Monday, September 10, 2012

I Hope it's Like Riding a Bike (and, Five Plant Favorites from Summer 2012)

I haven't posted in so long, I think I've forgotten how.  (Whether I ever knew how is debatable!)

The day after I wrote this post, I got sick.  For nearly six weeks!  In spite of multiple doctor visits and medical tests, no diagnosis was confirmed, but, thankfully, I'm feeling much better.  I have a depressing lack of confidence in the medical profession, but a new enthusiasm for taking better care of myself.

As far as gardening and garden blogging (and, really, everything else as well), getting back to old routines has taken much longer than I would have thought.  I'm glad to have scarcely noticed August which I do not care for much; the heat and bugs barely entered into my awareness at all this year.  And hurray for September, which always feels like a chance to start fresh -- especially on this day of perfect fall-like weather!

Is it just me, or does it seem particularly appropriate at a time like this to make a list?  I love to make lists and to read them, too; here's one that came to mind this morning as I thought about what survived and thrived in my garden this year during my absence.


Five Plant Favorites from Summer 2012

Sungold Tomato (Lycopersicon lycopersicum 'Sungold')


Success, finally, with a tomato!  I planted just one of these in a spot with about 3 or 4 hours of direct sun.  That hasn't been enough for most other tomatoes, but, even with more than a quarter of the tomatoes splitting when ripe (boo!),  'Sungold' produced so fast we couldn't keep up (yay!).  The one inch fruits never turn red, instead deepening orange-gold when mature.  The color is a pretty contrast to other tomatoes and looks great in your salads.  They're a perfect combination of sweet and tart, so they taste great, too.


Sweetleaf (Stevia rebaudiana)


Sweetleaf is not just a clever name; the leaves are intensely sweet, many times sweeter than sugar.   I think the fresh leaves have a honeysuckle taste that's not noticeable in the dried.  A fresh leaf or two will sweeten a cup of tea without the calories of sugar.  But then, you probably already know this about sweetleaf (a.k.a. stevia).  In the garden, it is grown as an annual here in North Carolina, but, like lemon verbena, sweetleaf will become a woody shrub if you keep it in a pot, prevent it from freezing during the winter, and take it back out into the garden after any danger of frost has passed.  Sweetleaf stayed healthy for me even in a hot dry part of the garden with only afternoon sun.  It did sprawl and flop a little, but no creatures seemed to bother it at all.  Tiny white flowers tip the stems regularly throughout the summer.


Boxwood Basil (Ocimum basilicum 'Boxwood')


Boxwood basil was a lucky find at Lowe's one day last spring.  I went there to buy paint, but my legs only know how to get into the store from the garden center, so they walked me past some boxwood basil on the way in.  Suddenly, I realized I needed another basil -- preferably one with a compact habit, that could grow in a narrow bed with my short Dianthus.  How wonderfully serendipitous that I ran into this particular basil that day, huh?  The growth habit of boxwood basil is particularly pleasant because it makes nicely rounded mounds in the garden of about a foot tall and wide.   And, in spite of the tiny leaves, the flavor of this basil is intense.  It is every bit as useful in the kitchen as the larger basils; in fact it's easier to use because you don't need to bother with chopping the leaves!  I imagine it will be a good one to take indoors this fall because it won't need much room on the windowsill.


Chocolate Eupatorium (Eupatorium rugosum 'Chocolate')


What's chocolate about this Eupatorium?  Well, I suppose the dark color...but it's a stretch, if you ask me.  Maybe it's cynical to conclude it has more to do with the fact that marketers know we can't resist anything with chocolate in the name?  Whatever you call this plant, it has been very satisfying to grow.  Mine is planted in an area of dappled shade even though the recommendation is for full sun, and it has remained in flower, growing well, all summer.  Like its relative joe pye weed, butterflies like it and deer avoid it.  Unlike joe pye, it stays smallish (under 3' for me), compact, and far less weedy looking.  Eupatorium rugosum is a native plant that reseeds readily, but 'Chocolate' will not come true from seed.


River Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium)


I knew I would have to have river oats in my garden when I first saw these pendant seed heads years ago.  I just love how they hang like jewelry and move in the slightest breeze.  Chasmanthium is a wonderful native plant, but it can spread itself around quite a bit.  I think you have to consider where you might like it to do that before you decide to plant it, but don't worry too much about it.  Enjoy the fact that it will grow in shade since not many grasses will.  Appreciate the movement it adds to your garden and its long season of beauty.  Spray the seed heads with a coat of hairspray (so they don't shatter) and take the long stems inside to enjoy in fall arrangements.  It is as lovely in fall brown as in spring green.

~*~

22 comments:

  1. I am soooo sorry to hear that you had been so sick. I have been thinking about your, especially last week with the event in Charlotte. I thought maybe you were busy with family.
    Love the tiny basil, think I saw some of that at our Lowe's. Have some Stevia seeds....just never got around to planting them. As for the River Oats-- they are all along our shoreline. Very pretty in the fall.
    Nice list...and welcome back. Hope you are feeling 100%. We still need to do something together. Julie and I have chatted about going to SC Botanical Garden.???

