This week, I am looking at some curiosities in the gardening world. I have grown all of them at one time, and have written about most of them before, but here they are in one place.
The first was a star in the front garden this fall. It is an Easter egg plant, the seeds of which were sent to me by reader Pat last spring. I planted the strongest seedling in the front of the border, right by the sidewalk, and I saw people stopping to look at it all the time.
The "Easter eggs" actually are small eggplants in yellow, white and orange, and they are the most realistic eggs I have seen outside of a carton. There were about 20 of them on my plant.
I have picked the fruits and shared with a number of friends, and we are saving the seeds for next year. Great fun.
My "stink lily" is long gone, but I kept it going for several years until I accidentally cut the root in half as I was digging it up to bring inside for winter a couple of years ago. It was a gift from a reader who brought me this large purplish bulb one spring and told me to plant it outside for the summer and let the foliage grow, and then pot it for the winter and keep it inside and wait for a surprise.
It certainly was a surprise - a 5-foot-tall stem sprouted and opened into a very large and rather ugly lily-like flower, which gave off a foul odor, explaining its common name. It quickly was banished from its happy home in the dining room to a less appealing spot in the basement, where it flourished until its planting time again in spring.
Then there are different curious fungi. A few years ago, a reader asked me to look at something growing out of her mulch. After consulting books and the Internet, I found these strange growths are called Dead Man's Fingers, and that is just what they looked like - about 3 inches tall, whitish and slightly bent. Ugh!
Another revolting fungus grew out of my favorite cocoa shell mulch one year. That, too, has a perfectly descriptive name, Dog Vomit fungus. And that is just what I thought it was at first. My Penny will eat anything put in front of her (or stolen from the table), including recently an entire stick of butter, an AAA battery, half a box of Kleenex and a bag of star mints. And she produces copious amounts of the real thing after these episodes,
And finally there is the cardoon.
Unfortunately, my fine specimen outgrew its space last summer and ended up in the compost bin, chopped into manageable pieces. Cardoons are relatives of the artichoke and are grown for the edible stems, which need to be wrapped in order to blanch, somewhat like celery. My robust specimen was given to me as a small innocent seedling, which proceeded to grow like the Jolly Green Giant, and met its end when it reached the approximate size and shape of a golf umbrella, shading out the poor peppers sharing its plot.
Every year, I look for unusual plants in the seed catalogs. They bring a little excitement to the garden and add to the magic of the season. As the seed catalogs begin to load down the mailbox, I will be busy with Post-It notes, looking for a curiosity for 2011.