Sunday, May 31, 2009

New Garden Acquisitions

In a fit of whiny impulsiveness today, added a bunch of new garden friends, including:

~ Ornamental Purple Peppers (Explosive Ember?)
~ "Bush Pickle" Cucumbers - doesn't that sound like the ultimate euphemism???
~ Green Zebra tomato (none of my wintersown seeds came up...) :-(

And some slightly less exciting choices, including:
~ Regular sage (I have a tricolor, but not a regular one, and this had nice big leaves)
~ Italian oregano
~ Lemon thyme
~ "Pimento" red peppers

(yes, this is the year of the pepper around here)

Oh! Exciting! I was emptying out the "failed" wintersown containers today when I noticed...

Seedlings!
Finally sprouted in the Blackberry Lily container.
They look like knives, like little teeny tiny irises, which makes sense because, according to this helpful page, they are in the iris family and NOT the lily family at all (unlike many things we call lily that are in the lily family, like Toad Lilies). Onions or garlic (I forget which) is sometimes referred to as "stinking lily" and is, in fact, a lily relative.

But blackberry lilies (aka leopard lilies, aka belamcanda chinensis) are NOT true lilies. And, in fact, their most commonly-known latin name is now incorrect, as they have apparently been reassigned to the genus Iris with the bland and relatively uninteresting full name Iris domestica.

Which is why I will continue to call them Belamcanda. What a gorgeous sound that is, tripping off the tongue. Compared to Iris domestica.

Which brings me to another thing I have been thinking about lately: Latin names for plants.
Because everybody says the Latin names are more precise and will help you find a plant you are looking for regardless of where in the world you are. For example, there are several different plants known as "Dusty Miller" - my mother believed she had a miracle annual for a few years, but I strongly suspect she mistakenly bought a perennial Dusty Miller, which is thriving gorgeously in her front bed.

The perennial one is an artemisia in Latin, I believe. The annual one is called Senecio.
So you can see how much more precise it is - in theory - to buy all your plants in Latin. That way, you know exactly what you're getting.

HOWEVER.

Last week, when I went to Humber Nurseries, I was looking for "Fleeceflower". But, wanting to be precise, I learned its Latin name: Persicaria amplexicaulis. Which is great, because at Humber, all the plants are arranged alphabetically by their Latin names (I love it! Plant-geek paradise!).
So there I go, up and down the P aisle, looking through the Solomon's Seal (Polygonatum) and the Russian Sage (Perovskia)... and not finding it.

Well, it turns out that "they" - the botanical powers-that-be - renamed the plant a few years ago. It used to be in the genus Polygonum, but was then moved to Persicaria. But because of the nuisance of shuffling the plants around everytime they got renamed, Humber had indeed changed the name on the tag to Persicaria, but left the plants in the Polygonum location.

Anyway, they had several (in the Polygonum spot) to choose from, and I picked Persicaria amplexicaulis "Firetail" - apparently very long-blooming, which should be nice between all the coleus in the front foundation bed. Apparently, it likes moisture... I will do my best.

And about the Latin thing. I still believe it is helpful in determining with precision what plant you are buying. But it is not the be-all and end-all that it's made out to be. If plants were assigned a genus and species and then never reassigned, maybe I'd buy that. As it is... as too many people are saying these days, meh.

(p.s. My new persicaria is sometimes known as Persicaria bistorta, and even bistorta amplexicaulis... there goes precision!)

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Oh!

I realized today, I also bought a bunch of Gallium / Sweet Woodruff at Humber, and apparently it's only good for shade and part/shade... and not the sunny spots I stuck them in. :-o

Now there are five of them that I will have to move. Or maybe leave a couple where they are and see how they do anyway.

More plant swaps!

Someone was advertising plants on Craigslist and wanted to swap them for hostas or astilbes. I dug up the last two chunks of hosta that I can spare from the front and she brought over huge pots of bee balm, cerastium (in flower) and creeping jenny.

I feel ashamed that I didn't give her bigger pieces of hosta, but I have traded so much of it away that I really can't spare any without the front beds looking mangy.

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Someone from the Ask a Master Gardener forum has assured me that my Hakuro nishiki Willow is only suffering because of our unseasonably cold May weather. The leaves indeed look like they've been "burnt" by the near-zero temps after it leafed out... and it is growing a new set of leaves that are lovely, nice whitish-pink accents. So I am much reassured.
Another master gardener there answered a question about the mysterious "spittle" on my coneflower... spittle bugs, but apparently, they don't do much damage. Again, reassuring.

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FINALLY... from the "if Life Gives You Lemons" department.
There are two plants that came with the house that I battle unsuccessfully every single year: grapevines in the back and a creeping, climbing thorn-thing in the front.
So I decided: this is the year that I am NOT going to fight. (okay, I cut back the thorn-thing a couple of months ago, but it is back in full force already)

spiderswarm 2009-06-02 021 I am secretly hoping the thorn-thing is a rose or something similar that blooms on old wood - which would explain why it hasn't flowered yet: I keep cutting the darn thing back. So I am going to put a trellis in the shady corner where it really, really wants to grow, and see if I can get it growing upwards this summer, instead of snaking all over the lamium in the front bed and poking me when I don't watch where I'm going. And then I will leave it over the winter and see if I can't get some flowers out of it next year sometime.

What patience this gardening thing sometimes demands.

And then I was looking at the grapevines over Yom Tov and realized they're actually kind of beautiful.

I have been toying with the idea of a kiwi vine (actinidia kolomikta "arctic beauty"), because they apparently don't mind a bit of shade and after a few years give you yummy fruits (if you buy two; a boy kiwi and a girl kiwi). The fruits are smaller than a regular kiwi; smaller, with a thin skin; more like a grape. And that particular kiwi also has decorative tricolour leaves on the vine, tinges of pink and white on pretty green leaves.

grape vine So I noticed yesterday that the grape vines are tinged with a gorgeous pink tone when they first start to open in the spring.
And they don't mind the shade.
And they grow like weeds.
And I can't kill them in four years of desperately cutting them back
And they'll even grow up my mangy cedar tree and through my back fence, which I would dearly love to cover.
And they have somehow migrated across Neil's yard from Loretta's backyard, and if Loretta is a genuine Italian nonna (which she is)... they are probably not only extremely hardy but also, perhaps, somewhat palatable grapes.
(okay, not necessarily palatable as fruit - since they are were probably originally wine grapes)

So - since Ted just walked in and wants the computer back - the Doogie Howser moral of the day: if your backyard gives you a grapevine... grow grapes!

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