Showing posts from August, 2019

Ruellia Short or Tall

In January, National Geographic reported that in order to ensure pollination, flowers make their nectar sweeter when they hear bees buzzing. “… within minutes, the plants temporarily increased the concentration of sugar in their flowers’ nectar. In effect, the flowers themselves served as ears, picking up the specific frequencies of bees’ wings while tuning out irrelevant sounds like wind.”  (

When you observe bees flocking to the large flowers on native plants such as Mexican Petunia, think about the sound of the flowers humming to make that happen.

Ruellias are beginning to bloom now when many other plants have surrendered to summer’s heat. We have the 14-inch tall purple Mexican Petunia and the dwarf pink R. britannia. Wild Petunia, Ruellia humilis, as it is often called, was first identified and named by the plant explorer Thomas Nutall.

The dwarf Katie/Southern Star series thrives as potted plants for zone 8 and are sold as annuals. But, when I started…

Banana Cold Hardy is Musa basjoo

The tropical look that Banana Trees, Musa Basjoo, give our gardens always gets attention from visitors.  Also called Japanese Fiber Bananas, they are cold hardy to 20-degrees below zero, withstanding our winters quite nicely. 

In warmer climates Japanese Banana will grow to 18-feet tall. Locally, they seem to mature at 8 to 10 feet with 4-to-6 foot long leaves. The new leaves in the photo that are still round are called cigar leaves until they unroll.

If your plants flower and make fruit, remember that are not grocery store bananas so they are not edible. The flowers are self-fertile; there is no need to plant male and female plants.

Musa Basjoo spreads like a lily, by making offset pups that grow over the summer. To divide, wait until a pup is a foot tall, then remove the soil between the mother plant and the pup so you can dig it out with some root attached. You can plant the pups into containers and protect them over the winter or take your chances and just transplant them into a new …

Amaranth Adds Structural Interest

Amaranth is an ancient tropical plant that has a place in our summer garden every year. The tall varieties contribute architectural interest to a couple of large beds.

The common and colorful names for Amaranth varieties include Kiss Me Over the Garden Gate, Pig Weed, Goose Foot, Chinese Spinach, Gizzard Plant, Cock’s Comb and Chenille Plant.

Amaranth’s history began in India, Mexico and South America and its spinach-like leaves are still eaten worldwide. Because of their high value, 200,000 bushels of seed were required in payment by the Aztecs to Montezuma for their annual taxes.

Amaranth leaves are rich in calcium, iron, vitamins A and C and are added to soups and salads. The seeds are commonly used as a high-fiber protein source; and, when cooked, the seeds are 90% digestible.

Amaranth is a gluten-free seed rather than a grain and is considered a super-food. In the US, the seeds are used in bread, casseroles, as a rice-like side dish, popped and sprouted for salads.

In Mexico, the…