Saturday, September 26, 2015

Plant Hero: Plantain - Plantago major

Every gardener, every hiker, and every outdoors person needs to familiarize themselves with this plant.

Plaintain - Plantago major
I have come to rely on Plantain - Plantago major every time mosquitos are at their worst and now -  late summer/ early autumn, especially when wasps are at their wildest frenzy.

Thankfully, it grows everywhere. I see it growing in pavement cracks:

Found in turf:

Interlocking stone:

You can find it nearly anywhere.  It likes disturbed soil too. You can find it along roadsides - you name it. Plantain has such a huge tolerance for drought, sunny spots and for shade too.

I get stung by wasps weekly and if it were not for Plantain, I would be rather miserable and unable to cope with working outdoors.

Please familiarize yourself to ID this plant.

Notable Plant Characteristics:
Deep leaf veins
Leathery thick foliage
Dark green foliage
Wrinkly leaves
Flat growth habit: it can grow right along the ground - gets missed by the lawn mower
Leaves are joined at one base
In soil, there are usually more than one plant grouped together, like in the very first photo above

If you're lucky, you'll see its flower and seed stalk. It stands above the foliage and looks like a bottle brush. Brown when aged and seeds are ripe.

How to use: once your skin gets bitten or stung, take a leaf and squish it between your fingers to release the plant juice.

Rub all over the bitten/stung area with this mushy, wet paste. Within seconds, you begin to notice the difference. Get another leaf and repeat.

Yesterday, I was stung by a hornet. I will admit, it took about 3 leaves worth of paste, but finally the pain subsided after a minute or two - to the point where I could continue working without a throbbing hand. I react to hornet stings terribly.

I also use the leaves when I have a blister. I take a fresh leaf and place it over my toe or the ankle and then put on my shoe. The leaf, remaining intact, relieves the soreness and the hurt from the blister as I walk and move about.

Plantago major has active chemical compounds in its leaves: aucubin (which is an anti-microbial agent), allantoin (which helps stimulate cellular growth) and mucilage (which helps reduce pain, swelling and discomfort).

Several books I read, state it is edible and used medicinally for other health benefits.  It can also be used to help ease the discomfort of poison ivy.

Overall - a God send. I have transplanted several on my property. I always have an ample supply and don't remove it from my lawn.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Leafy Choices: Foliage for Planters - Part 2

... Continued from last week's Part 1 post:

More leafy choices for planters and raised beds:

Trailing Vinca major (spiller)
The great aspect of Vinca major - it is quite frost tolerant. It trails and trails - cut back at the tips and more growth and shoots force up from the root.

Elephant Ears - Alocasia sp. (thriller)
Move over Cannas, grasses and Millet - Alocasia/Colocasia come in all sizes and colours. They attract a lot of attention. Fun plant. Needs moisture for abundant leaves.

Lamiastrum galeobdolo 'Jade Frost' (spiller)
Whether you plant them on their own, or with other spillers, Jade Frost has shimmery silver bits to its leaves which really stand out.

 Purple Velvet or Purple Passion Plant - Gynura aurantiaca (spiller)
Fuzzy purple leaves are quite attractive and unusual.

Lemon Scented Geranium: Pelargonium crispum 'variegatum' (filler)
Known to help deter mosquitos, I just love the curly shape regardless of their great lemony scent.

Iresine lindenii 'Cherry' (filler or thriller)

Red Bor Kale - Ornamental Kale (thriller...
 or... can even be used as a filler.) The Red Bor kale can be easily cut back and shoots regrow from the main stem. It's ideal for sunny spots and great for frost tolerance. It will last when all the other annuals have faded.

So many choices. Have fun selecting which ones you want and see how they make an impact. You don't just need to see flowers all growing season. 

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Leafy Choices: Foliage For Planters - Part 1

I've come to realize how important foliage is for planters and container designs. Foliage can certainly save and give a boost to an arrangement/design late in the season. When used as a staple true performer, they last when some flowering plants fizzle out due to extreme temperature changes or simply when it's their season to end bloom.

Useful as spillers, thrillers and fillers (to see what I mean by spillers, thrillers and fillers: see my post on Annual Planter Combinations that Work!), here are some of my favourites:

Part 1

Potato Vine - Ipomea "Blackie" (ideal for spiller effect)

...Or it's contrasting partner: Ipomea "Sweet Caroline Lime"

Coleus sp. (filler)

Plectranthus agrentatus 'Silver Shield' (spiller)

Polka-dot Plant - Hypoestes phyllostachya (filler)

Persian Shield - Strobilanthes dyerianus (filler and thriller)

 Creeping Jenny Lysimachia nummularia 'Aurea' (Spiller)

Lamium (spiller)

Dusty Miller - Senecio cineraria [or now called Jacobaea maritima] (filler)

You can mix them together!
Whatever the application, the amount of colour and texture these leafy plants will display, your container or planter will definitely will bring you longevity in colour, texture and fun. Don't hasten your decision to add them to your favourite container. They are well worth their value.

Look for part two next week.
Until then,

Monday, September 07, 2015

Plant Profile: Low Acid Yellow Pear Tomato

I love harvest time - when tomatoes are at their best.

One variety I had the pleasure of trying this year, was this Yellow Pear Tomato.  I love this tomato. I was given seed for this last fall and have had a bumper crop so far. It is an Heirloom Tomato and has been quite sturdy with all this heat we've had lately.

Slightly larger than a grape tomato - with an exceptional sweetness.

Considering I have grown them in this terra cotta pot, they have a pretty great yield. One bonus, the tomatoes don't all ripen at once. Great for grazing and not having to wait long periods between picking. Here, I gathered about 12 tomatoes and several are still left for later.

My aunt has grown them for ages; not only for their high yields, but for their low acidy. Not sure if it's the sweetness that dumbs the acidy, but I certainly have enjoyed them in salads - that's if they ever make it in the salad bowl. They are just so tasty off the vine.

A great companion to my sweet millions cherry tomato.

Saturday, September 05, 2015

Perennial Herbs - Key for Pollinators

At this time of year, sitting in the garden and watching the varied amount of bees, hover flies, moths, butterflies and beetles is quite amazing.

I wish I knew my bees, but this little one went through each tiny trumpet. Flower clusters are no bigger than a nickel.

Helping them find pollen is key this time of year.

I find the most activity is in the perennial herb boarder.

Most culinary inclined gardeners prevent many herbs from flowering, unless to achieve seed harvesting in the late season. I however, allow many to go to flower and bolt in order to provide bees and other pollinators a chance to gather pollen (much needed now for overwintering preparations).

Don't under-estimate small flowers from herbs. Here is an assortment of perennial herbs that have tiny flowers that attract a lot of pollinator activity:

Lemon Balm



Summer Savory


(Although, basil is not usually perennial in my zone (5b), this one self seeds every year)




With multiple self seeded plantings in a season, this late bloom (albeit tiny flowers) attracts pollinators like crazy.

Please let them bolt and flower. Within 5 minutes of snapping shots, I captured about 4 different pollinators on varied flowers. 'Bee' amazed at what you'll see.

When all the herbs have a few stems that are allowed to flower at once, it's a sheer delight to hear all the buzzing go round.
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