Potting up

I’ve been really a laggard this year when it comes to potting up plants I started. Even though my garden is nowhere near as big as it was, say, ten years ago, it does get overwhelming sometimes. And since I have been working pretty hard on writing and painting lately, I kind of blew off the chore (one I usually enjoy) of potting up plants–moving small plants to larger pots, where they can grow larger yet. I started way too many plants, as usual, and that made the task all the more daunting. But I knew that I wanted to finally get them done this weekend, so this morning I went out and spent three hours potting up plants and got MOST of them done. Not all by any means. I think that shows just how much I bit off that I could not chew.

Caucasus belladonnasI potted up 6 Caucasus belladonnas (Atropa caucausica) that I hope to get seeds off next year, although I might get a few this year if I’m lucky. This belladonna is supposed to have larger berries than the regular and to have purple stems. I’m not sure how different it is from Atropa belladonna, since it is a subspecies, not a separate species (kind of like the pallid henbane turned out to be a subspecies of black henbane). But it sure is a vigorous little sucker.

White henbanesI also potted up 6 henbanes, mostly white henbane. I’d really like to carry seed from this variety. The plants are much more compact and way fuzzier than black henbane. The cream-colored flowers are smaller (but those white flowers you see there are wild white petunias I am growing for seed and just because I love them). The white henbane flowers also lack the fly-wing netting of the typical black henbane. I’ve read conflicting info, but this henbane seems to have been the one that was once cultivated for medicinal purposes. One of them in this pic is a black henbane–the one that is “lax,” as they say in garden argot. You can see the leaves are much more pointy than those of the white henbanes next to it. The black henbane seems to be much more anxious to form seedpods than the white also.

I potted up two mixed pots of woodland tobacco (Nicotiana sylvestris), Western wild tobacco (Nicotiana quadrivalvis–I’ve already harvested some seeds from this), and wild white and purple petunias. The Western wild tobacco is much more delicate looking than its Eastern cousin (Nicotiana rustica). The leaves are long, thin, and pointed, and the flowers are long white trumpets that are much daintier than those of the woodland tobacco. I haven’t noticed a scent. An interesting plant I will grow again.

Pimiento EliteIt was a day for the nightshade family, as I also potted up six peppers. My peppers started off great and then sank into despondency as we have not had a warm summer. One, for some reason, has become quite large. This is a somewhat industrial hybrid called Pimiento Elite, which I believe was developed specifically to make olive stuffings from. I love pimiento peppers, though. They are thick and very sweet, excellent for pickling or frying or just eating out of hand. And they are beautiful. I have grown this variety almost since I first began gardening in the eighties. This year, though, I got a good batch of seeds or something, because this plant is LARGE, as you can see. The other varieties that seemed to do okay despite the unusually cool summer have been Lipstick and Carmen, both of which are also hybrids and which form a longer sweet pepper. In upstate NY, not exactly the pepper capital of the world, hybrid peppers can help in terms of getting any pepper harvest at all. Unfortunately, my very favorite pepper, Bull Nose, did not make it. So I hope for great things from these others.

White Queen tomatoe getting bigI didn’t grow any peppers or tomatoes last year for the first time in ages, but this year I have not only peppers but some tomatoes as well. I wanted to grow Indigo out to get seeds, and although it has been growing okay, the fruits have a tendency to drop off before they are anywhere near ripe, so I’m not sure what’s going to happen with them. On the other hand, a favorite of mine, White Queen, a Victorian variety used as a fruit in the past and which I love for its creamy texture, is doing quite well. I should get a few sandwiches out them! I decided to keep it simple and not only grow the maters in pots but just to tie them to bamboo stakes instead of how I usually support them with cords. I have only a few plants kind of in a nook next to the furnace stack. Next year I think I will grow more again, though. Even the best store-bought tomato just doesn’t cut it in comparison to maters grown in one’s own garden. And sliced on a piece of toasted, buttered German pumpernickel–you don’t get much better than that.

Three hours of potting up included dragging 3 cubic feet of peat moss up from the basement and mixing up wheelbarrows-full of peat moss, compost, and perlite. I think I overdid it a bit. :) But what’s gardening without overdoing it?

Clary sage and columbine

Aquilegia vulgaris podsIt’s been so long since I posted, but I want to get back into the swing of things. I’m going to be writing shorter posts for a while, just stuff I’m doing day to day. This morning I harvested a bunch of columbine (Aquilegia vulgaris) seeds from my garden. I love the way the seedpods look – they remind me of the hands of Thai temple dancers. Here they are leaning over a self-seeded patch of Chinese lanterns (Physalis alkakengi v. gigantea) and a little lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) here and there. This year I’m going to try the berries inside the Chinese lantern pods for taste. They are edible, related to the ground cherry, but many members of that family produce berries that are either insipid or kind of funky. I hope I will be adding seeds for Aunt Molly groundcherry this fall. That variety tastes pretty darn good, like pina colada.

Clary sage tinctureI also strained a clary sage (Salvia sclarea) tincture I made for a friend. I used 95% alcohol on this, because it works so quickly and really extracts almost everything from the plant material. I love the color of a clary sage tincture. It’s interesting how different herb tinctures turn out to be different colors. I just made a bunch of mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) tincture also, and in contrast, it is a dark green, almost the color of old-fashioned fatigues. And the henbane (Hyoscyamus niger) tincture I made is a greyish green, the color of forest gloom. Clary sage leaves are quite beautiful. I think I like them more than even the showy bracts (“flowers”). This is a plant that deserves a place in any witch’s garden. Just finished what I hope are the final edits on the clary sage chapter in my book. I took the opportunity to discuss tincturing in that chapter and covered a number of menstrua that are not usually discussed or even mentioned in witchcraft writings – wine and vinegar – and some other tips. A little more advanced than the Witchcraft 101 approach.

Campanula or Adenophora who knowsI’m so enjoying my garden this year. I’ve got lots more in pots, including several different species of belladonna and henbane, and the perennials came back full blast, especially the valerian. Now that is turning to seed and the ladybells are blooming.  I have no idea where I got the ladybells–they might be from an old pack of rampion I tossed. Some people really hate them because of the way they spread, but they don’t seem too evil in my garden, and the bees love them–and so do I. I have always been fond of bell-shaped flowers. The queen of the meadow (Eupatorium purpureum) and the wild sunflowers (Helianthus maximillianii) are getting really tall. I am looking forward to their blooms. Hope your summer garden is making you happy!