Herbaria (May 30, 2012)

Before I introduce this week’s plants, I just want to say how much I am enjoying this project. I have walked through the garden these last few Wed mornings with an eye to what I will add to the box and I can’t tell you how much joy I find in artfully assembling the collection. This task taps into a part of my child brain that needs stimulation. It’s fun to see the images compile in a folder on my computer and I look forward to months from now when there are weeks of boxes within boxes within boxes all together.

Again there is so much going on in the garden right now it was hard to narrow it down to 9 plants that represent the garden as it is. I tried to chose plants that are at their peak or blooms that may not be around for next week’s collection. Still, there are a few like the Chocolate Cosmos that I know will be around for some time yet, but I was simply too excited to leave them out.

From Left to Right:

Top Row: 1. Climbing Rose ‘Westerland.’ I choose my roses based on their hardiness, scent, color, form, and pest resistance — pretty much in that order. Since planting this one against our ramshackle shed last year, I’ve noticed a few aphids that I’ve had to keep a close eye on, but beyond that it has met all of my other requirements. It came back strong in its second year without any special attention, reaching up to the top of the shed door in the few months since Spring began. It started blooming while we were away last week and has absolutely exploded. I LOVE it so, and I know from last year’s experience that we will see many more blooms straight through until the frost. 2. Allium ‘Moly Luteum.’ I knew this allium was going to be spectacular when I planted it back in the fall and it has not disappointed. It is indeed edible and tastes like an onion with a mild garlic flavor. I’ve added a few flowers to my lunchtime salads, but can’t bare to eat much more as I want these to produce seed and spread more for next year. 3. These pretty little gems are the flowers of a dwarf coreopsis that I believe is called Coreopsis auriculata ‘Nana’, although I am not sure as I received it from my friend Barry last fall and while it is possible that he sent me on my way with an ID, my brain….

Middle Row: 4. Caraway (Carum carvi) This plant is absolutely exploding with flowers right now. They are edible, and while I have slipped a few into our salads, they don’t add much to write home about. The seeds are the ultimate goal. My brain has been whirring recently, trying to envision some special way to use them. Perhaps a loaf of homemade bread… 5. Viola cornuta ‘Black Magic’ I have grown this exceptionally black viola in the past. It is perennial, but did not come back last year so I’m at it again with a new plant and the hope that this one will establish itself and reappear next year. I love it so much that even if it doesn’t I will keep trying again and again. 6. Papaver orientale I moved this plant over from the Street Garden last spring and it has taken the plant a year to recoup, reproduce, and flower. While the growing conditions in that garden were fine, and poppies are notoriously aggressive, the poor thing never had a chance. Passerbys were prone to ripping off the stems as soon as the flowers emerged, sometimes damaging the plant in the process. In turn, I was never able to enjoy them as I have this year. It’s been a treat.

Bottom Row: 7. Chocolate Cosmos aka Cosmos atrosanguineus It’s been over a decade since I first heard of this deep brown flower and I have been coveting it ever since. So when I saw it at a local garden shop, 3 for $10 I jumped, no hesitation or regret. I have not yet noticed the subtle chocolate/vanilla scent that it is known for, but this is the first bloom to emerge and I am patient(ish). 8. Chive Flowers The bulk of my chive flowers are gone, harvested in a panic last week, just before we set off on a short roadtrip. Chive flowers are a truly seasonal delicacy. I knew they would be passed their prime before we returned and I did not want to miss out on my annual routine of making homemade chive flower vinegar. It’s easy: just stuff a jar full with clean chive blossoms, top with the vinegar of your choice (I used cider vinegar this time around since it was all I had on hand), and let it steep for a few days. Strain into a sterilized jar and enjoy the subtle chive flavor all summer long. 9. Variegated Wormwood aka Artemisia vulgaris ‘Oriental Limelight’ . This is another rescue from the old Street Garden. It’s a gorgeous plant but beware that it is an aggressive spreader. The patch has nearly quadrupled in the span of a year and I have already pulled out half with the expectation that I can always pull out more to make room for something else. Unfortunately, I have a weakness for variegated foliage and I’ll grow anything, no matter how aggressive as long as it doesn’t have that sickly look that some variegated plants suffer.

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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18 thoughts on “Herbaria (May 30, 2012)

  1. Love this. Years ago I used to take similar pictures as a way to remember which plants were blooming at the same time except I just laid the flowers out on the lawn. Yours is more of a work of art.

    And that oriental poppy is awesome.

  2. I’ve heard that the scent of the chocolate cosmo is something you can only smell in the evening/night. I haven’t grown them myself so I’m not sure if its true.

  3. Which local shop did you find Chocolate Cosmos in? I live in Toronto, west side, and I love the look of the flowers.

    The Black Magic looks amazing too. I have a soft spot for goth garden plants. Any idea where I might be able to find it?


  4. I had chocolate cosmos and agree with Madge. I’d notice the smell most in the evening after a really warm summer day. Keep om smelling…it’s pretty chocolaty when you finally get a wiff :)

  5. Absolutely beautiful! I had to share it with my daughter who is doing plant ID with U of Guelph. Her topic this week is herbaria. I think I might just have to do this with my school garden class.

  6. Ooooh, I just ordered a Westerland rose and can’t wait for it to arrive! So it really DOES climb – the authorities were divided over that. Do you think it will do okay in an obelisk? I had a chocolate cosmos last year and I think the key to the smell was sunny weather. Unfortunately, I forgot to dig it up before winter and it hasn’t returned … guess I’ll have to get a new one!

    • Depends on how tall the obelisk is. My plant didn’t grow too tall when I put it in last year, but it sprang up this year.

  7. beautiful, love the black center of the poppy and the frothiness of the caraway, would regular caraway seeds from spice shop sprout? or are they likely to be toasted?

    • Great question! I’ve never tried so don’t want to assume. I’d guess they are toasted as caraway seeds usually are to improve flavor, but would make an interesting experiment to find out.

  8. Excellent descriptions and a really groovy idea about showing what’s blooming in those little quart strawberry baskets (or whatever they’re called.)

  9. Gayla, this is totally wonderful. It made me smile, clicked over a trigger in my head that said “Hey! Who needs ordinary photos?” and just made me truly happy to be a gardener again. Thank you for that.

  10. What a great project! All these different colors, shapes, textures,… so inspirational! I was wondering if you are familiar with Karl Blossfeldt work? He makes detailed black-and-white pictures of plants, and this really brings the focus to their shapes.

  11. I love chocolate cosmos, people always comment on them when they see them however they are becoming way to common in NZ. Still they are great for breaking up colours in the garden. Nice blog too :-)

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