Good Gardening: Variety

May 6, 2019

Snow white lilac.
Credit John Fischer / KLCC

I don't spend much time on flowers, but this year the combination of a sudden spring after the April deluge has made them irresistible even to a dedicated edibles grower.  And there is a lesson coming for both ornamental and food gardeners.

The plants that really caught my eyes and nose are lilacs.  From snow white (whistle while you work song) to deep purple (deep purple song), the varied blooms are filling the air with fragrance and color.  They don't always all flourish in the spring.  Sometimes one color does better than another.  Sometimes the foliage of one variety has mildew issues with all the rain.  But by having a variety of lilacs, at least one usually shines.

And that's the lesson for today.  Plant different varieties so that some will do well if others don't.  The painful lesson of Chestnut tree deaths leaving huge swaths of cities in a forest of dead snags has prompted street tree planters to put in a variety of species.  Whether it's front yard beauty,  back yard veggies, or side yard fruit, mix it up.

Credit John Fischer / KLCC

Plant all one varirty of tomato and you might have a bumper crop- or a bust if late blight likes the plant you have chosen.  Even simple lettuce will do better with a half a dozen varieties in the patch.  Some, like oak leaf, tolerate heat, others rain, some, like black seeded simpson, do fine in frosty conditions. 

And because variety is the spice of life, and peppers are the spice of my salsa, I always plant four or five different kinds of hot peppers.  Summer weather varies from year to year and often packs one pepper with enough heat to make the eyes water while others provide flavor and color.