by Chrysa Smith

If you’ve ever planted a seed, you know the name Burpee. But perhaps, what you don’t know is that Burpee maintains some 60 acres of beautiful gardens in the heart of Central Bucks County, PA—gardens which have been the testing ground for many an herb, vegetable and flower you know—and those you don’t.

Several times each year, Fordhook Farm is open to the public. It is both the growing and the testing grounds for seed varieties, situated next to Delaware Valley College—a primarily agricultural school. Many of their seed varieties you see in your local farm market or nursery: Big Boy Tomatoes, Iceberg lettuce, Lavender Lady (lavender), Ruby Queen corn. What you may not see, however are the more obscure: white marigolds, the Roly Poly round zucchini, the Cocount Ice white sunflower and the Black Cat black petunia.

Burpee is celebrating their 135th anniversary this year–thanks to a $1000 loan from W. Atlee Burpee’s dear old mom. So much for future generations losing their family’s hard-earned inheritance. They are also responsible for making the marigold our national flower. It was named so in 1960–a great year for flowers and babies (my birth year). And they are responsible for many of the first varieties of all veggies and flowers that fill your garden.

Where do they go from there? In my pots, mouths & plates. Here’s a taste:

Of course, you may know that I like my summer tomatoes on bread with mayo, on bread with chips and mayo, cut up with some red onion and good olive oil, or blanced, cut and stored for winter tomato sauce.
  • I don’t care for Iceberg lettuce—it’s got the crisp thing going for it, but little else nutritionally speaking.
  • I have my lavender plants in my backyard—a perennial which offers fragrance every summer and the ability to cut and dry for sachets and little posies around the house.
  • I’ve never seen a round zucchini, but have purchased those baseball bat size squash from farm markets that look like. I grill them with some onion, tomato, olive oil, garlic powder, oregano, salt and pepper, or grate them for quick breads.
  • And as for marigolds, I don’t care for the yellow/orange varieites, but would go for a white variety if I could find one.
  • Black petunias were first spotted this summer, which I blogged about in earlier posts. At first, they seem morbid: fit for Morticia Adams or a divorce bouquet. But I’m starting to warm up to them; especially if planted with something white: maybe white marigolds? And definitely in a black/white pot—stunning.

Even at 135, Burpee is very much alive and kicking. For more information on the company, Fordhook Farm, tour dates and directions, log onto: