Monday, February 25, 2013

Amazing Amaranths

Despite a warmer day in the mid 30 degrees F, I didn't trek out in the gardens today.  It looks like we have more snow coming tomorrow and Wednesday and we're happy for the moisture regardless of the format!  I'm organizing seeds for our various growers and am not surprised that I include more and more amaranths (Amaranthus sp.) each  year.  This annual has a wide versatility in the sunny border for either showy flowers or those that have ornamental foliage.  Frequently called a "cosmopolitan genus", amaranths have a long history as a vegetable (edible leaves and grain) in the Aztec culture and have been grown for over 9,000 years in Central and South America.  The word Amaranth has Greek origins translating to "unfading flower."  Above is the variety 'Dreadlocks' (Amaranthus caudatus) which has some distinctive flowers and also inlcludes the old-fashioned love-lies-bleeding seen directly below.  In 2002 we had large amaranth collection of 80+ types and it was nice to see the variability in height, flower color, foliage, etc.  Keep in mind that pigweed (Amaranthus sp.) is a common weed and drops plenty of seed.  The grain amaranths are heavily promoted as a nutritious pseudo-grain with lots of protein and other benefits.  Your local health food store will sell amaranth seed, flower, cereal, cookies, etc.  Do some more research on this interesting genus (70 or so species).   Some other nice amaranths are identified further below.  

We had plenty of activity at the Horticulture Center today. Pat continued on his project of stabilizing and painting the lower portion of the giant obelisk.  Dr. Gredler continued with another layer of stain on the wood obelisks.  Ron Y., Gene, Jim D., Dave T. and Vern all worked on sanding and re-staining benches and the progress has been significant.  Urban headed out in the gardens for some pruning while Larry went out to bring in some remaining Holiday Lights Show (HLS) lights, etc. from near the main building.  We also saw Karen M., Stan and Jumbo Jim for a meeting.  Gary worked some more on labels with Dick H. getting ahead with cutting and bending more aluminum stakes for plant signs.  Bill O. was in later to help Larry and we saw some others as well.  I worked on a wide range of preparations and had a couple of meetings as well including with our Horticultural Therapy Committee members this afternoon.

Amaranthus caudatus
Amaranthus cruentus 'Hot Biscuits'
Amaranthus cruentus 'Green Tower'
Amaranthus hybrida 'Hopi Red Dye'
Amaranthus cruentus 'Red Cathedral Superior'
Amaranthus caudatus 'Fat Spike'

Directly above is a leaf amaranth (Amaranthus tricolor), otherwise known as fountain plant or Joseph's coat by others.  The common name of summer poinsettia is also very appropriate.  Above is the variety 'Perfecta' which is the standard Joseph's coat that has long been offered in most seed catalogs (easy to grow).  Note that the youngest growth, emerging from the center, has the brightest coloration and is targeted as a source of greens for direct consumption (tastes like spinach) or incorporation in to a stir fry or other recipe.  Flowers on the leaf amaranths are along the stems and are not showy. The impact is with the new foliage offering vivid coloration on a 36"+ tall plant.  Some additional, exciting varieties are found below (identification under the image).  Keep in mind that these leaf amaranths look good in to early September but will "peter out" before the end of September.

Amaranthus tricolor 'Aurora'
Amaranthus tricolor 'Illumination'
Amaranthus tricolor 'Early Splendor' (below too)

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