Southern Coasts

May, 2001
Regional Report

Local Buzz

Tomato Variety Update
It's time to report my progress in growing the new heat resistant tomato varieties from Mississippi State University in my garden. I've never been the first to try anything, but a gift of one of these numbered new varieties found a place in my garden, and am I glad it did! I find these heat lovers to be intrepid performers already. They have been among the earliest varieties to flower and fruit, and they have very stocky growth with stems as big around as kindergarten crayons. Soon we'll see how they taste.

Favorite or New Plant

Pineapple Sage
Why do we give plants common names that are misleading? Strawberry begonia bears no fruit and isn't a begonia. Milkweed has nothing to do with cows and is a cultivated treasure in butterfly gardens. Pineapple sage (Salvia elegans) does smell vaguely like pineapple, but you'd never mistake its looks or smell for Salvia officinalis, the true cooking sage.

Pineapple sage is neither an annual nor a perennial. It will grow for several seasons in our region as long as the temperatures stay above 30oF. Colder weather promotes their decline, and they're usually killed below 25oF.

They are bushy plants, with attractive red flowers that butterflies love. Plant them in soil with good drainage, moderate water, and fertilizer and pinch new growth to keep them compact and to increase the number of flowers. They will grow to several feet tall in one season. To make sure you will have a plant next year, take a 6-inch cutting, strip the leaves off the lower half, and stick it in a mix of sand and compost. It will root in about a month and is easy to protect in case of cold winter weather.

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