Sunday, November 20, 2011

Last Days of Mandevilla

It's great to still have new blooms (and buds) on this plant so late in the year.  This is Mandevilla and it's a tropical (and subtropical) flowering vine that is native to Central and South America.  In my zone, it's an annual.  I plant it every year because it adds vertical interest to a container garden.  You do have to grow it on some type of structure--mine is on a wire trellis that's about 5 feet high.  I plant mandevilla every spring once the night time temperatures are consistently above 55F.

You'll typically find mandevilla with white blooms, red blooms, or pink blooms.  It requires full sun and plenty of water.  It grows super fast and does not require any maintenance on my part. 

I know that people successfully overwinter mandevilla by putting it in a garage or a laundry room that gets some light.  I have a friend in Pennsylvania whose mandevilla is on its 7th year. But my garage has no window and I don't have a laundry room to speak of.  Plus I don't have a lot of extra space to be storing plants indoors so I buy a new plant every year. 

Check out one of my earlier mandevilla posts (from 2008) to read about my planting technique and be sure to add this plant to your shopping list in the spring.

Bookshelf:  Container Gardening Books

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Herbs Still Going Strong

Purple Sage

It's November and many of my herbs still look fantastic.  I always grow lots of herbs.  I do a decent amount of cooking and there's nothing like going right out onto the deck and clipping a few herbs for a marinade or a pasta sauce.  Also, I like how they make such great companions in a mixed container planting (oregano notwithstanding--it's terribly invasive).  So here are three that are still going strong.

Sage:  This is an old standby for me.  It's perennial in my zone so it returns every year.  I'm partial to purple sage because it plays well with bright colors in a container.  Also, the texture of the leaves adds interest to a mixed planting.  It likes full sun.  For cooking, it's a great addition to pork, turkey, and even cheese dishes.  I always put a few leaves under the skin of my Thanksgiving turkey before I roast it.  But be careful not to use too much as it can be overpowering.

Italian Parsley

Parsley:  I grow flat leaf (Italian) parsley.  What's the difference between that and curly parsley?  Well, I think the flat leaf just looks better, more elegant, in the garden.  Also, most cooks prefer flat because it's more pungent.  Typically you would only see curly parsley as a garnish.  Parsley is a prolific grower and likes full sun.  Although I've read about gardeners in colder zones than mine having luck with their parsley returning, mine has never survived my zone 7 winter.  I have to buy new every year.  Because there's even more flavor in the stems than in the leaves, I just chop up an entire bunch, stems and all, into my marinades and pasta sauces.  Also, consider adding parsley to your salad. 

Thyme:  This herb is super easy to grow.  You can start it from cuttings with almost no effort.  It is very hardy (zone 4) and likes full sun.  Because its leaves are so tiny, it is a great addition to a mixed planting and it tends to have a spillover effect.  For cooking, try it in your marinades, meat dishes, soups, and stuffing. 

My most favorite herb, Rosemary, is missing from this writeup.  For whatever reason, it did not perform well for me this year, and I had three plants!  I usually have great success with it but this year, I think I'll barely have enough for my Turkey Day preparations.  Oh well, better luck next year!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Maybe with a Little Imagination....

Cuphea "Tiny Mice" or "Bat Face"'ll be able to see why this plant is nicknamed "Tiny Mice" and "Bat Face".  Its official name is Cuphea (phonetically:  kew-FAY-uh).  Click to enlarge the picture to the left and maybe, if you sort of squint, and look a little sideways, you can see that it somewhat resembles the face of a bat (although I've never been nose to nose with a real bat, and don't hope to be, so I can't say for sure).  Or you might view the little red petals on each side as the ears of mouse and the purple part, the face. 

Cuphea "Tiny Mice/Bat Face"

All likenesses aside, I think this is a nice plant to have in the garden because its tubular shape is so different than most flowers you might already have.  Also, it attracts hummingbirds.  I've only seen a hummingbird a few times this season, but that doesn't mean it doesn't visit with more frequency when I'm not looking.

Cuphea likes part to full sun, is heat tolerant, grows to a height of about 10 inches, and it's only hardy to zone 8.  So I will have to buy another one if I want it in my garden next year.  It blooms from spring to frost so even though you'll only have it for one season, you will definitely get your money's worth.  I have mine planted in a small terracotta pot along with only one other plant:  a creeping wire vine.

Bookshelf:  Container Gardening Books