Herbaria (July 27, 2012)

The theme for this week, Purple/Red/Burgundy, is an intentional one. It started when I chose a few plants that were all the same hue and then I figured, Why not? Let’s go with a theme. Turns out I could do this theme for weeks. It’s a popular colour in my garden.

From Left to Right:

Top Row: 1. Variegated Peppermint (Mentha x piperita vulgaris ‘Variegata’) Now in its second year, this variegated mint has unfortunately lost its variegation. Chances are that I planted this one too far into the sun. There is a second in a pot that is situated at the back of the garden underneath a table and it is still very variegated. I chose to show this one because it is in flower and because the purple stems are more pronounced. I lost one feature, but gained another. 2. Bell Pepper ‘Purple Beauty’ Back when the roof was my only truly sunny garden, ‘Purple Beauty’ was my go-to bell pepper. I tried others but this one always performed really well in pots. It is also very pretty, with fruit that develops its purple colour right away, unlike other bells that tend to develop their colour later in the season when fully ripe. I have the good fortunate of being able to grow my sweet peppers in raised beds now, but it is still high on my list of preferred varieties. 3. Purslane (Portulaca oleracea) Purslane is a weedy succulent that comes up in poor soil, cracks in sidewalks, and waste spaces. It is also an edible and one of the few salad greens that will thrive in the sort of heat and drought we’ve been experiencing. For that reason I always let some of it grow and self-seed wherever it appears. On the roof it was in some of my permanent pots and in this new garden it is along the edge of the dry bed.

Middle Row: 4. Petunia ‘Purple Heart’ Surprised to see another petunia in my garden? Yeah, me too. 5. Kale ‘Red Boar’ I planted this kale late last year and it has been going strong since. It flowered during that strange springtime heatwave so I cut it all back and it has since come back healthy and full as ever but with a lighter, bluish colouration that looks more like ‘Red Russian.’ Go figure. 6. Colocasia ‘Mojito’ I first saw this plant last spring but it was $22 and I had already purchased several big-leaved tropicals and could not justify this extravagant purchase. When I saw it this spring I decided that since I had been thinking about it for an entire year that I would allow myself to have it. This leaf was the smallest I could find on the plant and is not indicative of its true size, which is at least three times bigger if not more.

Bottom Row: 7. Pineapple Lily (Eucomis vandermerwei) This plant, a South African flowering bulb is now in its second year in a large metal pot. I brought it indoors last winter, stuck it in the cold greenhouse, and forgot about it. Despite my neglect it came back with a vengeance. Actually, thinking back harder, I believe I’ve had the original bulb much longer. If memory serves, my treatment of that was even worse but it lived long enough to be replanted in the move. These things look fussy, but they are pretty near unkillable. 8. Hot Pepper ‘Purple Flash’ This striking, dark pepper was an impulse buy — one of two hot peppers that I did not grow from seed. I have no opinion of it as an edible as it hasn’t produced any fruit yet, but the flowers are pretty. 9. Agastache ‘Bolero’ This is a brand new purchase that I picked up just days ago on a trip to buy potting soil. What? You didn’t think I could leave without a plant did you? And guess what? By coincidence it just happened to be Ladies’ Day! 10% off for having breasts. I very nearly bought myself a large, hardy hibiscus. Oh, how I wanted it so badly. But alas, this dry, hot summer has really driven home the importance of growing what works with your climate and soil. Hardy hibiscus like sun but they do not tolerate drought. I could not justify the environmental cost to keep it alive and happy over years to come in my dry, sandy garden. No matter, I love this agastache, and now that I have four different types, am convinced that I need more. A new collection has been formed!


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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10 thoughts on “Herbaria (July 27, 2012)

  1. I really enjoy your down to earth, young, fresh, educated and eclectic ways! My garden is new, messy and and a learning process. Pineapple Lilly has been moving up my wish list the past few weeks. Maybe because it’s bloom time and I’m without a single one. Must hunt one down! Thank you for this blog. It is truely an inspiration :)

  2. I’m new at herb gardening and want to know if I’m suppose to let my basil flower or snip flowers off?

  3. My thought exactly: … a petunia?!
    Must admit, they are pretty. I should re-introduce them to my garden… the dark violet kind would intermingle with my butterfly weed so beautifully!

  4. Please consider publishing your Herbaria as a calendar. I love how the nine boxes provide a perfect frame for the diverse items from your garden. It reminds me of a gorgeous quilt where disparate calicos and other patterns are brought into beautiful harmony. Can you tell I really like them? :-) Thank you again!

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