Challenge for the New Year: A New Garden

… and so Diana said: “Imagine – you move to a townhouse. There is a small courtyard garden. An empty space. The soil and climate are those you garden in now. You may choose 12 plants.

The ones you have learned by bitter experience  or happy experience – gifted by birds, planted by nature, from your gardening neighbour  — are the right ones, for the climate, the soil, the wildlife, and because you love them.
Start fresh – what will be your signature plant?”
This might not be my signature plant, but it will be an important one, Alternanthera. Alternanthera ficoidea (Joseph’s Coat, Parrot Leaf, Calico Plant, Sanguinarea). Not a showy spring and summer plant but a good edger that turns red in the fall.
Before frost, I gather cuttings. In the casserole in the picture above there are dozens of cuttings. They root easily and keep over the winter in a greenhouse or on a sunny windowsill in water. When the weather warms, I tease the roots apart and plant them directly into the ground where they are to grow.
Dozens of Chartreuse cuttings will fit into a coffee mug.
Notice upper right there is a twig of the purple growing up from the greenhouse floor.
Alternanthera comes in other forms: a purple that twines through other plants and grows 3 feet tall and a tiny chartreuse that makes mounds that eventually are the size of a dinner plate. The chartreuse is also easily rooted in water. Purple form Alternanthera dentata prefers to grow from seed or be rooted in soil.
Notice the little clover-like blossoms. I’ve only seen blooms on short days inside, never in summer or early fall. The red form came from Miss Billie, who had it everywhere. I bought the Chartreuse and traded with Tom for the Purple.
If I were in a townhouse with a tiny courtyard, I’d find room for Alternanthera, both in the garden and a dozen cuttings in a mug on the windowsill in winter.

1 Comment

  1. Alternanthera is a new one on me and not suitable for the UK but a fascinating plant just the same. Love the idea of the cuttings casserole.
    p.s. Am just putting the first of my dozen together – interesting sorting the what we would haves from the what we could do withouts

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