As I was ordering seed yesterday, I started searching for hot peppers (Capsicum annuum) that will be included in our spring plant sale. Janice had already provided me with a list of good candidates. At the sale ast year we had a lot of interest in the ornamental hot peppers and we sold out of those very quickly. When I think of my favorite ornamental hot pepper varieties, I focus on a combination of increasingly colorful fruit but also vivid foliage. I think it's safe to say that the ripening fruits of all hot peppers are ornamental, particularly later in the season (August thru October). However, I've become more interested in the dark-leaved and variegated leaf varieties that also contribute foliage interest before and during the fruiting period. One of my favorite varieties is the 'Black Pearl' hot pepper (Capsicum annuum). All the images in this blog are of this variety. I ordered enough seed of 'Black Pearl' (not inexpensive incidentally!) to supply it for the spring plant sale (May 12th and 13th, 9 am - 4 pm, pre-sale on Friday May 11th for RBG Friends Members). We'll also be displaying this variety in our Ornamental Edible display and as a component of our All-America Selections (AAS) collection. This 2006 AAS winner was developed at the United States National Arboretum and has been extremely popular ever since! See www.usna.usda.gov/Research/BlackPearl.html for more on the history of this neat ornamental edible. It is important to mention that while the fruits, ripening from glossy black to red, are edible but are extremely hot (30,000+ Scoville units). This variety, reaching 20"-24" in full sun, is primarily planted for ornamental purposes as the foliage is "near black" and the fruits are ornamental as well. This plant really needs full blazing sun to have the darkest foliage coloration and you'll start to see the glossy black fruits by mid-summer. This variety is also very happy in a container. The red stage of the peppers is seen in September and will continue until hard frost. One of the images near the bottom shows a light frost on the entire plant. I like combining this plant with lighter foliage neighbors to make that foliage "pop". Ornamental hot peppers, in general, will be a big part of our displays this year and most of those varieties will be featured at our plant sale. For other interesting hot pepper (Capsicum) varieties for foliage, try 'Purple Flash', 'Fish', 'Tricolor', 'Sparkler', 'Explosive Ember' and many others.
I was in to work briefly this morning for a meeting of our Home & Garden Tour Committee. Even though the event is seven months away (July 21st), we start planning early and already have the seven sites confirmed. Thanks to Bill, Jean, Janet, Barb, Patrick and Cora for coming in to go over some details. This year a portion of the tour will be in the neighboring town of Milton, WI. I think we have a great assortment of gardens and are starting to solicit sponsors for this event. Larry and Bill had taken care of most of the snow removal and thanks to Dick H. for taking care of plowing that 6-7" either last night or this morning. Dr. Gredler was in to do more painting of obelisks and Maury was in as well. When I left, I saw cars at the Parker Education Center for the Redefining Comfort Foods program which was facilitated by Basics Cooperative (Janesville). We have a "Wellness theme" this year that will focus on nutrition, excercise, etc. Looks like we'll have a warm up soon and will take the rest of the Holiday Lights Show (HLS) down next week if possible. Next week will also include more seed ordering and we'll be having our Volunteer Soup Dinner on Tuesday evening. It's not too late for current, past and future RBG volunteers to RSVP for this event (5 pm - 7 pm) by Monday. Further below, enjoy the other images of this cool pepper. If I was ever asked "What plant, over the years, has received more 'What the heck is that?' type questions?," I would have to say it is this pepper. I usually get a radio call about someone wondering what the plant is with the glossy "olives" and dark foliage.