Master Gardener Favorites
Pat Chadwick: President of the Piedmont Master Gardeners in 2019. Frequent contributor to The Garden Shed newsletter and occasional lecturer on gardening topics in support of the PMG’s Garden Basics project.
Favorite Plant: Ornamental Onion (Allium species)
Why Your Favorite: “Ornamental onions provide height, drama, gorgeous color, and a touch of whimsy to the mixed border in May. ‘Globemaster’ and ‘Purple Sensation’ are two of my favorite selections. Although most Allium species are non-native, a few native species do exist. The two selections I’ve mentioned are neither native nor invasive. They have earned the right to dwell in my garden because, in addition to their many attributes as ornamental specimens, their oniony taste deters both deer and rabbits. This is a big plus on our property where the deer and bunnies are ever present. Also, I see a lot of bee activity around these plants when they are in bloom.”
Growing Tips: “Ornamental onions are drought-resistant plants that prefer soil on the dry side, particularly during the summer months when the bulbs are dormant. Plant in fall at a depth of about 2 to 3 times the diameter of the bulb. The strap-like foliage emerges in March and dies back later in spring. Unfortunately, the dying foliage can be unsightly, so it’s wise to position the bulbs among other plants that will hide the foliage. For best effect, plant the bulbs in groups.
Christine Putnam: PMG Intern 2021
Favorite Plant: Arugula, also known as garden rocket
Why Your favorite: “Arugula is a leafy green native to the Mediterranean region. It is easy to grow. In my garden, it is rarely bothered by insects or diseases. Its peppery taste will jazz up any salad or sandwich. In the dead of winter and in the heat of summer, I can count on finding a bit of arugula in my garden. It is always there to satisfy my appetite for delicious and nutritious greens. Cool-weather sweetens it up. Hot weather makes it quite spicy. A splash of vinegar or mixing it with the acidity of fresh tomatoes will mellow its peppery bite.”
Growing Tips: “Arugula does not do well in poorly drained soils, but it can be quite productive under dry conditions and marginally fertile soils. It is an annual that will reseed year after year. Let it go to seed! The flowers attract pollinators and will add the first bit of color to your vegetable garden when nothing else is in bloom. You can harvest a few of the flowers to enjoy in your spring salads. Collect the seeds, which are tiny, but also edible. Once the seed is ripe, I cut the entire plant at the base and lay it down where I want the next crop to germinate. The plant debris helps to keep the soil underneath cool and moist. The seeds often germinate in July after a good soaking rain. In the winter, you can protect it with a row cover. I often do this, but I have had arugula overwinter with no protection. Even’ Star is a variety that is freeze-hardy to 6° F. It is fun to experiment with different varieties. I have tried the wild strains and one that tastes like wasabi.”