Sunday, June 3, 2007

Annuals--More Color Bang for the Buck

The Gardening Trivia Quiz
Our own Laura Fergus was the staff winner last week for correctly answering the question about what family rosemary, sage, oregano, thiyme and marjoram belong to. Young Pamela wants to institute a new rule for staff--no Google-ing. Just to clarify, only the Countryside staff has to get the correct answer to win the batch of mini-chocolate chip muffins. The rest of you will still get the coupon even if the answer is not correct. Obviously, this is a marketing gimmick, but I still would like to hear from you and it is nice to know someone is out there reading this. This week's question is a toughy: True or False (or as we say in Italian: vero o falso): The banana has no trunk. It is held upright by a tightly wrapped bundle of leaf stalks. Thus the banana is not a true tree. Good luck. E-mail me with your answer at

Planting Annuals

The more I garden, the more I have begun to appreciate annuals. Don’t get me wrong, perennial beds are wonderful and every year more varieties are introduced that add color or texture to the garden. But for great color all season long, you can’t beat annuals. During the dog days of summer when your perennial bed is perhaps not looking its best annuals will be there to provide continuous color. There is certainly a spot in the perennial bed for them.

I think broad sweeps of annual beds can be quite dramatic. I have a bed in front of my house that is about 20' by 3' that I plant in impatiens every year. It takes about two and a half flats to fill it. I do tend to plant my annuals closer than recommended on the tag because I want them to fill in faster. My coworker, often referred to in these pages as young Pamela to distinguish her from us old folks that work here, gave me a great tip last week. She uses a bulb auger attached to an electric drill to plant her bedding plants. I tried it last night and it worked a treat. Of course, I couldn’t take the pictures and do it myself so I enlisted the help of my neighbor, Sandy. We strive for perfection here at Countryside and I had to take numerous shots to get the perfect one. By the time I did, Sandy had just about finished the planting. Couldn’t have been any easier. (I wonder if I can get her to do it again next year.) I treated her to a glass of wine after and of course we had to get the perfect picture....
(Hey, and a big thank you to my neighbor, Sandy, for being my "comic foil.")

The other day a customer wiped us out of our entire horseradish supply. I couldn’t help but ask what he was going to use it for, since it does spread once established, and how much horseradish sauce does the average person use in year, anyway. Well, his recipe for horseradish is an old family recipe and the sauce is in huge demand from his family and friends. He agreed to share the recipe with us as it is posted on his blog. So here is the address for those of you who are interested: . It is listed under the tab "dawg recipes."

Herbs and Vegetables
It is finally warm enough to plant the veggies. If any of you attended our spring gardening seminars in April, the vegetable seminar focused on integrating vegetables into your ornamental beds. Many vegetables make great foliage additions to the garden and have the added benefit of being edible. One of my favorites is the Bright Lights Swiss Chard. When I was in France last August, the Bright Lights was used extensively in many of the municipal flower beds in Paris and elsewhere. The leaves of the swiss chard can be used like spinach and the swiss chard won’t bolt in the heat like spinach does. In addition, Bright Lights has great coloration in the stalks. Eggplant is also a great plant to use in the ornamental bed. The star-like purple flower is very attractive as are the resulting purple or pink fruits that add color to garden. Sliced and grilled is a great way to serve it this summer.

Even if you never cook with fresh herbs, the purple basils make a great border around a sunny garden bed. Of course you should use fresh herbs and here is a quick recipe using sweet basil. My garden club friend, Donna Cramer, makes this hors d’oeuvre using sweet basil and grape tomatoes. She uses one grape tomato, a basil leaf and a small cube of mozzarella cheese on a toothpick and drizzles a little olive oil over them. Delicious

If you are interested in attracting butterflies to your garden plant pineapple sage and parsley. The pineapple sage really does smell like pineapple and it gets a small tubular scarlet flower that attracts both humming birds and butterflies. Swallowtail butterflies lay their eggs in the parsley and the caterpillars feed on the parsley. If you do plan on using the parsley, check it closely for eggs and caterpillars! If you would like to know more about butterflies, check out the Crystal Lake Nature Center’s Butterfly House. It is located at Veteran’s Acres, at the Main Street entrance.
The Answer to Last Week's Trivia Question:
Rosemary, sage, oregano, thyme and marjoram all belong to the mint family. I can see where oregano, thyme and marjoram are in the same family, but rosemary and sage really don't look like the first group and none of them seem to have the same characteristics as mint. Mint has square stems, although the leaves are somewhat similar looking. Good luck with this week's question!

1 comment:

April said...

Your description of the tomato basil appetizer left me hungry for more. I will try that one for sure. Also, I agree the chard is beautiful in the garden and also so cold hardy, they look colorful up thru the first snow. Thanks for the ideas.