Friday, September 26, 2008

Garden Notes

A peek around my back yard would tell you two things:

One, the weeds are mounting a vicious attack and two,  I garden anyway. One of these days I’ll have more than enough time to tend the flowers properly and pull every last weed up by the root, but until then, I’ll enjoy my kids and my business and smile at the healthy plants that don’t mind a bit of competition.

Although a few flowers have become a staple in our yard for the past 7 years, such as impatiens, hostas and geraniums, I was pleasantly surprised to discover new herbs for our expanding container garden.   A visit to my friend’s new garden center yielded 4 new delightful herbs for us to enjoy: Lemon Balm, Italian Parsley, Eucalyptus and Rue.  The Rue (pictured above) is the most unique due to its strong aroma and woody stem.  I’ve found reading about Rue comical as it is almost always described as having a disagreeable odor, yet I think it’s wonderful!  The smell is powerful and earthy, yet pungent, reminding me of evergreens at Christmastime; a stimulating aroma.  The leaves are delicate looking, but when I clipped a few stems for drying, I found this little herb has another pleasing quality.  The leaves curl inward and the stem is strong making it a great accessory for dried flower arrangements.   In addition, the aroma clings to it even when dried, unlike the Kentucky Spearmint and Lemon Balm that I’ve attempted  to air dry.

The Kentucky Spearmint is not doing so well.  I’m not sure why.  I’ve watered and snipped the large shoots, aerated the soil and it’s just barely hanging on.  I hope to figure it out because it’s quite nice to steep the leaves in a cup of tea.

I bought the Italian Parsley (pictured below) because I delighted in the fresh, uplifting aroma found in the leaves.  My husband thinks it would be nice to try a little in the spaghetti sauce, but I’d like to figure out a way to use the wonderfully crisp citrus scent with lemon balm to make a nice lotion. 

The Eucalyptus air dries very well, although the leaves must be crushed to enjoy the familiar clean and medicinal aroma.  It seems to be a slow grower, or maybe I need to investigate and improve the soil/sunshine it’s in.

The sage came back well this summer and seems to enjoy partial sun better than the full sun I set it in for the first part of the growing season.  It also likes to stay well watered...

I wrote about the lavender earlier and am still enjoying the flowers.  This is probably my favorite plant to air dry because it retains the lovely purple color, the stems are stong, the pleasant aroma lingers and the flowers hold together for ages.  Lavender “wands” are a popular item in    

garden/spa type boutiques and I’ve had fun this summer making my own and placing them in various arrangements about the house.  With luck, this large plant will make it through another mild WV winter.

After using marigolds for years with only moderate success, I’ve finally found a winning combination for the shallow flower box on the patio.  “Luscious Grape” Lantana (pictured right) planted with various colors of Verbena created just the look I wanted - kind of wild and unruly, but bursting with color =-)  These hardy plants just ask for full sun and water now and then...thankfully, they seem to be quite drought tolerant.

My daughter & I planted “Blue Moon” in the fairy garden and we’ve learned that it fares better in pots rather than the ground.  It likes shade with some evening sunshine.     The kids each have a little plot of earth to call their own and hone their green thumb.  This year our daughter was particularly fond of the Lamb’s Ear that has grown in abundance in her shade garden with very moist soil.  I’ve enjoyed watching her pluck the long velvety leaves to make a ‘bed’ for the turtles that frequently visit.

Another type of Lantana, pictured left, (although I don’t remember the specific name) I experimented with this summer did very well in the ground, but not so well in the containers.  The bright yellow flowers have been blooming since May and I’m hopeful that this one will come back next year.  I’ve been disappointed in the Coreopsis we planted out front.  One of the two plants appeared to die early on, but is now making a comeback and the other is still hanging on, but looks nearly defeated.  The first one is coming back in a big container with lots of good soil and full sun, the other is in the ground, also with full sun.  Even though these are native to WV, I haven’t figured out their secret yet...

The “Cup Flower” came back again, much to the grower’s surprise.  When I bought this little flower, I understood it to be an annual, but this is the second summer it has returned and draped it’s small purple flowers over our fish pond.

The False Heather is becoming a staple around here does so well in containers and looks the same from the time I bring it home in early May until a heavy frost, usually in November.  Along with the impatiens, it’s our longest blooming flower.

Last but not least, I want to remember to plant more “Fan Flowers”, (pictured below) or Scaevola Aemula (I think) in several containers; the purple burst of flowers is gorgeous!  And, once I realized that this flower needed more shade from midday sun, it has prospered and not stopped blooming.  It must be hardy though, because even after leaving it out in the sun without water for several days, it perked up overnight with shade and lots of water.

I’m thankful for the joy these little plants bring...especially walking outside and  plucking a few herbs to smell; it’s very therapeutic on a gloomy day!

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