New Chronicle Column

I'll have a column in the Food+Home section of the Sunday Chronicle starting March 1 and on the first Sunday of every month. It is billed as an almanac and will include photos, tips, calendar listings, new plants, books, or tools. I will be answering questions again, though with very short answers, but if you have one, send it through my contact page of this blog or send it to home@sfchronicle.com with my name in the Subject line. And if you have other information you think I'd like to know, pass it on.

 


San Bruno Mountain Plant Sale--Mission Blue Nursery

Mark your calendar on Saturday February 21st, 2015 to visit Mission Blue Nursery at 3401 Bayshore Blvd., in Brisbane, for a native plant sale to benefit San Bruno Mountain Watch. You can learn more about the sale, and about San Bruno Mountain, at http://www.mountainwatch.org/sbmw-plant-availability/. Indeed, as the link address implies, you can access a list of plants that will be offered for sale. There is also a link to driving directions to the nursery. (Brisbane is just south of SF on the Bay side of the Peninsula, nestled into the base of San Bruno Mountain on its east side.)

This is an opportunity to shop at a nursery that is usually only open to the public by appointment and with a $100 minimum. All proceeds from the February 21st sale will benefit San Bruno Mountain Watch, an organization that works to protect the mountain.

Bring boxes to carry plants that you select. You can pay with cash, check or credit card.

San Bruno Mountain is a San Mateo County Park that offers wonderful hikes. There are fine Bay and City views and a wealth of native plants to see as you walk. These hikes are especially enjoyable in spring, when so many of our native flowers are in bloom.

 

 


Fall Plant Sale--Master Gardeners of San Mateo/San Francisco

Coming soon is the fall plant sale of the Master Gardeners of San Mateo and San Francisco. Here is their announcement:

Please join us for our Fall Plant Sale on Saturday, September 20th from 9:00AM to 1:00PM.
 
We are offering an exciting array of vegetables, succulents, perennials, edible flowers, cover crop seeds and a wonderful choice of garlic seed and shallots perfect for your Fall Garden!
 
Vegetables Varieties
Beets_Chioggia, Bull’s Blood, Golden, and Shiraz
CabbageAll Seasons, and January King
Broccoli_Quartina, Di Ciccio, Romanesco, Piricicaba, and Solstice
Peas_Maestro, and Alderman Pole Peas
Spinach_Giant Winter, Monnopa Low Acid, Monster of Viroflay
Lettuce_Outstanding Red Romaine, Bronze Arrow Looseleaf, and Arctic King Butterhead
Chard_Fordhook Giant, Rainbow Mix, and Perpetual Spinach Chard
Kale_Vates Blue Curled, Lacinato (Dinosaur), Dwarf Green Curled, Portuguese, and Russian Red
Bunching Onion_White Spear
Endive_Frisee Fine Cut
Mustard_Red Giant
Leek_Musselburgh
 
LOTS of GARLIC and SHALLOTS!!!
Artichoke Seed Garlic_Inchelium Red                                     
Rocambole Seed Garlic_Killarney Red
Porcelian Seed Garlic_Magic
Shallots_Dutch Red
 
Succulents and Perennials…too many to list
 
Cover Crop Seeds
 
Our sale location is 2645 South El Camino Real San Mateo, CA 94403. Parking is limited so please park off-site.
 
Let us help you get your FALL GARDEN off to a good start.

Roly-Poly Problems

I got the following question through my web site. I'll answer it below. I was trying to wait until I had a good photo of these little critters, but I don't seem to have very many of them these days, so there's no photo for this post.

The Question:
My veggie garden has been besieged by roly polies.  When I check gardening blogs, most answer that roly polies do not eat live plant tissue but they are definitely eating the base of my cucumber and squash plants. I caught most of them early and taped the base of the stems so they couldn't continue to gnaw away...but they have!!!  They continue to move up the stem even though the stem is tougher than when they were small seedlings.  I have lost a few plants to them. My vegies are mulched with my homemade compost which is a cold one and probably supports the rolly pollies.  How do I rid my soil of them?  They are everywhere!!  BTW I live in San Rafael, Marin County.  Should I solarize the soil?

