Cannabis is one of the most genetically diverse plants on earth. That diversity on the genetic level translates to a fantastic array of buds with dramatically different colors, aromas, shapes, and psychoactive effects. Nothing's worse than listening to a five-minute monologue from a budtender about some specific strain, only to have it turn out to be mediocre, so I've selected the following recommendations after talking to growers, retailers, and friends about their favorites—and trying them myself.

They are all fairly strong, not necessarily in the amount of THC listed on the package, but in their overall effect. I like strong weed. Also, pay attention to garden names. One farm's Maui Wowie is not likely to be the same as another farm's Maui Wowie. Even if the genes were identical, the actual buds would be modified by each farm's growing and curing processes. When you're looking for good weed, knowing which farms you trust is more helpful than knowing the names of strains you like.

Seatown Lemon Haze grown by Western Cultured

This is a fantastic version of Super Lemon Haze. It has an overwhelmingly sweet and lemony aroma, like a lemon-lime soda on a sunny day. The pretty nugs have a vibrant green hue and a coating of white crystals. The plant's aromas keep exhaling around you as you pull it out of its bag and grind it up. It had a light and smooth smoke to it, didn't make me cough, and delivered a powerful, heady, mind-racing high. That's something I enjoy about these really citrusy strains—they make my mind run in circles. It's not for everyone, especially not the paranoia-prone. Barely half a bowl gave me the energy to stay up for a few hours editing and sorting photos and listening to the new War on Drugs album.

Jack 47 grown by Green Barn Farms

Green Barn Farms' Jack 47 is some seriously feel-good weed. Its dense little nugs pop with aromas of skunky pine and lemon, and it delivers an easygoing, fun high. Plus, you can feel good knowing Green Barn Farms is Clean Green Certified—meaning they use organic-like standards—and that Jack 47 was grown outdoors, with only the natural sun on its leaves. Green Barn Farms is the only fully outdoor grower on this list. The strain gets its name from its famous parents, Jack Herer and AK-47. Jack Herer is probably responsible for this hybrid's pine aromas, while the AK-47 lineage contributes some skunkiness. All in all, it's a great outdoor version of a famous strain.

Orange Skunk grown by House of Cultivar

Truthfully, I recommend anything House of Cultivar sells—you can't go wrong with this farm. Touring their indoor garden in Seattle is like a crash course in the dramatic diversity of the cannabis plant. As I walked between rows of budding plants, I went from buds that smelled like sweet lemon-lime to buds that smelled like pine and old gym socks, from buds that were so dominated by banana aromas that if you closed your eyes you could be convinced you were smelling actual bananas to flowers that stunk of cheese.

House of Cultivar uses a fancy tissue-culturing program to create a "bank" of all of their strains, which helps explain the fantastically distinct range of flower they grow. It's difficult to choose one strain to recommend. But Orange Skunk might help you get through these dark months. It's almost as much fun to smell as to smoke, with a powerful perfume of sweet orange and lime, as if God created a Fanta soda. Smoking it gave me an extremely energetic, fun, clearheaded high, with no munchies and no couch lock.

That said, the farm's flagship strain, Chem Mint Cookies, is an obvious recommendation as well. It's earthy and funky with powerful relaxant properties, great to end a long day with. If you're looking for something more intoxicating, even straight-up trippy, I recommend their Super Glue. It's covered in white crystals and has an aroma that reminded me of Elmer's glue on toasted bread.

Gelato grown by Canna Organic

Canna Organix claims to have exclusive genetics on their strain of Gelato, a cross of Sunset Sherbet and Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies. It's hard to fact-check those types of claims, but their strain has developed a strong following in Washington. When you hear that customers are coming back constantly requesting a certain strain, that means there's something special going on.

The Sequim farm's Gelato is a beautiful bud covered in frosty white crystals and orange-red hairs. It smells like a pungent batch of herbs with some sweetness mixed in. It's strong bud, with a high that falls well outside of the indica-sativa paradigm. It got me very high, with both physical relaxation and energetic mental effects. If pot has felt weak and boring lately, this is one to try.

9 Lb. Hammer grown by Boggy Boon

In the American myth of John Henry—as told by Johnny Cash, Bruce Springsteen, and Woody Guthrie—the railroad worker supposedly used a nine-pound hammer to outpace a steam-powered drill, only to die with the hammer in his hand when his hammer-pounding task was complete. The idea for this strain is it's supposed to deliver sedating effects as heavy has Henry's hammer. Boggy Boon's version delivers the necessary heavy hitting results, with deep purple leaves and aromas of musty and sweet grape. It smokes smooth and delivers an immediately sedating effect.