Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Of Herbs and Pots

This is turning out to be a mish mash of a post that started out to be about my newest addition, or rather reintroduction to my herb garden and then other herbs edged in and then some of the better looking potted plants also found their way into the mess.

So here's the newest addition to the herb garden.

A brand new dwarf Kieffer Lime tree. I've been into a fish sauce groove lately, pairing it with mint and basil, dried chiles and lime juice, and wishing I had Kieffer limes to add to the mix. So I stopped in at one of the local nurseries yesterday and found this nice specimen just begging to be taken home. There's plenty of new growth showing, blossoms, and if you look closely in the photo above there's a small lime on the far left.

I'm hoping that it will be happy in its new pot so that it will fill in this corner and make a pretty companion to the pink flowering caper next to it (and distract from the fake rock speaker below). At this time of year it gets morning shade and plenty of afternoon sun. In the winter it will get sun most of the day. I'm hoping that the wall of the house will absorb daytime heat and radiate back enough of it through the cold winter nights to keep the tree safe from the occaional frost that we get.

Speaking of some potted arrangements that are looking pretty good, here's my 4 year old (maybe 5, I forget) Manzano chile. I had intended to pull it out this year and almost did because it was at least half dead from frost damage. But it was making such a valiant effort to make a comeback that I gave it another chance. I cut out the dead stuff and fed it, and it responded by growing and blooming like crazy. If you look closely you might be able to see some of the purple blossoms and green chiles, there are really big chiles hidden inside the foliage. To the left of Manzano is a 2 or 3 year old Aji Angelo, the only other chile plant that survived both the winter and my spring cleanup work. It may not be so pretty as the Manzano, but it too is covered with blossoms and chiles. Center and right are the newly potted up Spanish capers.

I grew theses capers from seed. They are now 3 or 4 years old (sheesh I can't remember anything today and I'm too lazy to go back and check my records). I think I found a pretty good use for some old oyster shells that I had sitting around. I wanted to mulch the pots but didn't want to use leaves or compost because I suspect the capers would prefer something less acidic, especially because they are already in a bark/peat based potting soil. I like the color of the shells with the foliage and the red pots.

And off in another corner of the garden, some of the herbs that I planted in pots last year are coming back and filling in.

That's Texas Tarragon (Tagetes lucida) above. It makes a good warm weather substitute for true tarragon, and it's pretty too. Below is my purple sage. The plant that I put into the ground didn't even make it to winter, whereas this one made it to and through winter and is looking oh so pretty in its terracotta pot.

Lemon verbena died back completely this past winter and is now making a comeback. I don't use a lot of this herb but love to have it around, if for nothing other than to pluck a leaf and enjoy the fragrance.

The basil plants that I set out in my homemade gopher baskets are really enjoying the mostly warm weather that we've had lately. These plants have already be snipped back a few times. I cut out the central stem shortly after they were planted out and the side shoots are growing rapidly.

It is so nice to have a supply of fresh basil again! I finally succumbed to temptation at the farmer's market yesterday and bought some fresh local organic tomatoes. The first Caprese salad of the season is soon to come.

And about that reintroduction thing. Sometimes you just have to show the ugly bits. This is was my original Kieffer lime tree. Sad. Just plain sad. This poor thing was beautiful and productive once-upon-a-time, but then one winter it got zinged by a freeze. It wasn't a quick end. It lingered for a few years, but every year it became less and less vigorous. Each spring it would put out a little new growth, much of which died, so I would cut that out. Eventually it just stopped growing altogether and I stopped trying to resuscitate it. I stopped watering the pot last autumn to allow it to dry out so that I could easily remove the carcass from the pot. Then the rains came before I could get around to cleaning out the pot. And guess what, it's still sitting there...

It's plenty dry now though, so I need to clean it out and plant something new. What will it be? Something edible. Something pretty too.


  1. I would have lemon verbena in my garden if only it would grow here, but we are too cold. I do have lemon balm, but it doesn't always play well in the garden.

  2. You've got plenty of pretty plants to look at, Michelle. And I love the oyster shells! I sometimes save my shells to use in the garden, too, when I'm not too lazy to clean them. But your Keiffer lime tree is making me envious, I love cooking with the leaves. So far I haven't been able to find a local source for the plant.

  3. The Kieffer lime looks great! And such a great mix of herby colours and foliage textures. I'm impressed by the capers - do they take long to grow to cropping size? Would you consider an edible fruit lime to replace the dead Kieffer, if you don't already have one of course...

  4. That Manzano chile is a great looking plant, what did you feed it?

  5. Like Daphne, lemon verbena won't overwinter here and I have to treat it as an annual. Not the best solution but better than doing without! Wonderful collection in pots!


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