Ask the Gardener

Ask the Gardener: Native plants on parade

CorrespondentFebruary 8, 2013 

Indian Pink is wildflower that grows in rich, moist woods and along wooded stream banks in the Southeast.

COURTESY OF L.A. JACKSON

I relocated here from New Mexico in November, and even though it is winter, I am really enjoying how much more greener everything is! I am looking forward to my first spring here. I do want to learn about the native plants, and I was wondering if you knew of a source within easy driving distance that featured native plants for sale.

Evelyn Martin

Sanford

First, a belated welcome to The Old North State.

Now, as far as searching for botanical beauties from the North Carolina wild goes, I’m sure garden shops in your area will have at least some nursery-grown native plants for sale this spring. However, if you want an intensive, enjoyable immersion into the indigenous, pick any pretty day from, say, the first weekend of April to mid-May, and head north to the N.C. Botanical Garden ( ncbg.unc.edu) in Chapel Hill. There you will find a superior public garden dedicated to native species awash – nay, festooned in spring-flowering plants that call this state home. And be sure to stop by their new garden shop because, besides books, trinkets and whatnots, they also sell native plants that are propagated at the Garden.

But wait! There’s more! After you have explored the Botanical Garden, head west about eight miles to Niche Gardens ( nichegardens.com), which is, in my opinion, one of the best native plant nurseries in the Southeast. If your credit card doesn’t melt down there, it will probably be because you left it at home. In other words, their tempting, nursery-grown selections are extensive. Check their website for operating hours, and since they are also an online plant store, do some homework beforehand to see what kinds of wild pretties they have to offer on their grounds, or you can also just order from the convenience of your computer.

Playing with (pepper) fire

I read with interest your listing of hot pepper sources in your last column because my husband wants to try them to spice up some of his soups and stews. He mentioned growing one called a habanero, and I was wondering if it would be suitable for his needs and easy to find locally.

Alice Douglas

Apex

When gardeners contemplate playing with fire – growing hot peppers for the first time – I always try to nudge them towards kinder, gentler starters such as tasty-yet-spicy tabasco, cayenne or serrano selections, but if your husband longs to stick his tongue in a light socket, the habanero pepper is the culinary equivalent. It is just that hot. I will admit that, when used in extreme moderation – adding slivers, rather than handfuls to recipes – the habanero’s heat can be controlled, resulting in its smoky sweet flavor being tastefully, safely infused into soups and stews.

This scorcher used to be as hard to find as dragon eggs, but supply has caught up and passed demand, so your hunt will be easy. I have seen habanero plants for sale at many garden centers for the past several springs, and just the other day, I even spotted habanero seeds in a dollar store!

And if it is heat that your hubby really seeks, look around for “Red Savina,” a habanero cultivar that can have up to twice the sizzle of an ordinary hab. However, when it is used in minute amounts in dishes to tame the flame, its flavor is, in my opinion, better than the common habanero.

Finally, there is one more pepper that is even hotter – bhut jolokia. If you think it is hard to pronounce, try eating one. This beast is three times hotter than a habanero! I have recently received some bhut jolokia seeds and plan to grow them this year. If I survive tasting one, or at least still have the ability to cogitate, I’ll let you know how it was.

In search of a green rose

Have you ever heard of a green rose and could you tell me where to get one?

Nell Terry

Burlington

Yep, I know what you are talking about. Go to the Antique Rose Emporium at antiqueroseemporium.com. Enjoy

L.A. Jackson is the former editor of Carolina Gardener Magazine. Send your garden questions, including the city where you garden, to askthegardener@newsobserver.com.

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