Wednesday, February 24, 2016

More of the Good

Welcome back to another installment of Lost In the Farmer’s Market. This is the February post and for the purposes of getting back on track for March in a twice-per month schedule the two posts containing haworthia and gasteria will be combined into one larger post for your reading enjoyment. In March I will begin discussing all things late winter and spring so hold on to your hats…it’s going to be good!

Few garden enthusiasts realize that most of our garden species come from a limited number of plant families. For instance the Aster family contains the daisies, marigolds, Calendulas, Dandelions, Coreopsis, Echinacea, Lettuce, Radicchio, Rudbeckia, Zinnia and of course the Asters. In the same light the Aloe grouping has three major branches to it’s family tree, in my last post I covered the Aloe group but in this post I will be talking about the Haworthia and Gasteria branches. I have to admit that the Aloes are better known because of course we see their most famous representative (Aloe barbadensis/vera) in a wide variety of skincare products and some health beverages. In interesting contrast, the Haworthias are no less varied in shape and form and actually are more cold tolerant. To an extreme for a succulent, Gasteria are even tougher than the haworthias and can survive long periods of complete neglect as long as they get some sunlight.

As noted before the first rule of succulents and cactus is that “All cactus are succulents, but not all succulents are cactus.” This saying means that basically Cacti have a very specific biology, and thus when dealing with a succulent plant it’s smarter to call it a succulent until you know absolutely what you are handling. Aloe, Haworthia and Gasteria are all succulents because they lack spines, whereas cactus will have several types of spines as a form of self-defense. I am simplifying a bit but then this is not a hard botany article so my light-weight definition is reasonably accurate. As for haworthias which consequently have no common name, it’s best to think of them as aloes with much smaller leaves and a habit for growing faster and producing offshoots quicker. They are as a whole somewhat more tolerant of moisture but I would not assume that to mean you water them as often as a house plant such as a philodendron. Haworthias can handle temperatures as low as 28 degrees as long as they are not exposed to chilling winds or have wet foliage but frozen soil will kill a haworthia. Make no mistake, if you leave a haworthia outside in winter where the temperature drops below freezing you will probably lose the plant. If kept in a sunroom and covered over with a thin plastic drop cloth it is likely that a haworthia will survive the winter without needing to come indoors barring any exceptionally cold weather.

Haworthia coarctata – Dragon Haworthia
Haworthia cuspidata – Star-Window Plant
Haworthia cuspitata  – Star-Window Plant (red type)
Haworthia margaritifera – Pearl Plant

Haworthia miribilis – Wonderful Haworthia

Haworthia venosa subspecies Tesselata – Tesselated Haworthia
Next up we have the gasterias which are commonly called Ox-Tongues for some reason or another. The name gasteria comes from the stomach shaped flowers (Gastric) and the members of this branch of the family are exceptionally hardy but still vulnerable to freezing and will not tolerate frozen soil. With that said if you want to see rapid growth, gasteria are not the plants for you as they are slow, but respond impressively to limited fertilization and repotting every three to five years. They bloom in later winter to early spring if not into summer just like the aloes and haworthias do. It should be noted that despite being plants that prefer an arid climate, aloes, Haworthia and Gasteria can suffer sunscald and must be introduced to full sun slowly in the spring to avoid disfiguring damage to their foliage.

Gasteria liliputana – Dwarf Ox Tongue

Gasteria minima – Miniature Ox Tongue

Gasteria maculata – Ox Tongue

Gasteria bicolor – Bicolor Ox Tongue

The next few plants answer a question that all you house plant fans out there may have wondered, ‘if those three plants are in the same family, can they produce hybrids?’. The answer is yes as  they can with careful management produce viable hybrid offspring, thus far I have no aloe-haworthia or haworthia-gasteria crosses but the following are gasteria-aloe crosses that have produced an interesting variety of forms and colors.

Gasteraloe hybrid – “Green Gold”
Gasteraloe hybrid – “Green Ice”
Gasteraloe verrucosa – “Radiance”
Gasteraloe verrucosa – “Flow”

Now that the main topic has been handled stay tuned for our next article in two weeks where I’ll be talking in brief about the Rhipsalis family and a bit about spring preparations. Before I go however I do have to talk in brief about the City Market and the Better Health Market.

Better Health Market
1224 Bragg Boulevard, Fayetteville NC
Thursdays 5:00pm-7:00pm
(Indoor Event)

The City Market
325 Franklin Street, Fayetteville NC
Saturdays 9:00an-1:00pm
(Outdoor event)

I bring up both markets because as of this week I’ll begin offering my first spring plants as we are just about to enter the month of March and the time when most gardeners in our region really begin to consider their options for the coming warm season. You can expect the following at both events this week so feel free to stop in at your leisure.

6x Seasoning Packets, $1.00 (Rosemary, Thyme, Tarragon, Sage, Garlic Cilantro.)
6x Soup Kits, $5.00 (Celery, Carrot, Red Potatoes, Onions, Purple top turnip.)

Crop Plants
6x Parris Island Lettuce, $3.00 (Romaine Type Heirloom)
6x Rouge D’hiver Lettuce, $3.00 (Romaine Type Heirloom)
6x Napa Cabbage, $3.00 (Asian Cabbage, Heirloom Type.)
6x Dinosaur Kale, $3.00 (AKA Tuscan Kale, good for kale chips)
3x Red Giant Mustard, $3.00 (Good ornamental or for stewed greens)
3x Savoy Cabbage, $3.00 (Great for steaming)
2x Cabbage Collards $3.00 (Heirloom, Carolina)

Hopefully I’ll see some of you at the market, but otherwise stay tuned for our next episode.

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