Floral Friday

Leonotis nepetifolia (Klip Dagga, Lion's Ear)

The 10-foot giant is native to tropical Africa and southern India and grows in parts of Mexico and the Caribbeans. It contains leonurine, a mild psychoactive alkaloid. Medicinal uses vary widely.

It grew in a trial bed along the fence but will be featured next season. The hummingbirds love it.

Just In Time For Christmas

I felt it wasn't worth spending too much time on the design because it's pretty wonky at the back (due to surface rot), but I'm happy at least one of them cured in time for Christmas. (The others are still 'green').

Mom will be the lucky recipient of my humble oeuvre. Think she'll like it? (She can always trade it in, later).

My first Birdhouse gourd
Sideview, revealing the less-than-perfect derrière
Generous bowlful of seeds
(Any takers?)
The gift that keeps on giving

Seeing how many seeds it produced, I thought I'd throw in an extra token!

Wishing you all a great Holiday Season! Xx :)

Speaking of Gourds

Gaggle of Gourds (mixed seeds) Lagenaria siceraria
"The Lagenaria, or hard-shelled group of gourds produce white blossoms and are green on the vine, turning brown or tan with thick, hard shells when dry. Birdhouse, also called Bottle Gourd, is still used in Mexico and other areas to make water bottles. Calabash, sometimes called 'Penguin', is used in Japan to make pipes. Corsican is a flattened round uniform shape which is ideal for bowls and lidded containers. Dipper not only scoops water, but is a clever potted plant container. Speckled Swan is stunning in a fall centerpiece and a multitude of other craft projects."

Gourds typically take 120-150 days to mature, a fact I obviously overlooked when I purchased the seeds a few years ago. (Pretty packaging will do that to you). Growing them in my zone is challenging even in a good year. Starting them indoors is an absolute must.

The mixed seeds produced 4 'Birdhouse' and 3 'Dipper' gourds. The little 'Speckled Swan' (middle, right) didn't make it, I'm afraid (container tragedy #41).

They seem to be drying out nicely. I picked them 3 days ago and left them outside to enjoy the warmth and sunshine. The weather's been stellar this week. I'll bring them in shortly to complete the drying process. Crafting can begin, in a few months time, once they're fully cured.

I ♥ cucurbits.

Happy (Canadian) Thanksgiving!

100 Plants That Almost Changed The World

is a recent publication by Chris Beardshaw. (You might remember him from a video I posted last year entitled Apples: British to the core. To my delight, the Chelsea Flower Show veteran joined the Beechgrove Garden team this year). It's a fun read. Light and informative with beautiful artwork.

My loofahs didn't thrive, sorry. These gourds will have to do. :P

Here's an excerpt of the book:

"The Loufah, commonly seen as a washing aid and skin exfoliant in showers and bathrooms is related to the Cucumber. Two species Luffa acutangula and L. aegyptiaca are grown for their long, crisp fruits that perfectly resemble their more familiar cousin. Originally grown and cooked in Asia and Africa for its nutritious and jaundice-resisting properties, it is more profitable now to allow fruits to mature before processing to remove all the tissue except the network of xylem cells, producing the bathroom Loufah.

Research has recently concentrated on the apparent natural antibacterial properties of the tissue in the production of fine grade air filters."

Chris Beardshaw - Making magazine - Crafts Institute


Missing from the lineup this season are Yard Long, Sequoia, Lima and yellow varieties, having succumbed to weather or slugs. Unfortunately for them, that was the last of the seed stock (this was going to be a seed-saving year). I sowed more Trionfo Violetto and Kentucky Wonder as replacements and got a glut of those.

Black Russian broad bean sizing up, mid July

Kentucky Wonder, mid July

Trionfo Violetto, mid August

The beans started cropping in mid July. By mid August, I had Trionfos coming out my ears. Shifting this neglected overgrown lot wasn't easy (snork). Subsequent production was left on the vine to dry.

Dragon Tongue, Southern Cowpeas and Alabama Black Eyed Butterbeans were wiped out as well but two of my Cranberries survived.

'Borlotti' bean, a Cranberry member

True Red Cranberry bean,
a Québec/New England heirloom, acquired last season

Dried beans, a modest harvest
L to R: Borlotti & Runner, True Red Cranberry,
dried Trionfo Violetto & other 'green' beans


True Red Cranberry history


I grew Cyclanthera 'Fat Baby' as an ornamental last season and posted photos of it on G+. There, I met Anna who was growing Caigua (Cyclanthera pedata). We traded seeds.

