Bon Appetit! Sidney’s Edible Pansy Primer

I love pansies, especially in the mid-winter months and especially during the Mardi Gras season! The pansy is a variety of viola that grows well either in the sun or the shade, but blooms best when it’s chilly. Another added bene-fit to growing pansies is that they are edible! Edible flowers have been used for centuries and have experienced a resurgence thanks to gourmet chefs and food-centric magazines. Growing and using edible flowers is a great way to add color to the landscape and exotic variety to the menu.

Pansies taste like a mild salad green, some with a hint of perfume, and can be used in everything from salads to punch to desserts. They are beautiful on a cake and are commonly sugared.

Crystallized Edible Flowers

Candied flowers and petals can be used in a variety of imaginative ways – to decorate cakes large and small – all kinds of sweet things, such as ice cream, sherbet, cremes, fruit salads, and cocktails.

Ingredients:

  • Egg White
  • Super fine granulated sugar
  • Assorted edible flowers

Directions:

  • Clean and dry your flowers or petals.
  • Use a brush to paint a thin layer of egg white onto each side of the flower petals or blossoms.
  • Gently place them into a shallow bowl of superfine sugar and sprinkle sugar over them to coat.
  • Remove from the bowl, and place them on a piece of parchment or waxed paper and sprinkle more sugar over them.
  • Allow them to dry uncovered in a cool place until the coating is crisp, about4-8 hours.
  • Store at room temperature in an airtight container until using. Best used within a few days.

DON’T FORGET

When growing ornamentals for their edible flowers, the plants need the same growing conditions as if you didn’t plan to eat the flowers. Those conditions vary depending on the variety of plants you are growing. One very important growing condition if you plan to eat the flowers, DO NOT treat them with insecticides or fungicides that are not labelled for vegetables that will be used for human consumption.

If you are interested in learning more about edible flowers, check out these websites:

Thanks to Dr. Joe Willis and GNO Gardening from LSUAgCenter for inspiring me to write this article.

How to Get Started Growing Without Gunk

In the article How to Get Started Growing Without Gunk, the GCA gives recommendations on how to control weeds naturally in your yard. The method depends on the weed, where it is, and how widespread the scope of the problem is. The information below is excerpted from that article:

Out compete them In general, the best way to get a jump on weeds is to out compete them. Native plants will flourish in your garden bed and make it really easy to weed. A thick, healthy lawn will shade weed seed so that it is much less likely to germinate. 
Hand weeding In garden beds regular hand weeding is the best bet. 
Mow them down In a field that we don’t usually mow until late September so that it provides habitat to local birds and pollinators, there are some years we have had to mow early and regularly because bittersweet was pop-ping up, and it was too tough to pull all of it out. Mowing it solves the problem, and we can usually let the field grow the following year. 
Mechanical weeding, with a little help Some things are easy to just pull out. For deeper roots mechanical weeding with a Fiskar UpRoot Weed and Root Remover 7870, or an Uprooter often works well. Both work best if the ground is a little moist. 
Solarize with plastic Cover the weeds with plastic. Some people recommend black because it retains heat and hotter is more effective at killing weeds, some recommend clear because it encourages weed seeds to germinate and then kills them. This actually works on Phragmites. 
Vinegar Horticultural Vinegar is 20% acetic acid, much stronger than table vinegar, but the same basic stuff. It is great for weeds on driveways and patios. For substantial invasive plants you will have to treat them repeatedly because it does not kill the roots. However, repeatedly killing the top of the plant prevents it from photosynthesizing and it will eventually die. This is true for killing turf, too. 
Citrus oil Works just like vinegar, but is an oil. 
Weed torch If you learn how to correctly use a weed torch it is a great tool. If you use it after a rain when the plants are wet it will cause the water in the roots to boil and kill the roots. For substantial weeds you will need to cut them back before you use the weed torch on the stump. Also, you really need to learn what you are doing and be very careful not to cause a fire. Don’t try this on phragmites, however, because fire spreads phragmites. 
Boiling water On my brick patio boiling water works well. You have to be careful not to use it on bluestone or other stones that can crack with heat. 
Biologics Biologics, such as lady bugs, are wonderful, but very pest-specific. And of course, you don’t want to put yourself in a situation where there are unintended consequences. So keep it pretty simple. Here is a great link about how to get rid of purple loosestrife. #9 on their list of 10 is biologic controls. https://www.purpleloosestrife.org/faq/ 

Happy Faces at the January 2022 Meeting

Happy faces, lovely vignettes and an informative presentation by LSUAg Center’s Anna Timmerman were the highlights of our January meeting at Mary Hines’ beautiful home!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Poinsettia: Sidney Shares Facts about a Festive Seasonal “Flower” 

What do “flor de nochebuena,” “Taxco del Alarcon,” “cuetlaxochitl,” Euphorbia pulcherrima” have in common? They are all names for the same plant: the Poinsettia.

The Aztecs called it “Cuetlaxochitl”. During the 14th – 16th centuries, the sap was used to control fevers, and the bracts (modified leaves) were used to make a colorful dye. Native to Central America and Mexico, the plant flourished in an area of Southern Mexico known as Taxco del Alarcon, thus another name. Mexicans call this plant “flor de nochebuena” or “Christmas Eve flower.”

