Dear Helen: I am strongly attracted to the beautifully scented flowers of star jasmine, but I cannot figure out whether it is grown as a shrub or a vine. Is this plant suitable for container cultivation?
My plant thrives in a big pot set against a trellis. A neighbour also has a star jasmine in a container.
Though both plants are in containers, we grow them in different styles. Star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) is not a vigorous climber. Its stems are rather lax. I train them against the lathwork of a trellis, where they cover a limited space with their glossy evergreen leaves.
My neighbour’s plant is left to grow as a sprawling shrub, which is a more natural style for the plant.
The late spring and summer flowers are an endearing feature. When my plant is blooming, I take care to have a chair or two parked in front of the plant, for periods of sweet-scented repose. The flowers are also artfully formed, in a sort of pinwheel fashion.
Dear Helen: On one of my summer walks I spotted a splashy patch of flowers I felt certain were nasturtiums, except that the leaves were not the usual solid green. From a distance they looked partly white. Can you explain? O.B.
The flowers you saw were most likely a nasturtium called Alaska. Its green leaves are a variegated green and creamy white. The plants do make quite a bright statement in gardens and containers.
Almost every seed source I use lists Alaska, and it should be easy to find the seeds on local racks as they begin filling up in late winter.
Nasturtiums add cheery notes to vegetable plots. They are very easy to grow, and their generous self-sowing means you’ll always have their sunny flowers and bright foliage in the summer and early autumn garden.
An added bonus in growing nasturtiums is that the young leaves and flowers are edible. They are often added to salads. With nasturtiums, you can have your flowers and eat them too.
Dear Helen: I have followed your commentaries on the different compact lettuces you have grown, and am especially interested in the space-saving miniature romaines of the “Little Gem” type. Among these lettuces, is there a variety that stands out as a reliable, easily grown producer of fully packed heads?
I have found that the results from the different varieties I’ve grown are not always the same from year to year. That is to be expected, because conditions change with varying weather patterns and soil conditions. And the strains of any particular variety can differ slightly from year to year because lettuces are all open-pollinated (not hybrid).
That said, my latest notable success with miniature romaines has been with Cegolaine from Johnny’s Selected Seeds (JSS). Cegolaine is a beautiful bronze-red Little Gem type lettuce.
In September I transplanted a flat of Cegolaine, along with other lettuces in a small bed. As the weather cooled I placed a floating row cover over the planting. The Cegolaine plants have been a standout, providing me with many crunchy salads.
The JSS catalogue highlights in yellow the varieties it considers easiest to grow. Cegolaine is highlighted. Newham, a green “improved Little Gem type,” has also done well for me.
I’m always impressed with compact lettuces like these miniature romaines and also with Tom Thumb, a miniature butterhead. When they do well in a garden or in containers, miniature lettuces are the ultimate in space-thrifty plants, delivering heads that are small but fully and tightly packed with crinkled, juicy leaves.
Dear Helen: Is it better to seed kale directly into the garden or to use transplants, and what is the best timing?
I’ve done both with good results. In the flurry of a busy late winter indoor seeding season, I sometimes miss my usual sowing time and direct seed later.
In my experience, early planting usually yields the biggest, most foliage-thick plants. I aim for an indoor sowing in February to early March, for transplanting in March or April. Or, I direct sow in March or early April.
Garden calendar. The Gordon Head Garden Club has produced a beautiful wall calendar featuring flowers from members’ gardens. After sales to members, a few dozen remain available to the public for $15. The proceeds are being used for the club’s speaker program. Contact email@example.com.