exotic plants


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Lima bean Phaseolus lunatus Ganymede

Russ Crow from Illinois was kind enough to send me some beans, including two cultivars of lima beans.
He has an informative internet site:
www.abeancollectorswindow.com

This was my first time growing lima beans. It was hard to believe I could grow them up here in Denmark, when I read they prefer they heat of the southern USA. But I’m fond of testing new crops. I grew both cultivars in open ground (after a start indoor) and in greenhouse.

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Lima bean Phaseolus lunatus Purple Eye

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Lima bean in greenhouse (Purple Eye)

Both cultivars grew well in the greenhouse, though Purple Eye was considerably more productive than Ganymede.

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Lima bean in open ground (Purple Eye)

In open ground they grew no higher than bush beans.
Purple Eye produced four pods, Ganymede none.

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Aiah Noack with Hablitzia

Naturplanteskolen, a new permaculture plant sale opened Friday. It is perhaps the smallest regular plant sale this year, but with a unique plant selection, some I have never before seen on the market. So far the opening hours are Fridays 12-20. Aiah Noack, who owns Nature nursery, is occupied with permaculture, natural plant breeding and art. For years she did plantbreeding in South Africa.

I came home with two cultivars of allåkerbär (Rubus × stellarcticus) (it takes two varieties for a good pollination), Vietnamese coriander (Persicaria odorata) and a large piece of weed fabric in the professional quality.

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Danish billberry, Vaccinium myrtillus

Typical for the exquisite plant selection, it is billberry of Danish origin, not Swedish or American, on sale. Not that there’s anything wrong with the others, but of the nursery sells the plants they think is best to grow in this environment, not what can be ordered in bulk from the Netherlands.

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Daubenton kale flowers rarely, allowing it to live for years

It was fantastic to see the beautiful Daubenton cabbages. Aiah got a cutting from me, which she has propagated and sell. This kale originates in France. It must be maintained by cuttings. I got a cutting of Stephen Barstow, who lives in Norway, near Trondheim. Great to see that it is now accessible to ordinary gardeners in the district.

Naturplanteskolen: http://naturplanteskolen.dk

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Oca, Oxalis tuberosa

Now I couldn’t wait any longer. I just had to dig into the ground under my oca plants.
This year, several of the tubers have a reasonable size.
Other years they have been too small. There are still many small tubers, so I dug up one plant and let the other two remain in the soil. Since frost and snow can come any day (or maybe only in a month), I chose to cover them with several layers of bubble wrap hold down by wood. The leaves have died from frost long ago, but many of the thick succulent stems are still fresh, and they can quietly nourish the tubers to grow significantly. I want to see how long I can wait to harvest the last two plants. Now that I have dug up enough to put oca again next year, I dare let the time go before I harvest the rest. There seems to be a chance to taste them this year.

Had to use a flash, as it is dark now after work. These dark-dark afternoons are typical of advent and Christmas.


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The banana plant, Musa acuminata

One of the most particular nights in my garden is when the first frost arrive, usually in mid October. Although the air at head height did fall below 1C, the tops of Dahlia, yacon and oca was killed by freezing. Oca only partly, as I have placed a box on top of the plants. Only leaves out of the box is dead. First frost typically happens in my garden in mid-October, after a day of sunshine, in a windless night. The bone-dry air lets the earth’s heat radiate out into the universe. The cooling then hits all the most frost tender plants.

Does that sound bad? It is not. It is another step into our future. Both tops of Dahlia and of yacon is fine to get frozen, because it reminds me that it’s time to dig them up. It will probably be a long time yet, before the frost reaches the tubers down the ground. But if I wait to dig them up, I’m likely to forget about them.

Other plants tolerate no frost at all. F.ex. geranium, lemon grass and banana plants must be completely protected from frost. I potted them up last week-end. Now they just have to get the best out of the warm, low light winter quarter in too dry air.