The answer:Too many garden how-to books and other guides are researched by reading what others have written, so we get the same information over and over. And wrong information over and over is frustrating.

Roly Polies will generally eat any living or dead plant matter that is soft enough, inlcuding much dead, decaying plant matter. If there are only a few of them, they may not damage crops much, but when their populations build up, they do significant damage. While I've never seen sow and pill bugs eat squash stems, I have watched them chew up the blossom ends of summer squash fruit and eat into ripe tomatoes.

"Roly Polies" is a general common name for both sow bugs and pill bugs, which often occur together in gardens. These are two different species of animal, both more closely related to shrimp than to insects. We call the species that can't roll up sow bugs, the ones that form a tight ball when disturbed, pill bugs, but their habits and management are about the same.

Your goal is to make conditions unpleasant for them and to reduce their numbers if they get so numerous that they are becoming pests. Start by pulling the mulch back from your squash plants, leaving a bare area a few inches wide around them. Try to keep this surface, especially, but all of your garden soil or mulch surface, as dry as possible, since these creatures need to stay moist to survive.

I doubt that solarizing the soil will help with sow and pill bugs. They would tend to run out of the hot area under the plastic. You might get eggs, but the adults are very mobile.

Sow and pill bugs tend to congregate in moist dark places in the day time. You have to move fast, but if you know where they are hiding, and see a lot of them in one place, you can scoop them into a plastic bag, seal it, freeze it, and compost them. Or you can leave out traps, in the form of anchored opaque plastic sheeting or cardboard, remove it fast, and start scooping. Try using a kitchen scoop or a deep trowel.

If you have many sow and pill bugs in an area you are about to clear and replant, try to reduce the population before you plant seeds or set out new seedlings there. Waiting a couple of weeks may be enough, but if you have many of the creatures, you may want to use mechanical means, as just described, or chemical means, as follows, to reduce the population.

I never use chemical means as a first resort, but you may want to supplement your cultural and mechanical methods by using a product called SluggoPlus. In addition to the iron phosphate that kills snails and slugs, it contains Spinosad, an extract from a soil microorganism, that is toxic to sow and pill bugs, earwigs, and cutworms. Use it according to directions, including not spreading it any more thickly than the directions indicate, as it is toxic to pets. (If spread according to directions, very thinly, it is less likely that a dog might eat enough of it to harm it, but do read the directions.)

Good luck reducing your roly poly problem!

 

 


Mendocino--Coastal Walk


This is part two of a plant photo report from our recent trip to Mendocino. The first shows some plant highlights from the Coast Botanical Garden. This one will show you some of the plants and views from a hike around the town of Mendocino on the bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. To take this walk, one usually starts at the south end of the town, crossing the last business street will take you down near the bluffs. Just find a trail, turn right, and start walking, pausing often for views and closer looks at the plants. If you keep walking you will pass around the West side of town and come out at the northwest corner. Then you can turn inland and walk south back down the main drag.

     The wide swath of weeds and wild flowers follows the coast. Below the bluffs are inaccessible beaches between rocky cliffs. Wild waves splash around the many rocks near the shore. There are natural arches and even a blow hole. This beach aster overlooks one of the vertiginous views. .

Beach aster IMG_7002 copy

   If you are a food gardener, one plant on the walk is instantly familiar. It's a cole crop, probably collards. These plants have escaped from cultivation to grow happily in this maritime habitat much like that of the European coasts where they evolved. The waxy coating on their leaves evolved to protect them from damp air. However, while these are definitely collards, when I collected seed, some years ago, to see what would grow, I discovered that they produced plants with rather tough leaves. They have probably drifted from the more palatable cultivated ones that farmers originally grew nearby and are toughened by the cold, windy location and low water.

IMG_7003 copy

 If you know plants and have sharp eyes, you will see that it is growing amidst a stand of poison oak, which is also common near this trail--whatch your step if you take it!

We were there at the end of May, when several iconic coastal California natives were in bloom. One is California poppy, a mid-California coastal variant, which is yellow.

