Salvia elegans: Pineapple sage


salvia elegans pineapple sage

Pineapple sage (Salvia elegans) blooms heavily in October in USDA Zone 7b, attracting the last of the hummingbirds.

Counting my summer successes: Ceratotheca triloba

About this time last year, I made my first visit to Montrose. On a tour of the gardens there, I became bewitched by Ceratotheca triloba, sometimes known as South African foxglove.

Ceratotheca triloba

Looking something like a cross between a salvia and a foxglove, Ceratotheca triloba grew tall and elegant in bare gravel and gracefully entwined with a nearby red-foliated cotton plant. Seized with plant lust, I promptly went home and scoured my seed catalogues. I found the seeds in a catalogue that promised they were rare, but since the seed pack only cost $2, I’m guessing what they meant was “rarely purchased.”

That’s a shame, for Ceratotheca triloba has been perfectly charming for me this year and would probably be equally well behaved in others’ gardens, should they learn about this under-the-radar gem. I started some of the seed at home and planted out two sturdy seedlings. They grew for me, flowered for perhaps three months, and produced seed. I cannot ask for more.

ceratotheca triloba african foxglove

In dry, light shade it performed well, if it sagged a bit in its old age. (Who doesn’t?) I might have done a better job pinching it early in the season to coax it into a more shrubby form. As you might imagine, bees love the long, drooping tubular flowers. My form is more lavender-colored than the pink one I saw at Montrose; I don’t know if the color is impacted by pH or sun exposure, or if it just naturally varies a bit. Next year I’ll experiment with its placement and see what I can learn.

Ceratotheca triloba seed pod, ready to spill its contents.

Ceratotheca triloba seed pod, ready to spill its contents.

On my desk sits an envelope full of homegrown little black seeds, waiting for their chance to fill the abundant vacancies in my garden. I allowed some seed to sow itself naturally; if I remember not to mulch over the spot too heavily, perhaps I’ll see Mother Nature’s design work next spring.

Ceratotheca triloba is an annual, and there’s no excuse for not trying it next year. I’m sure you’ll love it as much as I do.

ceratotheca triloba african foxglove

Counting my summer successes

Every winter, it’s the same story. I go bonkers with the seed catalogues and order far more packets than I could possibly manage. I try most everything; many experiments fail. But I’ve had a few successes about which I’m very pleased. When I’m in the gardening doldrums this month I will count those successes and plot a reformed seed-shopping future that we know will never actually come to pass.

Nicotiana langsdorfii

I love Nicotianas, the scented, ornamental tobaccos. My collection of Nicotiana packets is second only to my array of hollyhocks. In the past, I’ve successfully germinated perhaps thousands of these plants, but have transplanted them out too early, or forgotten to water them at a critical point in May when the temperature spiked to 90 degrees, or committed some other sloppy mistake. This year, I pledged to thin my seedlings. And, teeth gritted, I did.  I now have one plant that has flowered and is setting seed, and three or four others that are preparing to flower.

nicotiana langsdorfii 1

The plant grows from a lush basal rosette of foliage. Its gangly stems would look much better pushing through, say, a summer-flowering aster or maybe even a low-growing rose. But I’m thrilled that it’s filling in a small spot in a large expanse of plants that are not on their A-game this summer.nicotiana langsdorfiiI adore this chartreuse green color, and the tubular flowers’ charming shape is like nothing else in my garden. Pods of mite-sized seeds have just started to crack open on this plant, which is still flowering like mad. I’ve laid a thick bed of compost around it to catch those seeds as they drop. If I’m lucky, next year I’ll be swimming in these neon green blossoms.


Winter sowing continues

I hope you had a wonderful and relaxing holiday. Mine was pleasant if not always relaxing!

I love January and the promise the new year always holds. I’m not the type to make formal resolutions, but I love planning and anticipating and trying always to improve myself and my surroundings. It’s a long haul, of course, but we make the road by walking, right?

This winter sowing business is addicting. So easy! I keep my container of coir potting mix handy, and when I’ve got a spare half-hour I cut open a few milk cartons and plop in some seeds. I am a  little nervous about what will happen in spring when (with any luck) I’ve  got more plants than I have time to install them all (ah, anticipation!).

seed pans early onChristmas Eve I planted another handful: an unidentified variety of red hollyhock, amethyst flower (Browallia americana), feverfew ‘Flore Pleno’ (Chrysanthemum parthenium ‘Flore Pleno’), and something that is either horehound or German red strawberry tomato. The envelope came labeled on both sides, and not knowing what horehound seed looks like (and now having sown all of it), I will have fun guessing until the seedlings pop up.