I once read that when you see a plant described as “Grandma’s Favorite!” in a catalog or on a seed packet, you should know that what this really means is “The plant grandma liked before she discovered the more productive and easy to care for hybrids.”
There are some wonderful heirloom plants, of course, that deserve to be more widely grown. But there are also reasons that some of them got left in the dust. This year I discovered one such old-time favorite and learned why Grandma might not continue to grow it.
When I was planning my scheme for Annual Alley this year I knew that I’d include Tithonia roundifolia, Nicotiana sylvestris ‘Only the Lonely’, ‘Blue Horizon’ Ageratum, and ‘Victoria Blue’ Salvia. A few zinnias were also marked for inclusion, but I wanted some more white and yellow flowers, so I started some Cosmos ‘Xanthos’ and ‘Purity.’ Both of these got some sort of stunting problem as seedlings (Insect? Disease? I never figured it out.) so I quickly grew some heirloom marigolds that were supposed to be about the same height.
Baker Creek Seeds is known for unusual seeds and I’d ordered the variety of marigold called Harlequin along with some veggies. Harlequin did indeed get tall…it just didn’t bloom much.
The problem was that I’d planted several of these Harlequin plants and they were not only not showy, they began to shade many of the other annuals.
I’m glad I grew Harlequin because now I know it. It won’t be invited to the party in Annual Alley again, however.
I once made the mistake of growing “heirloom” string beans. What made them “heirloom” is that they had strings that had to be removed. Never again.
And we all love the taste of heirloom tomatoes but what the packets/catalogs/blogs don’t tell you is that they don’t produce as many fruits and they are SO prone to diseases…