14 February 2008
Chocolate (plants) for Valentine's Day
Happy Valentine's day, for those inclined to celebrate it. In between weather tantrums here and some electrical and internet interruptions, I skipped over to the Canadian weather website to have a look, and look at this! My country is turning itself into a Valentine! Those red provinces and territories all indicate weather warnings. That's us over here on the east coast (right hand side of the image, the last piece attached to the continent). The only places not indicating severe weather right now are southern Ontario, British Columbia and...Saskatchewan? Whew...Kate must be getting a bit of a respite. Here, we've gone from snowstorm this morning to torrential rains tonight. It's enough to make a person completely scream, and reach for the chocolate.
What do you mean, there's no chocolate in the house at the moment? Okay, what about outside?
Last spring, I started building a chocolate and wine garden. These are two of my favourite things, although I don't allow myself much of either. Wine clashes with a prescription I must take, and chocolate--well, I like high quality dark chocolate, and that gets pricy. So to feed my craving another way, I thought it would be fun to put in some chocolate and wine themed plants. We won't bother with the wine plants right now, but come along and have a look at what's tempting for the chocolate lovers among us.
One of the first plants I got that had chocolate in its name is Eupatorium rugosum 'Chocolate'. Also known as Joe-pye weed and mistflower, this is a highly recommended plant for butterfly gardens. I find it likes it a little drier than its native kin, but it's done nicely for us.
There are so many heucheras out there, and many of them have food-connected names--I think those are usually from Terra Nova Plants out in Oregon. This one is 'Frosted Violet', and a star performer it's been for me; it grew enormously this past year and looked great right into autumn--though I haven't seen it for several months due to the big drifts of snow covering it--and most of this part of the garden!
If you're craving more chocolate and more heuchera, look no further than 'Chocolate Ruffles' heuchera. There seems to be a bit of variation in how rich the colour shows in this plant, but I'm quite smitten with heucheras so I don't care--it settled in nicely and next year who knows what it will look like?
I love most cranesbills, with one of my favourite being Geranium phaeum, the mourning widow cranesbill. The deep chocolatey flowers last a long time, and last year I got my hands on G.p. 'Springtime', which has marvelously coloured foliage too.
New to me last summer was the 'Chocolate Stars' corydalis (C. quantmayerana). It didn't flower much, but I was so fascinated with its foliage, I was okay with that. You know how I am about foliage--it's as important to me as flowers, and sometimes, even more important.
Now this plant IS all about the flowers; chocolate foxglove, Digitalis parviflora 'Milk Chocolate'. Isn't it delightful? A friend of mine has had this plant for several years, but it wasn't multiplying enough to share with me, so I was really, really happy to find a couple of plants at a nursery in Antigonish. I should have bought them all, although I'm told it grows decently from seed. Anyone try that yet?
Too much chocolate can be a bit overwhelming, even cloying, so if not a good glass of wine to temper it, how about a good Espresso? In this case, it's 'Espresso' cranesbill. I don't remember this flowering last year, but I didn't care about it flowering--it's all about the foliage, this time again!
An interesting plant that I've found slow to develop in our garden is Rodgersia. I have the common variety but also this unusual and fun 'Chocolate Wings'. It doesn't get tall, which may be why I thought it was being slow--it spreads to about three feet but only grows less than a foot tall. It doesn't matter, though--its colour is so great, if I find it hasn't spread much when I see it in spring, I'll go get a couple more plants!
From Renee's Seeds came the wonderful Chocolate Cherry sunflower. It's pollen free, so I don't expect any selfseeding to happen; I have a few seeds left from last year but can always get more.
Don't you love columbines? Of all sorts, from species to hybrids, from the modest Granny's Bonnets to the huge, longspurred showoff types? This is Black Barlow, one of my favourites, although my most favourite is the wild red columbine. It doesn't work in the chocolate garden, but Black Barlow does!
And one more plant that doesn't have chocolate in its name, but does put on a great show of deep, richly coloured flowers: Dianthus 'Sooty'. I apologize for the quality of this image; I can't find the photos I took of mine, and I pulled tis from a seedsite somewhere online last year--and can't figure out where! This year, however, I'll get more photos and be more organized about categorizing them all.
What I don't have here is any of the chocolate scented plants (other than chocolate mint--and that's in a container) like Chocolate cosmos or chocolate vine. So far, anyway--this IS, after all, a work in progress. And some might dispute having a purple or copper beech in the chocolate garden, but the foliage is just so rich and dark--even when the leaves change colour in fall, they turn a nice light bronzed chocolate colour. So it works for me. It's my garden and I'll plant what I wanna, right?
That's about it for here for tonight. Because I'm shutting down the computers before I go to bed to read, I've pushed the date ahead a couple of hours--I hope everyone has a lovely Valentine's day, in spite of whatever weather tantrums you might also be enduring!