Tropical South

August, 2004
Regional Report

Shows & Events

The Lost Garden
I was looking on the library Web site for some gardening books when I ran across a category for gardening fiction and wound up with The Lost Garden, by Helen Humphreys (W.W. Norton, 2002; $23.95). It is the story of a young woman who led a group of the Women's Land Army to grow food on a great estate in England during WWII. Besides growing vegetables, they restored the estate gardens as well. It is good fiction that gardeners especially will enjoy, even if the gardens are not tropical. The English estate gardens are full of plants that many of us remember and the rest of us can imagine.

Favorite or New Plant

Persian Shield
Persian shield (Strobilanthes dyeranus) is a great foliage plant for partial to light shade. It grows as a low, evergreen shrub and has green only on the edges and veins of the leaves. The rest is an irridescent purple, dark in new growth and turning silver as it matures. The more you prune or pinch it back to encourage new growth, the richer the colors. The easiest ways to do this are by taking new cuttings, which root easily, or using stems for color in bouquets. Plants can be very thirsty if they are in too much sun and wilt at midday no matter how much you water them, but they seldom wilt in shade. They are supposed to be sensitive to nematodes, so mulch them well, but mine have never had problems. They combine well with white flowers, such as impatiens; or pink foliage, such as cordyline. Take cuttings before a frost just to be safe, but mine have always come back after being nipped, looking better for Nature's pruning.

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