This story unfolds with Mexico’s first United States Ambassador (1825-1829). He saw brilliant red blooms growing next to a road and became enchanted with these plants. He took cuttings and brought them to his greenhouse in South Carolina. Although he was trained in medicine and a congressman, his passion was botany. He began propagating and giving these unusual plants to friends and botanical gardens.

By 1836 the plant was being called by its more popular (common) name, after this amateur botanist who first brought the plant to the United States. His name, you may have guessed, was Joel Roberts Poinsett. Congress honored Mr. Poinsett by declaring December 12 National Poinsettia Day, commemorating the date of his death in 1851. An interesting aside about Mr. Poinsett is that he was instrumental in founding the National Institute for the Promotion of Science and the Useful Arts, a precursor of the Smithsonian Institution.

Botanical facts about euphorbia pulcherrima:

  • Poinsettias are part of the Euphorbiaceae or Spurge family which include a variety of shrubs, herbs, or cactus like specimens. Euphorbia milii, Crown of Thorns, is another example of a spurge.
  • Many plants in the Euphorbiaceae family ooze a milky sap. Some people with latex allergies have had a skin reaction after touching the leaves. For pets and people, the poinsettia sap may cause irritation or nausea.
  • Despite rumors to the contrary poinsettias are not poisonous. A study at Ohio State University showed that a 50- pound child would have to eat more than 500 leaves to have any harmful effect. Plus, poinsettia leaves have an awful taste. Keep your pets from snacking on poinsettia leaves which can cause vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Poinsettias have been called the lobster flower and the flame-leaf flower, due to the red color. The showy colored parts of poinsettias that most people think of as the flowers are actually colored bracts (modified leaves). The yellow flowers, or cyathia, are in the center of the colorful bracts. The plant drops its bracts and leaves soon after those flowers shed their pollen. For the longest-lasting Poinsettias, choose plants with little or no yellow pollen showing.
  • There are more than 100 varieties of poinsettias available today ranging in colors like the traditional red, white, pink, burgundy, marbled and speckled.
  • In the Christian world, the shape of the poinsettia leaves or bracts are sometimes thought of as a symbol of the Star of Bethlehem which led the Wise Men to Jesus. The red colored leaves symbolize the blood of Christ.
  • The ancient Aztecs considered the white leaves to symbolize purity.

To learn more about Euphorbia pulcherrima, check out The University of Illinois Extension, the Poinsettia Pages.

GCA Medal of Merit Awarded to Barbara Bush

Bev Church (left) and Ashley Bright (right) pose with Barbara Bush and her GCA Medal of Merit, which she was awarded for her outstanding leadership of Zone IX. Congratulations, Barbara!

Louisiana Super Plants

Autumn is the time to check out cool season annuals! There are many flowering and ornamental cool season plants for your gardens and containers. The list of Louisiana Super Plants that you might want to consider includes Supertunias, sorbet violas, Amazon dianthus, Swan Columbine (bottom circle, right) and Redbor kale (upper circle, right).

So what is a Supertunia? I think you can answer that question. It is a super performing petunia hybrid from Proven Winners. Two Louisiana Super Plants that are Petunia Winner hybrids are: Supertunia Vista Bubblegum petunia (Petunia x hybrida ‘Supertunia Vista Bubblegum’), super plant for fall 2017, and this year’s super plant Supertunia Mini Vista Indigo petunia. Want to know more about these two gems? Read on…

Supertunia Vista Bubblegum is part of the Supertunia Vista© series from Proven Winners. Currently, there are six different color varieties in the series: Jazzberry, Silverberry, Snowdrift, Paradise, Bubblegum, and Fuschia. Supertunia Mini Vista petunias are mounded but will spill over the edges of containers. They are great container plants and function as both spillers and fillers in combination planters. They are densely branched plants and have small to tiny flowers, smaller than standard petunia blossoms. Mini Vista series petunias also have a slightly smaller stature. Supertunia Vistas grow up to 2’ tall and 3’ spread. Mini Vistas grow up to 1’ tall and 2’ spread.

Supertunia Mini Vista Indigo has deep blue-purple flowers that transform over time to give a mixture of deep indigo shades mixed with lighter hues. Indigo is one of seven members of the current Proven Winners Supertunia Mini Vista Series: hardy, vigorous, densely branched and prolifically flowering petunias that will perform well in any Louisiana garden.

Our Jovial January Gathering

Our January 2021 meeting included a fabulous the tour of the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden led by Pam Buckman. Thanks to Ashley Bright and Maria Wisdom for sharing these great pictures of our members enjoying the experience!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Drumroll, Please! 2021 Zone IX Meeting and Flower Show Logo

We present the logo for our March 2021 Zone IX Meeting and Flower Show! NOTG Design Dream Team Katie Rafferty and Elizabeth Crawford created the Salute logo to express a positive, dynamic logo that includes two of our Louisiana natives. Sarracenia and palmetto burst from the logo, standing at attention and saluting our guests.

Stay tuned for more news as planning for the 2021 meeting moves forward, and please tell Elizabeth and Katie how wonderful they are!

Memories of Our March Meeting

Remembering the fun and friendship shared at our March meeting and looking forward to the day when we will gather again!