Bitter Melon: Ornamental Vine & Edible Fruit

Bitter melon vine, showing flower.

Bitter melon vine, showing flower.

I came across this beautiful vine covering a chain link fence recently. The fence itself was almost completely obscured, which is a good thing in my books. (Practical as they are, banishing chain link fences would be one of my first orders as Queen of the World)

The vine leaves themselves are exquisite, finely cut in a way that William Morris—the Arts & Craft designer who took his inspiration from nature—would have loved. The leaf veins, vines and tendrils add to the pleasing array of form. Not only is the vine good at beautifully camouflaging an ugly fence, but it has smallish yellow flowers with the sweetest jasmine fragrance—swoonworthy on a summer evening.

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Plant Profile: Gazania

Gazania-flowers_lr

You’ve got a dry, hot spot that gets full sun all day. What to plant? A perfect choice for a sunny spot like this is the impossibly cheerful gazania. It’s a low-growing, drought-tolerant flowering annual that shines through in those challenging spots.

Many annuals—like the ever forgiving petunia and geranium—can be plunked anywhere and they’ll more or less cope. Shady spots make fewer flowers, but you’ll still have flowers. Not so with gazanias: they are picky and absolutely must have full sun to show their spectacular blooms. If they don’t have sun, they fold up their petals and sulk. (Yes, the petals actually close.) And why wouldn’t they? They’ve got pizzazz and they want to show it off.

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Plant Profile: Floriferous African Blue Basil

African Blue Basil in bloom, with pollinator-friendly flowers.

African Blue Basil in bloom, with pollinator-friendly flowers.

Most basil plants we try to discourage from blooming because we mainly grow it for for the leaves, (pesto!) not the flowers, but African Blue Basil is different. The blue-purple flowers are one of the best parts of this plant, and in my opinion it’s a must in the pollinator garden. The bees absolutely love the flowers.

African Blue is also edible, with a strong basil taste with a stronger hint of the camphor flavour that most basils contain. You can use it for pesto, or any other recipe that needs basil. Of course, like all basils, you can eat the flowers too. And what beautiful flowers these make: blue-purple spikes atop all the stems, sprout upward in all directions.

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Front Garden Plantings: Hosta’s Lush Foliage

hosta planting

Hostas take centre stage in a mixed shady front-yard planting of mostly foliage. ‘June’ at right.

This spring, all the rain we received has made for some spectacularly lush garden foliage, especially on hostas. 2017 has, so far, been the exact opposite of last year, when hostas were in danger of being sunburned and drought-stressed. When mother nature does the irrigation work for us we are lucky indeed. The cooler weather and abundant moisture have provided some gigantic, and lush specimens of hostas this season. And all are looking healthy and happy.

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Forsythia Means Planting Time 

forsythia in bloom

Even before most trees leaf out, forsythia flowers emerge.

Forsythia means planting time.

When the forsythia is blooming it’s the “all clear” sign: a bright yellow beacon telling us that the soil and daytime temperatures have warmed up enough for us to start planting our gardens. Not everything, mind you, but we can plant a lot:

Plant when Forsythia blooms
  • Hardy perennials, shrubs, trees and roses.
  • Annual sweet peas. Annual pansies, violas.
  • Edibles: peas, spinach and cool vegetable crops.
  • Berry bushes and perennial vegetables like rhubarb and asparagus.
  • Hardy bulbs. Tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, grape hyacinths, in a container for a seasonal display.
  • Pre-planted pots of flowering bulbs can be planted right into your garden. They’ll put down roots and come up again next season. It’s a good trick for those who didn’t get a chance to plant bulbs in the fall. (Like me!)
  • Perennial Herbs: sage, thyme, oregano
Wait for May 24th, or later
  • Heat-loving annual vegetables like tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, eggplant cucumbers and melons.
  • Tender herbs like basil

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