Gardening


After two summers of drought conditions it is great to see how well the vegetable garden is doing this year. The lack rain and the elevated temperatures of last summer meant that I was lugging the watering cans from the rain barrel to the garden every other day. This year, it has been less than once a week as Mother Nature has provided precipitation in abundance. The zucchini, summer squash, tomatoes, peppers, kale, Swiss chard, green beans, carrots, and beets are all living large.

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The first batch of ratatouille has already been enjoyed, a delicious blend of tomatoes, zucchini, summer squash and eggplant that is diced, tossed with olive oil and a pinch of salt, and roasted to perfection in the oven. The vegetables that provide the greatest depth of flavor in this recipe are the tomatoes and eggplant. These vegetables are found in the umami taste category (along with sweet, salty, sour, and bitter). Umami, by definition, is a Japanese word that means ‘pleasant, savory taste’. It is also known as glutamate and has been a part of the vernacular since 1985 which explains why it was not on any of the sense of taste diagrams that I saw in science class in the 70s.

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Foods that contain umami such as tomatoes, eggplant, spinach, celery, and mushrooms will all have their flavor improved by just a touch of salt (or fish sauce, which is also high in glutamate) making them great choices for anyone trying to reduce their sodium intake. I recently had a Thai dinner of a spicy eggplant dish that had such an incredibly savory taste due to the combination of the eggplant and the fish sauce that I ordered it twice that week.

In fact, eggplant is one of my favorite vegetables. It is used in so many cuisines around the world. I believe that my first exposure to eggplant was through my Italian heritage in the form of Eggplant Parmigiana, a staple of every holiday meal and a prime choice when ordering from Franklin Giant Grinder on Franklin Avenue in Hartford. Those breaded sliced rounds, fried in olive oil, baked in a tomato sauce, and covered in mozzarella cheese were umami with a capital U!

Fast forward to the 1990s and the exposure to so many more dishes that use eggplant, including vegan and vegetarian recipes where it is a good substitute for meat. In the Mid-east, baba ghanoush is eggplant that is roasted whole, scooped out when cool and mixed with tahini, garlic, and a little olive oil and eaten as a dip with vegetables or pita bread. The already mentioned ratatouille is a stewed dish that comes to us originally from Nice, France, where eggplant is known as aubergine. Eggplant can be pickled or made into chutneys in India or stuffed with rice, meat, or other fillings in the Caucasus.

One thing about eggplant that separates it from most other vegetables is that it is basically inedible when raw, having a very bitter taste and an astringent quality. Early cultivars required the slices to be salted, pressed, rinsed, and drained before they could be used in a recipe but modern cultivars such as the large purple variety have less bitterness.

The three varieties that I am trying this year are the classic plump purple ‘Black Beauty’, the green skin ‘Thai Long Green’, and the white skin ‘Caspar’. It would appear that we are not the only ones finding the eggplant interesting this year.

The first pests that I noticed in July were the eggs and larvae of the False potato beetle (Leptinotarsa juncta), often confused with its cousin the Colorado potato beetle, (Leptinotarsa decemlineata). The bright orange eggs which are found standing upright on the underside of the leaf are not as tightly packed together as the eggs of the squash bug generally are. It wasn’t until I looked at an enlarged view of the below image that I noticed that I had actually captured a larva emerging from an egg!

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The pale larvae will feed on the foliage of most Solanaceous plants for 21 days as they go through 4 instar stages and then drop to the soil to pupate.

After 10 to 15 days the adult beetle will emerge and lay eggs. There are usually two generations a summer in Connecticut.

Then there were the larvae of the Clavate tortoise beetle (Plagiometriona clavate), awesome masters of disguise, who use their own frass (poop) as a camouflage. The rear abdominal segment of the larva has a special fecal fork that allows the attachment of the dried fecal matter and holds it over the larva, hiding it effectively. Even if the frass is pulled back it will pull it over again.

These small, green larvae with their flattened bodies and fringe of white spikes did a bit of damage to the eggplant leaves, leaving them quite pockmarked.

A few more visitors are not as Solanaceous host-specific as the False potato beetle and the Clavate tortoise beetle. The 14-spotted lady beetle (Propyleae quatuordecimpuctata) has been in North America since it came to Ontario by way of Europe in the 60s. It can out-consume the native North American lady beetle species, eating insect pests such as aphids, mites, and scale, landing it on the Invasive Species Compendium list.  Every garden needs pollinators and the bees love the big purple blooms of the eggplant.

