Thursday, October 1, 2009

Yes, Dry the Pods of the Hyacinth Bean

Hi, Christy

Do not worry about frosts damaging the beans for next year's plants. I have picked pods off the ground or the soil in pots in the spring after the pods and the beans in them have been lying there all winter and have planted them successfully.

Indeed, the plants came up as mightily as ever.

On the other hand, if you are the orderly type and like to be sure about your chances - do pick the pods and let the beans dry in the pods. They will shrivel up and trun beige. Seal them in a zip-lock bag and wait till the spring. Then you want to pick out the hard black beans with the one white slitty eye and plant them after ascertaining that there is no danger of frost.

If you really want lablabs in the winter, you can even plant them indoor as house plants.

I've grown Dolichos lablab for years now, all my plants were from two pods picked off the vine on a visit to a friend of a friend's garden. I've given many many pods to friends who've given pods away and so forth.


from Christy V: About Hyacinth Beans

I just picked some of the pods...we're suppose to get our first frost tonight. Can I pick more pods after the frost for seeds. Do I let the pod dry out and then remove the seeds. Or do I remove the seeds and let them dry out. I've never tried anything like this before. Thanks for your help!

Sep 30, 2009 10:08:00 PM

Thursday, January 22, 2009


If you, like me, every so often in the throes of a cold winter's day, hark back to memories of late summer or even early fall, you may be thinking about Brugmansias, or angel's trumpets, a tender perennial in the northeastern zones from 7 and downwards.

From mid-August to first frost, the absolutely gorgeous pink fluting trumpets of my plant, possibly a Brugmansia Pink (x suaveolens,) would serially burst forth from their pod buds to hang from the branching stalks of the 6 feet tall miniature tree - grown in a pot - because its tenderness dictates that it be brought in as soon as cold threatens. So it comes into the little poly-carbonate greenhouse which leans into the backside of the house.

The leaves shed themselves, the main stalk remains green. You can cut the main stem down to a foot or so. The one residing under the table which I've cut back to about 15" tall has already leafed out profusely. This year, I decided to keep the second Brugmansia tall, cutting back only the tips. The green five foot high stalks have started to leaf out just about now.

But what about rooting up the cuttings? I hate to waste perfectly healthy stem cuttings, and after all, that's how my two plants began life with me. So I stuck the 5 pieces I gleaned from my trimmings, each about 4 inches long, into compost in a pot; I watered the pot and pulled a clear plastic bag (punching a few small holes for ventilation) over the mouth of the pot to promote the humidity necessary for speedier rooting.

And lo and behold, within 10 days, the cuttings signaled life by leafing out happily. So now, friends who have room and who wish their own angel's trumpets know what's in store for them come spring.

Most herbaceous plants, or even some semi-woody ones, will not object to similar treatment. What may vary with particular plants might be the time of year propagation by stem cutting is undertaken. Some woodier species may need a little boost with a bit of rooting hormone, it does not matter whether powder or gel.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Thea said...

thanks so much for clarifying and explaining.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Reply to Thea: Peppers and Other Nightshades

Hi, Thea, thank you for your comment.

Some vegetables and fruits need male and female plants; most berries do. Blueberries and hollies are some famous examples of plants that will need your planting at least two, and in the case of hollies, you will need specific male and female plants. Some vegetables, mostly those in the squash family, have female and male flowers in one plant, and depend on insects or humans to engender pollination.

I understand that the flowers of peppers, tomatoes, and even eggplants - all of them in the nightshade family - are supposed to be self-pollinating, that is, both the male and female organs are in one flower. However, like my eggplants, and perhaps your peppers, sometimes the pollen just does not get from one element to the other, hence the little nudge with a paintbrush or a cotton swab. With tomatoes and peppers, whose flowers are smaller and lighter than those of eggplants, one can just tap the flowers gently or cause some movement to the plant, to shake loose the pollen and thus effect the magic of fruiting the flower.

While peppers like to be warm and well-fed, sometimes over-fertilization may zap flowering and fruiting power in peppers, causing tremendous and profuse leaf growth but no flowers or fruit. Use a low nitrogen fertilizer, preferably organic. (Nitrogen promotes great leaf growth which in turn retards the plant's ability to flower, and thus fruit.) Soil and weather conditions matter, too. Keep soil evenly moist; do not let the soil dry out. Avoid overhead watering, as that may wash away pollen from the flowers.

