21 November 2013

Growing (real) mandrakes!

If you are a Harry Potter fan, or just interested in folklore, you may know the mythical mandrake, a plant with roots that are supposed to scream when you pull them up, a scream that will kill anyone who hears it. Another myth has it that mandrakes only grow where the semen of a hanged man hits the ground.

Eww.

Luckily for us, cultivation of the actual factual mandrake is a great deal less difficult and dangerous. In fact it is fairly easy to grow, and they are looking lush and lovely at the nursery right now.
 It is only hardy to zone 6, so needs a sheltered spot to survive here in mid-Michigan, but otherwise the only trick is understanding how it grows. Mandrake is a winter grower -- plants are just putting up lush and beautiful leaves now, leaves which will stay up all winter, followed by rather pretty flowers and fruit in the spring, and then it goes totally dormant in the summer. This makes it pretty much impossible to sell at a regular nursery, because any time people are shopping, it looks like it is dead. But come fall, up it pops again, without fail.

Frustrating as this backwards growth cycle is for us a nursery, it makes it a terrific garden plant. Because it grows in the winter, it does beautifully under deciduous trees, soaking up the sun while the leaves are down, and it is terrific interplanted with normal perennials like hostas, because right when the hostas are going down for the fall, leaving the garden barren, up pops the mandrake to look beautiful all winter. Pretty magical.
And, of course, you can show it to all your Harry Potter obsessed friends and make them horribly jealous, which is pretty magical as well.
We've got a few for sale: http://www.arrowheadalpines.com/shop/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=65_182&products_id=7026

3 comments:

Lucy in the Garden said...

Hey, it says zone 7 in the catalog.
I'm in zone 5 so if it was 6 I'd totally try it, but 7 for me is on par with citrus fruit...
So which one is right?

Joseph Tychonievich said...

Lucy, zones are difficult... it isn't reliable for us in our zone 5. But, looking around on the web, some people are having success in zone 6. I think good snow cover during the coldest temperatures would make a huge difference, as it does with many things.

Arthur in the Garden! said...

Beautiful!