It’s hard to go a day without running into something, somewhere that claims to be “New and Improved”. Supermarket shelves are loaded with such items, which in many cases are the same old sad, tired products repackaged in smaller containers (but selling for the same price).
And software designers just can’t resist the urge to add new bells and whistles to their products. For my tastes they should spend more time making the existing features actually work before they trot out new releases. I doubt that I use even 5% of the features in most of them anyway!
The plant world is no different. Every year the nurseries and catalogs regale us with their new introductions. Plant breeders strive for colors and shapes not normally seen in nature. How long before we see blue zinnias, or ruffled morning glories? Don’t laugh, Burpee actually featured a double white morning glory in their 1919 catalog. I guess it didn’t catch on.
I’m not buying the hype. I am convinced that not only is “new” not always better, many times it is actually worse! This year I am looking backwards in time to try old, tried-and-true varieties in my gardens.
For instance, I recently found a seed source for Ruby lettuce. I grew it years ago, and then the catalogs dropped it (no doubt to make room for the new and improved ones). It was a 1958 AAS winner and a nice red leaf variety. I found it at Victory Seeds, ironically on the NEW for 2010 page! I’m also growing Salad Bowl lettuce, a 1952 AAS winner that has stood the test of time. It’s a modest little oak leaf lettuce that is ‘slow to bolt, tolerant of heat, and doesn’t get bitter’. Hmm, hard to improve much on that!
In another retro moment, we are growing luffa gourds this year. I can remember growing them as a kid! My wife and I are going to experiment with soap making, and the dried luffas will make great natural scrubbers. Of course it will be next year before we have any to experiment with, but that’s ok.
In the Wild Garden I’m growing State Fair zinnia, which is a tetraploid variety around since the 1950s. I grew it last year and the butterflies loved it. There are some new zinnias out this year called Zahara which are AAS winners. They look lovely, but I think I’ll wait a few years. I want some feedback on whether the butterflies like them. Their opinion is important to me.
I’m also going to plant couple of rugosa roses, so we can have a nice supply of rose hips for tea. I grew Blanc Double De Coubert years ago, before I really appreciated the hips. It will be nice to have it back in the garden. It was introduced in 1892 – hardly a newcomer!
Another exciting find this year is Ramapo tomato. I grew it back in the 1980s but then it disappeared just like Ruby did. Apparently I wasn’t the only one to miss it, because the folks at Rutgers brought it back in late 2007. It’s a large red slicing tomato with an excellent taste, and I look forward to it gracing our table again.
I guess my one-man boycott of things “new and improved” won’t change the overall scheme of things. Marketing people will still hype, and catalogs will still trumpet the arrival of the latest and greatest.
It’s just falling on deaf ears here at Happy Acres!