Pitchers in bloom

If you remember that phrase, you are my age and were or still are a fan of Monty Python. I always like a little something completely different in my garden. I push the envelope on what I can or should grow and have some fun. I think that one of my favorite oddities in my garden are my pitcher plants (Sarracenia spp)

Pitcher plants are native to South Carolina, but they are protected as endangered species. I bought my pitcher plants from a nursery in Oregon where they are legally propagated for plant enthusiasts.

I love my pitcher plants and they have their own special bog garden on my deck. They love hot sunny weather. To make a bog garden, take a large plastic container and fill it with a mixture of peat moss and perlite. Keep it moist at all times because pitcher plants naturally grow in bogs. I let my husband name two of my plants and since he is a Cleveland Indians (okay, Guardians) fan, they are Bob Feller and Herb Score. (Well, they were pitchers!) I love my boys and it is so much fun to see them grow and flower and pitcher plants do have the most usual flowers every spring before they grow new pitchers.

Cardoon (Cynara cardunculus) is another very unique plant. It is a member of the artichoke family. These are great foliage plants with their silver spikes. If you are lucky, they will bloom and produce first artichoke looking buds and then purple thistle like flowers. Once they bloom, they tend to die so plant several. They grow from seed like champs. They seem to like our spring weather and that is when they are at their height. Even though they are Mediterranean plants, they do not like our humidity, but prefer a hot and dry climate.

Speaking of the Mediterranean area, I have an olive tree growing in container on my patio. It is an Arbequina olive tree (Olea europaea “Arbequina”) The birds usually beat me to the olives so I doubt if I will be making my own EVOO any time soon. I just like the silver-gray foliage of my olive tree. It has tiny white flowers in the spring for the bees. I noticed that even big box stores had olive trees the other day. Mine is happy in its container and seems to like our climate.

Passionflower is certain a plant with an unusual flower. Passiflora incarnata is native to our area so you might find it growing in the wild. It is the host plant for our Gulf Fritillary butterfly. You can watch the orange butterflies lay their eggs, the caterpillars hatch and start eating the leaves and then they form their chrysalis on the same plant and the cycle continues. The fruit is known as a Maypop and is edible. I have never seen fruit on my vine – probably because the caterpillars eat so much of the plant.

Another fun plant to have in your garden is the “Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow” plant (Brunfelsia pauciflora). This plant which can be like a small woody shrub is native to Brazil and has many common names such as “Kiss me quick” and “morning-noon-night” plant. The flowers first bloom purple and then turn lavender and finally turn white. I have mine in a container and it is perfectly happy there.

It starts blooming in the early spring and continues throughout the summer and fall.

And one final unusual plant is red cestrum (Cestrum elegans). This slender evergreen shrub was first discovered and collected in Mexico and can be grown in tropical regions. It works here if it is sheltered from frost. I had one for several years and it got seriously damaged by our December 2023 hard freeze. I bought another one and to my surprise, the original one got a new shoot and it is blooming so I now have two. The flowers are dark red and tubular. Nothing else looks like them.  It blooms from early spring and as long as the weather is warm, it will keep on going. It might be good to grow this plant in a moveable container for times when we have a freeze. I will be more diligent about covering mine when it gets cold.

Try something new and different in your garden.  Gardening is always an experiment or a work in process.