Herbaria (June 15, 2012)

Please forgive my tardiness with this week’s Herbaria. I took the photo last week, but haven’t had the time since to sit down and write the text. These things are becoming a record of my working life as well as the garden. If I were to continue doing them over time I would find that the weeks around mid-June are always the same. The rush to get lingering transplants in the ground amidst the struggle to stay on top of the maintenance that comes with the heat, and around all of that the work deadlines. Growing a garden is a big part of my job, but its the writing and photography around those experiences that make my living. They all seem to collide at this time of year, each one as critically important as the other. To which do I focus my attention first? That’s the question I ask myself each day, and I find that I am often running back and forth between my desk, the kitchen, and the garden like a deranged lunatic. It’s not uncommon for me to stop at each of these destinations without a clue as to why I was headed there. But then some new task catches my eye and I turn my attention to it and 15 minutes or an hour passes before I recall why I was there in the first place. The neighbours must find me confusing. I exhaust myself.

I suppose I wouldn’t have it any other way, although I really could use an assistant…. (so she says every year, and every spring she finds another reason not to make that leap.)

On to the plants!

From Left to Right:

Top Row: 1. Silver Sage (Salvia argentea) My friend Barry offered one of these to me a few years back as he was having trouble keeping it happy in a pot. I desperately wanted to take it but had to decline because I too would have had to resort to a pot. I bought one for this garden last spring without hesitation. The combination of full sun and sandy soil was perfect for it. This plant is primarily known for its leaves, which are incredibly soft and silvery. I chose a small leaf to fit in the basket, but they grow to quite a size, much larger than a Lamb’s Ear. So I was a bit taken aback when the tall flower stalks appeared, and a little bit disappointed, too, if I’m being honest. I would have been happy to have it as a foliage plant only. I am curious though to see what happens next? Will it produce viable seed? Will I be swimming in teeny weeny fuzzy little seedlings next year? Or will the plant die back and disappear? I haven’t bothered to research its lifecycle. Sometimes I like to keep things a mystery to discover by my own observation only. 2. Viola I grew this variety from seed, and have promptly lost the tag and the original packet. It’s a running theme this week! 3. Onion (Allium cepa) This is the flower head from an Italian bunching onion that I started early last spring and overwintered in the garden. I wish I could recall the name but that would mean digging around for the seed packet, and well, I’ve been up and down the stairs numerous times already today and am simply too lazy to do it.

Middle Row: 4. Oxalis here’s another unknown plant. It’s likely one of the burgundy varieties that I have grown in the past, perhaps even this one. I bought it as an annual and it came without a tag. 5. Double Pink Snapdragon I’m afraid that I’ve lost the tag that came with this impulse buy snapdragon and am unable to identify it. I typically tend towards darker snapdragons so this purchase was a surprise to me. Something about the softness spoke to me, although I’ve been unable to find an appropriate place for it in the garden. 6. Hymenocallis ‘Sulphur Queen’ I am growing this exotic-looking flowering bulb in a pot as it is not hardy in my zone. Not even close. So far I am finding it no more difficult to grow than an amaryllis. Worth it for its heavenly scent.

Bottom Row: 7. Lily Oh dear, here is another unknown plant. I’ve been growing this one for at least a decade, a table gift from a friend’s wedding that I attended what seems like a lifetime ago. Alas the lily far outlived the friendship, which is a surprise considering the abuse it suffered each year in the Guerilla Garden at the hands of passerbys who could not resist its large and tempting blooms. They are undersized this year, probably the result of the move. I was surprised it bloomed at all! This is not the sort of lily that I would choose to grow on my own, but I have to respect its resiliency. 8. Garden Sage ‘Berggarten’ (Salvia officinalis) I have never had such success overwintering slightly tender garden sages as I had last year — every single plant survived. While I have had some success with this particular variety in the past, I have found that it never came back with much vigor. Not only did it come back this year better than ever, but it is flowering! They are massive, about double the size of the regular garden sage. They are also full of nectar. I often pluck off a flower and suck on the back — so sweet and delicious with a hint of sage when you bite into it. 9. White Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) This plant is a seedling from a plant that I’ve been growing for many years over at my community garden plot. Valerian does wonderful things for the garden. Beneficial insects love it and there have been years when I was shocked by the number of critters that have taken up residence in its crevices. The smell is wonderful, heady, and it flowers steadily. I will always have it in my garden.

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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7 thoughts on “Herbaria (June 15, 2012)

  1. I really appreciate these posts! I’m a new-ish gardener and I’m very much in the “what plant is THAT?” stage. It’s so helpful to be introduced to new varieties and have pictures to go with them.

  2. Thank you for naming my oxalis- I thought it was clover. Mine is in the ground and comes back year after year here in Boise. Should I treat it like a weed or will it be fine growing among everything else?

  3. I am so happy to have tripped over your site. I have been trying to garden for several years now but I am still a novice. I love seeing what is possible.

  4. I can completely relate to your post and I tend to agree with you. I have a bad habit of getting sidetracked easily.. Maybe even too easily. I am also working on a garden, and hopefully it will be a good year! Good Luck in your future endeavors! I will be checking back from time to time!

  5. The Lilly on the third row is delightful.

    Oxalis can be an interesting plant, too many types are just weeds but there are some wonderful looking oxalis out there too.

  6. I planted some valerian seedlings last year, and they’re flowering for the first time this year. I can’t imagine not having this every year. It’s wonderful.

  7. I love these posts! They are both beautiful and helpful to me, as I have been able to identify several plants in my new yard from your pictures. This is my first summer in the house and the last owner was an avid gardener, and I’m working on improving my skills and knowledge to be able to take care of the plants that are there and eventually add to them. I have some white valerian and have been trying to figure out what it is for a few weeks…thank you for helping me solve the mystery!

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