The banana plant, which stood in the kitchen garden, I had planned to overwinter outdoors under a thick cover, but as far as I can understand the good advice on the internet, it has no real chance to get through. So this winter I’ll take it indoors. In the photo it is just placed in the pot, waiting for more recycled potting soil. But maybe I will leave it outdoor next year. Maybe it just need a huge compost pile and a tarpaulin on top of it?

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Lemon grass, Cymbopogon citratus

Lemon grass I have grown in the garden for several seasons, and taken it indoors every winter. It works fine, and some of the stems are nice thick. The thick ones we can eat, the rest can overwinter in a clump, be divided in spring and planted in the vegetable garden again.

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Some of the lemon grass stalks are nice and thick


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Today’s harvest

Today’s harvest included:

Eggplants/Aubergines. Solanum melongena I harvested some of the late fruits, certainly failing to produce seeds. They are grown in open ground, because I am trying to develop an open-air variety. This summer’s heavy rains made me pessimistic, but now many of the plants stands out there in the rough weather with one, two or more fruits. I wonder if water was a limiting factor in the other years I’ve grown eggplants out in the garden?
Apparently they have thrived with melons in the same bed. The melon plants was growing fine all summer, but the rain have prevented any pollination – no melons this year 😦

Groundcherries. Physalis sp. In the bowl is what I picked up from the ground today. I last cleared the ground two days ago. I find the taste very similar to cape gooseberries. The fruit is somewhat smaller. They are grown outdoors, and gives a good yield, in contrast to the low yield of cape gooseberries in my climate. The fruit should not be picked from the plant, but picked up when they fall to the ground. They are protected by the delicate husk, so they don’t get bruised or dirty.
This year I got a much better yield than last year. Primarily I think, because they have a more fertile soil. I grow two cultivars, one without a name, and one called ‘Goldie’. There is no big difference, they taste the same, but ‘Goldie’ is probably a bit bigger in growth and fruit.
Some fruits are ready to eat picked from the ground, others have to further mature for a few days. The berry turn yellow when the delicate aroma and sweetness emerges.

Sweet pepper. Capsicum annuum Purple bell peppers (No cultivar name) and red-orange-yellow ’Alma Paprika’ FS584 apple pepper, both from outdoors. ’Alma Paprika’ FS584 is known to be early, and it has lived up to my high expectations. The plant is densely packed with fruit, and even though I’ve picked these 4, it still seems overloaded with fruits 🙂 The purple bell pepper is the big surprise. I thought it was a greenhouse variety, but it has fared well in open ground, and set four purple bell peppers.

Tomatillo. Physalis ixocarpa We have been pleased with the tomatillos. They do not taste of much, or in any way significant, apart from slightly acid. But in sauce and casseroles gives a wonderful taste to the other ingredients. Could it be the umami taste? They go well with most ingredients in the kitchen, are easy to grow, and gives a good yield. It might be clever to tie them up a bit. But when the fruit comes with its own wrapper, you can safe time and just let it ramble along the ground. This is one of the vegetables you can eat daily.


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Garden Angelica (Angelica archangelica)

This angelica germinated this winter where a seed was spilled. I am impressed with the growth rate and that it doesn’t need more heat. Last week I placed a large pot over it, to bleach the leaves. It makes them tender and delicious.

A large leaf stem made its way into the wok with Thai-mint, scallops and salmon. Angelica was the stand-in for galangal, with its distinctive perfumed flavour. A smaller stalk sliced ​​thinly and dressed with lemon juice and canola oil made a tasty side-dish.

Formerly I used angelica without bleaching it. It has been fine steeped in vodka. But otherwise it was a tough diet for my tongue. I had given up eating angelica. But with the experience of bleached leaves, I’m ready to eat angelica again.

Perhaps I should sow a little row in autumn with very fresh seed. Then I can again have fresh angelica in May next year.

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Bleached angelica after harvest

I left two leaves – will the plant grow again, take another bleaching later this summer to be harvested again?


