Brugmansia, Banana Shine and “Signature of All Things”

Angel’s Trumpets Return

Wintering over plants can be way too much trouble without a greenhouse.  And frankly, there aren’t too many plants I care about enough to go to the extra effort. However, the Brugmansias or Angel’s Trumpets are different. If you have grown a Brugmansia you’ll do whatever it takes to get it to come back. It’s that beautiful.

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Brugmansias are tropical looking zone 8-10 plants that grow surprisingly easy in the South Sound.  They do need winter protection though and right about now is when their winter protection is critical. Brugmansias planted in pots can be brought into the garage and watered occasionally to keep them going. If Brugmansias are planted in the ground, mulch like crazy to keep the soil from getting too cold for the roots. Even if the top dies back (and it will) there are plenty of roots underground to produce new shoots next spring. At present there are only a few varieties of Brugmansias around South Sound nurseries but they are catching on and hopefully we’ll see more varieties soon. Besides looking like something straight out of a South American jungle, the scent of the Brugmansia’s gigantic trumpet flowers rivals any summertime blooms.

Slug Time-Out

Slugs don’t have a “time out”. They’re hiding and waiting to pounce on every new little sprout ready to burst through the soil. Now is the perfect time to start putting out your favorite slug bait. It will slow down the slug population and keep bulb foliage and early perennial foliage slug free. It’s a good jumpstart for spring.

Shine On

Houseplants with thick, solid leaves can get especially dirty and dusty. Not only do they look dull, the dirt blocks sunlight and reduces photosynthesis. You can buy products especially made for cleaning houseplants or you can eat a banana. Use the banana peel to wipe off the leaves.  Then the leaves will be clean, shiny and loaded with potassium.

 “The Signature of All Things” by Elizabeth Gilbert

When “Eat, Pray, Love” author, Elizabeth Gilbert, recently discovered a love for gardening she knew that her next book had to have a narrative that spoke about her new hobby. “The Signature of All Things”, is a not a memoir like Gilbert’s other books; this one is a novel of historical fiction.

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The 500-page epic revolves around a plant savvy family, the Whittakers, who are dedicated botanists in the 19th century. The story spans decades and crosses continents. The main character is Alma Whittaker, a composite of several 19th century women botanists. Botany, like all the other sciences in the 19th century, was male dominated. Men practiced the science of botany and women practiced the science of  “polite botany”. Same thing…different names.  Alma is the “polite botanist” and her field is bryology, the study of mosses.

Joseph Banks, Captain Cook and Charles Darwin are just a few of the names that figure into the story. Gilbert weaves history and horticulture into a book that any gardener will find fascinating. It’s about time somebody included America’s #1 hobby in a well-written novel.