All About Gardening and Gardening Q & A by Pernell Gerver

Bookmark this page or add it to your favorites now!
(Reload or refresh each time you visit to get the current week's columns.)

 Tell a friend about Pernell Gerver's Official Web Site 

"Growing Uncommon Perennials"

I find it's always nice to grow something different in the garden. While I like all the familiar perennials, there are many uncommon perennials I've discovered over the years that have really become some of my favorites, for many reasons. They're somewhat lesser known, but they deserve to be grown more in gardens. Click on a plant name below to order it from Pernell Gerver's Online Store.

An uncommon perennial that's become one of my favorites is Ligularia 'The Rocket.' This is one of the best perennials for shade, actually deep shade. I'm growing it on the north side of my potting shed under a canopy of large oak trees and it loves it. It barely sees any sunlight at all and it thrives. It has interesting leaves that I think look rather prehistoric. The arrowhead-shaped leaves grow six to eight inches across and have deeply-toothed edges. The foliage forms a rounded clump about two feet high and wide. In mid summer, five-foot-tall flower spikes rise through the mound of foliage. The flower spikes are deep purple. Set against the deep-purple stems are bright-yellow flowers. The flowers appear along the top couple of feet of the flower stem.

Another uncommon perennial that should be grown more is Pardancanda 'Dazzler.' Commonly called candy lily, this uncommon perennial has both interesting foliage and flowers. The upright foliage forms a fan shape and resembles iris or gladiolus. In midsummer it bears dozens of star-shaped flowers on slender flower spikes that rise above the foliage. Flower colors include a mix of bright red, orange, yellow, purple, and pink - many with freckled blooms. The flowers are eye catching. It forms a handsome clump a foot high and as wide.

Lewisia is an uncommon perennial that really should be grown more. Discovered by and named for Captain Meriwether Lewis of the Lewis & Clark expedition over 200 years ago, it's a low-growing plant that forms a low mound just six to eight inches high and wide. Its succulent-like foliage forms a perfect rosette. Single or semi-double blooms in white, yellow, pink, orange-red, and blue-red appear from May to late June or early July. It's a good choice for the front of the flower bed or border or in a rock garden. In my garden I also grow it in the side of my stone wall.

Pernell Gerver's Gardening Q & Aby Pernell Gerver

"Know When the Time is Ripe for Picking Fruits"

Q. You've been very helpful to me at least twice in the past. Perhaps you can help me out again. I have two plum trees and a peach tree. The various gardening books I've come across seem to neglect one very important question: How does one successfully harvest a crop? On my plum trees, I've found that their peak flavor period on the tree lasts scarcely one or two days. Fruit picked before the peak flavor doesn't subsequently improve. The flavor when fresh is a bit too tart to eat. There's a similar, but less serious problem with my peach tree. Is there an optimum time to pick the fruit and how can I determine when it has been reached?

A. Harvesting fruits at the proper time is important to achieve maximum flavor. Each type of fruit has its own harvest period - miss it and the fruit no longer tastes good. On the other hand, harvesting too early does not always ensure ripening, either.

Plums for eating fresh are ready to be picked when they become soft and twist easily off the tree. Plums intended for cooking should be picked when they develop their waxy, white coating and are firm.

Peaches ripen in mid to late summer. The time to pick peaches is when they separate easily from the twigs. Be gentle when harvesting and storing peaches - they bruise easily.

A few other fruits with specific harvest times include pears, cherries, and blueberries.

Unlike most fruits, pears should be picked before they are fully ripened and allowed to ripen off the tree. If they are left on the tree too long, they have an off-flavor, their flesh is soft, and their centers turn brown. Pears are ready to pick when their dark green color begins to turn yellow and when the stem swells where it is attached to the twig. If the twigs break away from the branch rather than the stems separating from the twig, then they are not ready to pick. Once the pears are harvested, store them in a cool location for one to two weeks then place them in a warm, dark location to ripen.

Cherries keep better with the stem attached, so when picking cherries, be sure to leave the stem attached and be careful not to break off the spur from the tree. This is where fruit will be produced next year.

The sweetest blueberries are those that are dark blue, so wait at least a week after the berries turn blue. Any sooner, and the berries will taste sour.

Click here to submit gardening questions for Pernell Gerver's online Q & A column.

Click here to read previous online columns in the archives.

Pernell Gerver's Home page Pernell Gerver's Gardening Workshop Series Biographical profile - Pernell Gerver Pernell Gerver's Online Store Sign the guestbook
Mailing list Pernell Gerver's Plant of the Month Gardening questions for Pernell Gerver Professional inquiries for Pernell Gerver Contact Pernell

© Copyright Pernell Gerver, Horticultural Communication Services All rights reserved.