Rose of Sharon

Althea, Rose of Sharon
Hibiscus syriacus
blooming today

Rose of Sharon double-2511

Althea, Rose of Sharon – double
Hibiscus syriacus
blooming today

Wishbone Flower, torenia fournieri, first caught my eye in the spring or summer of 2013 probably because it was a velvety, trumpet-shaped deep purple flower with a white throat, about one inch long and half inch wide. I don’t remember if I bought one or three plants but I do remember my goal was to plant it in a planter at the front of Poppie’s main garage as a replacement for the fading winter violas. It filled out the container, making a compact, mounding plant that bloomed profusely all summer and into the fall. I fell in love with it and I’m still on the honeymoon.

Wishbone Flower close-up from 2013 planter in front of Poppie's garage

Wishbone Flower close-up from 2013 planter in front of Poppie’s garage

The original wild Wishbone Flower hails from Viet Nam. Common names include Bluewings and Clown Flower, but it is more aptly named Wishbone Flower because inside the flower throat, its anthers arch inward, join at the tip and look like a chicken wishbone. The stamens pull apart when the flower is ready for pollination. The leaves have a toothy edge similar to mint.

A bushy, summer annual growing 6 to 12 inches, it can be grown as a houseplant, in containers, hanging baskets and as borders planted in your flower beds. It is hardy in USDA zones 6 to 11 and absolutely thrives in warm, humid climates with a little shade. My planter gets morning shade but afternoon sun, those planted in the flower bed get morning sun and afternoon shade. It is said to bloom profusely even in moderate to heavy shade. In the more northern U.S., grow Wishbone in full sun but consider it a tender annual unable to tolerate frost.

At this time, there are several cultivars – ‘Alba’, ‘Clown’ whose ‘Clown Mixture’ won the 1989 All-America Selection, ‘Compacta’ (very compact habit), ‘Grandiflora’ (larger flowers), ‘Kauai’, ‘Panda’ (small 4-8 inch plants), and ‘Susie Wong’ (bright yellow flowers with brown throats). All of the flowers have multiple colors. Some of the colors available are deep blue, deep purple, lavender, white, white with yellow, both light and dark pink, red violet, hot fuchsia magenta, and burgundy. Thirty years of hybridizing have produced colors that I would love to have but can’t find, probably because they are the newest: ‘Summer Wave Blue’ (a solid purple), ‘Magenta Dream or Moon’ (burgundy and yellow with dark throat) ‘Velvet Dream’.

I consider this color to be red violet

I consider this color to be red violet

Recommendations for success include fertilizing every few weeks to promote flowering and deadheading to increase bushiness. I never did either and mine were fine. I did keep it consistently moist but not soggy because its stems reminded me of impatiens which are susceptible to root rot.

The seeds are almost transparent and microscopic. They are a tad difficult to collect but it’s not impossible. Take a little cup with you so you can pinch the seed pod off without losing any seeds. I wish I could tell you what the seed pod looks like but it must have been obvious because I have no memory of it. DO NOT cover the seeds as they need light to germinate. Press them into the soil and water lightly. You can also root stem cuttings in water to create more plants.

I do encourage saving seed so that you never run out of the colors you want to grow. For instance, I saw plenty of the pinks and violets at the nurseries this year but not the deep purple I had purchased last year. Like violas, they reseed themselves which turned into a real challenge for me when my 12 inch wide planter suddenly sprouted ALL the seeds from last year plus ALL the seeds I saved and planted. Having planted every last seed I saved, I had enough to over-fill the 12 inch planter, plant 2 dozen in my flower bed, and give a half dozen away. Oddly, I have colors that came up from the 2013 plants or saved seeds that I never saw in the planter — both light  and medium pink.

The two dozen in the flower bed

The two dozen in the flower bed
In a few weeks they will be loaded with blooms.

I went into Halls Ace Hardware in search of their red trash can. Our trash can with red paint on one side was beyond repair. A while back, the City requested that at least one of our trash cans have red on it to help the sanitation engineers see down our dead-street to determine whether or not we had landscape debris for pick up. I’m happy to oblige because I want the stuff to disappear.

Of course, now that I wanted a red trash can, Ace no longer carried it. Isn’t this the way it goes? I could have gotten out of there with no damage to my wallet, but of course, Ace booby-trapped the front door with a display of plants. And, of course, one of them stopped me in my tracks.

You know the drill. I went in for a trash can and came out with a plant. But for the serpent in the garden, we would have no temptation…

Dwarf Mussaenda (Mussaenda glabra)

  • Perennial
  • Native to Tropical Africa, Asia and Malaysia
  • Evergreen shrub
  • Zones 9-11
  • Height of 2 to 3 feet
  • Blooms all year — yellow star-shaped flowers with pale creamy yellow or off-white enlarged sepals (bracts) that resemble white wings or flags.
  • Requires full light but shade from hot sun. It wilts horribly in full sun. I will be digging it up and replanting it on Monday, July 28, in an area that receives morning sun only.
  • In temperate regions it blooms well in warm months but may need winter protection

I found it difficult to photograph the entire bush.  It didn’t seem to matter whether I photographed it in the morning, evening, with flash, or without flash. The result was always the same — the white sepals “blew out” and lost all detail.

