Trial and error

good ' but can they be bettered?: Left, sunflower Teddy Bear and Basil Sweet Green.

good ' but can they be bettered?: Left, sunflower Teddy Bear and Basil Sweet Green.

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I’M overwhelmed with seeds again – on top of buying my own, Thompson & Morgan has asked me to trial some new varieties.

The firm asked me to do this with 12 packets last year, which had me squeezing stuff into every available space.

This year, there’s 19 varieties to test, some with familiar controls, to see how they do.

I’m going to be using my mam’s garden (well, back yard) and some friends with allotments to see how they do.

The new varieties don’t have names yet – here’s the run-down:

VEGETABLES

Beetroot: a five-variety mix of skin and flesh colours, with contrasting shades of stems and leaves.

Chard: Tender, mild-tasting slender stems and leaves for salads and stir-frying, or steam when mature.

Claimed not to bolt. To be grown alongside Perpetual Spinach to compare improvement in flavour.

Courgette: Golden-skinned with thin white stripes, fully parthenocarpic (sets flowers without insect pollination). Comparing number of fruit set with Parador.

Basil: “Weatherproof”, British-bred, tolerant to colder weather, winds, even light frosts. Grow next to Basil Sweet Green to see its better performance as days get cooler.

Lettuce: Upright, compact red “little Gem” type with a pronounced red heart.

Tomato: Superior flavour glasshouse cordon variety, thin-skinned, cherry-red fruits of 12g, up to 150 fruits per plant. Compare with Gardeners’ Delight (I’m already growing this).

FLOWERS

Annual mix: From sowing to flower in 40 days, beneficial for insects.

Californian Poppy: All-weather performance, one of the best reds with blue-green foliage. Compare against deep oranges of Sunshades Mix to show how good a red it is.

Heliomeris: Yellow, bicoloured blooms for a sunny border.

Nasturtium: Trailing variety with variegated foliage, and gold, orange, yellow and red blooms. Grow alongside Alaska Mixed.

Phlox: Starry-eyed in a rich blend of colours, strong scent.

Sunflower: Blooms two-three times longer than other doubles, carrying up to 20 flowers at a time. Dwarf plants, up to 20in., compare with Teddy Bear to see how if it outperforms it.

I’ve a feeling there’s going to be a lot of surplus...