Yellow poppy IMG_7007 copy

Another is Sidalcia, or checkerbloom, a low plant with flowers like miniature pink hollyhocks.

Sidallcia IMG_7004 copy

The plants I've shown so far (except for poison oak) are all ones that have been brought into gardens successfully. This last one, not so much. Castilleja, commonly known as Indian paintbrush, only grows where it can link its roots to another plant to share sustenance. To grow it you have to sow the seed next to a plant it can link to, possibly native bunch grass, or buckwheat. This isn't done often, but this wild specimen shows why it might be worth a try.

Indian Paintbrush IMG_7008 copy
Finally, we walked back to town, where the gardens include many old plants such as the ones mentioned in my book Wildly Successful Plants. This particular old cultivar of fuchsia shows no fuchsia mite damage at all, making it a good candidate for modern gardens or for breeding programs trying to bring back the old fuchsias lost to the mite.

Mendocino fuchsia IMG_7025 copy


Gardening Up Close--Managing Self-Sowers, Plants with Runners, and Bulbs

Gardening: Up Close   What to do about plants that crowd eachother and themselves. 

IMG_7457 copy for blog

Garden plants do not just stand still and look pretty. Not only do they grow taller, but they also leap wildly from place to place, creep stealthily outside their allotted area, and sometimes bunch up until they are so close together they can barely breathe, let alone bloom. So one of the tasks of the gardener is to serve as a plant referee. This photo shows three plants that are competing for the same space. Not only that, but one of them is competing with itself! These plants also illustrate the three main ways plants reproduce: seeds, runners, and bulbs, and how a gardener might referee their competition.   

            The blue-flowered lobelia is an annual, a plant that grows only from seed, blooms in a couple of months, and dies in under a year. It spreads in a garden by dropping seeds. They might grow where they drop or may roll or be moved by water into new places. In my garden, dropped lobelia seed doesn't grow very often, resulting in only a few random plants a year, so it doesn't make a pest of itself. I watch for the  small lobelias with their first blue flowers, and either leave them unmolested where they choose to grow, or move them to a place I prefer. I left the one in the photo alone to grow where it voted to put down its roots. I thought it a nice touch at the base of the broken concrete retaining wall next to the creeping fern.

            Then the fern began to creep toward the lobelia. Its rhizomes crept forth, forming new plantlets every few inches. OK with me, since it makes a nice backdrop for the tiny sapphire blossoms. The fern is Blechnum penna-marina, a South American species that in cool moist locations, in mild winter gardens, makes a tidy perennial patch of low, leathery leaves.This one survived in a neglected corner of my garden for several years, just getting by, but has been growing happily in the new spot to which I moved it about five years ago. It has filled in its space and slightly enlarged the area it covered.

            As this past spring progressed, the lobelia got bigger, and then the fern began to creep under and past it, into the area where I have been growing some Babiana. Babiana is from South Africa, where it blooms after winter rains and can survive the  long dry summer. The leaves that emerge with my California autumn rains grow to about eight inches tall. Then in late winter flower stems reach a foot or so tall, each bearing about a half-dozen rosy-purple flowers. Very nice on an early spring afternoon with the sun shining through.

April  Early May 2010 003 copy

            Spring passes, summer comes, I cut the browning flower stems, then the dying leaves. Soon there is only a tidy brown stubble, awaiting another chance to grow. The bulbs, or in this case, the similar structures known as corms, have stored up food enough to send down fresh roots when the rains begin again, to start the process over.

            Babiana has been the perfect choice for this tiny strip of rather sandy soil between the brick patio and the retaining wall. It turned out that strip was so narrow that it was very difficult to keep moist all through the summer, but since Babiana is dormant all summer, it needs zero summer water.             

            As the fern runners continue their reach, fern roots are going to tangle with the perennial Babiana corms. I have no way of knowing if the Babiana will survive this overrunning of its territory, so I must consider taking out some of the competing fern growth.