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Frøsamlerne (Danish seed savers) exchange list 2011

Again this year the list is long and interesting: Danish Seed Savers exchange list

See eg. the exciting Caucasian Spinach (Hablitzia tamnoides), originating from the Caucasus, and with history of cultivation in Scandinavia, mostly in manor gardens.

In my garden I have a few frozen pots with seedlings of Caucasian Spinach, from the seeds I got last year from a seed savers. When spring comes, I’ll transplant them near a tree or shrub in the shade, where it may otherwise be difficult to grow vegetables.
On facebook, there is now a Group, Friends of Hablitzia tamnoides, the Caucasian Spinach

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The old Danish Prinsesse bean

Prinsesse bean is a classic on the exchange list. It’s live Danish heritage, preserved by a vegetarian family for generations. 100 years ago it was a well-known cultivar, mentioned in gardening books as the earliest bean to grow. Now used mostly as dry bean, and then it’s a lovely name!
It is also spelled with c: Princesse

Do I need to translate the name: Princess it is in queens English 🙂

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Oca (Oxalis tuberosa). Small but beautiful

In spring, I received some oca tubers. They were planted and cared for reasonably well. But our autumn weather, I can not do much about. The frost came early this year but I pay attention to the weather forecast, and managed to put some bubble wrap over the bed. Later, when the snow arrived, I dug up two plants, but yields were not high. I decided to leave the last plant in the ground, covered in bubble wrap, and deep snow, hoping for it to size up the tubers in early winter.

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If the tubers could feel the cold, they would tremble pitifully 🙂

The much longer time in the soil, they tolerated well. Soil, bubble wrap and the thick layer of snow has managed to keep the frost away from the tubers. However, there has been so cold that the tubers is not greater than if I had dug them up with the first. It was otherwise my quiet hope that the extra time in the soil would increase yields.

Oca is not a candidate to be an important crop in my garden before people like Ian Pearson of Growing Oca, Rhizowen from Radix and others have selected some clones that can form tubers much earlier under northern conditions (they must be less day length sensitive). Originally it was the same problem with the potato, but it was solved by plant breeding. Can it be done again?

The beautiful seashell (from scallop) I was sent from Anselmo in Asturias, filled with his fine chilli. His gallery is filled with stunning images from his country house and the region.

PS. Do not ask me how oca taste! I still just dream about it.

Youtube is full of wonderful tutorials. The is the one you need right now, if your garden like mine is covered in deep snow. Please notice the accuracy in sowing depth!

Thanks a lot to KitchenGardeners.org (and go visit them!)

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Lemon-grass Cymbopogon citratus grown outdoor

Some years ago I brought a piece of lemon-grass home from Thailand. It was grown in pots, inside our house during winter, on the terrace in summer. Size was bearable, and I was really pleased. But then I heard that pot is crucial to how large lemon-grass grows. The biggest pot I can get is my garden, so this year they were planted out in June. They grew well out in the garden, and my tender loving care could be reserved for other crops. The yield was higher because I had planted more plants.
Before frost, I took one of the plants into a pot so that it can overwinter in our glass bay window – it might as well hibernate on a window sill.

Apparently lemon-grass recover quickly from division and transplanting, growth halt for 14 days, and then growth begins again, exploiting the new conditions. It’s my impression, that lemon-grass isn’t especially heat-dependent. Actually an easy plant to grow if you don’t mind caring for it in the winter season.

The fresh taste of lemon-grass is somewhat similar to lemon balm. A delightful and slightly rough lemon flavour. Lemon-grass has the advantage of preserving the lemon taste well when dried. The disadvantage is that the plants has to be overwintered indoors. Well, left in the garden it will not be invasive up here in the north 🙂

One need not travel to South-east Asia to acquire a plant. You can buy seeds, or plants from garden centres. Sometimes I find fresh lemon grass in some immigrant shops and supermarkets. It roots easily.


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