Posts Tagged ‘container gardening’

The spud-producing sweet potato vine.

As I was clearing out my exterior containers for the winter, I came across a sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas) “potato”.  I’ve seen spuds from these ornamental vines before but never thought to try to consume them.  I know they are edible but for some reason it seems weird to eat them!

The potato!

I found the potato, shown above, as I was digging through the potting soil, loosening it up in preparation for spring planting.  It looked identical to a normal potato you would find in the grocery store.  Most of the previous potatoes I’ve found from Ipomoea vines are a bright pinkish-purple color.   They come in all sorts of weird shapes more reminiscent of sweet potatoes than baking potatoes.

Wrapped with a moist paper towel, ready to be microwave cooked!

To prepare this potato for consumption, I washed it thoroughly and wrapped it with a moist paper towel to prevent potential explosion splatter in the microwave.  It only took 2 minutes in the microwave to cook very well.  I bet it would have been done in a 1 min 30 sec.

Ready to eat!

With the only seasonings of butter, pepper, and salt, the sweet potato vine potato tasted exactly like a normal potato with a few hints of sweet potato thrown in there. While you aren’t going to get a huge harvest from a single sweet potato vine, it’s still fun to eat what you grow yourself, especially after you enjoyed the plant all summer long. Dig in!

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In my travels over the course of this weekend, I found this simple  tropical planting combination outside of a new condo building. It follows basic rules of design and is simple enough that anyone can do it.  Placing the containers at the corner of the building helps soften hard edges of the structure while providing visual interest at the same time.  The main entrance to the lobby was located outside of the picture to the right, so the large scale of the planting keeps things in balance.

The container choice itself is brilliant in its subtlety.  The neutral dark charcoal color keeps the focus off the containers and allows the plants to make the statement. By using a lighter gray beach stone, the installer of these containers kept the palette similar but still interesting.  The stone size is also in correct proportion to the containers and plants. They all lend a tropical, summery feel to the entrance and also have an interesting color focus that isn’t found in the surrounding landscape.

Trio Of Palms

The only thing I would do differently with this combination is switch the position of the two smallest planters.  This would allow the purple foliage to be more in contrast with the light stone veneer of the wall while the silver-blue foliage of the fan palm would be highlighted by the dark background of the outside landscaping and porte-cochere.

Article and photography by lilyofthevalley for Jeffrey Erb Landscape Design

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Coronilla varia L.

Crown Vetch starting to overtake a planter

 Somewhere along the way we have been led to believe it is possible to plant a garden that will take care of itself. With ploys of xeriscaping, automatic irrigation systems, and plants cultivated specifically to be slow growing, disease proof, and pest resistant, we have convinced ourselves that we can set it and forget it. As a horticulturist of over 12 years, I can tell you that such a garden simply does not exist. To put it in perspective, think about your family pet- perhaps it’s a Chihuahua that gets a bath 3 times a week, dresses up in leopard print with chiffon ruffles, and eats out of a glass goblet. Well, plants are living things too, and though they may not wag their tail and bark, they want just as much care and attention.

Even on rooftops in Manhattan maintenance is a critical component of the long term success of a garden. With container gardening, maintenance becomes even more important. Not only are the effects of the surrounding environment exaggerated to plants growing in planters, but containerized plants really stand out like art on a pedestal. In New York City, where space is nonexistent and weight limits are restricted, every plant we put in a garden must perform at its best. Regular pruning, fertilizing, soil replacement, and pest management are the fundamentals of rooftop garden maintenance. 

Weeding should not be forgotten either. I have come across more Coronilla varia L. (Crown Vetch) than I care to see in the past few weeks. I have never seen this weed on rooftops before this season, but it seems to be cropping up everywhere. If you see this in your garden get out the shovel and some gloves. You’ve got to pull out every last root of this invasive intruder to ensure the success of your other plants. The bottom line is if you don’t have a gardener, you should find one to consult with even if you don’t want to commit to a routine care program. Jeffrey Erb Landscape Design offers gardening consultations and flexible garden maintenance programs for rooftop and terrace gardens in Manhattan. http://www.jeffreyerb.com/services.html


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