Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Allium thunbergii 'Ozawa'

Plants that actually reach their peak in October, at least in this part of the country, are few and far between, making them a real treasure to gardeners and garden visitors alike. One of my favourites is Allium thunbergii 'Ozawa' for its near electric-violet flowers in loose "balls" called umbels.

It is a dwarf variety introduced to North America by George Schenk, and likely named after the original selector. The species is also known as the Japanese Onion, although as far as I know, it is not used for any culinary purposes. It is native to low mountains in Honshu, Shikoku, Kyushu and extending from Japan into South Korea.

Unfortunately, this plant is relatively rare, although specialty mail-order and/or bulb companies might offer it on occasion.

Here's to dirt under your nails.

MPD, the coolplantsguy

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Two Cool, or Not-so-Cool Plants?

During a recent visit to Lost Horizons nursery and Larry Davidson's garden, just outside of Acton (yes, this place makes it "worth the drive" at least for me) I was taken somewhat aback by a relatively large plant that I could not recall having seen before.

After posting a few pics on the GardenWeb perennials forum, I soon discovered it was somewhat of a weed in the southern U.S., Phytolacca americana, the American Pokeweed.

While parts of the plant are toxic, it continues to be used in both traditional medicinal and modern pharmacological preparations. In addition, the cooked greens are apparently available commercially in the South. Elvis Presley even recorded a song titled "Polk Salad Annie".

Another very similar plant in Larry's garden, appears to be P. acinosa (syn. P. esculenta), an
Asian relative of the American species.

In any case, despite the somewhat negative opinion that persists for these plants, I was certainly very impressed by their size and colourful stems and fruits. Hence, "beauty is in the eyes of the beholder".

Here's to dirt under your nails.

MPD, the coolplantsguy