Friday, May 12, 2017

Hatch Chili Peppers

Being from WV, I am not about to attempt to fully describe the history of the Hatch Pepper.  I first heard of it a few years ago on one of my trips to visit CO children.  We always travel from CO to different parts of the Southwest and my boys were familiar with the pepper.  There is lots of information out on the internet about the pepper.  Here's a brief article from one of the Hatch Valley sites.  You can do some research on your own.  And maybe you want to attend the Hatch Valley Chile Festival; an annual September event.  I'd love to hear from any of you in NM that can fully describe this pepper!

Our local Kroger carried the Hatch peppers (both a hot and a milder variety) a couple of summers ago.  I bought a lot and cooked them fresh as well as roasting and freezing.  This year when I attended Shirley Meneice Conference, Cyndie, a member of the Santa Fe GC brought seeds for the seed share.  I was happy to nab a packet.   Hopefully this first year they will taste the same.  I doubt if in future years they will as the NM climate & soil are so completely different than ours.  We'll see.  I will enjoy all the same.

As I did with my WV 63 tomatoes, I took the seeds to my sister to germinate under lights.  There were 42 seeds in the packet and 28 successfully germinated.  They were started at the same time as the tomato seeds, but were much slower in germinating.  We did not pot them up at the same time as the tomatoes as they were still very fragile.  This first photo is from April 13th and you can see they are still small.

April 13 seedlings appearing.
May 12, 2017  By mid May we have repotted and I am in the process of offering to family and friends.  Our weather has been really rainy and I am hoping they don't become too waterlogged.  Two of the plants are in containers on my deck and some of the others are in the ground.  Will keep you posted on their progress!  I brought them home on May 3 and started putting them out this past week.

May 3 and they are hardening off.
August 28, 2017  I haven't posted since May - but my peppers have done well despite the rainy and fairly cool summer we had.  Only a few days were in the 90s.  Certainly not the weather these plants should have and so the plants remained fairly small.  I don't think the peppers are the size that they would have been in NM.  The ones I planted in containers and kept on my deck have done the best as they get the most sun.  Our nights are already very cool and we will see how much longer they last.  I've enjoyed harvesting and trying different ways to fix.  I made some salsa, some Hatch Poppers (like jalapeno poppers) and a layered casserole.  The peppers weren't quite big enough to stuff for individual servings; so I halved, seeded and layered in the bottom of a glass casserole dish.  Then I sautéed some onion and chorizo together and layered that next.  I topped with 3 different cheeses - some cotija, some fresh mozzarella and a jack/cheddar mix.  I covered with foil, put in a 350 oven and baked until the peppers were softened; then uncovered and baked 10-15 minutes more until the cheese was bubbly and starting to brown.  We've enjoyed this great pepper!  If you see some this year at seed share my advice is to give them a try. 

Pot on my deck

Still a few blooms.



Wednesday, March 8, 2017


Who doesn't find the Jack-in-the-pulpit interesting?  It fascinates young and old.  It is mysterious looking.  With it's fairy garden appearance it is a wonderful addition to a native garden.  Mine are tucked away and clustered in a shady, moist, north facing corner of my house with other spring favorites  (trillium, Dutchman's breeches and Virginia bluebells).  I was excited when I found seeds at Shirley Meniece and quickly took a packet.

It was decided many, many years ago when given it's name that the Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) looked like an old-style pulpit with the striped spathe; a deep, tubular, light-green structure and over-laying flap,  Inside the spathe, “stood” a little preacher, who was named Jack.  “Jack” is actually a spadix, on which grow the actual flowers of the plant. The flowers may be either male or female. Alongside the flowering structure, there are one or two leaves, each divided into three leaflets. These leaves continue to grow after the flower fades and can become fairly tall.  Pollinated female flowers develop red berries, which by the way are poisonous. When collecting seeds in the fall be sure and wear gloves while handling.

Jack-in-the-pulpit is also called Indian turnip. Some Native American tribes would dry and/or cook the roots (corms) of the plant for medicinal purposes. The corms are poisonous and are painful to the tongue and lips and must not be eaten raw.  Cooking breaks down the chemicals.

A good resource page can be found at the Univ. of Minnesota Extension.

My small cluster has spread slowly over the years.  Rather than buy more plants or wait for the slow naturalization,  I thought I would try these seeds.  I neglected, though, to look up information when I returned home from the conference in the fall and am just now pulling them out. As with most perennial seeds in our zone, they require stratification.  I should have placed the packet in the refrigerator and the seeds may now be too dried out.  I could have also tried the method I am using with my peony seeds of putting in a baggie with wet vermiculate.   But, I will try this method and see what happens.  If no success, I now can hopefully collect from my own garden.  Into the water jug now filled with seed starting soil they go - the process now only takes me about 5 minutes and I can set out in the garden and wait and hope.  It's just the first of March; our frost date is not until May 10. Although our winter has been mild there are still plenty of cold days and nights left.

March 7, 2017
Better late than never!  I planted the seeds in my water jug and out into the garden it goes.

