How to Find Great Plants, Issue #4

So… did anyone see my giant spring todo list? I’m not going to be writing as often for a bit, but when I do it will include lots of garden transformation photos (and probably some mushrooms since morel season is coming up). Many thanks to those of you who were on top of your entries for How to Find Great Plants in spite of the inactivity following my bat white nose syndrome post.

This month’s submissions are some of the best I’ve seen!

Photo Caption: Averrhoa bilimbi has many common names. (Credit: Orchid de Dangau)

FOOD: Averrhoa bilimbi (Cucumber Tree or Tree Sorrel): Orchid de Dangau

I love it when y’all make me exclaim, “WHAT on Earth is that?!” Sometimes I can get around the temperature barrier by putting tropical goodies in a pot. Has anyone grown this one with that method? I wish I could try the recipe that Makarimi included in her post at Orchid de Dangau, perhaps I can find some of these fruits at an ethnic grocery. This tree has a close relative I am familiar with called Averrhoa caramboa (the starfruit) but it doesn’t sound like these would make a good substitute. With a name like A. bilimbi I’m going to pretend it is something that Luna Lovegood would grow in her garden — alongside the dirigible plums with gulping plimpies standing guard.


Photo Caption: Amsonia is one of many native plants in this listing. (Credit: Gardens Eye View)

ORNAMENTAL: Gardens Eye View: Native Plants

Who needs a fussy meconopsis poppy when you can grow sky blue flowers this easily?! (Yeah, we know some of you actually live where meconopsis poppies thrive, but for me it’s just a teasing photo in a catalog). Amsonia clusters are so tightly packed with blooms that from a distance it looks like a giant ball of color. That’s not all you’ll find on Donna’s entry about “going native.” Though her post at Gardens Eye View is packed with plants found in the wild areas of central New York I noticed that many of them overlap in my region of the south.


Photo Caption: Malaysian curry plant has edible, flavorful leaves. (Credit: The Bok Flock)

FOOD: The Bok Flock: Malaysian Curry Plant

My boyfriend has been very excited about the idea of naming one of the chickens we’re getting in May “Mrs. Bok Bok.” He was very surprised when a pre-existing Mrs. Bok from The Bok Flock entered a delicious plant for this month’s issue. I really enjoyed the anecdote describing her mother’s solution to the drive-by theft of curry plant branches by elderly Chinese women. I’m sold on owning a Malaysian curry plant, too. Can’t wait to get one and put it in the window next to my wishlist’s kaffir lime.


Photo Caption: Flowering quince also bears edible fruit. (Credit: Experiments with Plants)

ORNAMENTAL: Experiments with Plants: Flowering Quince

Really, this one could be listed as a food but few people realize it. My mother has one that used to fruit but I think it has been too stressed in recent years (after an unfortunate “haircut” by some paid yard help). Maybe this will be the year that it fully recovers. At Experiments with Plants b-a-g says that seeing these beautiful shrubs bloom in late winter or early spring can cause broodiness (and trips to the garden center in cold weather). Now I’ve managed to talk about chickens twice in a row!


Photo Caption: Chillis are one of the most beautiful dried foods. (Credit: Mark's Veg Plot)

FOOD: Mark’s Veg Plot: Chili Peppers

I would have thought that Mark liked his food blazing hot based on his Mark’s Veg Plot blog header (the photos there are yummy). Turns out he likes his food a bit milder but it hasn’t dampened his enthusiasm for chili peppers. I don’t blame him, I’m nuts about them too. His post convinced me that the best use for all our excess peppers is as a dried garland draped from our kitchen’s center beam. I feel so relieved to have a purpose for the mayhem… er, I mean harvest (my chili-harassed friends and family will likely share this sentiment). I also want to thank Mark for my recent Chilli Award!


Photo Caption: Zinnias are almost everyone's favorite flowering annual. (Credit: The Garden Roof-Coop)

ORNAMENTAL: The Garden Roof-Coop: Zinnias

I bought a few packets of these today (just barely stopped myself from getting ‘Envy’ and ‘Purple Prince’ too). The shortest varieties are my preferred pollinator beacons to plant among my vegetables. I have the opposite problem from Rebecca at The Garden Roof-Coop — whereas she has an easier time direct-seeding her zinnias, I have to start transplants so that once they reach my garden they are too big to be munched by roly-polies. I’m glad she told me they are deer-resistant! This year I’m going to try milk to remedy powdery mildew, which seems to be this flower’s only weakness.


Photo Caption: The lower half of leeks are blanched under the soil. (Credit: Allotment Heaven)

FOOD: Allotment Heaven: Leeks

John’s leek history lesson on Allotment Heaven would make me want to grow and eat these veggies even if they weren’t unarguably tasty. There’s also piles of useful photos and planting tips in his thorough post. In addition to the mental image of soldiers marching around with leeks on their head, I was interested to discover that the “most common” varieties in John’s region were completely unheard of for me. Veggies in the USA are usually named for their looks or flavor… except that our leeks tend to be patriots like ‘Lincoln’ or ‘American Flag.’


Photo Caption: Disease resistant roses from my garden. (Credit: Appalachian Feet)

ORNAMENTAL: Appalachian Feet: Roses

I didn’t pull off pruning my roses (or anything else) prior to Valentine’s Day this year but I’m sure they will survive a late haircut. The roses I grow are sturdier than the silk flowers often seen at Along Life’s Highway, the Yard Art Game (no fading and fraying!). Roses are one of the few non-food plants (if you aren’t counting hips) that I’m still a sucker for collecting. Mine have to be no-fuss! I’ve got no patience for spray regimens or tea roses that look like anorexic giraffes. Anyway, check out Appalachian Feet’s favorite roses here.


