Thursday, October 17, 2013

Cooking in the Garden

For those following this blog, you know I've been doing a series called Rocking the Garden, about the connection between plant names and rock songs/artists. There's been no shortage of choices but as rich a mine as this has been, there is one other variation that's even more in evidence. That would be food names. These names are legion in the nursery/horticulture business. One need only look at Heucheras to see this partnership, where there is about ten food names and counting for Heuchera varieties. We won't of course limit ourselves to Coral bells and in this spirit here are a few of the more common food-related names, be that a specific variety or a common name. I'm pretty sure some readers will think "Why didn't he include 'so and so' in his list and that just proves how pervasive this interdependent relationship is.

We'll get the Heucheras out of the way first, with variety names such as Creme Brulee, Caramel and the new Crisp series (Peach Crisp, Apple Crisp).
When in a "jam" one can always go with marmalade. Plants invoking this traditional British jam include Streptosolen (Marmalade bush), Crossandra 'Orange Marmalade' and Alstromeria 'Marmalade.' Who knew that yummy confection was so popular stateside?
Cerinthe Major 'Blue Honeywort.' Not sure why this lovely blue flowering cerinthe should invoke honey but there it is.
Veering into common names, everyone knows about the yummy Cosmos atrosanguineus, right? No? How about Chocolate cosmos then? No liberties taken here; this plant's flowers really do smell like cocoa.
Arctotis (African daisy) has become a home for delectable variety names. Start with A. 'Pumpkin Pie.' Or if you prefer, A. 'Peachy Mango,' where I guess those that named it just couldn't decide on their favorite fruit, so used both!
Geraniums weigh in with the ferny foliage species G. incanum 'Sugar Plum.' This vigorous species will it seems grow anywhere under any conditions.
Stachys albotomentosa may seem like a mouthful and an unlikely candidate for this column's "pantry" until you see its apt common name -- 7-Up plant. Yep, it really does smell like the drink. So much so that I wonder whether some mad scientist came up with the formula for the soft drink after coming across this plant.
Sometimes the name is the thing. Claytonia perfoliata, a west coast understory plant, is better known as Miner's Lettuce, because gold miners ate it while out in the wild.
And let's not forget drinks. How about Callirhoe involucrata, better known as 'Wine Cups.'
Staying with the wine theme, there's also Oxalis 'Charmed Wine,' a pretty little oxalis with burgundy foliage. Not sure where the 'charmed' part comes in. Perhaps the person naming it was bewitched by this plant's quixotic color.
Prefer cocktails over wine? We've got just the plant for you. There is a begonia series that invokes classic cocktail spirits, such as Begonia Cocktail Vodka and B. Cocktail Gin.
Back to food, how about the sweetly named Camellia 'Buttermint?' I have this alabaster-colored variety in my garden and though the flowers are small, it is a profuse and early bloomer.
For something sunny and tough, try the popular Gaillardia 'Oranges & Lemons.' One look at the orangy-golden round flowers and it's easy to see where they got the name. And like those citrus trees, this gaillardia puts out flowers nearly year round.
But what about snack foods you say? Well, I haven't heard of a plant named after Doritos but there is a Cassia tree variety named 'Buttered Popcorn.' Darned if the foliage doesn't smell like, you know ...
The colorful perennial Nemesia has also been abducted by foodies. Witness the ever expanding list of food-related names. It started with N. 'Berries and Cream,' a purple and white variety. Now we have the Juicy Fruits series, with entries including 'Watermelon' and 'Papaya.'
Speaking of fruit, we also have the U.S. native tree Arbutus unedo, better known as the 'Strawberry tree' because of its small, strawberry-like fruits.
Also making the list is a plant many have not heard of -- Belamcanda. This charming member of the Iris family is nonetheless known as 'Blackberry lily' for its clusters of small, black seeds that really do look like blackberries.
And since there has to be dessert, I give you Jelly Bean Sedum, a cool little sedum with multi-colored little jelly bean shaped foliage.

Okay, I think that's enough to keep us busy for awhile and besides, I'm suddenly hungry! And now the photos ...

Begonia 'Calypso.' I bought and planted this variety as a bulb back in the spring. Waited. Waited some more. Finally in July leaves emerged. Then nothing. Still nothing. Finally this week it bloomed. This first flower hasn't fully opened but it gives you an idea of the rich colors.

Speaking of biding its time, my Fuchsia denticulata has been taking its time. It's just now starting to really bloom. Mind you, it's worth the wait. I'm waiting on another of my favorite fuchsias, the newly planted F. Nettala, to get going in this same raised bed. 

Sedum moranense ssp grandiflorum. My newest (and fave) sedum, in part for the charming forest of flowers. This one I'll plant in the ground so it can spread.

Haemanthus albiflos. This species is sometimes called the Shaving Brush plant and you can see why from this photo (at least those of you old enough to remember the shaving brush our fathers used). One of my coolest plants.

Couldn't quite get this cluster of Eriogonum'Shasta Sulphur' flowers in perfect focus but it makes a cool photo nonetheless. CA buckwheats are one of the most valuable plants to have in your garden, as their flowers and seeds are especially nutritious for local birds, bees and butterflies.

Speaking of food names, I could have chosen this new Senecio. It's S. anteuphorbium, also known as Swizzle Sticks.' Delightful and vigorous (two words that go nicely together).

Lepechinia hastata. This salvia relative is super hardy but I was beginning to wonder why it had yet to flower and then upon my return, I discovered its first crop of burgundy flowers. I'd do a Pick column on this sturdy guy if it was more commonly available. It'll probably bloom until Christmas.

Sometimes it isn't the flowers, or even the foliage, that can be the most interesting part of a plant. Here is the seedpod of Datura 'Blackcurrant Swirl.' It looks all the world like one of those Medieval weapons that's at the end of a big chain.

Chaenomeles Kurokoji fruit. Though this species is considered an 'ornamental' quince, it still produces golden fruit for me. 

One last shot of the berries on my Amorphophallus kiusianus. So far they haven't tempted any birds but then again this guy is from China and Japan.

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