            Mediating further in the direction of fern control now is the fact that the Babiana corms, have been multiplying in their appointed spot for several years. This plant, as is the case with bulbs generally, doesn't move around, it just becomes more crowded. The plant is fighting with itself to find more room. There are more and more leafy plants each year. At first, the stand just produced more flowers, but in the past couple of years, the number of flower stems has held steady, or maybe even decreased. The Babiana is succeeding so well that it has begun to fail.

            At this point, I need to dig up all the corms and divide them. This just means separating them--they are loosely connected--and resetting the largest of the bulbs with a bit of room among them. If there are too many large ones for the space allotted, I'll have the choice of giving the planting more room or giving some of them away.

            There will also be small ones that won't bloom for two or maybe three years. These can be interplanted with the large corms in a larger area, or can be grown in an out-of-the-way place until they bloom, when you can decide where you want a new bed of Babiana. Or, they can be given to someone who wants to wait while they reach blooming size, or added to compost.          

            The questioning mind might wonder: If bulbs that grow from year to year crowd themselves up until there are few blooms, what happens in nature? In the case of Babiana, I have been told that they got their scientific name from the fact that baboons like to eat them. They dig up the corms and chomp them down, probably in the dry season when it is easier to wipe them clear of soil and they provide a welcome bit of moist food. I imagine baboons eat the biggest corms first, but miss some and especially miss the small ones, naturally thinning the lot.

            In some cases, as with Watsonias, the corms eventually form a large circular mound. If some animal begins to bite or kick out a corm here or there, and some that become detached might don't get eaten, they might roll off to a new location to start a new stand of Watsonias.

            The same goes for plants like my fern that grow from rhizomes or runners. Some foraging animal might break some off and not do a thorough job of munching all the broken plant bits, so some broken bits could roll or blow to a new place and send down roots.

            But a garden is not part of an intact ecosystem, with an equilibrium between animals and plants, so when plants are fighting it out, the gardener must step in. I now need to legislate the locations of the running fern and the clumping Babiana. Where do I want to let them be? And do I want to let the innocent lobelia, which grew from a randomly dropped viable seed right between the fern and the Babiana live out its short life in peace?

            First, I will dig up the part of the fern that has overtaken the Babiana bed, pot it up and save it for a friend who wants to grow some. Then I will dig up all of the Babiana corms and see what I have there. I will probably dig some fertilizer, a bit of earthworm compost, into the place they have been growing. Then I'll replant some of the larger corms 4 inches deep and 4 inches apart. (I looked the best depth and spacing up in a book.)  What if there are more large ones than I need for my tiny space? Hmm. Then a decision needs to be made.

            I will not disturb the part of the fern under the lobelia right now, because it is such a cheerful spot of blue! Only when it begins to fade will I decide if I have taken out enough of the fern.  

            But for a while longer, I will simply enjoy the battle, letting visitors to the garden think that this handsome plant grouping is an intentional and stable garden arrangement, created by nature and my careful planning.

I'll show that first photo again and if your eyes are sharp, you will see two other situations developing that will need attention one day.

IMG_7457 copy for blog

Did you notice the different kind of fern, the one with the larger fronds, at the base of the broken concrete, just above the lobelia? There seem to have been fern spores in the crannies of the used concrete we got through Craigs List, and some of them have germinated. Chances are this wll be a large fern, too large for the space. I may not be able to priy it out to move it either, so when it starts to overwhelm the spot, I may have to just rip it out. Sigh.

And arching up into the cracks of the concrete above and to the right of that fern, you will notice the leaves of some creeping campanula that has reached down from the top of the wall. Nice now; it made a few blue flowers that were very winsome in the wall in June. But if the wall were to be covered with it you'd lose the charm of the wall. You got it, more ripping out in the offing.

 


Mendocino--Coast Botanical Garden

At the end of May, we took a trip to Mendocino, where we visited the Coast Botanical Garden. It is always a treat, in part because the plantings are lovely, and in part because there are such a variety of environments. At the front, there is a perennial garden, then cactus and succulents, trees and shrubs, water garden, woodland garden, and if you keep on walking, you enter wild land that eventually leads to a tall grassy bluff over the ocean. Below there are rocks and waves. Above, native bunch grasses and wildflowers. One year there was a sea otter in the rocks below us. This year, no such luck, but I got this shot of the California native seathrift (Armeria maritima) at the very edge of the bluff.