This grasshopper nymph posed on an eggplant leaf, casting a very artful shadow. Grasshoppers are not picky eaters and can be found on every plant in the garden although squash and tomatoes are their least favorite. This one may have just been taking advantage of a bit of August sunshine. Can’t say that I blame it!

Susan Pelton

 

Slime mold. It sounds like something on an unwashed ghostbusters uniform. Slime molds don’t always look slimy or moldy though.  It depends on what kind they are. One thing all the slime molds have in common is that they thrive in moist environments. This year, Connecticut has experienced frequent and abundant rainfall so the slime molds are popping up in landscapes and gardens.  I’ve heard about a bright pink one on mulch but haven’t seen it so here’s a pic from the internet. From: https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=397266

So what is a slime mold?  For quite a long time, they were classified with the fungi. They’re not closely related to the fungi, though, and are now classed in the kingdom Protista. There are a few different kinds of unrelated organisms commonly called slime molds.  Some are composed of only a single cell while others are multicellular. They are able to produce spores that allow for dispersal and survival of unfavorable conditions. They feed on dead organic matter (helping out with decomposition) or sometimes yeast, bacteria, or fungi.

When conditions are right, many slime mold cells may congregate together, forming visible growths on surfaces of plants, decaying logs, or soil surfaces.  A few interesting examples of slime molds have come across my desk this season and here they are:

Yellow or white slime mold can appear in a very short time on the blades of turfgrasses. If you’re unfamiliar with this, it can look like a dreadful disease with the potential to wipe out your lawn.  In fact, once the surface dries out, spores in the masses will be dispersed and there will be no remaining evidence of the slime mold. No harm done.

The common fungus that grows on bark mulch and is aptly named ‘dog vomit slime mold’ or ‘dog vomit fungus’ (Fuligo septica). This type of slime mold, even though it’s pretty large, is only a single cell with many nuclei.  When it pops up in gardens on mulch, it does look pretty disgusting and many inquiries are about how to get rid of it. You can’t. It’s in the soil below the mulch as well is in it.  But, you can remove the unsightly growth when it appears.  It is not harmful to plants.  More info on this slime mold can be found at http://botit.botany.wisc.edu/toms_fungi/june99.html.  Photo below from: By Siga – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2690264

And, finally, the most interesting slime mold of the season so far: chocolate tube slime mold (Stemonitis sp.). This perfectly named slime mold was found growing on an old section of a pine trunk being used to support a planter.  Enjoy, then go get yourself some chocolate since it’s now on your mind! UConn photos.

By J. Allen

 

Despite the recent bouts of high humidity, this has been an enjoyable summer. A far cry from last year when I was spending about an hour most days lugging water to my 30+ containers plus the thirsty vegetables. Even some shrubs and trees were wilting because of the drought. We’ve been getting fairly regular rainfall and while I still do have to water my containers a few times a week and keep late seedings of chard, beets, carrots and beans moist, all in all I have had more time to garden and enjoy my plants than water them.

Summer flowering bulbs are such fun. Blossoms are unusual, often colorful and add an exotic touch of the tropics to beds and containers. I started with 3 pineapple lily bulbs (Eucomis comosa) about a decade ago and they have been slowly but happily multiplying. They seem to do best where they get a half-day sun in my gardens.

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Pineapples lilies by dmp,2017

Gloriosa lilies (Gloriosa rothschildiana) are pretty glorious to look at with their recurved red and yellow flowers. I have them growing in a half whisky barrel with an obelisk to grow up. Native to tropical Africa, gloriosa lilies are vines that climb using their leaves. The ends of the leaves are modified tendrils and grasp on to their support or other plants. There is a moonflower vine and a scarlet morning glory also growing up the obelisk.

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Gloriosa lily surrounded by moon flower foliage by dmp, 2017

Most people just think about growing 4 o’clocks (Mirabilis jalapa) from seed and do not realize that they can dig up the tuberous roots. As the roots increase in size, so doesn’t the top growth so they plants get about 4 feet high and wide and are covered with bright yellow tubular blossoms that open late in the day as the name suggests. Four o’clocks come in a number of delightful colors, some even speckled or variegated. This year I planted an orange one from seed but it has not bloomed yet. Two things to consider when growing these plants are that they need to be staked or the top-heavy stems will keel over and Japanese beetles do find them tasty.

