28 October 2013

Favorite Cheap Plant

I was at the spring Strawberry Festival in Delaplane Virginia two years ago, with its bluegrass bands, raptors, food booths, organ grinder monkey, and craft vendors. The bluegrass and raptors were great, as was the kettle corn and strawberry shortcake booths. Between all the country rag dolls and tree stump clocks and chairs there was a plant vendor literally tucked into the corner.

Containers of strawberries were being scarfed up at incredibly high prices. And the containers were labeled Driscoll's just like those in the local supermarkets. I asked if Driscoll's supplied the containers for free. "No, Driscoll's grew the strawberries in California." Strawberry harvest time in Virginia can vary widely, so to be sure there are strawberries available for the festival, they are flown in from California. We stopped at a farm on the way home to field pick our own from local growers.

Back at the plant vendor and looking for something cheap, I ended up at the small-potted herbs and succulents table. I picked up a pineapple sage (Salvia elegans), and was informed about its care and planting instructions. Only a few dollars buys chartreuse leaves with a pineapple fragrance. "Be sure to take cuttings in the fall, or repot it and bring it indoors to keep it going."

It went into the side yard garden where it comfortably grew during the summer. Then in the late fall, these incredible 12-inch (30 cm) red spires appeared above the leaves, just as the world turns mums and orange. Is it the contrast against the lime green leaves that cause the red to jump out?

Repot in the fall? Sure, right. All the dead things are being ripped out of the garden and football calls on the weekend. Spring bulbs are lucky to get planted the week before Christmas. Still, leaves were raked, chopped, and spread around the beds for the winter.

It grows up to 3-feet in height (1 m) as a bush in its native Mexico highlands where hummingbirds love it. In the salvia genus, it is used in traditional Mexican medicine, for anxiety and high blood pressure treatment. A preliminary study shows antidepressant and antianxiety properties in mice. The internet presents concoctions for teas made from the leaves, and P. Allen Smith has a recipe for Pineapple Sage Pound Cake.

This spring, the little cheap pineapple sage came back. And, it had two babies from seeds or rooted from fallen stems. Does it like me or what?

For The Record:
  • Clay soil with gypsum & organic amendments
  • Full sun on a sloping site
  • Small amount of fertilizer
  • No serious pests/disease
  • Overwintered with small amount of protection

21 October 2013

October 2013 Flowers In The House

For this month, a few goodies were picked up from the garden and brought indoors. It was a cool day, -- perfect to be indoors making minestrone soup with fresh carrots from the garden while watching the Redskins entertain. These beauties were the best carrots ever.

I tried growing them again this spring after laying off for a number of years. Year after year of growing stunted balls of carrots was demoralizing. I took to preparing the soil over the years and determined to succeed, I tried again. Looks like the effort paid off as the carrots were long and the soil was soft enough to pull them up. Some remain in the garden, and of course some were proudly offered to the neighbors.

The autumn vase is for the kitchen countertop while chopping the soup's vegetables. This is aroma therapy. The chartreuse leaves of red fall-blooming pineapple sage (Salvia elegans) spices up the kitchen, along with a few sprigs of lavender. The yellow Canary zinnias add autumn to the kitchen. A few of the tricolor ornamental peppers add some bite, and of course, some fern-like carrot tops. Visit more Flowers In The House at Jane's blog Small But Charming.

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: mexican zinnia, zinnia, marigolds, pineapple sage, rain lilies
  • Harvested: 2 peppers, 2 tomato, 10 carrots

12 October 2013


There is one in every crowd. In every neighborhood. In every rudbeckia bed? A black sheep that stands out.

This summer the third-year bed of rudbeckia (Rudbeckia hirta) sprouted a few mutant plants. I am not sure if these germinated from seed, or were one of the survivors mutating after their overwinter thing. Do these reseed themselves? Do buckets of pulled-up rudbeckia seedlings grace my compost every weekend in the spring?

The new blooms that appeared were dark bronze and mahogany, and a little yellow near the tips. These were growing in a sea of yellow rudbeckia.

When the blooms begin to fade, they dry at the tips and turn crispy, curling up. This happens on the yellow too, but the yellow color disguises it. The dark color emphasizes it. Right now, the rudbeckia is looking a little ragged at the end of the season.

I think I must go with the seed explanation. In reading the online information, I learn black-eyed susans are known as prolific seeders, and easily cross-breed. So, these must be the illegitimate offspring from someone in the neighborhood, maybe courtesy of the bumble bees?

For The Record:
  • Medium clay soil with organic amendments, on sloping yard
  • Mostly full sun
  • Small amount of fertilizer
  • Aphid pests in the spring

Garden Calendar:
  • Blooming: Marigolds, mexican zinnia, canna, rudbeckia, zinnia, asters
  • Harvested: 2 peppers, 1 carrot

05 October 2013

Noshing On The Buddleia

It's been a wonderful month of travel and exciting adventures that have kept me away from the garden and the blog. Summer continues on well past its end, so every summer fun activity continues, too.

Last year I wrote about the white buddleia that sprang from nothing [posted 2012.08.13]. Due to the inactivity surrounding this new plant, I questioned its nickname butterfly bush. It simply did not attract butterflies.
This year, the plant is fuller after being chopped close to the ground last winter, and grew to about 5-feet in height (1.5m) and width. It apparently became more attractive to several nectar-loving creatures. At first, swallowtails appeared for a group buffet. After summer forged ahead, other smaller and lesser known winged visitors would take their turn for a snack. In September, a new day tripper arrived.
A clearwing moth bobbed in and out of the tuberous flowers, at first scaring me into thinking it was a giant bee, then thinking it a small hummingbird. Clearwings are known as 'hummingbird moths.'

Buddleia are endemic to four continents, but not Europe. My Buddleai davidii probably has roots in China. The flower clusters are not as densely packed together as other varieties seen, leading me to believe those other varieties to be highly cultivated. My plant responds well to deadheading, and to pruning in the spring. I tried and was fairly successful shaping it into a nice bush this year. My hungry visitors appreciated the work, too.