Armeria maritima MG_7067 copy

I knew that this species was from near the ocean, from the "maritima" in the specific epithet, but I had never pictured exactly what that could mean-right over the water as it is.

It was also fun to see all the native succulents, the Duddleyas, that grew down the rocky slopes to the water, but not possible to climb down and photograph them.

In the perennial plantings of the garden, there are both native and non-native plants. And of the natives, both species and cultivated varieties of wild species. This wonderful California poppy variety is called 'Champagne and Roses'.

Chapagne & Roses IMG_7031 copy

And right in the front, in the window boxes of the cafe, there was this wonderful planting of bidens. Both cultivars have larger flowers than the species, and the rusty-orange one has purple leaves. I wanted it, but the nursery manager said she was not only out of it, but so were all of her suppliers! Darn!

Orange bidens IMG_7084 copy

 I was so busy taking photos that I forgot to ask the name of the cultivar, but I am hoping to find it again. Any reader happen to know what it is called?

Next post I will show some photos of plants in the town of Mendocino and the coastal trail around the city. The town is full of common and rare flowers and surrounded by a skirt of wild flowers.

 


Chronicle Drops Garden Columns

A letter to readers of my Chronicle/SFGate Column:

As of July 29, 2014, the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper, and SFGate.com has dropped all garden columns, including Golden Gate Gardener. They are combining the Food/Wine section and the Home/Garden sections into one section, and plan to cover mostly design and food. Gardening will be an occasional topic, mostly based on interviews with garden-related business owners or about particular gardens. There will be an occasional book review.

I am told that this decision is based on a marketing study showing readers prefered more on home design and food, and weren't particularly interested in gardening. I was also told that if they got a lot of letters from people who missed garden coverage, they might reconsider. So what do you think of this decision? You can send comments to home@sfchronicle.com.

I will still appear in the Chronicle from time to time. I have a book review scheduled for late summer, but no more Q&A column. I will miss being able to help gardeners with questions and get good gardening information out to the Chronicle readership.

I will continue to give talks around the Bay Area, and keep my lecture schedule at the top of this blog.I will also continuer to write in this blog and can offer short answers to your questions here if you send them via comments.  (And if you come to a lecture, please let me know if you are a column and/or blog reader.)

Thanks to all of you who wrote questions to me at the Chronicle and to those of you who told me in persion that my advice was a help in their garden! It was great fun helping you all out!

Pam Peirce

 

 


Addendum to Herb Society Lecture on Unusual Herbs to Grow

These are some extra notes about the herbs I spoke about in my talk on unusual herbs at the Annual Conference of the Herb Society of America on June 21, 2014, including a list of mail order sources for seeds and/or plants. If you want more info about these herbs, send me questions as comments. Or, if you'd like a repeat of the talk I gave to the Herb Society, send me a line about that (see Contact).

The Herbs:

Ocimum kilimandscharicum and O. basilicum 'Dark Opel'--African Blue Basil

This plant is covered thoroughly on  other pages of this blog. Do a search for other posts about it.

 

Herbalea Basils

'Wild Magic', 'Green Ball', 'Habana'

These are the three of the new, patented Herbalea basils I was able to purchase locally. There are up to 15 Herbalea varieties. I have nothing to add about them today, but will be blogging about them more as I continue to grow and cook with them.

 

Nepitella fls yng IMG_7107 copy

Calamintha nepeta--nepitella

This mint family herb has a flavor of mint and oregano together. It is popular in Tuscan cuisine, especially with mushrooms and artichoke.

Has, in the past, been classified as a thyme, melissa, clinopodium, and satureja. Has also been called Calamintha glandulosa.

Etymology:

cala, from Gr. kalos=beautiful   and    minthe=mint

Related Species:

There are two other common Calamintha species that you may encounter--and that are not the herb  nepitella! They are Calamintha sylvatica and Calamintha officinalis.

