Captivating Citrus

CitrusLemon'Meyer'7Citrus x meyeri (syn. Citrus x limon ‘Meyer’) – Many local gardeners such as Bob Duncan of Fruit Trees & More (North Saanich, BC) are successfully growing these outdoors in Canada. However, he shelters his espalier under a glass awning and covers it with frost cloth during colder weather – using incandescent xmas lights as a heat source. This hybrid has a very sweet flavour. Grows 10-15′ in ground. Zone 9.

CitrusLimequatCitrus x floridana – This Key Lime x Kumquat cross is a good choice for novice gardeners as it readily produces at a young age. Expect Kumquat-sized fruits which are yellow in colour with a sweet-tasting rind but bittersweet lime-like flesh. ‘Eustis’ is the most common cultivar and it matures into a small tree when planted in-ground. Grows 10 to 12′ high. Hardy to USDA zone 9.

calamondin2 (2)x Citrofortunella mitis – This common container citrus is often found at garden centres around the Chinese New Year – it is a Mandarin orange x Kumquat hybrid. Although the small fruits look like tiny oranges, they actually have a more lime-like flavour which is useful for making marmalade or adding a thin slice to cocktails. Calamondin makes an excellent container specimen where not hardy. 10-20′ in ground. USDA zone 8.

Citrus'VariegatedPinkLemon' (2)Citron limon ‘Eureka Variegated Pink’ – Not only does this lemon have beautifully variegated foliage and juvenile fruit, but the flesh is a lovely pink with few seeds. This sport of the traditional ‘Eureka’ lemon was first discovered in Burbank California in 1931. This citrus also grows well in pots (which can be brought indoors) for colder regions. Grows 12-15′ high and wide in ground. Hardy to USDA zone 9.

CitrusmyrtifoliaChinottoCitrus aurantium var. myrtifolia (syn. Citrus myrtifolia) – The Chinotto Sour Orange or Myrtle-Leaved Orange has striking lance-shaped deep green foliage, fragrant white flowers (which the hummingbirds love) and tart orange fruits. These are used to flavour the traditional Italian orange soda and to make candied fruit or marmalade. The fruits ripen from winter to early spring in the Pacific Northwest. 4-7′. USDA zone 9.

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Hot & Beautiful Peppers

Capsicum'BasketofFire'Capsicum annuum ‘Basket of Fire’ – A Chili pepper that is as beautiful as it is tasty, these are a favourite for growing in containers or hanging baskets. The small tapered fruits mature from a creamy-yellow to orange, and finally a deep red. Peppers from this F1 hybrid can be dried and it shows good tolerance for growing in cooler climates. 80,000 Scoville heat units. Grows up to 20″ tall. Annual.

Capsicumannuum'BlackPearl' (2)Capsicum annuum ‘Black Pearl’ – This All-American Selection winner lives up to its name with jet black foliage and rounded glossy black fruits (resembling black pearls) that mature to a cherry red – these are about 3/4″ in diameter. The purple flowers add to the overall aesthetic appeal, making this a great addition to planters or mixed borders. 10,000-30,000 Scoville heat units. Grows to 18″ tall. Annual.

capcarolinaCapsicum annuum x chinense ‘Carolina Reaper’ – This habanero hybrid was once the hottest pepper in the world and the puckered red fruits often grow a small red tail on the bottom (hence the ‘reaper’ reference). The peppers range from 1-3″ in size and will come into bearing earlier when grown in large containers – just allow to dry out between waterings. 1,569,300 Scoville heat units. 3-5′. Annual.

capsicamloco1Capsicum annuum ‘Loco’ – A lovely chili pepper that holds as much ornamental value as it does flavour. The tiny fruits are abundant, staring out a bright purple (almost artificial looking) and maturing to a traditional deep red. These make great additions to salsas or chilies and it is an RHS Award of Garden Merit winner. 24,000 Scoville heat units. F1 hybrid. Grows 10 to 12″ tall. Annual.

capsicumannuum'fish' (2)Capsicum annuum ‘Fish’ – A heritage or heirloom pepper which comes to us from the mid-Atlantic states via the Caribbean. The plant and tapered fruits are often beautifully variegated with the peppers starting out white and maturing to red. The young white peppers from this Cayenne-Serrano hybrid were used to spice cream sauces for seafood dishes. 5,000-30,000 Scoville heat units. Grows 2′ tall. Annual.

