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Thread before the Gardening Thread: The Wisdom of Humpty Dumpty [KT] | Main | Ace of Spades Pet Thread
February 10, 2018

Saturday Gardening Thread: Peared Off [KT]

stfd pears.jpg

Thinking about a light dessert (well, aside from the big mounds of whipped cream) for Valentine's Day? One for which you might be able to grow one or two of the ingredients? How about Maple-baked stuffed pears?

I mention this dessert because pear trees were one of the candidate plants to add diversity to the mythical WeaselAcres. I mean the FORMERLY mythical WeaselAcres. We have a photo!


Lots and lots of pine trees! Hopefully I will have better luck than with cherry tomatoes and snap peas!

Those crops laid the foundation for greatness, Weasel. If you want to try a couple of pear trees, I recommend regionally adapted cultivars. This nursery has some pears that are adapted to the Southeast. For example.

Meanwhile, the ornamental pears are starting to bloom here in the San Joaquin Valley. Some of them are spectacular. Not recommending them for Weasel because he's in the East, where they can escape into the wild.

Love, Greek Gods and Pythagoras

Giving your sweetheart candy for Valentines Day? Here's a gardening question to go with the sweets: Why are marshmallows pink and white?

heart marsh.jpg


It's because marshmallow flowers are pink and white. Althea officianalis is still used as a medicinal herb. The flower is not as showy as some of the mallows, but it's OK for a marsh, I guess.


Marshmallows have a long history. The ancient Egyptians seem to be the first to have used this plant as a confection, mixing the pith or sap with honey, which was reserved for royalty and the gods.

The Eat the Weeds Guy notes that:

Pythagoras, the Greek philosopher and mathematician, advised against eating the marsh mallow because it was, in Greek theology, the first messenger sent to earth by the gods to show their sympathy with the short lives of mortals. Thus eating mallow would dishonor the gods.

But despite its lofty beginnings, marshmallow, the plant, has been widely used medicinally and even as a famine food since then.

Beginning around 9th century BCE, the Greeks used marshmallows to heal wounds and soothe sore throats. A balm made from the plant's sap was often applied to toothaches and bee stings. The plant's medicinal uses grew more varied in the centuries that followed . . .

The Romans liked mallows. And the poet Horace mentioned them as a major part of his simple diet, along with olives and endives. The French later added whipped egg white and rose water to marshmallow extracts, then substituted gelatin for the marshmallow plant extract until today's marshmallow candies contain NO actual marshmallow.

But even today, "the herb is approved for use by the German Commission E for the treatment of irritation of the oral and pharyngeal mucosa and mild inflammation of the gastric mucosa". Said to have immune-enhancing effects. Getting back to the old-timey marshmallow idea, vegans can use it as a meringue substitute. Or there's a recipe for mallow meringue using just a little egg white here.

If you don't have a marsh in your yard, you can substitute other mallows, both the weedy ones and the ones with garden cultivars, like French Hollyhock. Though you won't get as much slime to soothe your throat from the plant extracts as from a marshmallow plant.

The French Hollyhock is not actually a hollyhock. It is Malva sylvestris (Common Mallow in Europe). It has a surprising number of garden forms, including white-flowered and double-flowered varieties. There are apparently annual, biennial and perennial forms in the wild. I like it even though it resembles a nasty garden weed. You can grow it even in Las Vegas. Note the heart-shaped petals. They attract hummingbirds and butterflies. You can eat the flowers and immature seeds ("cheeses"). The leaves are used in Moroccan cooking.


If you don't recognize the plant below, you are lucky (unless you are really hungry or have a sore throat or something). It is one of the weedy cousins of the plant above, Malva neglecta. The flowers, leaves and seeds of all of the Malvas are edible. Thomas Jefferson grew a frilly-leaved species. I tried it once and it and the leaves were only marginally better-tasting than the weeds growing naturally in the yard. Like the North Carolina State Extension says, these weeds are tap-rooted. Get 'em out while they're young. Solarization and flaming won't kill them once they are established.


True Love

Candy and flowers are nice, but this is REAL love in winter: Cumberland Astro has undertaken a big landscaping project for his wife.

Obviously there is no gardening to be done in the bleak midwinter here in East Tennessee, but I love this time of year for landscape projects. (No sweat. No snakes.)

Trail 1.jpg

The back 1/3 of my property is wooded with a thick tangle of underbrush. I have spent a little time recently clearing brush, wild brambles, and small trees to make a path through these woods. I'm laying weed barrier over the path but I know I'll still need to be aggressive the first year or two in clearing all the brush that wants to re-grow.

Trail 2.jpg

My wife has asked me to add a little clearing to put a bench where she can repose under the canopy of trees.

Trail 3.jpg

I am looking forward to seeing that lovely bench in place.

Follow-up from Last Week: The "Other" Amaryllis

We got an inquiry from Ripley about "the other Amaryllis", namely Florist's Amaryllis or Hippeastrum:

Thanks for your article and pictures today on Ace. I was very pleased to read your bit on Amaryllis because mine did not bloom this past Thanksgiving or Christmas. The bulb was given to me a year ago. It had one long green leaf(if that is what one calls it). I had it in my kitchen window. I can't remember when I cut the leaf, maybe in the spring/summer. I cut it back so that about 1-2" of green was left. I watered it when I saw it dry on top of soil. The window faces S-SW. The window is UV protected.

