Herbaria (October 5, 2012)

When I began this project, I set a parameter that allowed me to repeat a specific plant as long as a different stage in its development through the changing seasons was depicted. For example, I have included Columbine meadow rue (Thalictrum aquilegiifolium) twice: early in the season when it was in bloom and in August once the seeds had matured.

As the weeks pass with this project I have found it harder and harder to recall which plants and parts I have already photographed. When I get a chance I will sit down and put together a master list, but until then I find that each week, before I begin to assemble a box, I need to go through all of the images I have taken so far and re familiarize myself with what has and hasn’t been covered.

This system worked until the week of October 5, when I discovered that I had accidentally repeated ‘Vanilla Ice’ Sunflower, a plant that first appeared on September 21. Oh well, mistakes happen. At least I presented it differently the second time around.

From Left to Right:

Top Row: 1. ‘Violetto Aromatico” Basil (Ocimum basilicum) I grew this variety for the first time this year. The seeds came from my friend Julianna. I loved its splotchy colouring and will aim to grow a larger crop next year. 2. Ghost Pepper aka Naga Bhut Jolokia (Capsicum chinense) The second hottest pepper in the world. I grew it, but could never be persuaded to try it. I gave a few peppers away to friend and might make a pest repellant from the remaining fruit. 3. Sweet Potato Vine ‘Bright Ideas Black’ (Ipomoea batatus) I liked this one so much that I rooted a cutting in water to grow indoors.

Middle Row: 4. Sunflower ‘Vanilla Ice’ (Helianthus debilis) 5. Cosmos This cosmos self-seeded from one of a few different varieties that I planted last year. I have no idea which it is because it is much paler and simpler than any of those varieties. Amazingly, the plant is still alive as I write this on November 5! We’ve had negative temperatures every night this week. 6. Nasturtium (unknown) I bought this unknown nasturtium plant at a summer herb sale when we went out into the country to buy strawberries. It did not have a tag and I have been unable to identify it. It is a pretty variety with very dark green leaves and even darker maroon flowers. It reminds me of ‘Empress of India’ but with a more expansive growth habit.

Bottom Row: 7. False Roselle (Hibiscus acetosella) I have written about this plant many times now. I first received the seeds from my friend David in early 2009 when we went to visit him on the organic farm he was running in St. Lucia. To see this plant growing there in the proper climate… it’s so beautiful. I have tried to produce flowers but alas I have been unsuccessful. In this climate it needs to be overwintered indoors. Only then will I have a shot at blooms. Unfortunately I just don’t have the space and am now running out of seeds… 8. Coleus ‘Rustic Orange’ I grew this in a big pot alongside a chartreuse pineapple sage. I wish they could withstand the frost, but alas this coleus is done for now. 9. Dwarf Tree Tomato (Cyphomandra abutiloides) aka (Solanum abutiloides) I have been trying to grow this unusual solanum for a few years and finally managed this year. I planted it into a very large container out front where it is very sunny and warm — too sunny, I think. Still, the plant shot up into a dwarf tree within the span of one season. The trunk is thick! The leaves are fuzzy yet sticky with an indescribably interesting smell. Supposedly, the orange fruit are edible when ripe, but I couldn’t muster up the courage to try them this time around. I considered brining it indoors for the winter but with nowhere to house it I figure I am better off starting from seed next year.


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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2 thoughts on “Herbaria (October 5, 2012)

  1. I love this idea! The photo’s are so nice, they look so great you could frame them! I might steal your idea and do just that. Would be inspiring to have them in my office.

  2. Haven’t received an email from you in a while so I thought I would just send a greeting and wish you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving! :-)!!

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