For those willing to invest the time, fruits and spices from around the world can be cultivated in backyard containers.
Many DFW-area gardeners have successfully cultivated tender, fruiting plants—such as citrus—in containers. Lovingly toted in and out of a greenhouse, garage or home during periods of prolonged cold, lemons, limes and other tender citrus can offer delicious edible fruit from a porch or balcony. With the proper container, soil, location and care, a world of flavors is at the fingertips of any gardener—even those living in apartments or condos.
With herbs and spices, even non-gardeners are trying their hand at container-grown staples like basil, thyme, oregano or parsley. Recent years have seen an increase in gardeners and foodies alike trying more unusual varieties, such as Cuban oregano, Vietnamese coriander, and Stevia. Taking this ‘global gardening’ a step further, we’re planning to offer hard-to-find tropical spices such as Ceylon cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) and Black Pepper (Piper nigrum). For folks looking to take their grow-your-own game to the next level, this is an exciting culinary and horticultural opportunity; for instance: it’s said that the fresh green berries of pepper are 100 times more potent than the dried, cured peppercorns. Whoa!
Container gardening offers the perfect solution for these exotic tropical plants, which aren’t hardy outdoors during DFW winters. Planters with ample space for larger plants can live outdoors on a deck, porch, patio or balcony in the warmer months—depending on the light exposure and the plant in question. Cinnamon, for example, makes a handsome small tree with beautiful, leathery leaves. Though it can reach up to 40’ in regular cultivation, a large container of 14” diameter or more can provide enough root space for a 6’ to 8’ tree. Black pepper is a flowering vine of nondescript appearance, but the uniquely pendulous clusters of berries—the green fruits that are commonly dried and ground to create the famous spice—can be quite ornamental. It will require a container of at least 10” in diameter, and for best results, support in the form of a trellis.
While we’ve long been a destination for gardeners into growing edible produce, these tropical choices represent a completely new offering for NHG. They’ve worked with growers to select the most cold-hardy varieties, and some, such as the ‘Joey’ variety of Avocado (Persea americana) are hardy to around 15 degrees. Plan ahead for winter protection for the tender tropical varieties, including frost cloth for mild cold snaps or plant dollies for easy transport inside during extended cold periods.
Additional exotic flavors scheduled to arrive at NHG include out-of-the-ordinary fruits like Lychee (Litchi chinensis), Guava (Psidium guajava) and Carambola or ‘Starfruit’ (Averrhoa carambola).
Gardeners wishing to maintain their plants organically will find a variety of products, from pest solutions to fertilizers, at NHG. We also sell their own custom organic mixed potting soil; it’s a compost-based product substantial enough for fruiting plants, and it contains expanded shale for increased drainage. For those with questions on cultivation, horticulture staff members are available seven days a week, and they program a variety of classes and events around edible gardening throughout the year.
In April, NHG celebrates ‘Herb Weekend’ with a variety of classes and speakers centered on culinary herbs and their many uses. In June, they follow up with ‘Edible Fest’—a weekend-long event loaded with speakers, vendors and tastings of local garden-to-table fare. They’ve just recently opened a new café on the property, as well, so the expansion of grow-your-own global flavors is timely.
Keep in mind, these are specialty finds that may not be in stock all the time and we maintain a wide selection of kitchen garden essential herbs and seasonal vegetables year-round.
This piece originally ran in the March 2016 issue of Richardson Living Magazine.