Herbs for the Holiday Festivities


pumpkin pie with sage and mums

When I think of herbs for Christmas, I always think of the Simon and Garfunkel Scarborough Fair song:  “Are you going to Scarborough Fair? Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.” Sure there other herbs and plenty of spices but these herbs seem to be the most popular during the holidays. The great thing is that these are easy to grow here in the DC mero area. Continue reading

Tatsoi: A Mild Mustard to Grow in the Garden

A great green to have in your fall and winter garden is tatsoi. A member of the brassica or cabbage family, tatsoi is a low growing plant with dark green, spoon-shaped leaves. It has a beautiful rosette shape that can span a foot across. Continue reading

Subscribe to Pegplant’s Post, Local DC Area Gardening Newsletter

Subscribe to Pegplant’s Post Gardening Newsletter, a free monthly newsletter about gardening in the DC metro area. Enter your e-mail here to subscribe so you can get a list of more than 50 local gardening events, recently published gardening books, articles, and tips specific to this area. Pegplant’s Post Gardening Newsletter always has a giveaway, an opportunity to win a free plant or gardening-related product. For the upcoming December 2022 issue of Pegplant’s Post, the giveaway is the Weeder Glove Spa Gift Set: a pair of floral nitrile weeding gloves and a bar of gardener’s hand soap from Womanswork. Both are decorated with the pretty “Garden of Paradise” floral pattern inspired by English gardens. This giveaway opportunity is for subscribers only so enter your email now.

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Growing Luffas for the Sponges

A long time ago, 2017 to be exact, a fellow seed saver sent me luffa seeds (Luffa aegyptiaca). Although I had been interested in growing luffa for a long time, for some reason I just never got to it. Then it occurred to me that if I don’t sow these seeds, they may no longer be viable.  This year, in April, I sowed the seeds indoors under lights, much like starting tomatoes. Despite being 5 years old, the seeds germinated quickly. I transferred the seedlings into larger containers and moved them outside in May. After they hardened off, I planted them in the ground in my garden in several places.  There are some plants by a low, wooden fence, several are draped over a metal A frame, and one is climbing up a trellis. Luffas are vines with grape-like leaves that need vertical support. Continue reading

You Too Can Force Hyacinths To Bloom Indoors

Hyacinth Blue Pearl, first flush of flowers

Hyacinth Blue Pearl

It is easy to force hyacinths to bloom early indoors. Hyacinths are relatively cheap bulbs that come in a variety of flower colors: pink, blue, purple, yellow and white. Typically people purchase them in the fall to plant in the garden so they can enjoy their spring bloom. But you can also purchase them in the fall and mimic winter’s cold period by placing in the refrigerator for a few months. They need the cold period in order to bloom. Continue reading

Abelia: A Workhorse of a Shrub

Abelia is an old-fashioned shrub hat is generally maintenance free.  As I drive to work, I see 4 f00t tall hedges of them on the median strip in Rockville, Maryland. They are workhorses, able to live on a median strip despite heat, cars, and exhaust fumes. Continue reading

Cutting Celery: A Kitchen Staple in the Garden

cutting celery foliage

Foliage of first year’s growth of cutting celery

Cutting celery is a great culinary herb to have in your garden. Unlike stalk celery from a grocery store, cutting celery is full of flavor, reminiscent of black pepper. Cutting celery (Apium graveolens var. secalinum) looks more like parsley than stalk celery (Apium graveolens var. dulce). This foot-tall, bushy plant has short, hollow stems and green, finely serrated leaves about one-inch wide. Continue reading

Pleasantly Scented Paperwhites


I love growing paperwhites. Paperwhites are a type of daffodil that does not need a chilling period. You can easily find the small bulbs at the garden center now. Most likely you are purchasing a white flowering cultivar known as Ziva. These are relatively inexpensive and easy to grow indoors. Just put a few bulbs in a glass with water and pebbles and voila! You have beautiful flowers in about 6 weeks.