At end of summer it started to grow and grow with both leaves coming up. I never put a standing ring around them so on one side it grew slightly against the window. The other side grew long toward the wood that separates two windows. It grew long as well but then on day I saw that it ripped. I let it go for a month or so then decided to cut it. This was probably in October. I waited and waited for a bloom to come up between the green leaves but it never came. The pot size looks like the same size as the one in your photo. What do you suggest so that I may get a bloom next year?

Love your Saturday gardening thread. If you get anyone sending in some Fritillaria that would be wonderful.

So, does anybody anticipate being able to send in a Fritillaria photo or two for Ripley? Got any advice on getting gift Amaryllis to re-bloom?


The University of Minnesota Extension has a page on Growing and Caring for Amaryllis. By which they mean Hippeastrum. The kind CBD and Ripley would like to get to re-bloom.

The basics seem to be (1) Cut off the bloom before it sets seeds, but not the flower stalk. (2) Leave in the brightest indoor light you have until you can gradually move it to full sun outdoors (light shade in hottest climates). Water and fertilize during growth. If you want to time bloom for a holiday, you will need to move it to a dark, cool place and restrict water for a while. When growth begins again, you can re-pot if necessary, in a narrow, deep container up to 2 inches larger across than the bulb. But you should read the whole thing if you plan to make this a project.

UV-protected windows likely cut down quite a bit on light available to plants like this, Ripley. The floppy leaves you got are likely related to this.

Getting these plants to re-bloom indoors seems like a lot of work to me. But they are hardy outdoors with protection here in the San Joaquin Valley. This makes it tempting to plant out a flower like this one from Tired Mom:

In the February 3 thread, all the talk of indoor gardening and of Amaryllis gave me the urge to share this photo. This Amaryllis was a Christmas gift from my son's girlfriend's family, and it turned out to be my favorite Christmas gift of all. Note the colorful wax covering the bulb as I understand it, the wax seals in moisture and nutrients applied to bulb. Everything it needs to grow and flower is inside the wax. It was set inside the lovely vase when I received it, sporting a mere one-inch shoot. One of my girls mistook it for a candle and tried to light it! Thankfully, the attempt to set it aflame did not kill it.

It has been fun to watch it grow. I took some photos at 24-hour intervals to show how quickly it was growing, literally overnight. I'm actually not very good at indoor gardening, but this beautiful Amaryllis required nothing of me, not even dirt. Right now it is gorgeous from all angles, flowering on all sides, with more flowers to come!


What a gorgeous plant! If planted outdoors, it probably would not bloom until the next year. When planted outdoors, they don't bloom at Christmas. They bloom after the weather warms. Here's one blooming in the Sonoran Desert, behind a variegated Agave. Just to show it can be done. Take a look around at the other plants blooming in this garden, too.

In less dramatic settings, I think the smaller-flowered multi-stemmed hybrids fit in better in the landscape than the giant, spectacular kinds. I vote for leaving the giant ones in containers, usually. Whether you plan to take them back indoors or leave them outdoors. They just look like specimen plants to me. Not landscape plants.


Gardens of The Horde

Lirio 100 has started some plants indoors in Aerogarden units:

Planted about two weeks ago. Planted are, back row L to R: Snapdragon, Marigold, Dianthus, Gazania. Front, L to R: cherry tomato (sweet pea currant) Mexican tarragon, Zinnia

The Dianthus has sprouted, just not above the holder yet, and the "tree" is a decoration not taken down yet.


This is an old model, about six years old. Still works though! Big plant is Zinnia, one in back is lavender, under dome is a snapdragon.


Looks practical!

Today we have a special treat from an anonymous lurker:

My Queens Wreath is in bloom and I thought about the gardening thread.

The plant is called Petrea volubilis, and can also be called Sandpaper vine. The leaves are large and long and very rough, kind of like a piece of sandpaper. The flower is lilac colored and in some ways resembles a wisteria vine.

This is early blooming this year. As the season progresses it will start sending off twinning stems and more flowers. It's evergreen and blooms in my yard 4 or 5 times a year.

I got this "vine" from a nursery who had trimmed it against a wall and it's now a single trunk, almost like a tree. It had been almost forgotten until they wanted to move it and found it had grown into the ground and out of its pot. They dug it up for me and it never seemed to suffer a moments loss.

Everyone who sees it in my yard comments on it and wants one. While I don't think they are rare, it does seem uncommon to find them in local nurseries.

During our Santa Ana winds, for fear of it taking out the back fence as these vines/trees can be very heavy, I placed a stake under it. Pretty sure at this point the stake is broken but I've just never taken it out.

This is a very frost-sensitive plant. Not one that would normally be seen in the big chain nurseries, despite its beauty. I remember it from when I lived in Southern California. Note the ocean-related art sheltered beneath the plant in the photo. In Hawaii, the flowers are sometimes used in leis.


Speaking of Hawaii, CaliGirl sent this photo of plants from the garden at her hotel. Banana and some sort of chile or chile relative?


More from Tired Mom:

PS - All those February 3 photos of the beautiful purple and white Agapanthus make me miss my previous home in Southern California! There's much to love about flyover country, where I now live, but the winter landscape isn't one of them, especially when there is no snow to cover the dead-looking branches against the grey skies. Damn that groundhog on Feb 2!

We haven't seen any snow landscapes for a while. Looking forward to seeing some winter bulbs, too.

If you would like to send information and/or photos for the Saturday Gardening Thread, the address is:

at g mail dot com

Include your nic unless you want to be a lurker.

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