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Yellow 4 O’clock by dmp, 2017

Dahlias rank close to the top for favorite summer bulbs. They get planted along the picket fence in the front of the house each year. Since the house is a pale peach, I tend to plant dahlias in shades of yellow, orange, peach and bronze. I am especially fond of the varieties with bronze foliage and single blossoms like ‘Elise’ and ‘Bishop of Oxford’ although ‘Peaches and Cream’ is an outstanding double with cream to peach to yellow colorations.

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Dahlias along front picket fence and marigolds lining front walkway by dmp, 2017

dahlias Elise & Bishop of Orange

Dahlias, ‘Elise’ left and ‘Bishop of Oxford’ right by dmp, 2017

One of my favorite garden centers, Tri-County Greenhouse (http://www.tri-countyarc.org/tricountygreenhouse.html) in Mansfield, CT, which sells a superb selection of both common and unusual plants, had some chocolate cosmos (Cosmos atrosanguineus) for sale this spring. I stuck one in a container with some chocolate daisies (Berlandiera lyrata) that I had started from seed (they still have not started blooming yet) and set it on the picnic table. At the end of a hot summer day, a light chocolate fragrance is emitted from the burgundy blossoms.

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Chocolate cosmos by dmp, 2017

Orange tiger lilies (Lilium tigrinum) are in full bloom right now. Because of the lily leaf beetle, I have my true lilies clustered in 2 locations so I can hand-pick the little buggers off on a daily basis. Second generation beetles are out but after squishing about a dozen, I have not noticed any more these past few days. Tiger lilies spread fairly fast because of the numerous black bulbils that are produced in the axils of the leaves. They are native to China and reputedly, the bulbs can be cooked and eaten although I have never tried doing so.

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Orange tiger lilies by dmp,2017

Plants for hummingbirds dot the yard including flowering quince, azaleas, bee balm, salvias, red morning glories trumpet vines and nasturtiums. On the deck are window boxes filled with nasturtiums including more compact ‘Peach Melba’ along with some longer vining ones that I save the seeds from. Nasturtiums are also edible so the flowers and leaves can be used to add a peppery flavor to salads. The seeds have been pickled and used as a substitute for capers.

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Nasturtium ‘Peach Melba’ by dmp, 2017

Enjoy this beautiful summer and take some time to see how well your plants are doing. If your yard is lacking an infusion of color, think about what you can add to make next summer’s scene more vibrant.

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Treebeard admiring the front flowers by dmp,2017

Happy Gardening!

Dawn

Summertime is the season of family vacations and road trips to see new sites and experience things out of our regular routine. Perhaps the newness and first time encounter makes the memories sweeter. Pictures help etch the memory for later retrieval. I am an observer of nature during these trips noticing the trees, animals (even road kill), and plants alongside the road. Today I want to share some the flowering wild plants dotting the wild areas off the pavement but still plainly visible showing off their colors and blossoms for all to see from the windshield or bravely photographed from a pull-off area.

queen anne's lace

Queen Anne’s Lace, (Daucus carota) is a common sight in fields and roadsides. It is a wild carrot in the parsley family. The orange carrot we grow and eat is a subspecies derived from this wild plant, native to Europe and Asia. Queen Anne’s Lace root is edible, best eaten when young as the root becomes woody as it ages. The many tiny, white flowers are clustered together making an umbrella shaped unit atop a stem up to three feet high. Pollinating insects are attracted to the nectar provided by the multi-flowered perennial.

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Bouncing Bet, C.Quish photo

Bouncing Bet, (Saponaria officinalis), is a perennial native to Europe and Asia, also, but has become naturalized here in the U.S. Sapo from the Latin name means soap, referring to its root used to cleanse. Rubbing the roots will result in a foaming action.

early golden rod

Early Golden Rod, C.Quish photo

Early Goldenrod, (Solidago juncea), is one of the many different species of native goldenrods in the Northeast. As its name states, it blooms early and is the about the first to shows it yellow-orange flowers. Goldenrods are incredibly attractive to many insect due to its heavy pollen and nectar production. Goldenrods take an uncalled for hit with allergy sufferers when people blame this brightly flowered plant for hay fever, when in fact; its pollen does not provoke or cause allergies. Some people are highly allergic to ragweed pollen which blooms at the same time, but with a fairly unnoticeable flower, so the showy goldenrod is blamed.

 

St. John’s Wort, (Hypericum perforatum), is a native perennial about 18 inches tall, with yellow flowers, five-petaled flowers with many noticeable stamens. Antidepressant medication is made from chemicals extracted from this plant. St. John’s Wort can be weedy as it reproduces from seed and spreads via rhizomes.

