16 January 2012

Favorite Plants of 2011: Part 2

Some plants I loved last year. See part one here.
Gladiolus 'Atom'
I love plants that suck me in with glorious, unique flowers, and then win my heart forever by also being tough and carefree. 'Atom' fits the bill perfectly. The flowers are a vivid, shade of red, with each petal edged in the faintest possible line of white, somehow at once brash and elegant. All gladiolus are pretty much trouble-free during the summer, unless they need staking, which this one is thankfully short enough to avoid, but 'Atom' takes that all to another level by also being completely zone 5 hardy. That's right, no digging and storing the bulbs, just plant it and enjoy year after year! Even better, it multiplies pretty quickly, so from one plant you'll soon have a mass to enjoy and plenty to share with friends.
Mint "Sister Julie's Wintergreen"
I talked about these mints when I first purchased them, an amazing array of gourmet mint varieties bred by a chef. After eating my way through the varieties I tried for the summer, I've settled on a clear favorite. Quite unlike the standard mints you might have grown, 'Winter Green' packs an enormous punch of menthol, the compound which stimulates the temperature sensitive nerves in our mouths to create the sensation of cooling, much as chili peppers do to produce the feeling of heat. That makes this mint a perfect counterpoint to intensely spicy dishes, and I love this particular variety in the Indian sauce Raita. It is simple to make – plain yogurt, cucumber, handfuls of fresh mint, and a little salt. Dip some naan in it after a mouthful of fiery curry, or even a tortilla chip after a mouthful of hot, hot salsa. The contrast of hot and cool is wonderful, soothing, and primes your tastebuds for the next hit of heat. I got mine from Richters Herbs

Primula x pubescens
Like most American gardeners, I've spent most of my life being jealous of England. It seems, with their mild summers and winters, that they can grow everything better than we can. Well, now I've found something for them to be jealous of. Look up Primula x pubescens, the auricula primroses, online or in reference books, and you'll find all sorts of nonsense about how finicky they are and how carefully they must be cultivated. Turns out, all they really want is to be living in Michigan. Plop these babies in anything from full fun to bright shade, and watch them do their thing. Lovely, thick, fleshy leaves all year, topped with incredible clusters of fragrant blooms in the most delicate shades imaginable. I got mine from the always wonderful Arrowhead Alpines
Sometimes the best plants are right under our noses. I'd seen gazanias countless times, and never given the much thought. Little daisies... okay, whatever. But this year, on a whim, I bought a packet of seed and grew out a patch of them, and once I got down and looked closely at the flowers, I was amazed. Each flower is incredibly intricately marked with the most mesmerizing patterns of spots and stripes. Like most mainstream annuals, they bloom profusely all summer, but unlike some, they are also require no pampering whatsoever being wonderful heat and drought tolerant. It is time I explored this group some more and gave this marvelous little blooms the respect they deserve.


Fairegarden said...

Thanks Joseph, you have added to my wish list of plants! I love the auriculas, from Arrowhead, of course and have had a couple survive here in SE TN. Since we are not Michigan, and Michigan is not TN, yet, we have lower expectations, but the one you feature is going on the order form. Atom is calling me, too.

mr_subjunctive said...

I keep trying to tell people about Gazanias, but nobody listens. . . .

Debra @ Gardens Inspired said...

Hi Joseph! I am another Michigan garden blogger - thanks for the tip about Primula x pubescens.

Keith said...

Oh, you Americans! You crack me up!! Mild summers and winters??? The last couple have been lousy summers and harsh winters!
re the Primula - my other half has this everywhere in her garden as it self seeds prolifically. She only bought it as she too heard that it was a picky little so and so and thought that it would be safe.

I used to be a little snooty about Gazania, but last year I found a gem - Bicton Orange. There is a photo on my p/bucket page at the link below........


Joseph said...

Fairegarden, you won't regret Atom. It is a winner!

Mr. S. Well, you are part of what influenced me to grow them, so I guess you are getting somewhere.

Nice to meet you!

Don't sat that! If your climate isn't as perfect as I imagine, what excuse will I have for why all UK gardens seem to be prettier than the ones here?

Keith said...

You should see mine then - an eyesore that is full of the plants that I love.
I moved here four years ago and never loved the garden - no privacy. But I developed a love of the exotic and unusual plants. They will look great in my new house with its private garden!

Cyndy said...

Gazanias - you're right they are all around and never noticed. Wonder if those auriculas would do ok in a damp area pondside - they're wonderful in your photo.

Joseph said...

This primulas actually prefer decent drainage, though they're not picky. The lovely candelabra types like Primula japonica are better for wet areas, I believe.

Casa Mariposa said...

I love primula, with my fav being the common cowslip. But your pubescens is beautiful. I've seen gazania at our garden center and I'll have to give it a closer look. :o)

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