Funghi e Zucchini Trifolati (Mushrooms and Zucchini sliced thinly as you would truffles)

Adapted from adribarrcrocetti.com

 1 Pound mushrooms (cremini, porcini, white button, or any combination), thinly sliced

2 small zucchini (about 8 ounces), thinly sliced

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons of chopped nepitella

2 tablespoons of chopped parsley

1 teaspoon salt, divided

freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons olive oil

 Brush the mushrooms or wipe them with a damp towel to clean. Cut off and discard the dry ends of the stalks. Slice mushrooms thinly. Slice zucchini into very thin rounds.

Heat olive oil in a 12 inch sauté pan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until it takes on a pale gold tone. Do not brown garlic, or it will be bitter. Increase to medium high and add mushrooms. Sauté, tossing mushrooms until they have taken up the oil. Don't be tempted to add more oil. Add 1/2 teaspoons of salt and continue cooking, tossing occasionally.

As the mushrooms cook, they will exude liquid. Cook until the liquid is almost completely evaporated, which will take 5-8 minutes.

Add zucchini and the other 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Cook until tender. Add a few twists of freshly ground black pepper and the herbs. Toss lightly. Remove from heat. Test for seasoning. Serve.

Eat this hot as a side dish, or cold as a crostini or antipasto.

 

Dracocephalus moldavica--dragonhead, moldavian balm

Entire plant has a lemony flavor. It is grown to make tea and for its attractive, blue, edible flowers.

This plant has been known as Moldavica moldavica.

Etymology:

 draco=dragon   cephalum=head   moldavica=from from Moldavia

Related species:

Dracocephalus parviflorum, American dragonhead, is native to Alaska and is treasured there as a native plant whose oil-rich seeds provide a food for birds. Has a slight minty smell to crushed leaves, probably hasn't been explored as an herb.

The ornamental Phystostegia virginiana, best known as obedience plant, is also sometimes called "false dragonhead." The quite similar Phystostegia parviflora was once called Dracocephalum nuttali.

 

Epazote IMG_7160 copy

Dysphania ambrosioides--epazote

A strong-scented herb native to Mexico and used in Mexican cuisine with beans and in sauces.

Until quite recently, ths plant was classified as Chenopodium abrosioides, and is still considered quite similar to the chenopodiumns, although no chenopodium I know of has that strong a scent.

Etymology: 

 fr. Greek dysphanis=obscure, referring to the inconspicuous flowers, ambrosioides fr. Latin, ambrosia, referring to some similarity a botanist saw to plants in the genus Ambrosia (ragweed)

Etymology of the common name: from Nahuatle, informally known as Aztec, epatl=skunk and tzotl=dirt

Recipe Adapted From The Complete Book of Mexican Cooking, by Elizabeth Lambert Ortiz

Frijoles

2 cups pinto, black, or red beans                  3 Tablespoons lard or salad oil (I used olive oil)

2 onions, finely chopped                               Salt

2 cloves garlic, chopped                                Freshly ground pepper

Sprig of epazote (or a bay leaf)                     I Tomato, peeled, seeded, and chopped

2 or more serrano chiles, chopped

Wash the beans and place in a saucepan without soaking, with enough cold water to cover, 1 of the chopped onions, one of the garlic cloves, the epazote (or bay leaf) and the chiles. [If you can't find fresh serranos, she suggeste dried pequin chiles, crumbled. You could also try a bit of fresh Jalapeno, or you could reduce, or omit chiles] Cover, bring to a boil, reduce heat; then simmer gently, adding more boiling water as it boils away. When the beans begin to wrinkle, add one tablespoon of the lard or oil. Continue cooking until the beans are soft. At this point, stir in enough salt to taste. Cook another 30 minutes over the same heat, but do not add water, as there should not be a great deal of liquid when the beans are done. Heat the remaining lard [or oil] in a skillet and sauté the remaining onion and garlic until limp. Add the tomato and cook for about two minutes over medium heat; add three tablespoons of beans, bit by bit, with some of the liquid from the pot, and mash, until you have a smooth, fairly heavy paste. Return this to the bean pot and stir into the beans over low heat to thicken the remaining liquid. .