Winter Sun

What’s the problem? The scent. These are not the “breath of fresh air” one imagines in the winter. Instead, you may be thinking you have a gas leak or worse — rotting meat or old diapers. Like cilantro, the fragrance of paperwhites is a “love it” or “leave it” affair.

The culprit? Indole. The fragrance is caused by a chemical called indole, which also exists in trace amounts in gardenias, jasmine, and tuberose (all of which I do like). In these trace amounts, indole becomes more floral and less offensive. It is not surprising that small amounts of indole are used in perfume, such as Chanel No. 5.

Some paperwhites, like Ziva, have a higher level of indole than others. If you find this fragrance offensive, try growing cultivars with lower levels such as Inball (white flowers), Ariel (white), Nir (white), and Wintersun (white with dark yellow cup).  Yellow flowering paperwhites are supposed to be low in indole but the only one I have seen for sale is Grand Soleil d’Or from this list of bulb companies.

Grand Soleil d’Or

Try growing Inball, Ariel, Nir, Wintersun, or Grand Soleil d’Or this year. They may not be available in your local garden center but they are available from specialty bulb companies.

All photos courtesy of Brent and Becky’s Bulbs.

Pineapple Sage for You and the Hummingbirds

Currently, my pineapple sage plants (Salvia elegans) are blooming in my garden, their bright scarlet flowers are attracting butterflies and hummingbirds. Members of the salvia or sage family, pineapple sage plants are herbaceous, tender perennial herbs. I have two pineapple sage plants, which I bought last year as tiny babies, and I often use their leaves and flowers in the kitchen. Continue reading

No Drainage Holes? Grow Rice


Close up of Black Madras foliage

What do you grow when you have a large container with no drainage holes? Rice (Oryza sativa). This annual grain can grow in containers with no drainage, full of rainwater. Rice is actually a beautiful plant for the garden and easy to grow from seed. ‘Carolina Gold’ and ‘Charleston Gold’ are used for grain production but there is nothing that says they cannot be grown in the garden for their beauty.  They have tall, arching green foliage but their seed heads shine like gold in the fall. ‘Black Madras’ is edible but usually is reserved for its ornamental, black-purple foliage.

rice seed heads

Black Madras seed heads in October

I have grown ‘Black Madras’ by seed, I sowed the seeds directly into large containers with no drainage holes. These containers were not pretty but I could not grow anything else in them without the roots rotting.

I lightly covered the seeds with potting mix and watered. They germinated quickly and the plants did well all summer long. My plants were in sun but they could have tolerated some shade, especially afternoon shade in the summer.

By July, the foliage was about 2 feet tall and a beautiful dark purple. I also sowed seed in a smaller but prettier, blue ceramic container with no drainage holes. I thought the color contrast would work well. The plants were healthy but the container was proportionately too short for the height of the rice. I soon realized that because the container was smaller, the potting mix dried faster in the heat. It is best to have a large container partly because of rice’s height and partly to prevent the mix from drying quickly. Rice cannot survive in dry soil.


Black Madras in short, blue container

Rice is a fun plant to grow in the summer. It is an annual that needs a long summer to produce the seed heads. In the fall, you can leave the seed heads for the birds or you can cut them and use them in floral arrangements and wreaths.

This plant is ideal for a place that has standing water, or a water, bog, or rain garden. You may even see rice for sale as a pond plant.

You probably will not see these for sale at your local nursery.  Southern Exposure Seed Exchange sells ‘Carolina Gold’ and ‘Charleston Gold’ seeds and John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds sells ‘Black Madras’ seeds. It is likely the seed packet will have more than you need for one summer. Don’t plant all of them, save some for next year. The seeds are viable for several years.

Try growing rice next year. Not only is it an easy ornamental annual, it will certainly pique your friends’ interest as they visit your garden.


Black Madras in large container