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ASK THE GARDENERS. Questions & Answers

Q Last year, after reading one of your columns about basil, I was inspired to grow some. I bought regular tall basil seeds, and also some Purple Opal seeds from a seed rack. I was fairly successful and was delighted to see so many recipes using basil. It gave me the desire to grow more. I have lost the clipping that gave the name of the seed company that had the greatest number of basil varieties. I found that the seed germinated fast, so I think I still have time to start some. May I please have the name of the company that you mentioned in your column?


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Everett, Wash.

In addition to the regular sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum), most seed companies now offer All-America winner Purple Ruffles and one of the small-leaved bush types. Burpee Gardens, Warminster, PA 18974, offers five varieties, including Purple Ruffles and Green Ruffles.

The seed company with by far the largest collection is Nichols Garden Nursery, 1190 North Pacific Highway, Albany, OR 97321. Besides the first two varieties above, they list bush green, ornamental opal, lettuce-leaved, lemon, piccolo, tulsi (sacred), Thai, and burgundy beauty. After enjoying all of the above in our garden last year, we sowed seeds of the bush types in August and grew them all winter on our sun porch. Fresh basil is always a treat.

In addition to basil, Nichols offers seeds of more than 90 other herbs, and countless unusual vegetables.

COMMENT: I just wanted you to know I am completely enthralled with bush basil. I tried the one called spicy globe (with the tiny leaves) in a window box. I combined it with nasturtiums, yellow calendulas, and variegated thyme.

Also, I used some of the Purple Ruffles basil in the background. At first, that did not do too well, but once it got started, I have continued to pinch out and use the tips. It has flourished and bushed out beautifully.

There have been many comments on the arrangement in the window box, and I have had great fun using much of it in various dishes to add some zip. The leaves and blooms have made nifty garnishes.

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Eureka, Calif.

It's nice to hear from folks telling us all about their experiences with new plants (and old ones too). We, too, like the bush basils, because they have a little extra nip, especially spicy globe.

We have also enjoyed using lemon basil in cool beverages this season.

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