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Fleabane, C.Quish photo

Fleabane

Fleabane, C.Quish photo

Fleabane, (Erigeron sp.), is the common name of many daisy flowered plants. The genus Erigeron has numerous species which are difficult to tell apart. There are annual, biennial and perennial ones. One thing they all have in common is the ability to repel fleas, hence the name. Previous generations ago folks dried the leaves for scattering in the living spaces.

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Squash Beetle on Squash Leaf

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Squash Bug eggs(reddish) and Squash Beetle eggs(yellow) on the same leaf.

Upon returning home and to my vegetable garden neglected for a week, the yellow squash plants have new occupants trying to set up housekeeping. I found one squash beetle adult feeding on the leaves and her mass of yellow eggs on the underside of the leaf. I also found a group of brick colored eggs on the same leaf. These were of the squash bug. Both the beetle and egg masses were squashed, (pun intended)! If squishing insects and eggs are not to your liking, wrapping duct tape around your hand, sticky side out and patting the egg masses will easily remove them. Toss in the garbage when done.

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UConn Cows, working on the ice cream ingredients.

Once vacation is over, these beauties are another form easily spotted on my daily commute. I do notice them each day and they never cease to make me smile, just by their mere presence.

-Carol Quish

 

hardy silk tree UConn Wilbur

Hardy silk tree

July in Connecticut is an exciting time for me because of all the good wildflowers and insects that abound at this time of year. Insects get more interesting in summer and late summer, especially caterpillars that feed on older leaves. Plus, many birds have fledged their first brood by now, so the young birds are scattering around keeping their parents busy. Flowering trees are few, but in July sumacs, tree-of-heaven and the hardy silk tree bloom from mid to late July.

black walnuts July 2017
Black walnut dropped fruit in July

 

While July is hot and sometimes dry, we have had an abundance of rain so far this year. This is a really good thing because the gypsy moth caterpillars severely defoliated many trees that now need rainfall to help put out new leaves before autumn. We hope next year will have less of these pests, especially since many of the caterpillars were killed by either a fungus or a virus.

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Bittersweet decorating a truck

Wildflowers like early goldenrod, swamp milkweed, bouncing bet, monkeyflower and nodding ladies tresses are in bloom now. And the peculiar Indian pipe, Monotropa uniflora, has popped up, especially under white pines. It occurs in rich, damp forests where there is abundant leaf litter. While this plant may appear to be a fungus due to its white color due to a lack of chlorophyll, it is not. It survives in a mutually beneficial relationship with a fungus in the soil where it grows. Blue curls are an interesting wild flower that can form colonies in sandy, infertile soils. Bloom time is normally late July through mid- August. Check out damps areas for stands of swamp milkweed- one of the prettier of the milkweeds, to me. All kinds of butterflies and bees may be seen getting nectar from its flowers.

 

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Indian pipe

blue curls Main st power lines August 5, 2012

Blue curls

 

This year Eastern red cedars have put out a bumper crop of fruit, unlike the dismal amount of blue berries produced last year. This is good news for migrating birds like the yellow-rumped warblers that rely of this food as they fly south. And, of course, the cedar waxwings that derived their name from their fondness for cedar fruit, will enjoy any fruit that remains after the migrators have departed.

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cedar waxwing just out of the nest

Monarch caterpillars have been spotted, some in later instars, so that is good news for this favorite butterfly. Swallowtail caterpillars are also in later instars, and will have a second generation of butterflies later this summer. Check out small aspens for the caterpillar of the viceroy butterfly. This bird- dropping mimic will win no beauty contests, perhaps, but it is a good find nevertheless. Sphinx and many other moths are flying now, and bats are enjoying them during their night forays. Some of the geometers, or inchworms, have very pretty moths to make up for the drab larval stage.

chickweed geometer moth Bug Week insect hunt Pamm Cooper photo

Chickweed geometer moth

If anyone had their Joe-pye weed leaves chewed badly, it may have been the work of large populations of dusky groundling caterpillars. They are done feeding now, but keep an eye out next year if you had this problem. And aphid populations swell at this time of year as females give birth to live young by the truckloads. Sunflowers and milkweeds are just two of the plants that can have aphid populations that are very high.

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Dgroundling on Joe-pye

Enjoy yourselves out there in the garden, park, or wilds. Look up and down and all around, for things of interest that abound this time of year. And listen for the katydids as they start singing during the hot, summer nights.

Conehead katydid neoconocephalus ssp.

