DENVER — Many gardens are discovering heirloom plants. These are plants that have been in cultivation for at least 50 years. Many have been grown for much longer. They include perennials, annuals and vegetables.
If we were to step back in time to a September garden of the past, we'd find many plants that are still popular today. Perennials in bloom then would include pastel pink Japanese anemone, purple New England asters and obedient plant. The latter has hinged flowers that stay obediently in place when they are moved on the stem.
The most prominent of the annuals in our trip back in time would probably be the African marigolds. The variety 'Yellow Supreme' won awards back in 1935. It's taller and more graceful than compact modern hybrids. Heirloom vegetables have experienced a resurgence. Old varieties of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, beans and squash are valued for their taste that may be lacking in modern hybrids.
I experimented with growing garden huckleberry this season (There are several plants called huckleberry. This one is Solanum melonocerasum.) While we're all familiar with Mark Twain's novel "Huckleberry Finn," few of us have seen or eaten a huckleberry. They can be grown as annuals--like peppers--and produce a big crop of black berries towards the end of summer. The fruits are not meant to be eaten raw--as I quickly discovered with one bite--but are used in pies, cobblers, jams and wine.
If you're intrigued by the thought of growing heirlooms, search online for "heirloom annuals" or "heirloom vegetables." There are many seed companies that offer seeds of these plants from the past.
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