Garden roll call

Redbud, Cercis canadensis, in flower. Photo taken April 3. Previous post – redbud in bud, around March 22.

04032018 redbud

April 14. Goji berry (Lycium barbarum, Gou qi zi 枸杞). I’m experimenting to see how much fruit all of this new growth will produce. Also, I’ve heard anecdotally that the dried goji berries at the store are treated with a colorant to give them a redder hue. I will investigate this further.

04152018 goji

April 14. Jewels of opar (Talinum paniculatum). They survived the winter!!

04222018 jewels of opar

April 22. Heuchera spp. Enjoys the shade of the elderberry.

04222018 heuchera

April 22. A bit washed out due to the overcast sky, I suppose. A nice perennial polyculture, front, from left: figwort (Scrophularia marilandica), comfrey in flower (Symphytum spp.), back: Carolina lupine/Blue Ridge buck bean (Thermopsis villosa).

04222018 polyculture

Scarlet Runner Bean

This bean has considerable potential for the market garden.

According to Suzanne Ashworth, author of “Seed to Seed,” Scarlet Runner Bean (Phaseolus coccineus) has numerous attributes that set it apart:

  • it originated in Central America. The dry bean, characterized as mealy, is part of the local cuisine in some places there;
  • widely used in England as a snap bean, and green shelly bean;
  • in colder climes, the tuberous roots can be dug up, stored in damp sand, and replanted in spring – this way, it will produce much more quickly than those planted by seed;
  • fairly easy to shell by hand;
  • they attract numerous pollinators.

11122017 purple hyacinth 2

Saving the seed

Ashworth notes that bean seed is fairly easy to save. Frozen storage is essential, as bean weevils tend to lay their eggs in the pods. The eggs die off after three days at 0°. If they hatch, one could lose all of the seeds. Before freezing, ensure that the beans are entirely dry: take several beans, place on a hard surface. Hit each with a hammer. If they shatter (instead of being squashed), they are ready to freeze. When removing from frozen storage, do not open the airtight container in which they are stored, because they’ll take in too much moisture at once. Wait 12 hours.

My experience

These beans were taken in after several days of rain. They were swollen with water. I let them dry inside out of direct sunlight for a week. Most of them seem dry enough to store, but I’ll do the hammer test and sacrifice a few.

Future

I’m looking forward to growing these next year. I’d like to see if I could train them up an elderberry (though I may have to prune them back considerably as the elder give off considerable shade). I could also experiment with the indigo bush (Amorpha fruticosa); but this would be a true experiment, as I’ve never intercropped with two legumes.

For a while, I dreamed to developing a cold hardy perennial bean, by crossing P. coccineus with P. polystachios, thicket bean, which is a native perennial. This could still be an opportunity.

11122017 purple hyacinth

Edit: this post was originally titled “Purple Hyacinth Bean” – I continue to get those two names mixed up, though they are completely different genus and species, and the purple hyacinth bean is toxic. My apologies.

Aster of the fall

It took me a minute to identify this one. Ubiquitous in all open spaces around the farm – it can get to 5 or 6 feet if it doesn’t topple over. These pictures don’t do it justice – from afar, it looks like a living snowdrift. And up-close, it is a pollinator magnet – particularly bees. The honeybees love it! But so too do all manner of bumblebee.

I feel fairly certain that this is Symphyotrichum pilosum, heath aster or white oldfield aster.

10182017 aster 2

Here, it’s upright growth habit may be evident. Again, this one is not flower as prolifically as a typical specimen in the area.

10182017 aster 1

This botanical illustration is what helped me conclude that this was S. pilosum. the forb-like growth on the right is indicative of young growth (about 6-8 inches) for the first few weeks or months – somewhat misleading as to how the plant will turn out.

symphyotrichum pilosum
USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 vols. Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York. Vol. 3: 430.

Lonicera fragrantissima

Approaching an old, long-abandoned homestead, on an old, long abandoned road, we come upon a living, breathing remnant of that homestead’s legacy. This is a verge of L. fragrantissima, Chinese honeysuckle as I first learned it. Also called winter honeysuckle or fragrant honeysuckle. And for good reason. It flowers in the dead of winter, amidst the snow and ice and freezing temperatures. Maybe starting in February. It’s fragrance is indeed a “harbinger of spring” (in the words of the Missouri Botanical Garden).

10182017 lonicera 1

In full sun, the branches are long and sprawling, and it can reach 15 feet. Here, in the dappled shade, this hedge is about 7 feet high, more compact.

10182017 lonicera 2

Right now in October, the newish leaves look glossy and tender.

10182017 lonicera 3

This may be the same species. This particular individual is shorter in height, with the leaves looking a bit more brittle and hoary. Red berries in the background are indicative of L. fragrantissima. They are edible, slightly sweet with some astringency. Stay tuned for more photos in winter.

Astragalus canadensis update

 

A brief update on how the goat’s rue is shaping up in the garden.  This appears to be a clumping forb. It continues to put out new growth, mostly prostrate or semi-upright stems.

Measurement of the width of each “clump” is as follows:

Number Width (inches)
1 2.25
2 2.5
3 3
4 1.75
5 4.25
6 2.5
7 4
8 3.25
9 1
10 2.75
11 3
12 2.5
13 2.25
14 2.75
15 4

Why is all this important? I’m still figuring out why. It’s important to me to have native plants on our farm. I’m trialing the goat’s rue to see a) how much biomass it adds, b) if that biomass is enjoyed by chickens, and c) if pollinators, including honey bees, are attracted to its flowers.