Entering Autumn - 2014 - This backyard view from upstairs in the dining room.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Gardening... With Chocolate?

Have I mentioned the word "Chocolate," yet?

Chocolate flower  Berlandiera lyrata

Chocolate flowerThe photo at right and description below were taken from the Plant Encyclopedia at BHG.com   "You'll be searching for a chocolate bar after catching a whiff of chocolate flower. A fragrant North American native perennial, chocolate flower blooms with gusto nearly year-round in warm climates and from May to October cool-climate regions. Its small daisy-shape flowers exude a fresh-baked-brownie fragrance. At home in meadows, wildflower gardens, and beds and borders, chocolate flower grows best in full sun and well-drained soil. It prefers slightly dry soil and will flop over if the soil is too moist or rich with nutrients.

Note: While chocolate flower is hardy, gardeners in the Midwest, Northeast, or Northwest may have trouble overwintering this plant if it stays too moist and rots.
Light:  Sun,Part Sun; Zones:  4-10; Plant Type:  Perennial;  Plant Height:  To 2 feet tall;  
Plant Width:  To 2 feet wide;  Flower Color:  Yellow/Gold;  Bloom Time:  Spring, Summer, Fall;  
Landscape Uses: Containers,Beds & Borders,Slopes;  Special Features:  Flowers,Fragrant,Drought Tolerant"
My sister, sister-in-law and I each purchased one from Peterson's Greenhouse in Swaledale, IA last year.  Here's what mine looked like last Summer...

 

Chocolate Cosmos Cosmos atrosanguineus

The Flower of a Chocolate Cosmos Plant, Cosmos atrosanguineus  The photo at left and the following description were taken from The Garden Helper.com   "Chocolate Cosmos can also be grown in containers provided that a high quality planting mix is used.  The dark maroon flowers appear on wirey 18 inch stems from June until frost and produce a pleasant chocolate scent, especially on warm evenings."

"Growing Requirements for Chocolate Cosmos Plants:  The Chocolate Cosmos plant is a tuberous perennial that is hardy in USDA zones 7-10, but with excellent drainage and heavy winter mulching it will often survive the winters in zone 6.

Chocolate Cosmos should be planted in full sun, in rich well draining soil.  Apply a good all-purpose fertilizer when new growth appears and again at mid-season.  Always remove the spent flowers promptly for continued blooms.  If you have doubts about the plants survival, you can dig the tuber just as you would with Dahlias.  Once the foliage has died back, carefully dig the clump, cut the stems back to within 2 inches
of the tubers, and store them in slightly moist peat moss in a frost free place.

Plant Propagation:  Chocolate Cosmos can be propagated by division of the tubers.  To produce a new plant, each tuber must have an eye (the new growth bud) which appears at the point where the tuber connects to the main stalk.  Using a sharp clean knife carefully separate tubers.  Discard any damaged tubers and any that don't contain an eye.  Place the tubers in a bed of sawdust or vermiculite, inside a cardboard or wooden box. Store them in a dry area where the temperature will remain at about 40 degrees F. 

Check your tubers periodically during the winter for signs of shriveling (moisten the storage medium),
or for mildew treat with a dry fungicide.  Replant Chocolate Cosmos tubers 6" deep and 12" apart in the spring."

While I've never tried this plant, I believe this should be on my "2013 Wish List!"  I'd probably try one in a pot and another in the ground.



Rodgersia  Rodgersia pinnata 'Chocolate Wings' 

Rodgersia pinnata ‘Chocolate Wing’Information and photo (at right) was taken from a site called Perennials.com"With its bold, divided leaves this forms an exotic-looking clump that adds a unique foliage accent to any moist border. It produces big plumes of deep-pink flowers in early summer. Leaves begin deep cocoa bronze in spring, later changing to dark green. Plants prefer a moist, dappled shade setting, but will grow in full sun at the waterside or any other constantly moist site. Useful as an architectural specimen plant. Water during dry weather. USPP: unlicensed propagation prohibited.

USDA Zone: 4-9;  Sun exposure:  Full Sun or Partial Shade;  Soil type:  Normal, Sandy, or Clay; 
Soil pH:  Neutral, Alkaline or Acid;  Soil moisture: Moist;  Care level:  Moderate; Flower color:  Deep Pink;  Blooming time:  Early to mid-summer;  Foliage color:  Bronze;  Height:  27-35";  Width:  35-39"'  Growth rate:  Slow.   *Rabbit-resistant."

From chocolate flower farm.com came this information:  "New & exciting Rodgersia with ever changing moods, as its foliage emerges brown and goes through stages of green and bronze to return to chocolate-bronze as the season progresses.  Plenty of pale pink flowers deepen gradually to burgundy-red, adding another dimentions to the intrigue.   Cultivation:  Partial Shade in moist, well-drained, fertile soil.32" High with 30" spread.  Hardy to Zone 4." 


I planted Rodgersia 'Chocolate Wings' Sept. 13, 2008 (photo at left).  I cannot believe it's been that long ago, already!  It did pretty well, however by the end of August last summer, it'd "had it" with the dry, hot weather and lack of constant moisture!  He didn't show up this Spring. 

I never experienced the deep coloration described in the chocolate flower farm article, but my plant was in dappled to shady conditions.

I'd love to try again, if I can work it out!!!  Moist is not good enough... it seems, from further reading, it loves to be moist to boggy.  I continue to struggle with my ligularia plants... especially during the drought-like conditions we've experienced beginning with last summer!

Lastly, have you tried cocoa bean hulls?  They're not so good in shady areas, unless you spread a very thin layer... just so you can have the chocolate aroma!  ;-)  They're great in sunny spots, as they'll dry out after a rainfall and/or watering and not mold or mildew.  They're a rich addition to the soil, as well.  They break down fairly quickly.  Try it!!   You might like it!!  lol.

Gardening has not been very rewarding (or beautiful or fun) once summer arrived.  I continue to envision very dry soil with deep-down parched roots...  I'm doing my best to keep everything limping along, but it's not really enough... and the water bill was high this past month!  I did appreciate the two recent rainfalls - 1/10th and 2/10ths of an inch, a few days apart.  They filled my 3 rain barrels each time, so that was well loved.  :-)

SG

Perhaps I just need a chocolate bar?  ;-)