Mussaenda dwarf bush-2502

Mussaenda dwarf close up-2493

I’ve been wondering if those weeds in my veggie patch could break into my house and take over. It seems a grim possibility given my level of laziness. I am seriously unmotivated to do anything but read thrillers and eat watermelon. Shameful.

I did finally get outside to harvest my potatoes before the vines completely rotted away, leaving me no clue where to dig.

Since my Uncle introduced us to Yukon Gold potatoes, I no longer eat white potatoes. My gold seed potatoes from Wal-Mart were planted late, due to rain, and mostly ignored. Still, they grew and then bloomed.

Gold potato blooms-2452

Potato blooms – June 11, 2014

The yield was not what I would have expected — it filled less than half of this 1.5 or 2 gallon nursery pot after I chunked the bad ones. The weather has been a dicey affair for the second spring in a row. Too much rain!

gold potato harvest

gold potato harvest – July 18, 2014

Having just admitted to a prolonged state of laziness, I did not want you to see my potatoes with dirt on them. I knew to allow the dirt to dry and fall off naturally while the potatoes were “curing.”  Just because I knew this didn’t mean you knew it and I could hear your gasps through the computer screen. “Why, she didn’t even wash her potatoes!”

It takes two weeks to cure potatoes — allowing minor cuts and bruises to heal and the skin to thicken. Rather than have you horrified that I was too lazy to wash my taters, I got out there and tried to scrub the dirt off with my hands. You can see the results in the lower front of the photo – I broke the skin on a few!

Despite the small harvest, I’m always happy to pull anything from my little patch of dirt. It’s an accomplishment, like winning one for the home team.

Useful tidbit: according to some educational facility way out west, sugary potatoes can be restored to their natural flavor by removing them from the ‘fridge and leaving them at room temperature for several days prior to use.

When my friend, Evie, read about my naked cantaloupes, she was reminded of some volunteer cantaloupes of her own. Of course, I knew the story of her “trash cantaloupes” but most of my memory is stored in a colander with large holes.

Two years ago, she rinsed out her trash can in the grass next to the driveway and up sprouted some cantaloupes. She wouldn’t eat them because the seeds came out of the trash can so the cantaloupes were passed on to unsuspecting beneficiaries. A few pics showing that her trash can cantaloupes were a very different variety than my compost cantaloupes:

Photo credit: Evie

Photo credit: Evie

Photo credit: Evie

Photo credit: Evie


I’m not one of those city slickers who think food comes from the grocery store. I have my own vegetable garden. So does Mr. Beekeeper. I get my eggs and honey from Mr. Beekeeper. Red raised pigs for food before she moved away.

Still, I’m not claiming to be a farmer other than that veggie patch and a few trash cans drilled full of holes for making compost. Every now and then, I dump the compost into the vegetable patch and spread it around. Sometimes I don’t get around to spreading it and volunteers pop up. This spring, the volunteers were tomatoes and unidentifiable curcurbits. All those curcurbit leaves look alike, you know.

I transplanted all of the curcurbits to provide more space for each plant but it was still a jungle of leaves and vines. The curcurbits eventually proved to be cucumbers and cantaloupes.

At least once in the past 5 years, I tried to grow cantaloupes from seed. The results were unremarkable. The compost volunteers, however, have been quite the success. Technically, these are my first cantaloupes and they came with a city slicker’s surprise. Did you know cantaloupes do not have all that rough netting on the melon when they first show up on the vine? I had no idea those babies came out nekkid as in shiny, pastel green with dark green ribs.

Naked baby cantaloupe and juvenile cantaloupe

Naked baby cantaloupe and juvenile cantaloupe

Only when the melon matures to 4 or 5 inches in diameter does the netting begin to form. Who would have thunk it?

Netting begins to form on cantaloupe

Netting begins to form on cantaloupe

I am having some mysterious implosion problems with the cantaloupes. At the 3″ diameter stage, whether hanging from the garden trellis or lying on the ground, POOF! The cantaloupe implodes or explodes. I never seem to be around when this happens so I have no idea why it is happening. So far, it’s hit or miss.

Luckily, I didn’t lose the entire crop. Well, “crop” might be an over-statement but one cantaloupe made it out of the garden without imploding. It needed salt to make it have any taste so I’m guessing it was missing a vital mineral ingredient.

I want to know how many of you knew that juvenile cantaloupes have no netting?


The $64 Tomato: How One Man Nearly Lost His Sanity, Spent a Fortune, and Endured an Existential Crisis in the Quest for the Perfect Garden by William Alexander dates back to 2006 but I just recently got around to reading it.

I found it both amusing and laugh out loud funny. Sobering, too, when he got around to telling us the math he did to arrive at the $64 tomato. However, both he and his wife were professionals with enough money to pay for garden design, construction, tools and an occasional hired hand. Still, I suspect some of my tomatoes might be worth $10 each when I have back-to-back bad years.

If I had his income, I would be tempted by the “Velcro tomato ties” he mentioned in his list of garden expenses. I found them on Amazon as “Velcro Brand Plant Hook & Loop Ties.”  Thirty feet of one-half inch wide ties will make it “easy to adjust and re-position as the plant grows.” I never found a need to re-position my very inexpensive strips of muslin but I will admit the muslin is hard to cut off at the end of the season.

After it becomes too unbearably hot to work in the garden, may I suggest you crawl in your hammock with something light and fun like The $64 Tomato?


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