Friday, May 29, 2009

A Question for Gardeners: Can You Identify this Easy to Grow Purple Flowering Perennial Plant?

Sedum Autumn Joy in Back, Volunteer Spiderwort to the Right, Mystery Perennial up Front

In my last post, It's the End of Bloomin' May Already, I mentioned a several-year-old mystery potted perennial in my garden that is not only pretty, but requires no maintenance and will also put up with anything—so who cares if I don't know what it is.

Katherine at Windchimes (who makes elegant fashion jewelry from glass and metal beads—look at these cute little dragonflies!) was curious about it and asked if I would post a picture, which is exactly what I'd been thinking of doing. I realized it might actually be nice to know what this plant is, because then you'd be able to seek out one or two for your own garden. (I wouldn't mind adding a few more, too.) I also figured at least one of you out there would be able to identify it for us.

I have no idea where or when I got this plant, but it was at least a few years ago. It's growing in a round ceramic pot that's about 12 inches across and maybe 10 inches high, and right now is sitting against the front of the greenhouse where it receives several hours of sun a day. I think during previous years I've had it out in full sun. During the winter it lives in the unheated (except for a couple of nights a year) greenhouse with my other potted perennials. When temps dip down into the single digits, I cover it with floating row cover and/or an old bedsheet.

The plant itself is about 14 inches tall right now and is covered with these delicate pale purple blooms which last for quite a while, though I've never paid attention to exactly how long. The leaves always make me think of catnip, which is in the mint family, and—I just went out and checked—they do smell faintly minty.

I have a feeling the plant might get a whole lot bigger if I put it in the ground, as this has been my experience with other potted perennials, despite the fact that I periodically put a layer of compost on top of the soil and fertilize with sheep manure (simple instructions on how to make your own manure tea coming soon!). The only exceptions to this have been my big pots of lemon balm and
Sedum Autumn Joy (seen behind the mystery plant), but that's because I've kept them in the same place for so long they simply sent roots out the drain holes of their pots into the soil below, and so technically are growing in the ground.

So do you know what my mystery plant is? Do tell! And if you'd like to solve other garden mysteries—or have one of your own you need help with—check out Fine Gardening's Mystery Plant gallery, a fun and informative place where you can post a photo and have your questions answered.

© Copyright 2009, the mysterious foodie farm blog where solving plant puzzles is a lot more interesting than weeding, though it doesn't help feed the compost pile like weeding does—unless of course everything you identify turns out to be a noxious weed, which is what happened the other day when I did a little mystery plant identification in a beginning gardening friend's flower bed.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Garden Journal 5/21/09:
It's the End of Bloomin' May Already!

Busy, Busy

How did that happen? Of course I'm always asking myself that question. But where does the time go? Weren't we just snowed in a couple of weeks ago?

Last week during an emergency trip to the vet for my 12-1/2 year old beagle, Robin (who is thankfully doing well), one of the women who works there asked how my garden was doing. "Everything that's actually been planted is doing great!" I said cheerfully, and then admitted that I still had at least 150 tomato, tomatillo, pepper, eggplant (many thanks to the 46 of you who shared your experiences and tips growing and eating eggplant!), herb, and other miscellaneous seedlings—not to mention the sweet potatoes sporting 2-foot-long sprouts—still sitting in the greenhouse and desperately wishing they'd been put in the ground several weeks ago. I did feel a little better about my slacking off when it dipped down to 40 degrees a couple of times last week since it would have been a pain to cover them all up from the cold. Or at least that's how I rationalized things.

Of course all these as yet homeless seedlings didn't stop me from picking up two six-packs of locally grown basil plants at the local natural foods store yesterday. At $2.00 each I couldn't resist, especially since I (once again) haven't started any basil seeds myself yet, and I've been dreaming about big batches of pesto lately, probably because my supply in the freezer has been depleted. I bought a dozen purple basil plants a couple of weeks ago, too, since I've discovered it makes even better pesto than the green kind. Now I can't wait to make the first Savory Tomato Pesto Pie of the summer.

You'd think I would have had lots of time to catch up in the garden during our recent eight day power outage, and though I did manage to get some long overdue tasks finally completed (like clearing out the small mountain of sheets and blankets used for winter protection in the greenhouse, turning two compost piles and starting a new one, weeding another raised bed in preparation for planting), at this time of year there's simply too much to be done.

Meanwhile, once again I'm surprised by how many things are already blooming (or finished blooming!) by mid May. The irises are out, and the wonderfully low maintenance Kerria japonica Pleniflora (also called bachelor's buttons—but not to be confused with the popular pink, white, and purple easy-to-grow annual flowers called bachelor's buttons) pictured above has already been flowering for weeks and will continue to do so into autumn. That's my kind of perennial.

Comfrey is Useful, Beautiful, and Will Withstand Being Munched by Sheep

The comfrey (a fabulous, easy to grow medicinal herb I really need to write more about one of these days) is sporting its trademark purple flowers, as is my several-year-old mystery potted perennial that is not only pretty, but will put up with anything so who cares if I don't know what it is.

The lawn is dappled with those little white flowers that always make me think of fairies, and one section of the greenhouse has been taken over by three-foot-tall blooming arugula. Some of the nine varieties of onions I'm growing this year are sending up flower shoots, but I keep pinching them off so they'll be forced to spend their energy on bulb production.

The very first spiderwort flower popped out this morning, and dozens more will continue to do so for weeks. As I've mentioned before, I love spiderwort and think that every garden should have at least a clump or two growing in it. The butterflies go crazy for it.

And maybe best of all, there are various pockets around the farm that are heavy with the deliriously rich scent of wild multiflora roses.

Joe's sister, who is a professional gardener and landscaper in Ohio, told us the other day that she calls this time of year May Madness because all of her clients want their yards planted right now. I immediately glommed onto the phrase. There's so much to do and too much to do—but what's in the ground is doing well, we always eat well, and nearly everywhere you look there are flowers!

So what's blooming in your May Madness garden?

© Copyright 2009, the flower infested foodie farm blog where when it comes to gardening, we're constantly behind but always optimistic—and have already started making big plans for not only this fall garden but next spring's as well. Enjoy the present but definitely plan for the future!