And then there is the matter of cross-pollination, but we won't get into that now, unless you insist - and then you'll have to let me know.

From Thea: re Pollinating The Eggplant

Thea said...
wow, never thought of doing my own pollination. i wonder if the plants didn't get pollinated because they were male plants. sometimes my peppers don't grow either because they were all the same sex.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Bulbs, Baby, Bulbs

I hope everyone knows that now is the time to plant bulbs in the ground if one yearns for the sight of those springtime jewels in the garden. Tulips, daffodils (Narcissus to the cognoscenti,) irises, alliums (ornamental onions in common parlance,) and a host of other major and minor bulbs, corms, rhizomes and tubers - the entire host too dizzingly many to enumerate here - need the winter chill for the flowers to form and bloom in the spring. The potted tulips and daffodils you see for sale in the spring have been "forced," that is, commercially chilled for them to flower.

Note: I will not go into the definitional differences in terminology here, but will be more than happy to hold forth on this topic or any others, if anyone wishes to write in the comment section and ask questions.

The above photo shows bulbs of Tulipa "White Marvel," (the larger bulbs with flaking skins) and Iris "Bronze Beauty" (the ones looking like shallots,) arranged on a moss bed, with a sprig head of fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) blossom and fallen fall foliage from witch hazel (Hamamelis sp.) and Callery pear(Pyrus calleryana) trees. Pictures left and below are T. "White Marvel" and I. "Bronze Beauty," respectively.

One imagines those little parcels of energy, buried underground, taking their long cold nap. One can hardly wait for them to awaken in the thaw of spring.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


Thanks. I'll give this a try. I should have done that the first time, but it never entered my thoughts. I just figured "bigger pot, roots will spread OK".


Reply to Weedgrower: Repotting Rosemary

Repotting is good.

But if the roots were compacted and overcrowded in the 6 inch pot to start with, you want to loosen the roots before you repot. I would take the plant out of its new pot, shake out the root ball, loosen the roots, you can cut out dead or old roots and repot in your fresh soil - soil that is not overly rich- soil containing some sand, vermiculite, or perlite is good. Water, though do not overwater. Keep in full sun for a while.

Good luck.


Rosemary Problem, from "Weedgrower"

I bought an upright Rosemary plant 3 weeks ago. It was probably 14 inches tall and crowded in the 6 inch pot. I repotted it in a 12 inch pot with OSH potting soil. Now some of the sprigs are turning gray and brown and drying out. What to do? Thanks for help


Friday, September 26, 2008


The eggplant flowers kept falling off without getting anywhere near fruiting though the plant was flourishing beautifully. What to do? I decided I needed to become a bee. In other words, I needed to pollinate the flowers myself. (Please, people, I will not tolerate smarmy risque jokes on this blog - this is very, very serious stuff.)

I took a soft-haired - say, a #0 or #1 watercolor brush and swirled it around the pistil and the stamen inside the flower. I did this every morning in each flower on the plant. Each time, I made sure that I've got some pollen from the anther (the one with the yellow powder) of the stamen transferred to the stigma or the top of the pistil.

Finally, I could tell that all this was working, because the faded flowers did not just fall off the plant like they did before. Not only did they not drop, but the receptacle and the peduncle started to thicken and before long - ah! the shiny purple bulb of what the English call the aubergine started peeking out from under the green skirt of the sepals.

For a refresher course on primary school botany, here is a drawing showing The Parts of a Flower, or in higher fallutin' terms:
Plant Morphology
The Parts of a Flower

Peduncle: The stalk of a flower.
Receptacle: The part of a flower stalk where the parts of the flower are attached.
Sepal: The outer parts of the flower (often green and leaf-like) that enclose a developing bud.
Petal: The parts of a flower that are often conspicuously colored.
Stamen: The pollen producing part of a flower, usually with a slender filament supporting the anther.
Anther: The part of the stamen where pollen is produced.
Pistil: The ovule producing part of a flower. The ovary often supports a long style, topped by a stigma. The mature ovary is a fruit, and the mature ovule is a seed.
Stigma: The part of the pistil where pollen germinates.
Ovary: The enlarged basal portion of the pistil where ovules are produced.