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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Rooting Your Own Mint

Rooting mint

Rooting mint in a small decorative vase.

There’s nothing like having fresh mint on hand, and I don’t know about you, but when I buy a bunch of mint, I tend use it a couple of times for a specific recipe, or to add to the best gin and tonic recipe anywhere.

Best Gin & Tonic Anywhere

Mix up whatever ratio of gin and tonic you prefer, with ice cubes.

Add to it, a generous squeeze of fresh lime, a couple of slices of cucumber, and a mint leaf or two. Swirl. Enjoy the taste of summer.

But after making my gin and tonic or whatever, I generally toss the remaining mint bunch into the fridge where it often dies because I forget it’s there. Pulling a squishy bunch of decaying mint out of the fridge is always sadness-inducing. And the last thing we need is more sadness in January, the month that contains the most depressing day of the year, Blue Monday.

Fresh mint showing root development.

Fresh mint showing root development.

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A Jubilee of Cherries!

 

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We here in Ontario are in the latter stages of cherry season. Have you indulged yet? Whether you opt for the large sweet plump cherries –perfect for eating fresh, and wonderful in fresh fruit salad- or the smaller, tart Sour Cherries that are great for baking and making jam, Ontario cherries are one of summer’s true delights.No county fair would be complete without a cherry pie competition, and is there anything better on a sultry night than cherries jubilee? Continue »