Herbaria (August 31, 2012)

The hot peppers are in their prime, the late season tomatoes are ripening faster than I can use them, the sun is setting earlier in the evening (no more gardening until 10pm) and even the tomatillos are not far now. All of the hallmarks of the September garden have arrived. I am trying my best this year to enjoy it as-is without fretting about summer’s end.

From Left to Right:

Top Row: 1. Coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides) This beautiful, mottled coleus came with a tag for a variety called ‘Marooned,’ but I now know that it was mislabelled. Does anyone recognize it? [ed. Thanks to Denise who commented with an identity: 'Neptune’s Net'] I was never able to grow coleus on the roof. It was far too hot there. Here I have gone completely coleus crazy with four (or is it 5?) different varieties spread around the yard. I was not immediately taken with this particular variety but it has grown on me as it matured and took on a twisty form. 2. Autumn Sage (Salvia Greggi) I wrote about my penchant for this particular species of sage in “Easy Growing.” The leaves have a shiny, sticky, and delicious sweetness that I can not resist rubbing whenever I pass the plant. I have several plants and keep buying more. They are not quite hardy here in Toronto, but given my sandy soil and the possibility of a warm winter like the last, I’m going to give overwintering outdoors in the ground a try. 3. ‘Oaxacan Jewel’ aka ‘Joya de Oaxaca’ Tomato I am growing this gorgeous, bi-colour, Mexican beefsteak for the first time this year. The fruit is fresh, wet, and sweet. I would definitely grow it again.

Middle Row: 4. ‘Poor Lemon’ Hot Pepper I received these hot pepper seeds in a trade with the farm manager at Rancho la Puerta when we were there this past January. The name is baffling as nothing about this variety says lemon, or poor for that matter. I haven’t been able to find any information on it so its origin remains a mystery. I have noticed that like the rocoto, the leaves are slightly fuzzy and it does not like to be in the hot sun, but prefers a cooler spot. These traits give me the impression that it is a high elevation variety from somewhere like Peru or Bolivia. 5. ‘Trinidad Perfume’ Hot Pepper (Capsicum chinense) I bought the seeds because this variety is touted to be a true West Indian seasoning pepper, packing all of the fruity flavour of an habanero without the heat. It delivers! There is slight heat but it really is slight and absolutely nothing like the kind of mouth blazing pain you get from an habanero. I will definitely grow it again. 6. Green Tomatillo (Physalis ixocarpa) Tomatillos are a must-grow that will always have a place in my garden. I ran out of space this year, but still managed to cram two plants into a new ornamental bed that is kind of a mishmash of new perennials and assorted annuals. They turned out to be an unexpectedly nice compliment to the space once their flowers and little lanterns began to form.

Bottom Row: 7. ‘White Habanero’ Hot Pepper (Capsicum chinense) This is my second year growing this pretty little habanero. I’m still not convinced that this is indeed the white variety as the colour is much more peachy. 8. Sedum This is one of many unidentified, hardy sedums that I have growing out of the holes in the cinderblock retaining wall that helps to level out our yard. 9. Purple Shiso (Perilla frutescens) People always ask me what to do with Shiso. I like to make the curly purple variety into a slushy, summer drink (The recipe is in my book, “Grow Great Grub.”) It is also very good dried and crumbled over a bowl of plain rice, or wrapped fresh around rice and meat.

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Herbaria F.A.Q

What is this?

An herbarium is a collection of plant specimens. Herbaria is the plural form. A collection of collections.

Every week, until I can no longer find anything living to fill up the boxes, I am photographing and posting a collection of flowers, leaves, stems, and other plant parts that are in my garden. This is an experiment in celebrating diversity and I hope it will allow me to focus more closely on the beauty that is inherent in the different parts of each plant. It also serves as a visual file of the seasons and a record of my garden, my gardening practice, and the plants that I choose to grow.

Why doesn’t this start at the beginning of the calendar year or garden season?

I would have preferred starting this project at either of those times, but alas, that is now how things worked out. The idea for this project came to me rather spontaneously one May morning as I sat pondering how I could best use a stack of nine wooden, pint-sized fruit boxes that I had recently purchased at the flea market. I have a thing for wooden boxes and I love to display little collections of cherished items within them. These nine little boxes begged to be kept together as a display — it didn’t take long before the idea came to mind: little boxes within a box, framed within weeks and months of boxes. Within the hour I had worked out the logistics of the project and was photographing my first box. That was May 16, 2012.

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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14 thoughts on “Herbaria (August 31, 2012)

  1. I have to live vicariously through blogs such as your these days and look enviously on at your wonderful vibrant pictures of your crop. Summer decided not to show this year in the UK so my harvest has been almost non-existant. Thankfully we still have some of last crop frozen, thank goodness for freezers!

  2. Have you ever had problems with your tomatillos splitting open and rotting? My ground cherries do, and I’m wondering if it’s from all the rain we got a few weeks ago. I have not been able to harvest any yet because of this, wondering if you have any tips?

    • I haven’t had that problem before but what you are describing is really typical of tomatoes when there is a lot of rain when the fruit is ripening, especially if it has been dry for some time and then there is a big dump of rain all at once. I don’t have any tips as I find it is environmental and there isn’t much you can do to prevent it other than watering during droughts to be sure that the rain, when it does come, isn’t an extreme difference for the fruit.

  3. The Oaxacan Jewel is beautiful. I skipped my normal Big Rainbow yellow tomatoes this year, they take so long to ripen. Might consider these for next year.

  4. Love collecting the bounty this time of year, but summer end stinks! I’m zone 5, and thinking about moving some and starting some plants indoors. Thinking herbs, leafy greens, and tomatoes. I’ll go Hydro, I’ll go LED. Any information/posts you have on this matter would be greatly appreciated.

    Love your book, website and sass! Keep up the great work, you’re so inspirational!

  5. I adore your Herbaria photos–what a brilliant idea! I’m terrible about plopping my harvest on the counter and taking a photo. Your harvest photos are an excellent journal of what’s working for you–plus, they’re absolutely lovely. I’m now inspired to gather not only the herbs and veggies but also some leaves of ornamentals to record my favorites. Happy harvesting!

  6. What a gorgeous diorama, Gayla. I know what you mean about not fretting about summer’s end while the chill sets in the air. I especially love the juxtposition of the white peppers with the purple Thai basil. Beautiful!

  7. Oooh! I can help with the coleus because I’m growing it right now, too. It’s called Neptune’s Net. It’s a new one out this year, along with a dark burgundy one named Marooned, so there’s where the tagging goof came in. Like you, I took a while to warm up to it.

    • Oh, thank you! Interesting because I thought it looked a lot like ‘Fishnet Stockings’, but that wasn’t it so not surprised by the use of net in the name.

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