When you look through the seed catalogs and see all the pretty pictures you often wonder whether the results you get will match the pictures. Wouldn’t it be great if someone had tested which seeds performed best and told you which ones to select? Well that’s just what Don Boekelheide at Rodale’s Organic Life has done and here are the results.

Every year, Rodale?s Organic Life test gardeners grow vegetable and flower varieties in real-world organic gardens across the U.S. and Canada. The tradition goes back decades, pioneered by ROL?s ?seed? publication, Organic Gardening.
Since the 1990s, I?ve been a test gardener in North Carolina, checking to see if those glorious photos in the seed catalogs bear any resemblance to what will actually grow here. It has been a great honor and great fun, especially corresponding with my fellow testers from Florida to Washington State, who garden in every imaginable situation. They are among the best gardeners I?ve ever met, and they succeed using earth-friendly organic techniques, which gives me hope.
Petunia Tidal Wave Red Velour F1

tidal wave petunia
Photograph courtesy of All-American Selections

Source: All American Selections 2015 (PanAmerican Seed)
Across the country, ROL test gardeners gave Wave rave reviews. ??Tidal Wave Red Velour? is a real winner!? said Jackie Smith in Belle Plaine, Minnesota. ?Started in mid-April a couple months late, it began blooming by June 20 and was still going strong in the fall. The color is a wonderful dark red with hints of rose and black, and it mixes well with other plants in containers.?
Petunia Trilogy Red F1
Photograph courtesy of All-American Selections
Source: All American Selections 2015 (Takii & Co.)
Compact and bushy, with a truer red color than Red Velour, Trilogy Red is ideal for pots and small planters. Here in Charlotte, North Carolina, it stood out by bouncing back with bright blooms even after fierce August thunderstorms.
Salvia Summer Jewel White

summer jewel salvia
Photograph by All-American Selections

Source: All American Selections 2015 (Takii & Co.)
The delicate white spires delight bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds for weeks. Gardeners get to enjoy both blooms and colorful visitors. ?The best variety for me this year was salvia Summer Jewel White,? said Andres Mejides in Homestead, Florida (where summers are scorching.) ?This actually bloomed within a few weeks of sowing, and it is still blooming.?
Dianthus Jolt Pink F1

jolt pink dianthus
Photograph courtesy of All-American Selections

Source: All American Selections 2015 (PanAmerican Seed)
Rounding out the flower festival is dianthus Jolt Pink, a standout whether the weather is chilly or hot. ?They were taller than I expected them to be,? said Kathy Shaw in Redgranite, Wisconsin, ?but have been blooming their heads off since mid-July and are still going strong.? The seed catalogue called it ?easy-to-grow and trouble-free,? and ?an excellent choice for landscapers.? I can vouch for that. A drift of them in our edible landscape in Charlotte was still blooming on New Year?s Day, a cheerful splash of color to welcome in 2016.
Radish Roxanne F1

Photograph courtesy of All-American Selections

Source: All American Selections 2015 (Bejo Seed)
Good things sometimes come in small packages. ?Roxanne radish was my favourite test garden variety,? said Linda Crago in Wellandport, Ontario, Canada. ?I grew these in the spring, then bought more seeds and did a summer planting as well as a fall planting. The summer planting was an experiment to see if they got pithy and inedible and hot. Well?they grew huge and round and beautiful. Some had a bit of heat, but in storage that has calmed down and my daughter nibbles away on them incessantly. Never pithy. Consistent germination and shape, very good taste.?

See more at Rodale’s Organic Life

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