More sumptuousness - Your West Valley News: Columns

More sumptuousness

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Margaret Francis

Posted: Saturday, October 20, 2012 8:00 am

We all love full and luxurious-looking gardens. The quickest way to grow one is to use “fluffy” plants like the spiders and sweet potato vines described in a previous column. They fill garden spaces quickly with green richness.

Another fluffy plant is purple heart, also known as Wandering Jew or Purple Queen. This plant can have stems and leaves of deep purple, or bright green, or a luscious purple-green-silver striped combo with a shiny purple underside. Shall we look at all three of these garden cousins?

Purple hearts are so-named because when we look down into their growing point, we can see a lovely curved heart shape created by the leaves, right in the center. I grew purple hearts indoors for a while until I saw some growing in outdoor gardens in my neighborhood. I couldn’t believe it was the same plant. Mine were thin and pale, and draped rather weakly down from a shelf. But these had strong, upright stems, big, full leaves, and the deepest midnight purple color I’d ever seen. This outdoor garden was overflowing with them, which made me envious, so I quickly moved my sad plants from the relative darkness of my room into my outdoor garden. There they have gotten strong and beautiful. Thanks, neighbors!

The green variety of purple hearts look like twins to the purple ones, only with rich green leaves delicately lined with a purple stripe along their curved edges. Both heart plants do well in a spot where they get some shade and some full sun during the day. The stems are brittle-tender and will break easily; it’s best to leave them plenty of room along a walkway to prevent damage. These otherwise hardy plants like a good watering every day, and they stay strong when given plant food periodically. Cutting them back now and then will keep them looking full. The cuttings will root nicely in a jar of water, and you’ll have more plants to grow or share with loved ones.

Wandering Jew plants are the same as the heart plants ... only different. The leaves are smaller and are striped with the loveliest shades of green, violet, and silver; the surface of the leaves shimmer silver in the sunlight. We care for our Wandering Jews in the same way as for the heart plants. All three of these varieties will grow small flowers, usually a delicate pink but sometimes white or purple. It is recommended that these plants be grown in pots, not directly into the soil, since they are sometimes considered an invasive species and may grow uncontrolled in some areas.

Purple hearts and Wandering Jews make a glorious trailing plant. Let’s grow them in a pot hanging from a hook in the wall, to fill an open niche in our garden area. Then watch their beautiful colors and splashy design catch the eyes of passersby. Shall we post a little wooden sign? “You may set a spell in my gentle garden if you like. The serenity and peace are yours to keep. Then go with God.”

Margaret Francis lives in Sun City.

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