“We have plowed, we have sowed,
We have reaped, we have mowed,
We have brought home every load,
Hip, hip, hip, harvest home.”
For the last few months, I’ve spoken with some of the nation’s most well-known garden writers, bloggers and personalities about their must-have plants. So, you might just be wondering which plants I can’t live without myself. That’s why this blog post is dedicated to some of my favorite plants.
As you can see above and below, my garden is a rather unruly mix of wildflowers, roses and perennials. The Shirley and California poppies self-seeded themselves from last year, and seem determined to take over my late-spring/early-summer garden.
As garden writer and designer Rebecca Sweet would say, there are a lot of “showgirls” in my garden. These are the plants that bloom outrageously and then disappear in winter. So, I’m working on adding more four-season interest to my new garden, including some lovely little boxwood shrubs which you can’t see here because of all the showgirls. But I’ll be glad to have their evergreen shapes in the winter months. You can hear more about showgirl plants from my Nest in Style podcast interview with Rebecca Sweet.
I’m a big fan of succession planting. So although my raised beds started out with lettuces and radishes of all types in early spring, they were replaced with squash and corn when the weather heated up.
Last year, I grew a bean teepee in this raised bed. This year, I’m growing ‘Blue Jade’ corn that was supposed to grow about three feet. They must like my growing conditions, because they are easily five feet tall now. I’m just starting to pull the blue-colored corn now. Incidentally, it’s always good to plant corn in blocks (rather than rows) so they can self-pollinate themselves well.
Eggplants are a great way to grow attractive, delicious plants in small spaces. ‘Rosa Bianca’ eggplant is an Italian heirloom that will shine in any ornamental garden bed. But I like to grow them in containers too. The flowers are as pretty as the delicious fruit.
‘Calliope’ eggplant is a hybrid with attractive, striped fruit. Harvest these eggplants when they reach about 2 to 3 inches in size. Great for northern climates, this eggplant ripens in about 65 days from transplant.
My ‘Little Fingers’ eggplant grew huge in a container, and never stopped producing tiny, black eggplants the size of chubby fingers. This early variety ripens in under 70 days. Incidentally, these containers with eggplants were filled with salad greens of all types in the spring. Learn more about lettuces.
Grow lots of vegetables, and you can make strange faces with your food too. Starting at the top and moving clockwise are ‘Calliope’ eggplants, ‘Patterson Golden Scallop’ squash, ‘Lebanese White Bush Marrow’ squash, ‘Little Fingers’ eggplants and ‘Fairy Tale’ eggplants. Incidentally, ’Fairy Tale’ eggplants are also excellent in containers, and ripen quickly for northern gardens.
It wouldn’t be summer without tomatoes of all types. That’s why I grew varieties that ripened at different times. Pictured above (starting top left) are cute ‘Yellow Perfect Sugar’ (grown by a friend); ‘Black Krim;’ ‘Green Zebra’ (grown by a friend); ‘Black Sea Man’; ‘Isis candy’ cherries; ‘Tomacchio’ and ‘Principe Borghese’ varieties for drying; as well as ’Stupice’ which ripened easily a month before the others. Plus, some ‘Osmin’ purple basil. Tomato growing tips. Six tomatoes for cooking and preserving.
Beans are another favorite vegetable for us. And we especially love the ones that aren’t green. Above are beautiful spotted ‘Dragon’s Tongue;’ pinkish ‘Red Swan Bush;’ and yellow ‘Pencil Pod Wax Bean.’ Alongside the beans are flowering oregano stems that make the bees in my garden very happy. More about beans.
The weather is gradually growing colder, and there are only a few more weeks to enjoy these summer vegetables. But I’m already planting carrots, radishes and salad greens for the fall. There is nothing better than delicious food out in the garden, even in the colder months.
Meanwhile, what are some of your favorite must-have plants in the garden?