[The epazote adds a very subtle flavor, not at all what you expect from the scent of the raw plant. I served this with a little bottled green sauce splashed on top, which made it even better. )

 

Cryptotaenia japonica

A celery family herb/vegetable that grows best in shade.

Etymology:

Crypto from Greek kryptos=hidden and tainia=fillet or ribbon

I think this means that oil tubes, present in plants of this family, are hidden in some way. There are typical oil-tube ridges on the seeds (really fruits), so I'm not sure what is hidden.

Related species:

Cryptotaenia canadensis

Native to the Eastern half of the US and Canada and known as honewort. Similar in appearance to C. japonica and also edible. Grows in shady places. Seed available from Prairie Moon Nursery (prairiemoon.com). If you are seeking it in the wild, check first to learn if it is a listed endangered species your state.  Also be aware that some wild members of the celery plant family are deadly poisons--so make sure you have the identified the plant correctly before you eat it.

 

Gotu kola mine IMG_7129 copy

Centella asiatica--gotu kola

This celery family herb is used in Asian cooking, including blended into a sweetened drink.

This plant was once classified as Hydrocotyle asiatica.

There has been much discussion about whether the Centella growing in the Western Hemisphere (US and Canada) are the same species as the one growing in Asia. The North American plants have been called Centella erecta, but are often now considered a variety of Centella asiatica.

Etymology:

centella is a diminutive of cent, therefore a "little coin"

Related Species:

Several Hydrocotyle species are found in both Asia and some parts of the U.S. They differ from Centella in having a leaf stem (petiole) in the middle of a round leaf (peltate) rather than at the edge of a shovel or kidney shaped leaf. The Hydrocotyles are, like Centella, fond of wet places and are edible.

Be aware if you plan to collect any of these plants in the wild that they can carry bacteria if growing in unclean water and can also take up toxins that might be in the water.

 Recipe From Encyclopedia of Asian Food By Charmaine Solomon

2 bunches gotu-kola or

about 250 g/8 oz/ 2 cups leaves without stems

3 shallots or

1 small onion, finely chopped

Good squeeze lime or

lemon juice

1 sliced chilli (optional)

75 g/2-1/2 oz/1 cup fresh grated coconut

Salt to taste

1/2 teaspoon sugar

Wash well and strip leaves from stems. Shred finely with a sharp knife, combine with other ingredients and serve immediately. The flavor is slightly sour, slightly bitter. Some people prefer this salad to be lightly cooked, if so bring a tablespoon of water and 1/2 teaspoon salt to the boil in a wok or pan, add all iingredients and toss over heat briefly, stopping before leaves lose their green color.

 

Gr houtt 2 IMG_5430 copy

Houttuynia cordata--fish mint, lizard tail

The plant has a strong scent and flavor that reminds some of fish. It is used in SE Asian cooking.

This plant is in the family Saureraceae, whose name derives from the root saur, meaning lizard.

Another genus in this family has a long, drooping, lizard tail-like flower head, and the name floats around the family.

Etymology:

Houttuynia is named after the Dutch botanist Martin Houttyn, who lived 1720-1798. Cordata refers to the heart-shaped leaves.

An Ornamental Cultivar:

The plant is sometimes called "chameleon plant" which is an echo of the name of a popular ornamental cultivar. In fact, non Asians might never have seen the original, green-leaved species that is used as an herb.

Related Species:

Anemopsis californica is a plant in a different genus in the Saureraceae that is native to California and nearby southwestern states. It was called yerba mansa by native Californians, who used it medicinally. It is now sold by native plant nurseries as an ornamental that grows to 3 feet tall, with large gray-green leaves and large spikes of tiny flowers, each with its white bract, and several white bracts at the base of the spike. It can be grown in wet places and is cold hardy.

 

Persicaria odorata--rau ram, Vietnamese coriander

Has a flavor that Westerners consider close to that of cilantro, but is not used as a substitute in Asian cooking, but as an herb with a distinctive flavor of its own.

All Persicarias used to be Polygonums.

Etymology:

 Persicaria is from the Latin word persicum, meaning peach. Someone thought the leaves resembled those of a peach tree.

