The Buzz


The weekend before Thanksgiving brought spotty frost and the first cold weather of the season to the area. I debated how to dress the following Monday, and opted for the long-johns, the neck gaiter, and the knit cap. That turned out to be a good thing, since the morning temperatures in the Herb Garden did not get out of the 40’s, and the bumblebees were still so sleepy that we could pet their little backs. (There was a wasp-nest on the prairie dock [Silphium terebinthinaceum.] We disposed of that quickly—no petting involved.)

While the frost did not affect everything, the tender plants were starting to collapse. The leaves of Toothache Plant (Acmella oleracea) had been darkened by frost, but the picturesque flowers, botanical google eyes, were still attractive, so we left them for visual interest. The moisture-filled cells of Water Leaf (also called Ceylon Spinach, Talinum triangulare) were past reviving, so we cut those plants off at the ground with pruners. The basils (Ocimum spp.) would not recover either, so they received the same treatment, but with a difference. Many of the stems of the basils were woody and tree-like, a good half-inch in diameter. Those tiny, luminous black seeds planted in April produced trunks that required loppers, not pruners, to cut them back in November! 

When the cart was loaded to take our discards to the compost area (this required two trips with no room for a passenger,) it looked like an organic parade float. We christened it “The Basil Wagon” and wished for a theme-song. We were about to add some goldenrod to the pile when we remembered that goldenrod (Solidago spp.) has been named the Notable Native Herb for 2017 by the American Herb Society. We kept it out so we could save the seeds for the Seed Swap at Lichterman Nature Center on January 28. The seeds were so ripe that as we drove to the Hort Building they flew all over and stuck to our clothes. Sherri suggested it was like being Johnny Appleseed for goldenrod. (Sam and Sarah Solidago?)

Life burgeons in late fall. When we removed the basils we found agrimony and fennel growing where the basil had protected them. The Zéphirine Drouhin roses at the entrances have a couple of late blooms, and the white Graham Thomas Musk roses by the pergola are flourishing. While the temperature was cold, the air was bright and the garden was inviting. Stopping to look closely at the plants and the changes in them over a whole season (or longer) is one of the many delights of gardening.

By John Peterson


Posted by Memphis Botanic Garden News at 7:00 PM


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