The Mountain Gardener: Eat your heart out with food-named plants
by Jan Nelson
Nov 21, 2012 | 2257 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Have you noticed how many plant varieties are named after food?

At this time of year, when we are thankful for friends and family and this wonderful place we call home, I can’t help but think about food, too. It’s the most important thing we share.

We eat to celebrate, we eat to comfort ourselves. Surround yourself with plants that remind you to give thanks whenever you look at them.

What makes you think of Thanksgiving dinner more than pumpkin pie? Many versions have been created to appeal to just about any palate. If you grow Pumpkin Pie African daisy you can bring these recipes to mind whenever you admire the blooms in your garden. Flowering over a long season starting in the spring their showy, vivid orange flowers attract birds and butterflies.

Maybe you’re a gourmet cook, and desserts after Thanksgiving dinner are extraordinary at your house. If you’re not a fan of pumpkin, perhaps creme brulee would be more to your liking. This classic dessert first appeared in cookbooks in 1691, but it appears in gardens year-round in the form of Creme Brulee heuchera with its peachy-bronze leaves, Creme Brulee coreopsis with custard-yellow blooms and fragrant Creme Brulee shrub roses.

In my experience, someone often brings deviled eggs as an appetizer before Thanksgiving dinner, usually sprinkled with a dusting of paprika. If you have several Paprika yarrows (Achillea millefolium) in your low water-use, deer-resistant garden, you can think of these goodies every time you see them.

Who doesn’t like chocolate any time of year? Dark chocolate, milk chocolate, hot chocolate, white chocolate — they’re all good.

You can plant Chocolate Chip ajuga groundcover, with its beautiful, lacy blue flower spikes, in spring in either sun or partial shade. It really stands out. And who could resist a rose called Hot Cocoa? This award-winning floribunda rose, with ruffled, very fragrant chocolate-cherry colored blooms was first introduced in 2003 and has remained popular ever since.

If you don’t have a chocolate cosmos to enjoy on a summer day in the garden, you’re missing a rare experience. Very deep burgundy flowers really do have the scent of chocolate. They make a good cut flower and look great with green and white in a bouquet, and the fragrance is good enough to eat.

There are many plants that remind me of Thanksgiving with family or a get-together any time of year, and they all sound so delicious. Raspberry Sundae and Bowl of Cream peonies sound yummy, as do Mango coneflower, Strawberry Candy daylily, Plum Pudding coral bells, Cranberry Ice dianthus, Lemon Swirl lantana, Watermelon Red crape myrtle, Tangerine Beauty bignonia and Wild Cherry azalea. How about Bowl of Cherries campanula, Carolina allspice, Strawberry Lemonade mandevilla and Raspberry Tart coneflower? I could go on and on.

Truly, though, my blooming Thanksgiving cactus says it all. Almost overnight, it has burst into bloom, reminding me of all the many things I am thankful for.

Take the time this week to tell those around you how much you appreciate them, and count your blessings every day.

- Jan Nelson, a landscape designer and California certified nursery professional, will answer questions about gardening in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Email her at, or visit to view past columns and pictures.

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