Conehead katydid

 

Pamm Cooper

 

 

IMG_20170702_114322695One of the best things about summer in Connecticut is the easy drive to the Connecticut shore as almost any point in Connecticut is no more than a 1 ½ hour drive to the Long Island Sound. Although Connecticut is the third smallest state area-wise (5543² miles) we are ranked either 17th or 20th in total ocean coastline. The 20th ranking is from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) which includes tidal inlets and the Great Lakes in its calculations. Our 17th place ranking says that we have 96 miles of coastline while the 20th place gives us a grand total of 618 miles. In fact, if every citizen of Connecticut stood very close (and held our babies and toddlers) we could all stand along that 618-mile coastline! I must admit, as we walked along Sound View Beach over the 4th of July weekend it felt as if that scenario was taking place.

But walking a little further away from the sea of humanity is when the real appeal of the Connecticut shore happens for me. The diversity of the plants and vegetation that can be encountered never ceases to amaze me. Even though hydrangeas grow all over Connecticut, including in our yard in Enfield, they never seem as deeply blue as they do when there is a touch of salt in the air…

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…the honeysuckle smells sweeter…

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…and the beach rose hips are the size of cherry tomatoes!

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The Connecticut coastal region has a longer frost-free season than most of the state of Connecticut, 15-35 days longer depending on where you live. I would love an extra 35 days of growing time for my gardens but I don’t know if I would be willing to exchange those extra days just to worry about the salinity tolerance of my plants, sandy soils that may drain too quickly, or high winds. Those are all a part of the ecoregion along the Connecticut shore and each of those factors play a part in selecting plants for landscaping in that area.

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Salt can affect and potentially kill shoreline plants in two ways; either through salt spray that can damage leaves and plant tissues or through groundwater where salt water is brought in on daily tides. Where the groundwater is highly concentrated with salt water plant tissues can be damaged as with salt spray but additionally they will suffer with water uptake issues. When the concentrations of salt in the soil surrounding the roots of a plant become too high the plant may be forced to accumulate salts in its root cells to compensate for the higher levels outside. Expending energy to facilitate these functions means less energy will be directed toward the growth and vigor of the plant, sometimes causing the roots to go dormant, and resulting in a poor or stunted appearance.

Have you ever noticed how plantings along the shore seem to almost hug the ground? When salt is dissolved in water it separates into equal ratios of its two ions: sodium and chloride. It is the build-up of chloride ions in plant tissues such as the stems and leaves that will present as browned, bronzed, or ‘scorched’, leaf edges.

scorched

Even the slope of the land or whether there is a sea wall present will influence the amount of salt damage that can occur. Within the same property or area several different salinity levels may be present as plants that are on the lower end of a slope may receive twice-daily infiltrations of seawater at high tide. And an area that slopes up will be more affected by salt spray. In fact, unlike the effect of elevated levels of salt in groundwater which tend to be localized, salt spray can reach plants several miles inland.

Fortunately, many species of plants that are native to Connecticut have developed the ability to thrive in these conditions and are categorized as highly salt tolerant, moderately tolerant, and least tolerant. Using plants that are highly tolerant as a buffer to shield less tolerant plants from salt spray, winds, or that simply increase the distance from areas of salty groundwater is a good option. The Connecticut Coastal Planting Guide from Connecticut Sea Grant/UConn has a great listing of trees, shrubs, herbaceous perennials, and groundcovers and their salt tolerance levels. Our recent trip to the shore showed some wonderful examples.

IMG_20170711_112627268   Sassafras

Mountain Laurel     IMG_20170711_115224655_HDR

IMG_20170711_113134395   Viburnum

Trumpet creeper           IMG_20170711_182901348_HDR

Through UConn, the College of Agriculture, Health, and Natural Resources has a resource that, through a step-by-step process, will help you prepare your site and choose plants that will have a better chance of survival in the coastal environment, prevent erosion, and provide needed food and protection to coastal wildlife such as this great white heron.

Susan Pelton

All images and videos by Susan Pelton 2017

Hot summer weather has many of us seeking tasty relief at their local ice cream parlors. Despite a dizzying array of flavors, plain old vanilla ranks high in popularity. Natural vanilla flavoring comes from vanilla beans which are produced in pods by an orchid. Most of the world’s vanilla beans are grown in Madagascar. This past year saw a shortage of vanilla beans from that country which is why you may have noticed the price of real vanilla extract at the stores has increased.

