Christmas came early this year with the arrival on my desk of an advent calendar from the historic seed company. It’s a “25 Days of Burpee” press release, of sorts, promoting “innovative breakthroughs” that will be offered in the 2018 spring seed catalog. They sent one last year, featuring an image of the Seed House on Fordhook Farm.

This year’s photograph shows a 1955 Ford F-100 pickup truck with a big red bow on the grill. A fresh-cut Christmas tree fills the truck bed, which is wrapped in a string of vintage tree lights. Gazing out the window with a friendly, eager grin is Rex, a two-year-old mutt with cattle dog, Labrador and German shepherd genes.

Approximately 25 openings are hidden in the image, with one “door” to be opened each day from now until Christmas. Each opening conceals a small seed packet with a new Burpee exclusive vegetable or flower variety.

Let’s see what’s behind the first eight doors:

1. “Behold” hybrid eggplant Fruits are 4- by 8-inches in violet purple with white stripe, tender skin, few seeds and a very sweet, non-bitter flavor. Matures in 60 days.

2. “King Coral” celosia Wondrous texture on a king-sized, coral-pink velvety head up to 1 foot in diameter on an 8-10 inch plant. This annual celosia is a showstopper in borders, beds and patio tubs.

3. “Piccolo” hybrid watermelon — Mini 5- by 5-inch seedless watermelons are easy to grow and adaptable to a variety of conditions. Vigorous plants produce up to six 4-pound super-sweet fruits. Matures in 80 days.

4. “Garnet Treasure” hybrid zinnia — Double-flowering 3- to 4-inch wide blooms on 18- to 26-inch plants. Blooms for weeks in the garden.

5. “Stuffed Enuff” hybrid sweet pepper — Loads of colossal fruit in just a little space. With improved tolerance to heat and various soils as well as resistance to disease, “Stuffed Enuff” produces 14-ounce fruits that change from green to red as they mature. Matures in 75 days.

6. “Sun-Fill Green” hybrid sunflower — A unique spiky green sunflower with 3- to 4-inch blooms on 5- to 6-foot-tall stems. Also available in “Sun-Fill Purple.”

7. “Bragger” hybrid cucumber Sweet, crunchy fruits — 65 to 70 per plant — on a plant that thrives in climates from dry to humid. Easy to grow. Matures in 45 days.

8. “Tattoo Papaya” vinca — Vibrant pink petals with dark centers like tattoos set off by green foliage. Best grown in pots, plants grow 14- to 18-inches high. Pair with “Black & Blue” salvia for a dynamic combo.

We’ll open the remaining doors over the next two weeks, culminating in Christmas Eve’s column.

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Arts/Special Sections Editor

Special Sections Editor for the Courier

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