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Rodney Davey Marbled Hellebores

helpippasHelleborus x ‘Pippa’s Purple’ – This sister plant to ‘Anna’s Red’ bear pinkish-purple blooms accented with a huge boss of pale yellow stamens. These are produced from February to April on contrasting reddish flower stalks. The deep green foliage is heavily marbled with creamy-white veining – adding to the overall aesthetic appeal. Prefers a partial sun exposure. Grows 15″ tall by 24″ wide. Hardy to USDA zone 5.

helpennysHelleborus x ‘Penny’s Pink’ – One of the first introductions by breeders Rodney Davey and Lynda Windsor, the blooms are stunning when backlit by the rising sun. It is named after plantswoman Penelope Hobhouse and bears pale mauve-pink flowers averaging 3″ in diameter. The attractive foliage is marbled in white and pink, making it a desirable foliage plant. Grows 15″ tall by 24″ wide. Hardy to USDA zone 5.

helmollysHelleborus x ‘Molly’s White’ – One of the newer Rodney Davey introductions which is a complex hybrid of Helleborus lividus x Helleborus niger and Helleborus x hybridus. It features abundant white (often tinged in green) outward facing blooms in late winter. These are nicely accented by heavily marbled foliage with silvery-white veining. Reliably evergreen through winter. Grows 15″ tall by 24″ wide. Hardy to USDA zone 5.

heldanasHelleborus x ‘Dana’s Dulcet’ – Another newer introduction bearing pinkish-purple (somewhat similar to Pippa’s Purple) to violet-purple blooms from February to April. It is a sterile hybrid that presents itself well in containers with its upright flowers and beautifully marbled foliage draping over the pot. At times the edge of the flowers are occasionally darker in colour. Grows 15″ tall by 24″ wide. USDA zone 5.

helannasHelleborus x ‘Anna’s Red’ – This dazzling hybrid was twelve years in the making and features large (3″ wide) reddish-purple single blooms nicely contrasted by pale yellow stamens. These are held well above the marbled foliage which eventually develops magenta veining. ‘Anna’s Red’ was named after journalist Anna Pavord and is sterile, so there is no self-seeding. Grows 15″ tall by 24″ wide. USDA zone 5.

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Novelty Vegetables

straw2Chenopodium capitatum (syn. Blitum capitatum) – Strawberry Spinach may look quite exotic but is native to much of North America and parts of Europe – where it has been eaten since the 1600’s. The leaves are a potherb that are cooked like spinach but can be eaten raw in moderation. It produces bright red edible berries that are mildly sweet with a faint mulberry flavour. Grows 18″ tall by 12″ wide. Annual.

Cucumelon4Melothria scabra – The Cucamelon or Mexican Sour Gherkin is an easy-to-grow vine that is native to Mexico and Central America. The plants have both male and female flowers with the latter producing an abundance of grape-sized fruits that look just like tiny watermelons but with the taste of a slightly sour cucumber. They adapt well to container culture and are a delicious addition to salads. Grows 3-5′ tall. Annual.

Ipomoeabatatas'Marguerite' (2)Ipomoea batatas – Even the Sweet Potatoes we grow as ornamental trailers in our baskets and containers produce edible tuberous roots, but rarely as large as the one shown – which came from a cultivar called ‘Marguerite’. So once the frosts have gotten the best of your potato vines, carefully dig them up, looking for the purple tubers. Then simply slice and deep fry for a delicious snack. Grows 6″ tall by 3′. Annual.

chenopodiumgiganteum (2)Chenopodium giganteum – Tree Spinach is a native of India but can be easily grown in our temperate climates. As the name implies, it is a tall leafy vegetable with pink-tinged new growth that really catches the eye. The young tender leaves have a spinach-like flavour (with a hint of asparagus) once cooked but should be eaten in moderation when raw in salads. Grows 6 to 8′ tall. Annual.

P1110907 (2)Oxalis tuberosa – Oca is a relative of many ornamental shamrocks and has been grown as a root crop in South America for centuries. It was introduced to Europe and New Zealand in 1830 and 1860, respectively. Also know as New Zealand Yam, the tubers come in many colours and have a citrus flavour raw (expose to sun for a few days to sweeten) or nutty when cooked. 18″ tall. Perennial in USDA zone 7.

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Unconventional Teas

camelliasinensis'blushingmaiden' (2)Camellia sinensis f. rosea ‘Blushing Maiden’ – This tea camellia is a hardier form of Camellia sinensis ‘Rosea’ introduced by Piroche Plants back in 1992. It features pale pink flowers (as opposed to the traditional white) which appear from late autumn into winter. I have a friend who grows many tea cultivars and he considers this the best for green tea. Grows 7-10′ tall. Hardy to USDA zone 7.

JasmineTea1Jasminum officinale – Common jasmine is well-known as it has been naturalized across many warmer regions of the world where it proves hardy. It is a semi-evergreen vine here in Canada with potently fragrant white blooms borne in summer and several foliar forms. Jasmine tea is made by infusing tea leaves with fresh jasmine flowers and can be enjoyed by adding fresh flowers to green tea. 9-12′ tall. Zone 7.

IlexParaguariensisIlex paraguariensis – Yerba Mate tea is made from the foliage of this holly species which is native to parts of South America. Given its intolerance to frost, it must be grown as a houseplant in northern latitudes but it definitely thrives in warmer, brightly lit rooms. The rather chunky tea (use a bombilla straw) is high in antioxidants and has a green tea-herbal flavour with grassy overtones. 3-6′ tall in pots. Zone 10.

WhitePineTea5Pinus strobus – Our Eastern White Pine bears bundles of five needles which are relatively soft to the touch, as well as long pendulous cones. Indigenous peoples taught early Canadian settlers about this flavourful tea made from steeped needles which is high in vitamins A and C. This tonic for the common cold is not as ‘piney’ in taste as one would expect and should not be used by pregnant women. 45-70′ tall. Zone 3.