In other news, I’m going to Organic Growers School next weekend.  Cannot wait!!! The classes look amazing and Anna from The Walden Effect has offered to meet up there with a generous gift of her extra bramble starts.

The next How to Find Great Plants is scheduled for June to accommodate my aforementioned todo list. I’m looking forward to the collection of entries I’ll get to read for the June 24th deadline (with publication on June 27th). No excuses not to make the next issue’s due date even if you are gardening as much as me!

Eliza Lord

I'm a Greenville, SC native (the Appalachian foothills) who wears the hats of Greenville Master Gardener & Upstate Master Naturalist. I love to write about food and sustainability.

14 thoughts on “How to Find Great Plants, Issue #4”

  1. ali - February 28, 2011 4:30 am

    Wow, that cucumber tree is something, how wonderful! Great photos and wonderful links, well done on a great job Eliza!
    ali´s last blog post ..Holiday Snaps

  2. Diana - February 28, 2011 5:21 am

    This month collection edible is all my favourite food. I drool over that cucumber tree;-).

  3. Lrong - February 28, 2011 6:58 am

    Think the ‘cucumbers’ in the tree taste quite sourish if I am not mistaken…
    Lrong´s last blog post ..Potager Y mascot captured

  4. Rebecca - February 28, 2011 8:38 am

    Great issue and I’m looking forward to reading about each plant… My list of things I need to get done this spring seems to be getting longer every day–hopefully I’ll complete each task before it turns into my summer/fall to-do list! Thanks for hosting this event :)
    Rebecca´s last blog post ..Zinnias-my twist on an old favorite

  5. Mark Willis
    Twitter: marksvegplot
    - February 28, 2011 11:19 am

    Hi Eliza; I didn’t realise that you are also a chilli-fancier – I have even more admiration for you now! Your vase of roses looks fab. Wish I had such a big selection in my own garden. I only have space for a mere two!
    Mark Willis´s last blog post ..Some attractive chillis

  6. Fâneur Gardening
    Twitter: flaneurgarden
    - February 28, 2011 12:25 pm

    Roses are one of the few non-food plants (if you aren’t counting hips) that I’m still a sucker for collecting.

    Oh, but you are wrong! The petals have a very delicate, fresh flavour that goes well in light summer salads, and they can also be used (albeit in horrendous quantities*) for jams and jellies… Their flavour is nothing like that – to me – nauseating rose water you can buy in deli shops, and on a beautiful summer day there’s a certain satisfaction in picking something edible from one of the most beautiful flowers in the garden.

    *To make a small jar of rose petal jam you probably need to collect 1-2 litres of rose petals…
    Fâneur Gardening´s last blog post ..The garden inside

  7. b-a-g - February 28, 2011 2:02 pm

    Thanks Eliza for hosting this carnival and including my post.

  8. Donna - February 28, 2011 2:50 pm

    Eliza, these are a great selection of unusual plants. I did see a few on the blogs listed, but that is really an odd and fun looking zinnia.
    Donna´s last blog post ..Photoshop Your Work- Why Not

  9. Curbstone Valley Farm - February 28, 2011 3:08 pm

    Wow, issue number 4 already? Where does the time go!? Can’t stop…have to go read about those leeks! Second most favorite food plant around here, second only to tomatoes of course! 😉
    Curbstone Valley Farm´s last blog post ..Rare Snow at the Farm

  10. Ron - February 28, 2011 5:05 pm

    Greetings from Southern California

    I added myself to follow your blog.
    Please visit mine and follow back if you want too.

    God bless you :-)


  11. Alistair - February 28, 2011 5:07 pm

    Hello Eliza, What a fantastic range of Roses you grow and have grown in the past. You mention taking care on choosing the correct Rose for say that very special position. How true this is and how often we have got it wrong. Then comes the problem of wishing to plant a better specimen in that very spot, the soil has to be changed, then cross your fingers. I would like to thank you for in the past including my entries to your How to find great plants, I really did appreciate it. I intend continuing with my blog and reading and commenting on others which I have come to enjoy. However I really am concerned that for me it could become a chore if I did not curtail things, so I have decided not to enter any of these additional blog activities. Eliza, I have spent ages trying to find the right words so as not to sound facetious.

  12. Carolyn @ Carolyn's Shade Gardens - February 28, 2011 8:04 pm

    Very beautiful and varied collection of plants, international one might say! Maybe sometime I will have time and be organized enough to participate.
    Carolyn @ Carolyn’s Shade Gardens´s last blog post ..Evergreen Ferns for Shade &amp Stylish Blogger Award

  13. PlantPostings
    Twitter: plantpostings
    - March 1, 2011 9:22 pm

    Wow, what a great selection of Roses you have! And this issue of HtFGP is spectacular! I’ve learned a lot, and I only checked a few of the links so far. I will be back! I didn’t know what roly-polys were until I checked your links. My husband calls them pillbugs or sowbugs. I’ve seen them here, but we have more trouble with slugs. I place small margarine tubs with a touch of beer in them near the plants to drown the buggers.

  14. Makarimi - April 28, 2011 1:02 am

    Hi Eliza, thanks for add my post. More than 2 months, I’m not active reading other blog due to time constrain. I really appreciate your effort by doing this ‘carnival’ and hope I can contribute more in your ‘carnival’. This HtFGP very informative and helpful. Once again, thanks so much.

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