Edible Gardening | Garden Design | urban gardening

I Really Loved It, so I Bought It


Lavender FlowersIt never quite feels like summer to me until my mom and I make our annual trip to the first weekend of the flea market in a beautiful place called Mukwonago, Wisconsin. Whether we come home with anything of importance really doesn’t matter. The feel of the sun on our shoulders, the “planning” of our route to be sure we hit all of our favorite sellers, the smell of the food being cooked in the center pavilion…it all adds to the wonderful realization that summer has arrived. This last Saturday marked this day for me. While this particular flea market (or I guess they technically call it “Maxwell Street Days”) occurs one weekend per month from June to September, my mother and I always make a point to attend at the very least the first day in June since this is when all of the local greenhouses and growers bring their plants. At $10 a piece, you just can’t find better hanging baskets!

Lavender FlowersWhile I am a strong proponent of garden design and having some kind of “plan” when doing any major shopping for additions to your landscape, there is something to be said for purchasing a plant simply because you love it. Who cares if you don’t have a place in mind? If you really love it, buy it now, figure it out later 🙂 While soaking up the summer day and wandering through the market this last Saturday, we stopped by a local grower’s “spot” whom we frequent because of his kind personality, great deals, and somewhat random selection of plants. In fact, this grower is the same one who introduced me to one of my favorites from last year (the Concord Blue Cape Primrose) which I blogged about in my Bridget’s Favorites post. This year, love struck again at this same man’s table. A small plant with chartreuse foliage and bead-like buds in colors of orange, red, and pink called my name. “What is this?” I asked the gardener. He went on to explain that the botanical name for the plant was Talinum paniculatum, more commonly known as “Jewels of Opar” or “Fameflower“. When I purchased the plant (for a mere two dollars, by the way) it did not have a single flower in bloom but I was so taken by the differently-colored buds and cute foliage that I just had to have it. The gardener told me it would do well in a pot and I immediately thought of the countless empty containers sitting in my basement, awaiting life. I knew I’d be able to find a place for him! By the time I got around to planting my treasure on Sunday, nearly a third of the buds had burst into the tiniest delicate pink flowers. What a sight!

Even though Talinum is only hardy to 20 degrees F and therefore an annual here in the upper Midwest (tear), I love having a few “go-to plants” which simply make me happy to look at. A reader on the Rob’s Plants website shares that the foliage can actually be used as a spinach substitute. I doubt I’ll be trying that in the near future but it’s an interesting fact indeed! The Jewels of Opar is a member of the Portulacaceae family where the popular moss rose comes from which explains why many say it is a great choice for rock gardens. The plant is said to be quite drought-tolerant and loves the sun. Based on my lack of gusto for watering as the summer season progresses, this may just be a match made in heaven!

P.S. I also promised a follow up to my other “favorite” from last year: the Lychnis. I had mentioned in my previous post that while doing some research, I had found this particular perennial to be considered “marginally-hardy” by some. While we did have an abnormally mild winter here in Wisconsin, I am happy to report that my Lychnis has returned and is doing quite well, just about ready to burst forth with its bold, orange blooms again! One thing I have noticed, however: while I was told this plant does excellent in full sun, it is the first to wilt in hot, dry spells. I am considering moving it to a more partial sun location where I think it may be a bit happier.

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