If you're looking for something different to grow in your garden this year, the 2013 crop of plant catalogs has more than a few ideas.
Plant breeders and nurseries have been paying attention to garden trends and have come up with interesting innovations. From surprising container-friendly vegetables to newfound native plants, here are nine of this season's new selections and sources where you can find them. Place your order early because these tempting picks sell out quickly,
Container gardens: Who would have guessed there would be a crop of sweet corn that could be grown in patio containers? Burpee (Burpee.com) is offering seed for its On Deck hybrid corn. Nine seeds planted in a 24-inch container could yield about two dozen ears of bicolor sweet corn in about two months.
Another pot-friendly vegetable is the compact Fairy Tale eggplant, an All-America plant trials winner that bears clusters of petite 5-inch purple eggplants about two months after planting.
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Ideas from abroad: Distant cousins of the tomato, Goji berries, which resemble small red cherry tomato-size fruit on 5-foot tall shrubs, are relatively new to North America, but they have been grown in China for hundreds of years. Proven Winners (Provenwinners.com) carries two varieties: Sweet Lifeberry and Big Lifeberry. Find them at local garden shops that carry Proven Winner products. They are winter-hardy in Kentucky.
Razzle-dazzle color pattern: Superbells Lemon Slice probably will be a hot item at garden stores this spring. These annuals, with flowers that appear to be yellow and white petunia pinwheels, are actually a variety of million bells, or calibrachoa. Easy-care, disease-resistant and sun-loving, they bloom through summer's heat until frost, bringing a fresh, crisp look to your annual bedding plant display and hanging baskets. See them at Park Seed (Parkseed.com).
Fragrance makes scents: In addition to the delicate creamy peach glow of their petals, Sentiment Sunrise flowers carry a sweet, subtle scent, a trait plant breeders have finally succeeded in establishing in tuberous begonias. Great for hanging baskets in shady areas, Sunrise and the related pink Blush can be found at White Flower Farm (Whiteflowerfarm.com).
Grafted vegetables: Why would vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers and eggplant need to be grafted? Adding characteristics of select rootstocks can enhance yields, resistance to pests and diseases, and strengthen the structure of more fragile varieties such as Mortgage Lifter heirloom tomatoes and Big Bertha hybrid green peppers. Find the grafted collection at Jung seed (Jungseed.com), where these grafted plants have earned the title "Superhero Vegetables."
Culinary wish list: Pepper trio kitchen gardens are in, and with them comes the demand for tasty fresh vegetables with pizzazz, to be grown and harvested just steps from the back door. Three stout mini sweet peppers, each only 2 inches in diameter, make a colorful culinary presentation. Orange You Sweet, Yes to Yellow and Right on Red work well together when stuffed and served hot or cold. Gurney's Seed & Nursery (Gurneys.com) offers all three.
Organic seed: USDA-certified organic seeds and produce are in demand, and the variety of available sources for gardeners has expanded greatly in recent years. Organic and heirloom seeds are available through online catalogues such as Renee's Garden Seed (Reneesgarden.com). Beyond the more familiar tomatoes and zucchini, you'll find it easy to locate some less-usual organic heirloom seed such as broccoli raab, Leafy Diana dill and Doll Babies watermelon.
Native find: Throughout the seasons, The Rising Sun redbud bears leaves that change color: First, they're a rosy tangerine as leaves emerge, then gold and finally light green. This native tree grows to only about 12 feet in height, making it a fantastic specimen for the home landscape; it's also a companion to the ever popular purple of Forest Pansy redbuds. Find this winner of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society's 2012 Gold Medal Award at Forestfarm (Forestfarm.com); and White Flower Farm (Whiteflowerfarm.com).
Rare and collectible hosta hybrid: Stunningly different from other hosta leaf patterns, Mito No Hana displays parallel and furrowed mellow-yellow veins that fade to cream and then green as they run the length of its vibrant emerald foliage. Hybridized in Japan, this rare, shade-loving gem grows to about 20 inches tall and 30 inches wide; it bears purple flowers on 40-inch stalks. It doesn't come cheap, however: Klehm's Song Sparrow Farm and Nursery (Songsparrow.com) is selling each plant for $175.