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. janet, thank you so much for the nice note. i really appreciated it even though i took forever to respond! i would love to go to the sc botanical garden...i've never been! it would be a lot of fun to get together with you and julie again. (i didn't miss out already, did i??)

      Delete
  2. Glad to hear you are feeling better! Nice info on the plants, will look for the stevia plant soon, thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thank you, gina...i bet you will like growing stevia.

      Delete
  3. Boo about you being sick! Glad that you are feeling better and back to blogging! I wondered if you were taking a break during the hot summer. I was relieved to read about ripe tomatoes splitting. I thought it was something I was doing wrong. I love the orange of this variety. I've got it on my "list" now for next year. I have River Oats in my garden and can attest to its loveliness! I picked mine up at the State Botanical Garden Native Plant sale this past spring. I am hoping to get more. Welcome back!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. karin, don't you love learning something on a blog?! i appreciate bloggers so much for taking the time to post. now a quick search can give you someone's personal experience with a plant in just a few short seconds! i'm sure my amazement gives clues to my age -- i still remember pre-google days, haha! thanks so much for the note.

      Delete
  4. I didn't know you'd been sick! Glad you're better in time to enjoy the nice weather (July/August - not nice). I guess that I'll have to try the Boxwood Basil, again, and venture into Stevia since you're recommending them. Welcome back to the (bike) saddle.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. i'm glad you stopped by, lisa! enjoyed seeing you the other day...thank you for the note.

      Delete
  5. Glad you're feeling better. I love chocolate eupatorium as well.It has two great attributes, the name and the fact it is deer resistant.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. i agree with you, sensible. it's really pretty, too...i didn't expect it to be quite so attractive.

      Delete
  6. I've been thinking about you, hoping everything was OK--and I'm so sorry to hear that you've been ill. How frustrating that you didn't receive answers--but I'm so happy to hear that you're feeling better. Still, I hope you're taking it easy and listening to your body, resting when it tells you to. We moms never take good enough care of ourselves, right?

    I adore Sungold--it's the tomato I always have visitors sample when they say they don't like tomatoes! And globe basil is one of my favorites--so pretty, and so perfect for lazy cooks like me! I have a pot of it on the balcony for whenever I'm in a rush and don't want to dice Genovese basil.

    If you feel up to it, I'd love to see you! Lori and I talked about a visit to the SC Botanical Gardens, but if there's a garden closer to you (if that's easier), we could always head that way. Look forward to catching up with you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. nice hearing from you, julie! i'm glad to know we're in agreement about sungold and the globe basils. would truly love another garden outing with you...the sc botanical garden would be great! have you been to daniel stowe? janet and i talked about going there together sometime, too.

      Delete
  7. Its amazing when doctors don't get a diagnosis, and frustrating! On the other hand, its really amazing how much they CAN tell us, when we're such incredibly complicated "machines." Not that it makes you feel better when they can't offer an answer!! I had (less serious) problem myself, where I had vertigo for several weeks. No explanation for it could be found, and they basically said "well, sometimes people get vertigo and we don't know why! Sorry!"

    I love Sungold tomatoes too! They have been incredibly successful for me and this year I grew one in a pot on my deck and it worked out great. That's how I'll be growing them from now on I think. Although my 2 year old daughter has easy access to them that way and likes to throw the green fruit off the deck...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. jen,

      my husband had a three or four year battle with "dizziness." that's what he called it, but it didn't involve vertigo, just a strange, indescribable lightheadedness. it went along with a host of other weird symptoms, so we're familiar with doctor-stumping around here. fortunately, after a week stay at a hospital being treated for migraine associated vertigo (MAV), he started to improve gradually and is mostly back to normal today, but it was a lengthy, scary ordeal.

      your story about your daughter reminds me of my own daughter at when she was about 2. she collected all the green tomatoes one day...ALL of them...and put them in a pile for the dog across the fence. poor baby, she thought she was doing something nice! but mommy wasn't very happy.

      Delete
  8. I'm glad you're feeling better again! River oats is a favorite for me here in Austin too. Yes, it seeds out a good deal, but it has a lovely look and is great to fill in a dry, shady area.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thank you for stopping by, pam! river oats are so pretty and i love the sound they make when the wind blows.

      Delete
  9. You've been missed Daricia! I thought maybe the Charlotte heat had gotten to you and you had taken a few months off. So sorry to hear that, instead, you were not feeling well. Hope you continue to feel better each day.

    I let my newly-purchased stevia plant bite the dust this summer, so will have to continue buying the sweetner at the store. I wasn't sure how one got from leaves to white powder anyway, but liked the idea of the plant.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thank you for the sweet note, dj...it's always nice to know you've been missed! i'm not sure how the white powder comes about, either, but that might be interesting to look into. the dried leaves work really well for tea, but baking with them might require grinding(?) or steeping in a liquid...just guesses.

      Delete
  10. Nothing worse than getting sick in the summer. Saw river oats around, but never knew what they were - only that I wanted some. And in shade-that couldn't be better. Thank you for the identification.
    -Ray

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. good to hear from you, swimray, and glad to help you put a name to a plant. river oats are beautiful!

      Delete