Thursday, August 23, 2012

DEAR IRIS Gardening ... with chocolate?

Rodgersia 'Chocolate Wings
 By Kathy Tollenaere, Master Gardener. | Aug 23, 2012
Have you ever heard of the Chocolate Flower - Berlandiera lyrata? A couple of summers ago, my sister, sister-in-law and I visited a nursery near Swaledale, Iowa, and we each walked out to the car with a plant! It was described as an exotic annual. This is how I treated it, but after reading the information from BHG, I see I could have mulched it to see if it would return. And, I see, it might have been the perfect plant to endure both last year’s and this year’s drought conditions!
Plant Encyclopedia at states: “You’ll be searching for a chocolate bar after catching a whiff of chocolate flower. A fragrant North American native perennial, chocolate flower blooms with gusto nearly year-round in warm climates and from May to October cool-climate regions. Its small daisy-shape flowers exude a fresh-baked-brownie fragrance. At home in meadows, wildflower gardens, and beds and borders, chocolate flower grows best in full sun and well-drained soil. It prefers slightly dry soil and will flop over if the soil is too moist or rich with nutrients.
“Note: While chocolate flower is hardy, gardeners in the Midwest, Northeast, or Northwest may have trouble overwintering this plant if it stays too moist and rots.
Light: Sun, Part Sun; Zones: 4-10; Plant Type: Perennial; Plant Height: To 2 feet tall;
Plant Width: To 2 feet wide; Flower Color: Yellow/Gold; Bloom Time: Spring, Summer, Fall;
Landscape Uses: Containers, Beds & Borders, Slopes; Special Features: Flowers, Fragrant; Drought Tolerant”
Have you ever heard of Chocolate Cosmos - Cosmos atrosanguineus?
The Garden states: “Dark maroon flowers appear on wiry 18-inch stems from June until frost and produce a pleasant chocolate scent, especially on warm evenings.
“Growing Requirements for Chocolate Cosmos Plants: The Chocolate Cosmos plant is a tuberous perennial that is hardy in USDA zones 7-10, but with excellent drainage and heavy winter mulching it will often survive the winters in zone 6.”
This description tells me I should plant this cosmos as an attractive annual. I’m sure it would complement the more common yellow and other colorful varieties we grow here. However, you’ll note you might try saving and propagating your own plants with the information below.
“Chocolate Cosmos should be planted in full sun, in rich, well-draining soil. Apply a good all-purpose fertilizer when new growth appears and again at mid-season. Always remove the spent flowers promptly for continued blooms. If you have doubts about the plant’s survival (through the winter season), you can dig the tuber just as you would with Dahlias. Once the foliage has died back, carefully dig the clump, cut the stems back to within 2 inches of the tubers, and store them in slightly moist peat moss in a frost free place.”
The article continues with information as to its propagation, which is by division of the tubers. Every tuber must have an eye (as does the potato) to grow a new plant. Use a sharp, clean knife to carefully separate the tubers, discarding those that are damaged and/or without an eye. Place in a bed of sawdust or vermiculite, inside a cardboard or wooden box, and store in a dry area at a temperature of about 40 degrees F.
Do remember to check the tubers periodically. Should you see signs of shriveling, moisten the storage material. If you see signs of mildew, treat with a dry fungicide. Plant Chocolate Cosmos tubers 6 inches deep and 12 inches apart in the spring.”
I may place this on my “2013 Wish List” after-all!
How about Chocolate Wings - Rodgersia Rodgersia pinnata?
A chocolate SHADE loving plant? Yep! I planted this particular Rodgersia in September of 2008. It was in bright to dappled shade, and in a spot I thought might hold water for awhile following a rainfall, as it enjoys moist conditions.
It performed pretty well until last year’s drought. I didn’t remember to keep it watered and the plant didn’t return this spring. However, I’d really like to give Rodgersia another try!
From chocolate flower comes the following information: “With its bold, divided leaves this forms an exotic-looking clump that adds a unique foliage accent to any moist border. It produces big plumes of deep-pink flowers in early summer. Leaves begin deep cocoa bronze in spring, later changing to dark green. Plants prefer a moist, dappled shade setting, but will grow in full sun at the waterside or any other constantly moist site. Useful as an architectural specimen plant. Water during dry weather. USPP: unlicensed propagation prohibited.
“USDA Zone: 4-9; Sun exposure: Full Sun or Partial Shade; Early to mid-summer foliage color: Bronze; Height: 27-35”; Width: 35-39”; Growth rate: Slow; *Rabbit-resistant.”
Lastly, have you tried cocoa bean hull mulch? It’s not so good in shady areas due to mold/mildew problems; however you can spread a very thin layer over the ground, for the chocolate aroma! It is a great mulch in sunny spots, as it will dry out after a rainfall and/or watering. Cocoa bean hulls are a rich addition to the soil, as well. They do break down fairly quickly.
If you’ve been a discouraged gardener again this year, perhaps something “chocolate” might peak your interest and revive some gardening spirit!

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