The cosmos are sizing up now. Their stalks are thick and strong — it must be the duck manure that I worked into our sandy soil this spring. The seeds were started late this year since we didn’t have a garden at the time that I should have been direct sowing them.
Better late than never.
Ever since I publicly declared my love for this delicate and delightful weedy menace [oops... breaking my own rule here], I have resolved to grow more of them in my garden, the caveat being that I would go with unusual forms and/or double varieties and steer clear from the single pink and white varieties.
Davin and I were taken with this flowering cactus (Echinocereus viridiflorus)
in the Alpine Garden at the Denver Botanic Gardens.
Here’s an in context shot so that you can see how the plant was growing in a stone trough.
I looked the genus up on the United States Department of Agriculture Plants Database and was shocked to find that some species of Echinocereus are distributed around parts of Colorado and the surrounding states.
I can’t believe how much unexpected plant knowledge was picked up on our short trip. I really want to go back to this part of the United States again. There was so much to see that interested me. I can’t wait to show you more.
My obsession with oxalis is not undocumented on this site. I’ve got an entire tag dedicated to it. What I haven’t said here is that I’m really not into the large-leaved shamrock-style oxalis you see in stores around St. Patrick’s Day.
Just not my thing.
So it comes as a bit of a surprise to me just how much I have come to adore this ‘Iron Cross’ Oxalis (Oxalis deppei). Although, it’s not exactly a big-leaved type, I’d describe the size as moderate…. somewhere between the big leaved types and the diminutive ones I’ve come to favour.
Kangaroo apple (Solanum laciniatum) is another in a line of marginally edible, strange solanums that I am growing this year. I say “marginally edible” because the fruit is edible when ripe and poisonous when green. Still, I’m not convinced it’s worth eating. Edible and worth eating are two different things entirely. Morelle de balbis fruit is edible, but is it worth growing if food is your priority? Not so much. Even still, I am growing that again this year, too.
The kangaroo apple is a subtropical plant that needs warm weather and a long season to produce fruit. I started my seeds very early — as early as January or February. Unfortunately, I can’t remember which and I lost my original tag.
TIP: I write the sow date on the tags when I sow seeds as a way to track each plant’s progress later on. This is especially helpful when growing long season plants like kangaroo apple. If they don’t set fruit in time then I can gauge how much earlier I need to start the following year in order to be successful.
If you’re interested in learning more about this plant, there’s some information on the Australian National Botanic Gardens website and through Tradewinds Fruit.
I purchased my seeds from Solana Seeds in Quebec.
I’ll update you on the progress of this plant as the season develops. I’m very curious about the fruit.
This pretty blue flower is shoofly aka Apple of Peru (Nicandra physalodes), a strange solanum that I am growing for the first time this year.
I purchased the seeds last year at the Montreal Seedy Saturday but was unable to grow them as I quickly ran out of space. I’m STILL trying to find space for some of the seed I bought at that event. This year I wanted to make it a priority and sowed the seeds indoors quite early to ensure they would be a nice size by late spring. As you can see, they are already flowering.
Homegrown Mosquito Repellent?
Besides the beautiful blue flowers and Chinese Lantern-like seed pods, Nicandra is often grown for its insect repellent properties. Apparently people rub the dried seed pods, seeds, and chafe on their skin to ward off biting mosquitos. If this really works it could be a bit of revelation for me as I do not like using Deet and I am the first person to get bit (and viciously) no matter the size of the group I am with. Despite the fact that it is natural, I think I will do some more research into the plant’s chemical components before I go rubbing it into my skin or on my hands and face. If you’ve had any experience using this plant as a repellent please weigh in through the comments. I’d love to hear of your experiences.
Until I’ve done my homework and am thoroughly satisfied of its safety, I’m resigned to happily appreciate the look of the plant in the garden. As an added bonus (and despite its reputation) the flowers are attracting pollinators like this wee hoverfly. And I am in favour of anything that will bring in pollinators to our previously barren backyard.
Warning: Nicandra is a self-seeding menace and extremely invasive. I plan to keep on top of deadheading as I do not need the added hassle of weeding hundreds of seedlings next spring.
Furthermore, despite its resemblance to edible solanums such as ground cherry, Nicandra is NOT EDIBLE. The fact that it is considered a poison is one reason why I am not jumping to rub it all over myself until I learn more.