Something else I’d like to grow this year is Heliotrope. It is a small shrubby perennial that grows best in a place with hot summers. That might work – we do have hot summers.
Heliotrope is an old-fashioned favorite and was found frequently in cottage gardens. It’s highly fragrant, drought tolerant, non-invasive, has few pests and diseases, and deer hate them. Of course, for me, that’s not a consideration – deer. For best results plant it someplace where it will get at least 5-6 hours of morning sun and afternoon shade. And, while it doesn’t do well in heavy clay soils, it can thrive as a container plant. As a potted plant, it is a heavy feeder – so for best results, feed every two or three weeks.
You can grow Heliotrope from seed pretty easily or take cuttings. Root cuttings in soil and then keep them moist. I put cuttings, pot and all, in a ziplock bag and keep it closed. Then I put the bag in a sunny window or under a grow light. Works for me.
Garden Heliotrope fragrance is described as vanilla, cherry, grape, fruity and floral, all rolled into one. The scent is said to help fight fatigue. In long past days, it was used to clean the blood and fight off viral infections. However, it’s not really a good medicinal herb to use because in the long term, it can cause liver damage – never good.
In the Language of Flowers, Heliotrope means devotion and faithfulness. Growing it in your yard will attract cheerfulness, gaiety, and wealth, will protect you from physical harm, increase your clairvoyance and help find lost objects.
Smells good, deer hate it, and it helps to find lost things. A good plant to have. Now, all I have to do is find seeds …….
Another new plant I’m thinking about for this year is Castor Bean. Castor Bean is a fast growing perennial capable of growing up to 12 feet in a single season. It typically grows one or more reddish stalk(s) with large palm shaped leaves that are dark green to dark purple in color. In early summer it will produce a 1-2 foot spike with small flowers – the female flowers are rosy pink, the male are white to pale green. Those produce the shiny brown seeds.
The seeds can be planted directly in the garden or started in pots inside. Soak the seeds overnight to aid in germination. The plant likes a loamy soil best, full sun and humid conditions (yes, we can do humid here). Oh and remember – it’s likely to get really tall and wide. You might think about future size when planting the little seed, although, it does lend itself easily to a planter or large pot. One more thing – Castor Bean is cold sensitive – it’s going to freeze to the ground and may (or not) come back the next year.
In ancient times Caster Bean oil was used as a lamp oil, a beauty ointment, and a purgative medicine. It was also supposed to make a woman’s hair grow.
These days, the castor bean seeds are grown worldwide, for making everything from paint and varnish to lubricant for jet engines, from nylon to contraceptives. The seeds have also been considered as an alternative energy source for motor and diesel fuel. And scientists involved in cancer and AIDS research are studying the seeds' compounds.
If you choose to plant Castor Bean and live in the south/southwest, please harvest the seeds carefully. If they escape to the world, they can become an invasive pest.
PS: The leaves and especially the seeds of the Caster Bean contain the toxin ricin and are very poisonous. Keep that in mind when choosing to plant it.