Pretty, palmate leaves, displaying some yellowing, here, unfortunately.
(Container growing is not my forte!)

Caigua bloom

Smooth, slipper-like fruit

Surprisingly, these tender vines were able to cope with a few light frosts. I harvested this small lot on Aug. 30 and a slightly larger crop in mid-September. They are different in texture to cucumber but share a similar flavour. They can be pickled, sautéed or eaten fresh. As they mature, the pods become hollow which makes them perfect for stuffing.

I tried this tex-mex recipe (she has great info and photos so have a look!). It makes a great zucchini or pepper stuffer too. Yum!

2013 Season Highlights - Potatoes

As previously mentioned, I grew small container crops of potatoes this year that tucked away neatly between the beds. Yields were small to medium but provided plenty of seasonal fodder.

It's interesting to note that none of the varieties actually bloomed except for Russian Blue which produced seed pods as well. (I'll be experimenting with those next year).


Blue Russian and seed pods (aka TPS - true potato seed)

Unknown supermarket. I suspect a Chieftain relative.


Russian Banana fingerlings

Yukon Gold

Chieftain organic

I grew Chieftain before so nothing new there. Blue Russian does tend to be starchy while Sieglinde, Russian Banana and Yukon Gold are waxy and firm - just how I like 'em. Top producers: Yukon Gold, Russian Banana and Warba.

2013 Season Overview

The potager has seen better days. The lovely Rugosa hedge gracing the front of it was removed to accomodate 3 new beds which I won't be keeping after all. I extended the potager on the side, instead, to accommodate the asparagus.

Higgledy-piggledy potager, early August

* Weather

Cold and sluggy. Nothing like last year which was our best season so far. We had late spring frosts and frost warnings well into the first week of June. A new record low was established in late July and September was exceptionally frosty.
Other than that, it was lovely. :D

* Cucurbits

I chose to container-grow my cucurbits because of last year's cucurbit pest fest. The containers were dotted around the yard. I kept having to reseed because of slug damage and crops were late as a result. Yields were mediocre. Plastic containers did poorly. My wire baskets did ok.

On the bright side, I'm glad to report that the pest population was down. Cucumber beetle was fairly easy to keep in check. Squash bug shone by its absence. In all fairness, however, I credit Mother Nature (not my setup) for that. (Did you also notice the butterfly population was down this season?)

Gourds and caigua (separate post)

* Solanums

Tomatoes did alright despite the weather. Cherry varieties started cropping in late July; main varieties in early August. The main harvest was gathered in mid-August and plants were pulled in early and mid-September. I won't be growing as many toms, next year.
Tomatillos did fine. I made plenty of pineapple tomatillo jelly. Yum!
Peppers, slug damage aside, did OK. Peppers are becoming a favourite crop and more space will be reserved for them next season.
Potatoes (separate post)

* Root Crops

Carrots, the first crop was plagued by some kind of nematode. The second crop did fine.
Beets, the slugs did most of the first crop in and the second crop didn't take off. (sniff)
Crosne (see previous post)
Jerusalem artichokes, not harvested yet.

* Greens

Needless to say, the slugs had a field day on my direct sowings. Thankfully, I have a few perennial crops to fall back on, like sorrel and orach (not perennial, per se, but reliable self-seeder). I let my 'Speckles' lettuce go to seed last year and got plenty of volunteers which didn't fall under attack (go figure). I'm considering fall sowing my greens from now on. I've also introduced Good King Henry (Chenopodium bonus-henricus) to the potager, as another perennial crop.
The Brassica greens did ok. I let the arugula go to seed because it has such pretty flowers. They're still blooming as we speak!
Well I haven't covered everything but this post is already too long. Will update photo album eventually.


Today was crosne's turn to get scrutinized. I acquired and planted these cute perennial root vegetables last Autumn. As indicated on label, they will require another season to mature.

Tiny tubers just starting to develop

Some were plumper though not full size yet. I rinsed and wolfed them down. Deliciously fresh and crispy!

Houston, We Have Peanuts

Valencia peanuts. Short-season crop.

My poke around the roots, last week, was inconclusive, so today, out of curiosity, I pulled up one of the plants. Despite a challenging season, I seem to have managed a crop. A modest one, at best, with only half a dozen plants. I doubt they'll bulk up any further with the chilly nights we're having, but I'll grant them another week. We're expecting lots of sun.

More on them later.