Thursday, August 21, 2014

Favorite Plant of the Week - Pycnathium muticum

My favorite plant in the garden during late summer is Pycnathium muticum, a type of mountain mint.

This plant is actually, really and truly native to my area (and most of the states east of the Mississippi, except Florida). I see lots of plants for sale locally that are called natives but really didn't used to occur here until the nursery trade brought them in on the wave of let's-plant-natives craze. That's why I like the PLANTS database. It's a good place to double check those sorts of things if they're important to you.

Pycnathium muticum gets to be about 3 foot tall and as wide as you will let it. You can control it by pulling, the new runners don't have deep roots, but it is quite an aggressive spreader. Perfect for that Hell Strip.

According to the Missouri Botanical Garden plant finder database this variety of Mt. Mint tolerates full sun to part shade and medium water.

I don't water mine, ever, and it's in relatively poor soil. I would suggest that natural rainfall is sufficient in areas except the extremely dry ones.

The flowers are pale and small and the bracts are a paler green than the foliage so not showy flowers. Not fragrant blooms, either. I'd like to see them in a photo that shows the ultraviolet range because the bees and wasps and occasional beetle pollinator have no problems finding the blooms so there must be something I can't detect that's attracting them.

This plant is Hymenoptera Heroin (Hymenoptera is the scientific name for the order that includes bees, wasps and ants).

Amazingly neither The Husband nor myself has been stung while admiring or working around this plant (knock wood) despite the fact that for over a month is it practically crawling with bees and wasps.

And that's why I love it and why it's my favorite plant of the season.

thanks to Danger Garden for this meme

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Tuesday Tomato Review

Now that all of my tomato plants are in full production I thought it was a good time to review the varieties that I tried this year and think about what I'm going to do next year.

This is one day's harvest. I don't get this much EVERY DAY, usually it takes 2-3 days to build up to this. Is that a humble enough brag? These were picked the day after we got an inch of rain - notice the splitting.

First up: Baby Boomer



This plant was the first to produce fruit. The early fruit didn't have a strong flavor (not like grocery store tomatoes, bland compared to some of my other plants) but they've improved over the summer. They've continued to produce a large amount of fruit with no signs of diseases. I will probably plant this one again next year.

Next: Brandy Boy

[can you tell I spent the morning chopping up and freezing tomatoes? And that I hadn't gotten to work in the garden yet (no dirt under the nails? horror!)]


This is supposed to be an improved version of Brandywine, with more disease resistance and more fruit (I grew Brandywine one year and got ONE tomato off the plant. I think it needs longer summers than we get here in New England, all my choices this year were listed as "short season" plants)
I didn't have any ripe ones when I took these pictures (I had harvested already and froze down that day's Brandy Boys). They do have some disease issues and the tomatoes go over quickly. The taste is excellent but they don't produce much so I have mixed feelings about this one. First tomato: Aug. 1.

Next: Fresh Salsa



Reject. Lots of meat in the fruit but late starting and very bland. Might as well buy canned tomatoes. Definitely not planting again.

Next: Honey Bunch



Relatively early fruiter, very productive, good taste. Will plant again.

Next: Magic Mountain



Good taste, solid performer, prolific. First fruit Aug 1. Will plant again next year.

Next: Napa Grape



EXCELLENT. Early fruit and prolific. Great Taste. I prefer the taste of the smaller tomatoes to most medium and large sizes. These are great to snack on while I'm working in the garden. Definitely will plant again.

Next: Patio Princess



First fruit July 22. Not strongly flavored but a nice compact plant that produces plentiful fruit. Not high on my list for next year but if I wanted a tomato for a pot this would be a good choice.

Next: Summer Girl



First fruit July 22, acidic but good taste. The lower leaves are dying back now, I don't think that's a sign of anything other than that it's late summer and The Husband failed to water the week I was gone. It's a maybe for replanting.

Last Up: Sunchocola



FANTASTIC flavor in a brownish tomato. Prolific. First fruit July 22. A must for replanting.

In Summary. I planted 9 plants on May 3 (gasp! So early for north of Boston! My neighbors gossip about me because of this. I'm actually serious. They don't plant until after Memorial Day. In the 5 years I've lived here we haven't had a May frost in my yard but they remember when May frosts were common. Yet another sign of global climate change.). I ordered the plants as starts from Burpee and was pleased with the quality when they arrived.

I planted in a raised bed with purchased garden soil, purchased compost (some cow manure, some mushroom), and composted leaf mold (self composted). I watered on an as needed basis with a soaker hose. The plants were fertilized when planted with Neptune's Harvest Fish Fertilizer and have not been fed since. 

I dug extra large holes, filled them with water, let them drain then filled then with the diluted fish fertilizer and let them drain again before planting.

Next year I will most likely order plants from Burpee again. Specifically Brandy Boy, Honeybunch, Mt. Magic, Napa Grape and Sunchocola. Since the 9 plants did so well despite the crowding I will probably try three of four new varieties to bring me back up to 8 or 9 plants. We'll see if my freezer supply lasts all winter or not.

I have to say I am QUITE PLEASED with my garden this year.

Got any recommended varieties?

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Foliage Follow Up August 2014

The in-laws are sill here so once again I'm rushing out a post without proper ID of the plants.

Technically not foliage but I love the way these Asclepias seed pods look 

Purple Basil 

Another houseplant? This Calathea is enjoying a summer outside and looks GREAT. She's going to pout when she has to come back inside for the winter, I just know it. 

Heuchera cinnamon curls 

Elderberry Black Lace (Sambucus) 

Cornus Garden Glow. If you ever see this for sale and have room in your garden I can't recommend it enough. Be forewarned, though, it gets bigger than the growers claim. 

A nice Heather 

Healthy foliage on Meadow Rue 

NOT a houseplant. I used a couple of Palms in pots in the garden this year. They got a little sunburned but they look nice.
[Palms in Pots is the name of my next 50s retro band - THIS meme is from John Scalzi and has nothing to do with plants. Normally]

Thanks to Pam at Digging for the Foliage Follow Up meme

Friday, August 15, 2014

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day August 2014

I was hoping to get this done before my in-laws got up this morning but I didn't get it done quite fast enough so you'll have to excuse the poorer quality of plant identification. It's partly that I don't have time to check my plant inventory database and partly I need coffee.

Hope you enjoy the pictures. If there's something you're really curious about put in a comment and I'll try to get to it next week when we don't have company (I have a tomato garden post planned, too, I didn't miss the questions about my tomato harvest this week!).

The Agastache are almost done but the bees are still finding some food. 

Reblooming on an Asclepias 

Buddleias are peaking 

Technically not a bloom but this fern is in reproduction mode 

Seldom is the wind still enough to photograph Gaura so I'm really thrilled with these photos 

The trellis is there to prevent the dogs from digging up the Joe Pye Weed before it gets established 

The bees and I are both happy with the meadow rue this year. It's the second year and it's much stronger and more floriferous. 

I usually only post houseplant blooms during the winter but my snake plant is very happy to be outside

Society garlic 

We tend to forget them but yes, grasses do bloom.

Thanks to Carol at May Dreams for this meme