Related Species:

You will come across other Persicarias, both domestic and weedy. The weedy ones are often given the common name of knotweed, as in common knotweed or swamp knotweed. The ornamental species and varieties are often grown for their colorful leaves, sometimes purple, sometimes variegated. A very common species, grown in gardens for many years, is P. capitata, a ground  cover plant with small round heads of pink flowers. I did not investigate edibility or flavor of other species of Persicaria.

 

Tagetes lucida--sweet mace, winter tarragon

Most marigolds, plants in the daisy family, have an unpleasant, pungent flavor, the leaves of this one are sweet and similar to tarragon in flavor.

Etymology:

Tagetes refers to the Roman god Tages, an adopted son or grandson of Jupiter, who was originally the Etruscan god of prophecy. Lucida is from the Latin root meaning clear or bright, referring to the bright flowers. Tagetes lucida is sometimes sold as "Mexican mint marigold." The common name marigold was given to plants in the Western Hemisphere genus Tagetes by Euorpeans. They chose this name because Tagetes flowers  reminded them of the European flower Calendula. As is frequently the case with medieval European plant names, the word marigold is a Catholic reference, short for Mary's Gold--a flower of the Virgin Mary.

Related Species:

This is not the marigold commonly listed as having edible flowers. That is Tagetes tenuifolia, or signet marigold. The flowers of that species are milder in flavor than those of most marigolds, but the plant doesn't have the sweet flavor of Tagetes lucida.

 

Mail Sources for Plants Discussed by Pam Peirce at the Annual Meeting of the Herb Society of America

In Concord, CA, June 21, 2014 (See web addresses of suppliers at the end of the list.)

 

African Blue Basil

Richters Herbs--Plants

 

Herbalea Basils (Wild Magic, etc.)

No Mailorder Source Located Yet

Sold locally by Sweetwater Nursery

 

Nepitella

Richters Herbs--seeds and plants

Valley Seed Company--seeds 

Nichols Garden Nursery--seeds

Richters Herbs

Nichols Garden Nursery

                              

Dysphania ambrosioides--Epazote

Nichols Garden Nursery

 

Cryptotaenia japonics--Mitsuba

Nichols Garden Nursery--seeds

Richters Herbs--seeds

 

Centalla asiatica--Gotu Kola

Richters Herbs--plants

 

Houttuynia cordata

Richters sells plants of both green and tricolor {'Chameleon') varieties

 

Persicaria odorata--Rau Ram

Richters sells plants including "Colosso' plants, which are shipped April-Nov and are 12.00 each!

 

Tagetes lucida--Sweet Mace or Winter Tarragon

Richters sells seeds of the species and plants of Tarragold--a trademarked variety.

 

Web Addresses of Sources Listed Above:

richters.com

nicholsgardennursery.com

valleyseedco.com

 

 


Windbreak for a Garden

My column in today's San Francisco Chronicle was shortened, removing information about using shadecloth to create a windbreak for a garden. It might be a useful solution, especially for a garden on a roof or elevated deck. Today's column is about growing plants on a windy deck, in containers. The reader wanted to know if there are plants that are both drought tolerant and also attractive to pollinators. Indeed there are, and I listed some, but it is also true that bees and butterflies will be less likely to visit if the site is quite windy. 

The following information was cut from my column:

*******************

Reducing windiness on your deck would not only reduce water loss, but also produce an environment more inviting to bees and other pollinators. While a wooden lattice on the windward side would help, I once wondered if there is a wind blocking cloth. I learned that the best material available is a polyester shade cloth that blocks about 50% of the sunlight. If it blocks less sun, it won't stop much wind, so it's a compromise.

            You wouldn't want to put either up on the south side of a garden, or you'd have a shade garden, but our region's prevailing winds are from the west or northwest. A north side wind calming structure wouldn't block the sun, while a west side one would be a trade-off between afternoon sun and wind. You'll have to be the one to decide if that's more help than hindrance in your situation.

            Charley's Greenhouse (charleysgreenhouse.com, (800) 322-4707) sells a 6-by-12 foot, knitted, green, 50% shade material with edging and grommets for $52.00.