Your reading list

I’m dreaming of a white amaryllis (just like the one at Canadian Tire, aisle 2)

Christmas dinner. The candles are lit, wine is poured and the turkey begins its journey around the dinner table, followed by a vat of potatoes. All is like clockwork, until it reaches the gardener in the family, who appears mesmerized by the bowl of mixed vegetables.

His mind is clearly on Cloud Nine – the new bitter-free eggplant variety on next year’s seed order – along with Bodacious corn and Magnum carrots that pack a punch. And don’t forget the Eruption lettuce, Red Alert tomatoes and Rudolph radishes guaranteed to “light up a salad.”

A friendly nudge in the ribs and the trance is broken – until the pepper mill puts a dusting of black granules over the juicy, brown bird and visions of Patty’s Plum poppies dance in his head.

Roses and peonies may be buried under burlap, but gardener’s minds do not hibernate. When perennials are safely tucked under a blanket of snow, gardeners begin to plan. Some might call it scheme. After all, ’tis the season for seed catalogues.

A few more deck pots will be needed for Peaches and Cream verbena and Peppermint Candy phlox that looks so yummy, stakes must be made to keep the new Boogie Woogie lily from doing the dip, and who wouldn’t want a Rosy Future delphinium or three? And then there’s that patch of lawn near the apple tree that really isn’t doing anything. It would be a perfect place for a water pond or a greenhouse.

Loraleigh Epp of Winnipeg finds Christmas wishes are more likely to come true if she highlights them with yellow marker and big arrows and places the catalogue in the bathroom. Much to her chagrin, Santa can’t bring her more real estate for a vegetable garden.

“Unfortunately, I have to save some of my backyard space for the kids,” she said in an e-mailed response to a request for gardening wish lists that the Western Producer recently posted on

However, she does have her eye on the neighbour’s yard.

“He’s a single guy and if I do all the work, what has he got to lose?”

Epp belongs to a group of gardeners in her city, which each year assigns one of its members to get on all the major seed company mailing lists. When the catalogues arrive, the group heads to the conservatory for an inspirational breakfast and to draw up a collective seed order to save on shipping costs.

Epp’s holiday guests may mistake black, mushy baggies in the vegetable crisper for last year’s spinach, but they are actually this year’s peat moss. Epp already has blue columbine and viola seeds undergoing stratification, a cold treatment that fools the seeds into thinking they’re going through winter. In only weeks, she will put the seeds under grow lights and fool them into thinking it’s spring.

Last year, Epp got hooked on native gardening, and this year she hopes to find native seeds in her stocking.

“Jack-in-the-pulpit seeds, to be exact.”

Sharon Rowe heads to the post office every day at this time of the year, not for Christmas parcels, but for seed catalogues and seeds from internet trades through

“I’m like a big kid waiting for the Sears Christmas Wish catalogue,” she said.

“I get so excited when I open the first few pages of a new catalogue.”

Rowe lives in Wainwright, Alta., and has 20 acres of space to fill with bushes and blooms. She has been longing for a greenhouse and apparently Santa’s helper already has three walls up.

A know-it-all is on Sharon Middle-ton’s wish list. The gardener from Midland, Ont., would welcome the services of a gardening wizard to come every month to prune, landscape and give planting advice.

Middleton has cleared one of six gardening shelves for the 2004 catalogues that are now arriving. Grow lights and heat pads are at the ready and she has selected seeds for winter sowing, but said the catalogues always entice her to try another germination challenge.

Like many gardeners, Middleton would like a back that won’t give up after a day of bending and digging. If her family chooses not to put chicken manure under the tree this year, a gift certificate for massage therapy would be appreciated.

Some women hope to find a rock under the tree this year. Pat Porter would like to find several: small sparkly ones, big flat ones and even a boulder or two. The Big River, Sask., gardener is planning a rock garden next spring and is always on the prowl for a unique specimen.

If the search for Joseph’s Coat or Grandmother’s Petticoats has come up cold, gardeners say they can always use another pair of pruners, a gift certificate from a nursery, subscriptions to magazines or books.

Highly recommended is The Prairie Winterscape, full of ideas using native grasses and twigs to make the garden more attractive during the long Canadian winter.

About the author


Stories from our other publications