When I was in the West Indies, I was surprised to see how much people coveted strawberries. While I was salivating over golden apple and fresh bananas, West Indians were paying through the nose for a basket of pathetic, well-traveled berry-like objects. I don’t think strawberries grow very well in extreme tropical heat. That didn’t stop one gardener I visited in Dominica from trying. As my own strawberries begin to set fruit and ripen I wonder if her little plant has made it and if she was able to savor a few homegrown berries this year.
Here in Toronto, it’s not too late to start strawberries. My first article of the season for the Globe & Mail explains how, but did not include this photo of a mixed planting I put together using an old honey tin I bought at a yard sale. If you are going to use something like this, don’t forget to add drainage holes. I made several in the bottom using a large nail I keep on hand for this purpose. Everything in this pot is edible, including the flowers.
One Each of: An unknown hybrid strawberry (the berries are ripening now!), ‘Golden’ sage (it is not hardy here and does not grow very big), ‘Gem Apricot Antique’ viola (may soon have to be replace for something more heat tolerant as the summer kicks in, or you can just pull it out when it kicks it and let the strawberry and sage spread.)
You want a food post today. I can feel it. I had every intention to post a photo of something edible that I am growing this year but then photos of this creamy, soft daffodil came up, and how much longer can I talk about daffodils when they are so very nearly on the way out?
The daffodils are fleeting. I have found myself jumping between favorites as they have rolled out their blooms. This is the one I currently favor.
I love it here, paired with Artemisia vulgaris ‘Oriental Limelight’.
Well done Mr. Parker. Well done.
Update: You’ll notice that I got the variety wrong. I don’t believe ‘Avalon’ is a miniature, and I didn’t realize these qualified as a miniature. Time passes since a picture is taken and you forget about size unless they’re really tiny like these guys.
Last fall my friend Barry put me onto pots of green and purple ‘Holy’ basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum) for sale at a neighbourhood Indian food store. ‘Holy’ basil, also known as Tulsi, is a beautiful herb that brightens a dull spot in the garden. It’s a tough, woody plant with textured leaves that can take a lot of heat and a little bit of drought, but I don’t recommend it if you’re looking to grow a culinary basil. It has a very potent smell and flavour and is more commonly used as a medicinal remedy than a meal enhancer.
I intended to post about the plant here months back, but as sometimes happens, I neglected to get a good photo before the frost hit and to top it off I left the plant outside to die rather than overwintering it indoors. And even though I wasn’t going to tell this part of the story, now that I’ve exposed my neglect, I feel a guilt-ridden need to explain that the reason I didn’t bring it inside was because we were going away for a month and I didn’t want to overburden my friends with millions of plants to keep alive on top of the thousands I already have.
Passively allowing tender plants to die outdoors at the end of the season is a gardeners’ dirty little secret. Just about everyone does it, but few admit it. Many of us feel guilty about it, although in my case I suspect it has more to do with throwing away money than intentionally killing a plant.
But I digress. What I really intended to say was that as luck might have it, a month or so after the “killing frost”, I came upon the plant in this photo, growing on a farm in St. Lucia. It may not have been my plant, but I got the photo I had hoped for. And like most basil plants grown in a tropical climate, the thing was huge, much larger than any basil I could grow here in Toronto.
Several plants in the peperomia genus are grown as common houseplants here in North America, but have you ever seen one like this?
I was first introduced to this particular plant in Dominica, where it goes by the local names JiwonflÃƒÂ¨*, JonflÃƒÂ¨, or Giron Fleur**. It is most often found in very damp and dark places, and as a result most of my photos were lousy. Last month I found it again (as seen here), on display in the Tropical Rainforest Conservatory at the Montreal Botanical Gardens and was able to get a better photo.
JiwonflÃƒÂ¨ is a tiny trailing succulent that grows as an epiphyte, hanging from the branches of trees, most commonly cocao and grapefruit. In Dominica, the plant is brewed into an herbal cold remedy but what’s most fascinating is the smell. When you crush the leaves, it emits a soft green peppercorn aroma. I suppose this shouldn’t be too surprising since peperomia is in the same family as black peppercorns (Piperaceae).
This morning, I set out to post a different photo until I was reminded that it is St. Patrick’s Day, a day I most often associate with clovers. Technically oxalis and clovers aren’t the same thing, but they are often mashed together around this particular holiday. In truth, I’m going through a rather rabid oxalophile phase (am I the first to coin this term?) and don’t really need an excuse to post a photo of anything oxalis, or clover for that matter.
I found this particular oxalis growing in an area of Dominica called Giraudel, right beneath the nipple fruit, in fact. The plant is used locally as an herbal tea for sore throats and has the local name ‘Malgoj.’* I saw it several times throughout the island, and later in St. Lucia as well.
This is what the leaves look like.
* Source: “Caribbean Wild Plants and Their Uses” by Penelope N. Honychurch.