Here are the seeds I received.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Amsonia hubrichtii: The Blue Star with a 5 Star Rating

Enclosed with my Indian Pink seeds from Katherine Shepperly were some Amsonia hubrichtii seeds.  I have Amsonia tabernaemontana already and love it.  The A. taberaemontana is starting to fill in a lower border in mass and is a tough, hardy plant.  I was delighted to receive the A. hubrichtii seeds as they are very noteworthy and will be a great variety to introduce to my yard.  The plant received Special recognition by the Garden Club of America in 2016: 

Three feet wide and high, Amsonia hubrichtii is a clump forming, herbaceous perennial with multiple willow-like, leafy stems emerging from a semi-woody rootstock. This graceful, long-lived, shrub-like plant produces feathery, bright green foliage in the spring that remains neat and attractive throughout the growing season. Terminal clusters of steel blue flowers appear in May and June and pendant, chocolate hued seed heads present well into the fall. The mounding billows of this plant’s foliage turn a brilliant pumpkin orange color in October and November, particularly when grown in full sun. Snow and ice on the stems in the winter provide additional textural interest to the landscape. Suited for mass plantings in sun or partial shade throughout zones 4 to 9, Amsonia is extremely drought and wind tolerant once established and supports butterflies, bees and moths.

As you have probably gathered, two of my favorite reference sites are The Missouri Botanical Garden and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center .  Reference pages for A. hubrichtii are linked.  The common name is Bluestar and it grows in zones 5-9.  Bluestar will grow to become 2-3' tall and equally as wide.  The powdery bloom appears in May and is a butterfly attractor.  I am hoping the fall foliage will be the same lovely yellow as my other Amsonia.

It's a rainy, foggy day here, so a good day to get these seeds started.  I had an extra milk jug ready and waiting from the day I did the Indian Pink seeds, so it took just a few minutes to put in the seeds, tape the jug closed and set aside.  Our weather is expected to be 70 degrees today, but I know the cold will return soon for the necessary stratification.

Meanwhile I searched ahead for seed collecting and more information and found a nice, new site.  Rob's Plants shows the differences between several of the Amsonias and also shows the seed pod in detail.  The leaves are the main difference between A. taberaemontana and A. hubrichtii (threadlike leaves).  He also lists the 'baggie' method for stratification - it's the same method using coffee filters that we used in starting our milkweed seeds.

Here is a photo of the seeds from Katherine.  You can see them also on the Rob's Plants site above.

And here is a photo of my jug ready to go in the yard.

Two updates on the Amsonia which are doing very well! Photo on the left looks down through the top and shows seedlings emerging.  (April 13, 2017).  The photo on the right shows the top of the jug cut off and lots of growth.  Just one week later.  I will keep them in the jug in the same location for a while longer.  (April 21, 2017).


Healthy plants with lots of roots.
May 28, 2017 The Amsonia h. has prospered and it is time to move out of the milk jug.  I forgot to take a photo of the milk jug to show you, but it was completely full of plants and they were several inches above the top of the jug.  Today, I transplanted directly into the yard into two different spots.  Will let you know how they do.  One spot is in full sun on a south facing hillside but with some moisture from a natural spring in the yard.  The other is in partial sun, still on a south facing hillside but in a much drier spot.  Hopefully the shade at that site will not dry them out too much. 

May 28 plants


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Indian Pink: A 'Top 10" Native Hummingbird Plant

This fall I obtained seeds through the GCA Seed Share site for Spigelia marilandica or Indian Pink. The plant is also called Pinkroot or Woodland Pinkroot.   I was really excited to find these seeds that were posted by Katherine Shepperly of GC of Morristown.

Missouri Botanical Garden Plant Finder, one of my go-to-sources provides a description:  Indian pink is a clump-forming, Missouri native perennial which occurs in moist woods and streambanks in the far southeastern part of the State. Features one-sided cymes of upward facing, trumpet-shaped, red flowers (to 2" long) atop stiff stems growing to 18" tall. Each flower is yellow inside and flares at the top to form five pointed lobes (a yellow star). Flowers bloom in June. Glossy green, ovate to lance-shaped leaves (to 4" long). 

Indian Pink photograph from Missouri Botanical Garden Web Site
This plant is listed as one of the top 10 native hummingbird plants by Operation Ruby Throat.  Be sure and check out their site for other great plants for The Ruby Throated Hummingbird.  I will!

The only difficulty in my yard is moisture, but I hope to find a good site as this is a terrific plant.

I'm a little late getting started, but still plenty of time.  I am going to use the water jug method that our club's Hort Committee has tried in the past.  A full description is provided earlier in our blog in a post titled Winter Sowing Workshop or What To Do With Your Left Over Water Bottles.

It only takes 10-20 minutes to prepare the jug, plant the seeds and tape the jug back up.  On a chilly 35 degree day I set my jug full of seeds outside and will now wait to see what happens. 

Prepared jug is ready and set in a sheltered,
north facing spot in the garden.

Hopefully in May there will be sprouts to pot up, harden off and share with other club members! 

I forgot to show photos of the seeds, so I asked Katherine to take a few of what she had left and to please share her photo.  This is how the seed looks when collected.
Tiny, tiny seeds!  Read below for help the collection process.

I also was interested in how and when to collect the seeds.  Dave's Garden has some great information on this plant.  One of the comments posted on their site led me to Univ. of Kentucky College of Agriculture that has an excellent and very specific instruction sheet on seed collection and propagation.  Most collectors indicate that the best method is to place a small bag over the seed pod so that they will drop into when ready.  You can see from the above photo how small the seeds really are, so that suggestion is a great one.