Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Growing Candy

What a thrill to have a watermelon patch. Each watermelon seems like a special treat just waiting to be enjoyed. Definitely more exciting than squash.

There is the tendril that is supposed to indicate ripeness when it turns brown. We will see.

Long frustrated by failure to put the edible plants I grow to good use I have moved more and more to what I think of as candy plants. Blueberries, raspberries, grapes, and the like are, to me, like growing candy. Perhaps I don't harvest the whole production, but I get good use out of at least those three. This year instead of green beans and squash I am growing watermelon. Yum! I used plastic for the first time. It was kind of against my general approach to gardening, but not any more, at least for watermelon.

I searched on line for how to determine watermelon ripeness. I got a few clues but the only really reliable approach, I was told, was to cut one open and see. I did that and while it was edible, I think I will wait for another week or two. I will watch for any changes in the first tendril from the fruit stalk and see if that technique works. I can't wait.

My wife came through for me recently. We harvested tomatoes, eggplant, garlic and leeks and used them to make egg plant Parmesan. Wow was that good. But now that we have used one egg plant (I grilled another couple without great success) we are, alas, probably done with the other fifteen or twenty out in the garden. I have a recipe for tomato cobbler that comes highly recommended. Perhaps that will be this week-end's cooking project.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Bedding-out Scheme Features at Kingwood

Colocasia 'Mojito' (Elephant Ear) This is a relatively new plant on the market and it makes quite an impression in the garden.

Colocasia 'Diamond Head' (Elephant Ear) is a show stopper. The deep dark color and the sheen of the leaf surface always make me stop and marvel.

Canna 'Australia' also has a dramatic dark luster to its leaves, and it also has brilliant orange flowers. The flowers could easily be too much, but it is something that seems to be possible to incorporate into seasonal beds more easily than in temperate climate perennial gardens.

Another dark plant, Pennisetum 'Princess' makes a quite an impact in the garden with its size and color. We overwinter this in front of some big windows in a building we keep at about 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

This Nicotiana sylvestris (flowering tobacco) is the only one of the five that is a true annual and that we grow from seed each year. It is amazing how such a huge plant can grow so quickly from a tiny seed.

When I garden at home I prefer growing hardy plants. I like establishing plant communities that develop and evolve over the years as I make changes, as things grow and get bigger, as some things die or recede, and as plants compete with each other. I enjoy working with all of these dynamics.

Kingwood Center, where I work, has a wide assortment of gardens, but seasonal bedding-out schemes are featured. As an administrator I am not directly involved in these seasonal beds, but I have come to appreciate the very different skills, techniques and results obtained from creating garden beds anew each year from scratch.

One of the most exciting aspects of the seasonal bedding-out schemes is the opportunity to use big, bold, exotic looking plants that really make an impression the very first year they are planted out. Most of these are tender perennials that have to be overwintered, which is often a special skill in itself.

Once again this year I am particularly impressed by several large featured plants and the special qualities they bring to the gardens. I have included photographs of four of them above.