Each year the seed catalogs come early, like Christmas in November with its grey, gloomy skies. Sometimes those tempting pictures reel us in and we succumb. This past growing season we did try several different species and had great experiences as well as ones not so delightful.
First an Asiatic lily enticed me. Called “Eyeliner,” it was described as pure white with a narrow black line edging each petal. It was exquisite and exceeded expectations. Planted in front of Siberian iris clumps, they drew the eye from a long distance.
A second species that wormed its way into our brains was “Takane Ruby” buckwheat. A raised bed, always plagued with weeds, had been planted with white-flowered buckwheat. Buckwheat roots exude a substance that reduces weeds and is known as a great crop for attracting pollinators. It was glorious! Covered with small clusters of rosy-pink tiny blooms on many-branched sturdy rose-red stems, “Takane” grew up to 40-inches tall and became an annual hedge. When we cut it down the second week of October, it was still covered from top to bottom with flowers. Bees, flies, wasps and little butterflies were prevalent until temperatures dropped too far. It has been a gorgeous, colorful addition to the yard that has helped reduce weeds. The pricey seeds were a much better value than betting on the lottery!
The third and fourth species we tried were vegetables: a tomato called “Reisetomate” and a member of the cucurbit family called “Kalette.” The names were as intriguing as the vegetables themselves.
The “Reisetomate” is an heirloom native to Central America but the name comes from Germany and means “traveler.” Its fruit is curious, comprised of multiple lobes fused together, creating an alien-looking creation. Each lobe can be disengaged from the rest without destroying the integrity of the fruit; that is how it got its name. People walking or moving from place to place could eat parts but not need to eat the whole. We had a difference of opinion about the flavor but I found its texture and flavor very satisfactory and think it would be better in a year with less rain. The fruit did develop some mold between the lobes that I don’t believe would be there in a warmer, drier season. Anyway, it is a great conversation piece in the garden and on the kitchen counter.
“Kalette” was billed as a combination kale and a Brussel sprout where little sprouts with a kale collar would grow along the stem. At the end of September, the little sprouts were just showing up although the plants were a good 24 inches or more tall. They were cute but not large enough to eat. Having given up on cabbage moth control and riddled with bright green caterpillars, the chickens have feasted! I think we will give the leftover seeds to someone we don’t like.
The greatest joys of gardening lay in satisfying curiosity, discovering new flowers, fruits and vegetables that work well and that we like in our growing conditions, but also in making memories through sharing conversation. I hope you find some new plants in the garden catalogs to try to create your own conversations and memories. The garden writers will return in the spring to share gardening knowledge and hopefully inspire you to get outdoors and grow plants!
This will be our last article for 2019 but you can click on "Yard and Garden at the University of Minnesota Extension website -- www.extension.umn.edu -- for gardening information anytime. Local Master Gardeners will respond to your questions via voicemail until the end of October and return in the spring. Call 218-444-7916, leaving your name, number and question. You can also find Beltrami County Master Gardeners on Facebook.