For several years in a row, I used to write a new plants article for a magazine’s spring issue. It was fun to flip through seed catalogs, identifying the new plants. But in some ways, it was a challenge. What is “new”? What is “new” to me may not be “new” to other gardeners. What is new for one seed company may not be new for another. The term “new” is very subjective. I would always see a new color of a petunia or zinnia or dahlia but since there were new colors every year, a new color did not seem really new to me. It was just another color of the same plant. Plus, my article reflected what was known when I wrote it – at that point in time. Some companies announce their introductions in December, the year before the new growing season, while others wait until the spring of the current year. So I struggled with “new.”
Still I think it is helpful to point out to gardeners the new or different while they peruse their catalogs and compile their orders for the upcoming gardening season.
Here are “new” herbs for 2023. This week, I flipped through 20 print and online catalogs that I know offer herbs in addition to vegetables and flowers. For this article, “new” means: “Wow! This herb is really different from all the other ones I am seeing in the catalogs. I have not seen this before, and I think you might be interested in this.” Obviously, my list is not all new herbs on the market but here is what I am seeing in January. Check out my personal list of “new” herbs.
A Baker Creek Heirloom Seed catalog is a gardener’s Sears Christmas Wish Book. When I was little, I spent weeks poring over the Wish Book, picking out the toys I wanted for Christmas. Baker Creek has a free colorful catalog and another one called the Whole Seed Catalog. The Whole Seed Catalog is a door stopper, it is more than 500 pages and costs a pretty penny. Both have a lot of photos, information, and many new plants. In the herb category, they have outdone themselves by introducing three types of butterfly peas. These plants produce pea-like flowers that color your rice or drink. A few years ago, it was hard to find the blue flowered type, the plant was not well known in this country. However, it caught my attention when the blue cocktails appeared on Instagram. Baker Creek now offers three types: “Blue Queen,” “White Queen,” and “Lavender Queen” butterfly peas.
They also have three new lavender plants, sold by seed. The most unusual one is “Torch Minty Ice” lavender, which is a Lavandula multifida type with ferny foliage, a wintermint fragrance, and unusually long thin spikes of small lavender/white blossoms. The other is “Torch Blue,” again a fern-leaf type, with larger flowers. These would grow as annuals here in my Zone 7 garden but may grow as perennials further south.
They also introduced “Ellagance Pink” and “Ellagance Purple,” which are L. angustifolia types that will grow as perennials, up to 10 inches tall with silver foliage. “Ellagance Purple” won the Fleuroselect Gold Medal.
And for you tea drinkers, they have Calamintha nepeta “Marvellette Blue,” a perennial that blooms blue/lavender flowers and can be used to make herbal tea.
Botanical Interests produces a beautiful catalog and has a very informative website. I have always thought that their print catalog is especially useful for beginner gardeners. Botanical Interests is now offering organic wild bergamot seeds for those who only purchase organic seeds. This is Monarda fistulosa, the purple-flowered, native bee balm. They are also offering organic feverfew and “Moroccan” cilantro. I grow cilantro every year so I plan to try “Moroccan” this spring.
You can’t go wrong with Burpee, they have been providing seeds since 1876! Every year they introduce a lot of new plants, especially vegetables. This year in the world of herbs, Burpee is introducing “Limoncello,” a lemon-scented basil in both seed and plant form; and “Batik,” a Thai basil that flowers late in the season with large purple flower spikes, in seed or plant form.
Speaking of basil, High Mowing Seeds is introducing “Gustoso,” a Genovese-type or sweet basil with very large leaves. This has been bred for containers and is open pollinated (which means you can save the seed to grow again next year).
If you have an issue with downy mildew, you might want to try the new Prospera red downy mildew resistant organic basil at Johnny’s Selected Seeds. This is the first red-foliage basil with both fusarium and downy mildew resistance. Johnny’s also is introducing “Menuette” parsley which has feathery foliage, not at all like Italian flat leaf parsley, but still the same great flavor.
John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds also has a beautiful catalog and an informative site. I subscribe to their emails that have timely nuggets of gardening advice. This year they are introducing orangelo thyme seeds or Thymus fragrantissimus. This is a new French thyme with a citrusy orange scent.
If you have not heard of Select Seeds, you need to get their catalog. They specialize in flowering plants and seeds that are heirlooms and/or open pollinated. Those in the herb world know the importance of edible flowers and Select Seeds is introducing a new signet marigold (Tagetes tenuifolia) called “Lemon Star.” Lemon Star has the small marigold-shaped flowers and ferny foliage. Each flower has yellow petals with red at the base producing the illusion of a ring of red around the center of the flower. Select Seeds also is introducing Feverfew “Magic Lime Green” (Tanacetum parthenium). The flowers start off as lime green and mature to a creamy yellow. Like the name says, feverfew foliage is used for headaches and fevers and the flowers make great cut flowers as well.
My go to source for Thai Roselle, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange has a new chervil called “Vertissimo” (Anthriscus cerefolium). Chervil is a spring ephemeral but easy to grow from seed. Like cilantro, it prefers cool temperatures, so it only lasts for a few months in the spring. The beautiful, fern-like foliage is used to add a licorice flavor in dishes. “Vertissimo” is a Brussels Winter type which means it can take colder temperatures, including a brief frost.
Territorial Seed Company is a great company for veggies and fruiting plants with a free, thick catalog, more than 150 pages. I think a marketing genius works behind the curtain (yes, I did just see Wicked). Only Territorial Seed would come up with the “quad-shot caffeinated combo” which consists of four plants for caffeine enthusiasts: coffee, tea, yerba mate, and yaupon. These plants are shipped in the spring in 3 ½ inch pots and can be purchased separately. Because the leaves are used to make beverages, technically these are herb plants. The combo would make a great gift plant for fellow herbsters!
And because I have not seen this for sale before, I will mention that they are also selling the Piper nigrum plant, the vining tropical plant that produces pepper. Yes, you too can grow black pepper! But be forewarned, this is a tropical plant. I have only seen the plant here in my area in the glass conservatory at the U.S. Botanic Garden in DC. Still, could be a great gift plant for herb enthusiasts as well as chefs.
That’s all for now folks. If I see anything else new this spring, I will add on to this article.