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Vanilla beans by dpettinelli, UConn

If you are looking for some calorie-free ways to enjoy the delicious scent of vanilla, look no further than the garden. A number of plants have a luscious vanilla scents include annuals, perennials, trees, shrubs and vines. Do keep in mind that fragrances take on a personal tone so what some might perceive as vanilla, others may detect a slightly different odor.

Most popular as well as easy to find are heliotropes (Heliotropium arborescens). These annual plants mostly found in shades of purple have large clusters of vanilla-scented flowers. They can be used as bedding plants but many find their way into containers placed near entranceways or on decks where their delicious fragrance can be repeatedly enjoyed. Plants grow about a foot tall. I think the white flowering form has a stronger vanilla scent than the purple but it is harder to find.

Heliotrope Nagano

Heliotropes bloom all summer and are great in containers. By dpettinelli, UConn

Years ago when working at Old Sturbridge Village, we tended a collection of scented geraniums including apple, coconut, nutmeg, lemon, peppermint and vanilla. With geraniums, it is the leaves that carries the delightful scents. French vanilla geraniums have small sprays of white flowers and work well in containers in full sun.

Another plant grown at OSV was mignonette (Reseda odorata). Flowers are rather inconspicuous with small creamy whitish blossoms but their fragrance is a heavenly raspberry vanilla. I have never seen this annual for sale at garden centers but it is easy to start this plant from seed.

Although technical a valerian (Valeriana officinalis), the white flower clusters of the often called garden heliotrope are attractive to pollinators and people alike. It is blooming right now. This hardy perennial gets about 3 feet tall in my garden but would probably grow taller if in a more moister situation. The leaves are toothed and pinnate. It spreads slowly if happy and is native to Europe and western Asia.

valerian

Valerian, sometimes referred to as garden heliotrope by dpettinelli, UConn.

Many are familiar with our native Joe Pye weed (Eutrochium purpureum) as a good wildlife plant as well as useful cut flower but have you stopped and smelled it. A soft vanilla fragrance is emitted upon close inspection (or should I say sniffing!). Plants reach 4 to 5 feet tall and enjoy moist soils in full sun. Plants are hardy to zone 4 and flowers are arranged in large clusters in shades of mauves and pinks.

While most dianthus have a spicy scent, ‘Itsaul White’ (Dianthus plumarius) smells like vanilla. Pure white, fringed, semi-double flowers attract butterflies. While the plant only blooms from late spring to early summer, the silvery blue foliage remains attractive all season long. Plants are compact reaching only 12 inches high and are hardy to zone 3.

Clematis montana selections are vigorous, vines reaching 20 to 30 feet. They are spring blooming but have a light, delightful vanilla fragrance. Look for the white flowered, ‘Grandiflora’, pink-flowered ‘Elizabeth’ or ‘Mayleen’ These plants are very attractive grown on a fence or over a trellis. For abundant flowering, plant them in full sun with their roots shaded through the use of mulch or plantings positioned behind other fuller but low plant selections.

clematis LR

Clematis montana by L Rivers

The name ‘Vanilla Spice’ should clue you in that this selection of summersweet (Clethra alnifolia) is especially aromatic. Plants grow up to 6 feet tall and wide and have larger white flowers than the species which is native to many east coast states. Usually this shrub is found in moist locations and it prefers our native, slightly acidic soils. ‘Hummingbird’ is a dwarf selection reaching only 2 feet tall while ‘Ruby Spice’ is a full-sized plant with deep pink flowers. Blooms occur in late summer and are always covered with bees and other pollinators.

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Clethra alnifolia by dpettinelli, UConn

Native to Korea, the white forsythia (Abeliophyllum distichum) is a small shrub, about 4 feet tall. Rather unassuming, the pale pink buds open to mostly white, lightly vanilla scented flowers in early spring. It is a very undemanding plant tolerating a wide variety or soil conditions and hardy to zone 5. Plant white forsythia in full sun to part shade.

Visiting the Grand Canyon last November, our tour guide brought us to some old copper mines now surrounded by ponderosa pines (Pinus ponderosa). It was a warm November day and he had us all smell the reddish crackly bark of these tall, magnificent trees. They smelled just like vanilla flavored, fresh baked sugar cookies. I remember that Jeffrey pines (P. jeffreyi) in Oregon had a similar scent. Both are quite sizeable trees but they are hardy in this area.

Plants are grown for many reasons but maybe one consideration when selecting some for your garden might be their scent. So be sure to smell the flowers and you can bask in their scents making pulling weeds and putting down mulch much more pleasant tasks.

Happy 4th! Dawn P.

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