Friday, August 27, 2010

Easy Plant: Jalapeno Peppers

Last for the month in the series of relatively easy plants to grow in Texas is this lovely guy, the Jalapeno.

I have grown these from seeds, and they are pretty easy to do, but generally I don't need more than one plant, and a six inch tall Bonnie plant is about the same price as a pack of seeds.

The jalapeno can easily be grown in containers (as shown here), it produces a ton of peppers if it grows tall enough, and can survive dry heat (even if the begonias I had planted around it at the base did not all survive.

Jalapenos will flower small white flowers with triangular or almost diamond shaped petals, and then will fruit.  The fruit turns red when it ripens, but you can pick them whenever they are large enough and green all the way until they turn red.

If you do decide to grow from seed, you can always remove the seeds from one of the jalapenos you harvest and dry them out in a small bag to save for the following year.  Often, we end up removing the seeds anyway to cut down on the heat from the pepper (remove the seeds and membranes and the pepper tames down quite a bit).  If you do start from seed, it's a good idea to start indoors (and I might try next year starting some inside with a sub-irrigation pot made from 2-liter soda bottles.

What you can DO with 15 or 20 jalapenos is up to you.  As for me, I always save 2 to make my annual batch of Jalapeno Pale Ale.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Easy Plant: Elephant Ears

One more in our "easy plant" series here, for hot summers, it is difficult to beat Colocasia, more commonly referred to as Elephant Ears.

We have had several varieties of Elephant Ears year after year, and I love the lush tropical image they give.

Pictured here is an interesting variety, called "Upright" because the leaves point up instead of down.

Also in our garden we have "regular" elephant ears, though at 3 years old, they need to be replaced since they did not do well after this year's winter, as well as "Black Magic" with purple foliage and another one this year called "Kona Coffee" which has brownish stems and green leaves.

Super easy - grab some bulbs in April and get them in the ground in May or so.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Easy Plant: Butterfly Bush

The butterfly bush is another easy plant for Texas, if you have the space for it.  As you can see ours in the center of the photo, they can get quite large (that fence is six feet tall, and you can see the butterfly bush blooms from the other side).

Since this photo was taken in late summer, the garden is looking a little ragged, but the butterfly bush still thrives through the heat.

The other nice thing about the butterfly bush is that in addition to the long, cone-shaped flowers, it actually works and works well to attract all manner of butterflies to your garden, as its name implies.  We have seen at least ten or twenty types of butterflies swarming the bush to get the sweet nectar.

Also pretty amazing is that we bought this butterfly bush from Michigan Bulb, who shipped it in a very small pot, and by the next summer, it was already this size!  The success and size of this plant has led me to think we may be adding a second one on the other side of the planting area to balance it out.

Ours is a "Black Knight" which ended up quite a bit lighter purple than I thought it would, but it is still really attractive.  Next on the list will be either a "Rainbow" or an "Empire Blue" which we may order in time to get this fall.  We shall see!

Maintenance note - you WILL have to chop this bush down in the winter.  It gets HUGE!  I take big pruning shears and cut it back by about half in mid-winter before new growth starts in the spring.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Easy Plant: Cannas

As part of my "ridiculous amounts of things to put out on the web in the month of August" ongoing project, I thought I would write on the Garden Blog here about some of my favorite easy plants to grow in your garden.

Living in Texas, I have found lots of plants just die and drown in the heat, and some work very well but not at the times they might thrive in other parts of the country.  Still, there are some plants that are very easy to plant and work with, and can greatly help your landscape.

One of these are the common canna flowers.  Every year I forget that these wait to bloom until July and August, and carry through with beautiful reds into the late summer.  The large foliage also gives a nice tropical flair to your yard.  I have a small spot on the side of the house that we call "the grotto" where I keep my tropical plants, and cannas are a large part of that.  I have found that year over year, it is helpful to keep augmenting the canna bulbs with more and more.  Last year's bulbs will come back, but perhaps later and not as vigorously as new bulbs.

The ones pictured here are "The President" - large red flowers that last a week or two and then slowly die off (like these are doing).

Cannas are easy to plant, just get some bulbs (either at your local home improvement store or from a grower such as Horn Canna Farms) in the spring, then dig a hole about 4 inches deep or so, drop the bulb in facing upward, and cover with dirt.  Then water it in and leave it alone.  Horn's has a ton of varieties selling for about 3 for $4.20 or so, which makes it very affordable to pick up several varieties.

So next Spring, grab some canna bulbs and by next summer, you'll be looking at flowers just like these.