May 2009
How's Your Garden?

How's Your Garden?

One Tabasco Plant Goes a Long Way

Last year I was most impressed by the first Tabasco pepper I’ve ever grown. The plant grew about four feet tall and four feet wide and was loaded with enough peppers for our neighbors and us. Typical of hot peppers, they continued producing peppers through the high summer. The more I picked, the more it made. Our one plant yielded hundreds of little peppers. The plant was very pretty, bearing light green, red-orange and ripe-red fruit all at the same time. Our birds, who don’t have heat receptors, seemed to favor the red fruits, especially late in the season. If you like hot pepper vinegar or sauce, I recommend trying a Tabasco variety in your garden. The little peppers are easy to get into leftover pepper sauce shaker bottles, too.

Cuban Oregano Does Double Duty

 

Cuban oregano is an herb which is both ornamental and flavorful.

Cuban oregano is both an ornamental and flavorful flesh herb great for growing in containers with other plants. The first time I ever saw it was at the Atlanta Botanical Garden as a companion to flowers in a pot. However, its leaves have a true oregano-like flavor; they’re used in Cuban cooking. This oregano is becoming more popular for its ornamental qualities, so keep your eye out and try one in a pot. The fleshy, variegated leaves are very drought-tolerant and make a nice companion to flowers in a container.

   
   

When moonvine opens its buds in later afternoon, a wonderful fragrance fills the air for the night.

 

Moonvine, It’s Like a Flower Ballet

A $1 to $2 packet of moonvine seeds offers priceless entertainment in the evening as you watch the flowers unfurl. Plant this near your porch or patio where you can sit in the late afternoon as its buds begin to unfurl. The whole process takes but a few minutes. When the big, morning glory-like flowers open, they release a wonderful fragrance all night. They are likely to be visited by an assortment of night pollinators, too, like the giant hawk moth, which is so big one of my children mistook it for a hummingbird. The seeds have a hard seed coat, so rough them up on concrete or with coarse sandpaper and soak overnight before planting. Give the vines a rail, wire, fence or trellis to climb.

Add Some Romas to Your Garden

Roma-type tomatoes will give you a harvest of good fresh tomatoes that cook well. They don’t make great slicers because they are meaty, not juicy, but that is what makes them great for cooking down into a sauce or for adding to soups and casseroles. I still have some in my freezer from last year; they produce quite a bumper crop.

Try an Alka-Seltzer

Flower vases with narrow necks can be hard to clean, even with a bottle brush, but there is another way: fizz off the water stains with Alka-Seltzer. Fill the vases with warm water and drop two or three tablets in each. Let the vases sit overnight. Their innards should be clear by morning.

Once Blooming Roses

Now is the time to cut back roses that only bloom once a year, in the spring. Trim them back to whatever size suits you. If your rose is a climber, consider taking the biggest, oldest cane down to near the ground so it will throw out another young shoot or two from the base. You can usually identify the oldest cases because they are the biggest and sometimes their bark looks corky near the base of the plant. Fertilize lightly with a slow-release or organic fertilizer after pruning.

Watch Boxwoods for Leafminer

 

Leafminer is a pest to watch for this spring as your boxwoods leaf out.

Boxwood is not only elegant, but also very valuable. Just try pricing a big one. If you are lucky enough to have some big boxwoods on your property, watch out for a nasty pest: the boxwood leafminer. Shortly after boxwoods leaf out in early spring, the little leafminer fly, which looks like a tiny mosquito, will lay eggs in the tender new leaves. Its larvae burrows inside the leaves and by the time you finally notice the damage, it’s done. If the leaves of your boxwood looked blistered and yellowed last year, chances are this pest is back in your shrub damaging the new growth this year. To control it, use a product containing imidacloprid like Bayer Advanced Tree and Shrub Care. It offers systemic protection to kill the larvae inside the leaf. Luckily, protected new growth will help hide last year’s damage and before long the shrub will look much better.

Lois Trigg Chaplin is author of The Southern Garderner’s Book of Lists and former Garden Editor of Southern Living Magazine.