Archive for Friday, March 10, 2006

Playing Favorites

March 10, 2006


Gardener: Gayla Trail is the author of You Grow Girl: The Groundbreaking Guide to Gardening (Fireside, 2005)

Expert pick: Potatoes

Why she picked them: "They're tastier than grocery-store fare, are easy to grow in the tiniest places and my grandmother grew them in a bucket on her balcony," says Trail. "Potatoes might seem like an absurd crop to labor over, but buttery, soft potatoes right out of the garden taste like nothing you've ever eaten. My favorite is 'Fingerling,' a small variety that looks like creepy witch's fingers."

Growing Tips: Potatoes start from a seed potato. To make a seed, cut a large potato into 1.5-inch chunks. Each must have one "eye" (the gnarly spot where sprouts are formed). Set your seed potatoes in a cool, dark location for a few days, then put in a large bucket with a few holes in it.

What you should know: "The trick is to add only 5 -10 inches of soil to the bottom of the can. Bury your seed potato and wait for it to grow. Once the vine starts to develop, add more soil, creating a mound around the vine. Continue adding more soil until the vine reaches the top."

Gardener: John Neville is the estate horticulturist at The Duke Mansion, a bed and breakfast in Charlotte, N.C.

Expert pick: Rosemary

Why he picked it: "On a hot summer afternoon, I was working in the garden and realized that I had a meeting in a couple of minutes," says Neville. "I had time to wash my hands but no time to change clothes. Thankfully, I had a rosemary bush in my garden. I briskly brushed against it and the resin from the rosemary clung to my trousers and that hid the odors of my excursions."

Growing tips: "Rosemary does best in full sun with a well-drained soil. I have grown it in a light, sandy soil with great results. The only insect problem I've had is white flies. I remedied this with a layer of red cedar mulch."

What you should know: "After taking several cuttings, hang upside down in a dry room. Within two weeks, you can strip the leaves off and put them in small bags to give as gifts or make potpourri. The great thing about rosemary is that you can take clippings from it year-round. There is nothing better than a fresh sprig of rosemary in your cooking."

Gardener: Cheryl Salatino is a home landscape designer with Dancing Shadows Garden Design in Sudbury, Mass.

Expert pick: Dwarf fothergilla, a small, deciduous woody shrub

Why she picked it: "I fell for this plant when I saw the large species in bloom at the Arnold Arboretum, but knew I could never put it in small gardens," says Salatino. "Its bloom is a soft, white bottlebrush flower with a honey-like scent."

Growing Tips: Plant it and let it grow. If needed, you can contain it (when suckers appear) with an annual pruning at the base. The plant may slowly colonize, depending on the cultivar.

What you should know: The fall color is red, orange and yellow, and its size of 2 feet fits well into mixed shrub and perennial gardens. It's a slow-grower without damaging pests to bother it.

Gardener: Colleen Dieter is the garden maven of Cleveland-based

Expert pick: Purple Coneflower, or Echinacea

Why she picked it: "It's a must-have for me," says Dieter. "It requires little soil amending and little water since it is a prairie wildflower. Purple is hard to come by in the garden, and it complements many other plants."

Growing Tips: It's really easy to grow. "After it blooms, I leave the seed head on for a while until it turns totally brown," Dieter says. "I will take the spent flower part and spread the seeds around myself. That's so you can plant the seeds where you want it to grow. It can be prone to powdery mildew, so it's important to not have any other plants close to it."

What you should know: "It's really versatile because of its size. You could fill an entire bed with it," she says. "Since it's a smaller plant, you can use it around the edges of beds and to highlight a certain spot. I use Echinacea leaves and flowers to make a tincture that helps the immune system prevent illness."

Gardener: Anne Stotesbery is the owner of Ladera Vineyards in Napa Valley, Calif.

Expert pick: Sedum Autumn Joy

Why she picked it: "The blue-green color and waxy succulent-like leaves add nice texture to the space," says Stotesbery.

"I came across Sedum Autumn Joy when I was designing my home garden in Minnesota. The growing season is very short, and I wanted a plant that would bring color to the fall garden, be hardy enough to make it into October, make a statement in the all-white winter landscape and be easy to maintain."

Growing Tips: Don't cut this flower back until spring, since the dried plant adds a lot of interest and texture to the winter garden.

What you should know: "I've seen infestations of aphids which have not been a problem after washing them off. Because of its succulent nature, it is drought-tolerant and needs little water."


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.