That’s what Mom told us in the countdown to Christmas. We knew all the hiding places for those colorfully wrapped, sometimes oddly shaped packages — behind the vacuum cleaner in the coat closet, stuffed behind towels on a linen closet shelf, shoved under her bed.
My brother wasn’t above opening a package to peek inside and taping it shut again. He also occasionally got busted by Mom. Not me. I rattled my share of boxes, but I never wanted to ruin the surprise on Christmas morning. I wanted to preserve Santa’s magic.
But I simply couldn’t resist the temptation to sneak a peek behind the remaining doors on Burpee’s Advent calendar to get this column written in time for Christmas. In last week’s column, I’d reached 15, so let’s get on with the big reveal of doors 16 through 25.
“Queen Lime with Blush” zinnia — A beautiful zinnia that looks as if it has been painted with watercolors. Blooms are 3 to 4 inches on 18- to 26-inch plants.
“Ring Leader” hybrid hot pepper — Early ripening and prolific, this jalapeno is great stuffed or pickled, as well as sliced into rings for Southwestern dishes. Disease-resistant plants produce heavy harvests of 4-inch peppers from early to late season, maturing in 55 days.
“Mission Giant Yellow” marigold — Lemon-yellow and mum-like, this marigold has 2- to 3-inch flowers on a plant that reaches 24 to 34 inches tall (needs staking). It’s a re-selected heirloom from the Burpee seed vault.
“Jungle Parrot” sweet pepper — Whether bright red or green, these beak-like peppers are small and the plant produces a high yield, making it ideal as a “perfect patio picking pepper.” Matures in 75 days.
“Treasure Mountain” sunflower — Long-flowering plants produce 10 to 12 stalks with 8- to 11-inch golden-yellow flowers with big brown eyes. Colors are deeply saturated for impact. Stalks can reach 8 to 10 feet high.
“Fioretto 60” cauliflower — Unique, small florets look more like miniature bouquets sprouting on thin, succulent stems. It has a sweet and nutty flavor. Plants mature super-fast in 60 days and produce cauliflower that remains crunchy through cooking.
“Fire Catcher” sunflower — Fiery bicolor 5-inch diameter sunflowers have yellow, deep-orange red and scarlet petals with a dark eye for big drama. Pair it with “Sallyfun Blue Emotion” salvia for a fabulous display in a vase.
“Atlas” beefsteak tomato — Harvest big, tasty patio beeksteaks on bushy, compact plants. Tomatoes can weigh as much as 1 pound. It’s the first-ever beefsteaks for suited for porches and decks in warm, sunny conditions. Matures in 65 days.
“Forecast” zinnia —Long-lasting blooms are produced on mildew-resistant plants. Pink, orange or purple petals surround bright-yellow stamen for a 2-inch-across bloom. Plants reach 24 to 30 inches tall and spread 20 to 24 inches.
“Sunray Yellow Hybrid” sunflower — Small plants produce big smiles. Uniquely dwarf plants branch out to bear 14 4-inch flowers each. Easy to grow from seed. Plant in succession to have flowers all summer long. You can grow these in patio containers as well as beds and borders.