from Territorial Seed Co. in Cottage Grove, Ore.
- Grafting. Over a billion tomatoes are grafted annually for improved yields and disease resistance, analysts say. Many heirlooms are delicious, but produce too few fruit and are prone to disease and nematodes. These varieties become more vigorous and deliver larger crops for longer periods when grafted to proven rootstock. Try the Black Krim and Big Rainbow tomato heirlooms (Ball) for grafted combinations that deliver good looks with good taste.