SHADY SWEETIES

Comfrey         Symphytum officinale            Family Boraginaceae                    Photo (64k)
Comfrey is an ornamental perennial growing to 3 ft tall.  It features clumps of large green leaves and graceful curling heads of tubular flowers in white, pink or purple throughout the summer.  Comfrey thrives in shade but will accept some sun.  It requires rich, moist soil for lush growth.  It is an aggressive grower so allow it plenty of room.  It can be controlled in Texas by restricting water.

Patchouli         Pogostemon cablin                Family Lamiaceae
Patchouli is an aromatic herb native to Southeast Asia and India.  Oil from the plant is used in perfume and incense.  One whiff reminds many people of the 1960's.  The plant has green elliptical leaves with toothed margins.  Whorls of white flowers appear on spikes and should be removed to encourage leaf growth.  It grows well in moist, shady sites and cuttings root easily in water.  The plant can grow to 3 ft tall under ideal conditions.  It is a tender perennial and will not survive winters in Austin, Tx.  Patchouli is responsible for the distinctive scent of the original India Ink.

Hoja Santa        Piper auritum                 Family Piperaceae                                    MX Photo(123k)
Hoja Santa is a tropical looking plant with large, velvety, heart shaped leaves.  Small white spikes of flowers appear in the summer.  It is a perennial which can grow to 10 ft so give it lots of room.  Hoja Santa will die to the ground during central Texas winters.  The leaves have a sarsaparilla/licorice scent which gives the plant the common name "rootbeer plant".  It grows best with afternoon shade and moist soil.  The leaves are used in the cooking of its native Southern Mexico, although experts state it has carcinogenic properties and is also toxic to the liver..

Pineapple Sage     Salvia elegans         Family Lamiaceae                                          KYPhoto(13k)
Pineapple Sage is a tender perennial that will die back to the ground when freezing weather comes to Austin, Texas.  The pointed leaves are fragrant with a pineapple scent and branches will root easily in water.  A mature plant may grow to 4 ft in height.  Pineapple sage needs protection from the hot afternoon sun and requires more water than most sages.  In the spring it is slow to sprout, so be patient.  Autumn weather brings beautiful spikes of brilliant red flowers that attract migrating hummingbirds to the garden.  The delicate pineapple flavor is easily overpowered so use pineapple sage to flavor punches, cream cheese and fruit salads.  The flowers are a wonderful garnish.

Salad Burnet       Sanguisorba minor subsp. minor      Family Rosaceae        FMPhoto(2k)
Salad Burnet, formerly known as Poterium sanguisorba, is a charming evergreen plant whose 12 inch fountains of scalloped foliage form a wonderful flower bed edging.  Salad burnet will grow in a sunny site, but seems to do best when shaded in the afternoon.  A prime location would be under a deciduous tree so that it can soak up winter's rays, but not suffer a summer sunburn.  Grown easily from seed, salad burnet has interesting "button-like" flower heads in the summer, but the main attraction is the cucumber scented foliage.  The leaves make a delightful herbal vinegar to be used on fish and in salad dressings.

Sweet Herb of the Aztecs    Phyla scaberrima      Family Verbenaceae
This interesting plant, formerly known as Lippia dulcis, is a low grower, remaining under 12 inches.  It makes a nice ground cover, rooting where its branches touch the ground.  It will lose its leaves in winter, however, and may not survive especially cold weather.  Plant it in a protected location.  The light green leaves have an odor reminiscent of lantana, but a shock occurs when a leaf is placed in the mouth--an amazing sweetness.  However, due to potential toxicity this herb is no longer recommended for use as a sugar substitute.  The plant is easily propagated from cuttings and may even root in water.  The plant has white flowers arranged on a central "cone".  Sweet Herb of the Aztecs grows well in deep shade.

Ginger         Zingiber officinale            Family Zingiberaceae
Grocery store ginger makes a wonder summer plant in Austin, Texas.  The bright green, narrow leaves have a "palm-like" arrangement and add contrast to the shade garden.   They are also highly fragrant, and as a bonus, the ginger "hands" may be harvested in the fall.  To grow ginger, plant sections of the hands after the soil is warm in the spring.  Be sure each piece has one or two "eyes" on it.  It is best to use rhizomes from an organic grocery to ensure that they have not been treated to prevent sprouting.  Ginger likes a rich, moist soil and will grow to 30 inches tall.  Although there are varieties of ginger that will survive cold weather, grocery store ginger should be dug up in the fall and used to flavor your winter meals.  It will also do well as a container plant.  Madalene Hill and Gwen Barclay (Southern Herb Growing) advise slicing unpeeled ginger and keeping it covered with sherry.  This will keep indefinitely in the refrigerator and the ginger as well as the resulting ginger flavored sherry can be used in cooking.

Pink Water Celery    Oenanthe javanica 'Flamingo'        Family Apiaceae
Not a true celery at all, this variegated cultivar of water dropwort has exciting pink, white and green leaves that can really brighten up a shady garden.  Hardy to zone 7, it is a low growing, fast spreading ground cover that does very well in shade.  In the summer heat it loses its pink coloration, but will gain it back with the arrival of cool weather.  The plant has a celery taste and may be used in small amounts as a flavoring.  It's deeply divided, pink leaves look especially nice in spinach salads.  It will require plenty of water in the summer.  Snails find it to be a very attractive salad plant, if you live in an area with voracious snails try growing the plants in pots in a snail free location until growing large enough to survive frequent munching..

Chameleon Plant    Houttuynia cordata 'Chameleon'         Family Saururaceae
This low growing plant is sometimes considered a substitute for cilantro, although Ann Marie is usally found admiring the lovely heat shaped green, yellow and pink leaves rather than eating them.  'Chameleon' loses its pink coloration during the summer heat.  It is a low growing plant, hardy to zone 6, that is at its best in a shady, wet situation.  Sometimes called doku-dami, Houttuynia is used in Asian cooking.  (A tip learned at an HSA seminar:  for pronunciation, think "hot tuna")

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