Friday, September 16, 2011

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From Soup to Nuts

Now Cheesier echinacea
Now Cheesier echinacea

Have you ever noticed how many of the newer perennials have food-inspired names?

Several of the latest coral bells or heuchera have yummy-sounding titles as do many new coneflowers or echinacea. In fact, you could make a whole “meal” with them if you toss in a few old standbys.

Guacamole hosta
Guacamole hosta
For starters, there’s Guacamole (hosta). First course: Tomato Soup (echinacea). Follow that with Mac 'N Cheese (echinacea) or maybe Now Cheesier (echinacea). Have some Fried Green Tomatoes (hosta) on the side.

Want something to drink? There’s Spilt Milk (hosta), Spilled Milk (pulmonaria), Bowl of Cream (peony) and Milkshake (echinacea). You also could enjoy Coconut Lime (echinacea) or Sweet Tea (heucherella).

If you'd prefer something stronger, there's Merlot (echinacea), Blackberry Wine (corydalis), Raspberry Wine (monarda) or Peppermint Schnapps (hibiscus).

Lemon Queen helianthus
Lemon Queen helianthus
Need some fruit to cleanse your palate? Check out Hot Papaya (echinacea), Lemon Queen (helianthus) or Tangerine Dream (echinacea).

If you still have room for dessert, there are plenty of sweets: Crème Brulee (heuchera), Plum Pudding (heuchera), Key Lime (heuchera), Caramel (heuchera), Peach Flambe (heuchera), Chocolate Chip (ajuga), Cotton Candy (stachys) and Raspberry Sundae (peony), just to name a few.

And then there’s chocolate -- lovely, delightful chocolate, good for whatever ails you. You could build a whole garden around plants with chocolate in their names. Two of the best are Chocolate Ruffles (heuchera) and Chocolate Joe Pye Weed (eupatorium).

If you'd prefer something lighter, try Pistache (heuchera), named for the tree that produces pistachio nuts.

Pistache heuchera
Pistache heuchera
Ironically, and perhaps thankfully, none of these perennials with food-inspired titles smell like their namesakes. The only plant I’ve ever found that even remotely smells like food is an ornamental grass called prairie dropseed or sporobolus heterolepsis. Its plumes smell like hot buttered popcorn to me on a good day although my husband can’t smell it at all.

The trend toward food-related perennial names is a bit puzzling, as you don’t see many such names much among annuals, trees or shrubs. The only candidates that come to mind are Chocolate cosmos and Popcorn doublefile viburnum.

Maybe it’s because developing new hybrid plants is a lot like cooking – take a cup of Plant A, add a dash of Plant B, put them together in a warm environment and … well, you get the picture. At least putting these food-inspired plants in your garden won’t pack on the extra pounds the way the real thing would.

All this, however, does leave me wondering what's next. At this rate, it probably won’t be long until someone comes up with a plant named PB&J. Just remember you heard it here first.

(With photos by Lynn Dipple)

By Karen Geisler

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