The Master Gardeners’ annual Fall Plant Sale was held last Saturday. If you missed the sale, the Master Gardeners will conduct a follow up sale Thursday at the Master Gardener Demonstration Garden in Carbide Park.
Even though it was a plant sale, visitors were welcome to ask gardening questions and to bring samples of plants for problem diagnosis or identification. They took me and Master Gardener volunteers up on the invitation. The following is a sampling of questions asked:
Q: Is that a real cotton plant in the sale yard?
Yes, it is real cotton. It was developed by plant breeders as an ornamental plant for home landscapes.
The flowers produced by okra and hibiscus plants closely resemble flowers produced by cotton plants. That’s because all three plants are first cousins and belong to a family of flowering plants botanically known as Malvaceae and commonly known as mallows.
The variety name is Burgundy Heirloom Cotton. It produces burgundy-tinted leaves and beautiful pink-tinged blooms that will be followed by cotton bolls. The cotton in the bolls can be cleaned and used in cotton yarn or just as cotton puffs.
The plants are stunning as specimen plants in the garden or even in a container and would be a conversation piece for family and visitors. It should be planted in an area receiving full sun exposure. The seeds inside the boll can be saved for replanting next spring.
Burgundy Heirloom Cotton should be treated as an annual; however, if protected from frost or freezing over the winter season, it will grow as a perennial. I have seen cotton grown in a heated greenhouse that was 26-years-old and had developed into a small tree.
Q. Are broccoli leaves edible?
A. Yes. As a matter of fact, most people would have a hard time distinguishing between the young leaves of broccoli and those of collard greens. Harvest and prepare only young and tender leaves as older leaves of broccoli become tough and often develop a somewhat bitter or off-taste.
Q. Are ornamental cabbages or kales edible?
A. There are certain varieties of cabbage and kale that produce decorative, non-heading plants with green or purple leaves and colorful white, cream, pink, red or purple interleaves. These are sold as flowering cabbage and can be attractively used as edging or for low, colorful accent plants in flower beds. Ornamental cabbage, like other members of the kale crop family, does best when it matures under cool weather conditions. While the leaves are edible, they are rather tough and strong in flavor.
Q: Should I cut back my Miscanthus and other ornamental grasses after they have dried?
A: The Master Gardeners offered several types of ornamental grasses at the Fall Plant Sale. More than ever before, gardeners are realizing the fine accent and architectural effect ornamental grasses can contribute to just about any landscape.
I recommend cutting back ornamental grasses in the spring before new growth emerges. This ensures that their attractiveness in the landscape is utilized throughout all four growing seasons. I recommend cutting the clumps back to 7-to-8 inches from the ground.
In case we have a late cold snap, leaving some dried vegetation will help insulate the live vegetation below and avoid dieback of the clump. The old growth will quickly be hidden by the new growth.
Q. I am growing cauliflower for the first time. I read somewhere that it must be blanched to reach its best quality. How does one blanch cauliflower?
Blanching of cauliflower means protecting the heads from sunlight. Unblanched heads will be yellowish green while blanched heads are pure white. When the head begins to enlarge, pull the outer leaves over the head and tie them with a rubber band or soft twine.
Start checking your plants for small cauliflower heads after 4-5 weeks after planting them in the garden. The cauliflower heads develop quickly and it’s that development that tells you when to blanch. Start blanching cauliflower heads when they are about the size of a chicken egg.