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US Company Welcomes Cdn Gardeners
by John Harmon
February 2, 2003

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The back of the long dark has truly been broken. It's actually light now driving home from work at five PM. We are gaining hours of daylight now at a rapid pace and it comes at a time when our mailboxes are filling with the 2003 batch of new seed catalogs.

I normally recommend buying seeds from Stokes Seeds or other Canadian seed suppliers but there are a number of varieties that Canadian companies just don't have. One of those is seed for African Violets. I talked about growing them from seed last year and tried some myself. I planted three different kinds of African Violet seed from Park's Seed in the US. It was very difficult to get seeds from them because they were not used to selling to Canada. I had to have them sent to a friend in the US who mailed them off to me. This year they have fixed that problem by welcoming Canadian customers with this year's catalog. They have fixed their 800 number so it works from here. The only drawbacks are that all the prices are still in US dollars and they can't accept postal money orders. They also can't send plants or bulbs or any of the garden supplies, just their seeds. If you can order with a credit card you won't have any problems. Order by phone or on the web at The phone number is 800-845-3369.

My African Violets from seed did very well. Park's sells three types of African Violet seed to choose from. One is called Fantasy Hybrids and the seed mix has doubles, semi-doubles and singles in all colors, patterns and even speckled bi-colors. You won't know exactly which kinds you have until they grow but that's part of the enjoyment of planting mixes.

The second type is called Fantasy Teacup. This mix produces mini-plants only three inches wide when fully grown. They sport three quarter inch blooms in pink, blue and white. You can grow a bunch of them in a very small area.

The third type is Fantasy Trailing. These produce lateral stems for a cascading effect. This is also a mix and includes doubles and singles in blue, pink and white.

All three mixes produced plants for me. I got a number of different shades of purple and blue on different types of foliage. The only color I didn't get was white but a couple of plants still haven't bloomed so there's still a chance. I've never seen seeds for African Violets in any of the Canadian catalogs.

Park's also has another collection of hard to find cactus seeds in small packets. One is called Arizona Rainbow (Echinocereus pectinatus rigidissimus) It's a native of Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. It's also called a comb cactus. It grows a new ring every year so it's easy to tell how old it is. They sport huge pink flowers when they bloom. They also sell seeds called "Cactus Hardy Blend". They claim this blend contains cacti hardy to zone 3! For folks living in other parts of Canada some of these varieties will survive outdoors and for us in the north it means they won't drop dead from the draft when you open the cabin door at -40. With good mulch they might even survive here outdoors. Besides these cacti they also have some other interesting mixes including "Sedum Hardy Blend" and "Sempervivum Hardy Blend" and another blend of "Rare Succulents". Something for everyone who love cactus plants.

The other exciting offering by Park's this year is a melon/cucumber cross. It's called "Gold Bar Hybrid" (Cucumis x hytivus)The "Gold Bar Hybrid" is the first ever cucumber-melon cross! They claim it has a "wonderfully unique flavor and heavenly fragrance". It produces yellow striped oblong fruit five to six inches in diameter and seven to eight inches long. The flavor aside the great thing about this melon is that it will climb like a cucumber so it will take up less space in the greenhouse than traditional melons and it matures in just 68 days. I'll be growing some this year just to see what they taste like.

It's great to see an American seed company acknowledge us as "neighbors" and make it easy to order seeds from them. It gives Canadian gardeners another source for some hard to find seeds.

John Harmon owns and operates Tropicals North. Write to John at The Real Dirt, c\o 211 Wood St., Whitehorse, YT., Y1A 2E4 or e-mail

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