I often advocate for growing heirloom flowers, fruits, and vegetables. Not everyone agrees on the exact definition of what makes a plant or seed an heirloom, but most would agree that a simple definition is an old variety of plant or seed. Some heirloom seeds have been passed down from one generation to another like an antique that belongs to a long lost relative. Seeds planted from an heirloom come back looking exactly like their parents. That is not necessarily the case with a hybrid seed. My favorite analogy is that while heirloom seeds come back looking exactly like their parents, hybrids may come back looking like an aunt or uncle.
Hybridization is the breeding or crossing of two different varieties of the same plant. For example, two different types of tomatoes. Reasons for hybridization depend upon what the breeder is hoping to accomplish. Hybridization can result in a vegetable that does not spoil as easily, allowing it to be transported for longer distances. As a nurse, I can see the advantages of hybridization. Growing hybrid vegetables with a longer shelf life could be a means of transporting them over longer distances and feeding more people.
However, hybridization is not limited to just fruits and vegetables. Hybridization can be used to create non-existent color combinations as well as other uncommon traits in flowers. Such is the case with the flowering hanging baskets I made for our vegetable garden this year. I used hybrid snapdragon seeds from Burpee called Candy Showers. These snapdragons are unlike any other I have ever seen. Snapdragons typically grow upright. These grow laterally with short vines making them perfect for hanging baskets! They are also a brilliant shade of orange. Orange is not a color I generally associate with snapdragons, though orange snapdragons do exist. I chose this hybrid due to it’s trailing hanging basket vines as well as it’s orange color in hopes of attracting more bees into my back-yard farm. So far, the flowers have lived up to my expectations. In fact, when I water them, I sometimes find bees hidden among the flowers. The bees cling to the blossoms to prevent being washed away by the sprinkling water. My Candy Showers hanging baskets have not disappointed me in performance as evidenced by the persistent flurry of bees in my back-yard farm. I am very pleased with the vivid orange flowers, as they add a degree of rustic beauty to my vegetable gardens. Given their name, I am convinced that Candy Showers are ‘bee candy’!
In closing, remember, growing flowering plants in your garden will attract pollinators which may also benefit the health of your fruit and vegetable plants. There is evidence that foods pollinated by pollinators may have a higher nutritional content compared to those that are self-pollinated or pollinated by the wind.
Whether you choose heirlooms or hybrids, be a wellness warrior and grow some candy for the bees in your garden!
The Nurse Farmer ™