Ledumgroenlandicum (2)Ledum groenlandicum – Labrador tea is now botanically classified as Rhododendron groenlandicum, although it is often sold under its old name. This native of northern North America and Greenland features slender dark green leaves with a rusty-brown reverse and white flowers borne in late spring. Trapper’s tea is made by steeping dried or fresh leaves and should be enjoyed in moderation. 2-4′ tall. Zone 2.

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Herbs That Repel Vegetable Pests

Basil'AfricanBlue'blooms (2)Ocimum kilimandsharicum x basilicum ‘Dark Opal’ – African Blue Basil is a sterile hybrid which has a high camphor fragrance which is useful for making spicy pestos. It is an attractive herb with purple-tinted new growth and showy terminal flower spikes. This basil repels many insect pests including mites, tomato hornworm and asparagus beetle. Grows 30″ tall. Annual in regions with frost.

SalviaofficinalisFlowers (2)Salvia officinalis – Common culinary sage is an evergreen perennial that comes in many foliage colours, including purple (‘Purpurascens’), ‘Tricolor’, gold variegated (‘Icterina’) and green (‘Berggarten’) – with the latter being an excellent culinary form. The summer blooms range from blue to a pinkish-purple or white, and are also edible. Sage will repel both cabbage moth and carrot rust fly. 30″. Zone 5.

ThymusvulgarisinBloom (2)Thymus vulgaris – English thyme is a stalwart of the herb garden and a native of southern Europe, so good drainage is a necessity. It is evergreen in mild climates and comes in several variegated forms, with ‘Silver Posie’ being one of the best. It bears white to pale lavender-pink blooms midsummer and repels cabbage looper, whitefly, tomato hornworm and corn earworm. Grows 12″ tall. Hardy to USDA zone 5.

Rosmarinusofficinalis'Rex'inflower (3)Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Rex’ – This upright form of rosemary has thicker leaves with much more essential oil, giving it a strong flavour. It bears blue flowers in early spring and is not as hardy as other cultivars, such as ‘Arp’. That said, the stronger fragrance makes it an effective repellent for cabbage moths, carrot rust flies and Mexican bean beetles. Grows 2 to 4′ tall when grown outdoors. Hardy to USDA zone 7-8.

Chivesinbloom1 (2)Allium shoenoprasum – Common chives are found in most residential vegetable gardens and are close relatives to garlic, leeks and scallions. It is a bulbous perennial whose chopped leaves are used for their mild onion flavour. The pale purple flowers are also edible and make an excellent salad garnish. Chives will repel many insects including aphids, carrot rust fly and Japanese beetles. Grows 18″ high. USDA zone 4.

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More Rare Fruits

Vasconellaxheilbornii'Babaco' (3)Vasconcellea x heilbornii – The Babaco or Mountain Papaya is a naturally-occurring hybrid that hails out of Ecuador. It grows in high elevations, making it cold tolerant but it cannot be grown outdoors anywhere in Canada, so treat as a houseplant and bring indoors for winter (tolerates light shade). The elongated yellow fruits with creamy-white flesh taste of papaya-pineapple-strawberry. Self-fertile. Grows 5-10′ tall. Zone 9 hardy.

PodophyllumMayappleFruitRipe (2)Podophyllum peltatum – Mayapple is a native of eastern North America in shaded woodlands. It is an herbaceous perennial with palmate leaves, fragrant white blooms and a solitary fruit (per stem) with pulp (skin and seeds not edible) which tastes of melon and green apple when fully ripe. All parts of this plant (also known as American Mandrake) are poisonous except the ripened fruit. Grows 18″ tall. Hardy to USDA zone 3.

LoquatFruit (2)Eriobotrya japonica – Loquat is an extremely rare fruit in Canada and can probably only be grown outdoors in southern coastal British Columbia. This specimen was thriving at Fruit Trees and More on Vancouver Island and the juicy yellow fruits tasted of peach-mango, with a citrus tang. These small evergreen trees flower into winter with fruits ripening late spring, so a sheltered site is required. 9-12′. Zone 8.

Passifloraincarnatafruit (3)Passiflora incarnata – This particular species of Passionflower is one of the hardiest but is generally herbaceous in nature, meaning it dies back to the ground for winter. Maypop requires good drainage and a sunny spring exposure but rewards with fragrant pink flowers and goose egg-sized green fruits with edible pulp tasting of lemon-apricot. It can be grown in a large container with support. 5-9′ tall. Zone 6.

JujubeMassandra3 (2)Ziziphus jujube MASSANDRA – Chinese Red Date is a native of southern Asia and forms a small deciduous tree in temperate climates. MASSANDRA is an early ripening cultivar from Ukraine but as with all varieties, cross-pollination increases fruit size and yield. The fruits can be eaten green (green apple flavour) or when fully ripe (reddish-brown) when they taste of apple-date (fruit can also be dried). 8-12′ tall. USDA zone 6.

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