ASK THE GARDENERS. Questions & Answers
Q Last year I planted the tall, large leaf basil in our garden, but I had none to harvest because rabbits ate it as fast as it produced. This summer we will be growing all our herbs in raised beds made with landscape timbers to foil the rascals. However, I would like to grow a basil variety with a small leaf. I came upon some at a church bazaar while on a weekend jaunt, and I couldn't believe how much better it tasted than the regular old-fashioned basil. The lady at the herb booth told me it grows into a globe-shaped bush.
We haven't been so excited about an herb in a long time as we have been about this new bush basil. It has masses of tiny leaves, between inch and inch long.
It is ornamental as well as flavorful. Globe types appear under several names: Bush Green Basil in Nichols Garden Nursery, 1190 N. Pacific Highway, Albany, OR 97321; Green Bouquet Basil in Burpee Gardens, Warminster, PA 18974; Basil Spicy Globe in Park Seed Company, Greenwood, SC 29647; Bush Basil in Vermont Bean Seed Company, Fair Haven, VT 05743; Green Bush in Comstock, Ferre & Co., 263 Main St., Wethersfield, CT 06109.
Another basil that has won our praise is Purple Ruffles. Much more attractive, flavorful, and sturdy than the Dark Opal, it makes beautiful pink basil vinegar and adds color to any dish. It is also charming in bouquets of cut flowers. If there are other seed companies offering bush basil and Purple Ruffles, we would be glad to hear about them.
Q We have a gorgeous amaryllis plant in full bloom. Is there any special care it needs to get it to bloom again next year?
A common mistake with Hippeastrum (means ``horse star'') is letting the plant go dry after it finishes blooming.
After flowers have wilted, the green leaves should be kept growing all winter long, and on into the summer. When it's warm enough, move them outdoors to a semi-sunny spot and continue watering regularly and feeding monthly with a complete garden fertilizer.
In late summer or fall, leaves should start yellowing. This is a signal to withhold water and let foliage die down. We set the potted bulb in our garage (consistently about 55 degrees F.) for six to eight weeks without water.
Then we remove the top inch of soil and replace with new soil, plus a teaspoon of bonemeal, and water once, moderately.
Wait until new growth appears; then start watering regularly. Water sparingly at first, gradually increasing the amount, and feed monthly. Bulbs can grow in the same pot for three years.
There should be an inch of space on each side of the bulb. When the bulb outgrows the pot, repot in a well-drained mix after dormant period, just before growth starts. Be sure to leave one-third to one-half of the bulb sticking out of the soil.
Q When I was a little girl, my grandmother had lovely deep violet-blue flowers in her garden, which she called ``cup flower,'' because of the shape of the blooms. The plants grew about six inches tall, as I recall. I have not seen them since, nor can I find anything under ``cup flower'' in catalogs.
The plant is Nierembergia (neer-em-BERJ-ia) and blooms all summer long under normal conditions. It can be grown as a pot plant indoors, also. Seeds should be sown about three months before you intend to set them outdoors. They germinate at 70 degrees F. and may take 15 days to sprout. Leaves are quite small, and flowers are one to two inches across. We find them listed in Park Seeds, Greenwood, SC 29647; Burpee Seed Company, Warminster, PA 18974; and Thompson & Morgan, PO Box 1308, Jackson, NJ 08527.