There are a number of us who have been labeled “plant crazy”. We snoop around constantly in logical or not so logical places to find a plant we have never had before.  When we do find one it is likely to be the only one of its kind in the store and shoved to the back of the shelf or table. Many of my most interesting plants have been this way.  Quite often there are not instructions for care, amount of sun or shade, etc. It may or may not have a name tag but perhaps enough so that I can find it in my encyclopedia.*

          If you like to make your own jewelry, get some “Jobs Tears” (Coix lacryma) seeds. They look like corn coming up. You treat it the same and it will get to about 3 feet tall. The “tears” are the seed and when ripe are about 1/2 inches long, hard, shiny, and drop shaped. They can be white, gray, or purple. They have a hole in the middle of the seed so all you have to do is string them together or you can paint them. A Buckeye seed every so often really looks nice with them. Save some of your seeds to plant next year. If you don’t pick all of the seeds before winter, I can guarantee a thick crop next spring.

          This spring I found a Brazilian Firecracker (Manettia cordifolia) that is a dainty vine that grows 6 to 12 feet tall on a trellis.  The blooms will be a bright red tube about an inch long with a yellow mouth from South America. The stems are slightly hairy. Directions say they will not live below 45 degrees F.

          Have you ever grown Kangeroo Paws (Amgozanthos sp.)? I have had both yellow and red paws. Red, hairy never branched stems came up about 18 inches (in my pots). The flowers with 2 lips are hairy, tubular, about 2 inches long and curl like a paw.

          Adenum obesum, the Desert Rose, is one of my favorites because it is so different.  The “obesum” part comes from its stem as this is where it stores water during the rainy season in Africa. I have seen pictures of 5 feet tall, bottle shaped, twisted stems, that are stark naked during the dry season. There are no spines on these bizarre stems but being from Africa and a succulent, it puts up a warning flag that too much water means root rot. My 15 year old plant is now in a huge pot with large storage bumps just above and below the gravel and compost mix soil. After dropping all leaves during the dry season, it starts to bloom when it starts to rain.  The blooms are gorgeous, white with red rims and cover that odd stem arrangement.  It lives in a south window in winter and on the south front of the house in summer.

          Redbirds in a Tree (Scraphularia macrantha), a native  of New Mexico, is humming bird friendly, bright red about 3 foot high and 18 inches wide.  The stem has at its very top a length of tubular flowers and with a good imagination you can think of them as tiny birds, and the tip as an “indented “head” with a white tip. I have not had it last for more than 2 years and usually can not find a new one very often here in Lincoln.

          Last year BJ found an Allamanda (Allamanda carthartica) somewhere. It is not hardy here so spent its summer in a pot and in the garage all winter.  Luckily I have a two car garage that is insulated and only one car, so a number of large pots do well with two 300 watt bulbs on at least 12 hours a day.  The Allamanda is a shrub from South America and bloomed all summer with 5 inch long, bright yellow flowers.  At home it can grow to 25 feet high but in my south window it was 2 1 /2 feet high and wide. To keep it small the encyclopedia said to prune it down to one-third and let it rest. So it lived last winter in my garage. Now at the end of May it is filling out again and getting used to being outside on the north side of the house. Soon it will go to the east side for the summer.

          Three years ago I found a very small plant called “Pink Octopus” with a few strange looking blooms.  Now it isn’t very tall, 18 inches by 24 inches wide. This Campanula (I don’t know the species) has bell flowers that are split about halfway down and then curve upward (supposedly the octopus arms). The tag said Campanula but no species name. My encyclopedia* says   there are 300 species and I already have other ones so I will probably never know just who it is. It certainly is different and fun to see.

          In one of my pots I have a Cape Fuchsia (Phygelius hybrid). According to the label it likes full sun, damp soil, and will be about 18 inches tall. However, it is already over 20 inches tall. In Africa it is a shrub growing about 4 feet tall in wet areas. It has a reputation of spreading by root suckers to form the shrub. I already have a bloom stock growing straight up with dangling red blooms down the stem. This is a very dramatic bloom. I have decided to have a predominantly red garden this summer.  This plant will have to spend the winter in the garage.

Copyright 2012

*Reference: The encyclopedia I refer to and quote from quite often is:

          “American Horticultural Society

          A TO Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants”

          Copyright 1996

           Pages 1-1095 have many photographs of the plants in color.


George also has an encyclopedia he refers to quite often. It is also produced by the American Horticultural Society:

          “American Horticultural Society

          Encyclopedia of Plants and Flowers”

          First American edition fully revised and updated.

          Copyright 2002 Original edition copyright 1989

This large book with 719 pages contains a listing, with full description, characteristics, and cultivation of more than 8,000 plants        and that are suitable for growing in a temperate garden worldwide. More than half include colored pictures.