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Sunday, 22 May 2011

No flowers

The trouble with flowering plants is that they spend a lot of time not flowering so for the decorative bit of my garden, I decided to go for some specimens that show off in different ways. This first one is Chenopodium giganteum 'Magentaspreen' that achieves bright purple patches on the stem-end of each leaf. This one is only young but they grow to 1.5m by the end of the summer. The common name of this plant is "Tree Spinach" and you can eat the leaves. It's very easy to grow from seed as it does have flowers but these are "insignificant"

Next, we have red veined Sorrel. I've grow ordinary Sorrel from seed but this pretty version came from a garden centre. It's edible stuff too. You make up a bland potato soup, let it go slightly off the boil and then blend in a handful of these leaves and it's stunning.

Finally, something that looks rather like a weed. I first read about it on the Plants for a Future site where they say "The leaves have a pleasant agreeable flavour with a slight sweetness, they make a very acceptable lettuce substitute." and  importantly "This plant has proved to be almost totally slug-proof, even in a very heavily slug-infested garden."

Reichardia picroides is a native of southern Europe and I had to get seed from Slovakia but I'm giving it a go. Actually, it's supposed to have flowers a bit like dandelions. Somehow, not a surprise.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Physalis and Real Irrigation

Some plants really love some heavy rain. Within 24 hours of our surprise deluge, the Tomatillo (Physalis ixocarpa) has grown about 50%. (Same applies to the weeds: Those that had already germinated have doubled in size overnight.) My watering during the last couple of very dry months was much less effective.

The Physalis genus deserves to be better known by gardeners. They're part of the Solanaceae family, like tomatoes and if you can grow tomatoes outdoors you can probably grow Physalis outdoors too. (I'm told you can grow them in a greenhouse but they enjoy it too much and take up space you might have wanted for other things)

I've grown Tomatillo before (see pic) but this year I'm trying a purple-fruited variety instead of the greeny-yellow. Like all the Physalis, the fruit comes wrapped in a paper lantern formed from the flower calyx. You'll want to know what it tastes like and it's bit like a Granny Smith apple but in the kitchen, you're best off using it where you might otherwise use a sweet pepper. Slice it and chuck it on pizza. It's nice, not wonderful, but when you consider it fruits well without fertiliser and looks better than a tomato plant, it's easy pickings.

You probably already know Physalis peruviana as the "Cape Gooseberry" or in the supermarkets where they sell punnets of " Physalis" imported from Guatemala around Christmas. The fruit is orange, sweet, acid and perfumed. It's surprising it's not better known to gardeners as it's also about as difficult/easy as tomatoes. I'm growing it again this year.

I haven't grown Physalis alkekengi but it's moderately well known as the Chinese lantern. It's better looking than the edible species as it has a bright orange fruit covering. It's frost hardy and invasive.

Note: All parts of these plants are poisonous except the ripe fruit.