Plant of the Month – January, 2013
Mustard ‘Crimson Red’. Photos courtesy of Dallas Arboretum.
AT A GLANCE
Latin name: Brassica species & hybrids
Common name: Mustard
Flowers: Occasionally on some cultivars, but not desired
Mature size: 2” – 24” tall
Hardiness: Fall to early spring annual
Soil: Moist soil
Exposure: Full to part sun
Water usage: Medium
Sources: Mail order or local nurseries
Wow! Another year has passed us by! To bring in the New Year, why not spice up your containers and garden with an edible ornamental? This past fall at the Dallas Arboretum Trials Program, we decided that we needed to trial something besides the same old cool-season plants — viola, pansy, kale, snapdragons and dianthus. We chose an ornamental mustard trial, and I can say it has been my favorite trial to date. We are seeing mustards that catch the eye from yards away and that are tolerating our colder temperatures. In all, there are 30 cultivars of mustard on display both in containers located in part sun and in the landscape located in full sun.
Mustards are a crop that is fun for either the first-time gardener or the veteran. They are so fast growing that they produce almost instant gratification. You can start them in a 4-inch container or sow directly in the ground. Do not cover the seed too much. Just lay seed on the soil and lightly press down with your finger. Keep an eye on watering; do not allow drying out. In a matter of weeks, you will have mature mustard to enjoy both ornamentally and at your kitchen table. There is mustard for everyone to enjoy — from spicy to mild flavored, and from bright-green lobed leaves to frilly burgundy. Here are just a few that have stood out, but don’t limit yourself only to these. Find cultivars that that satisfy your taste buds and show off your green thumb skills.
‘Crimson Red’ has large, lobed leaves of burgundy with a bright pink vein running down the center margin. This bold foliage color is perfect as your thriller in a combo container; just add dianthus as a filler, and a trailing pansy as a spiller. ‘Scarlet Frills’ has a lacy burgundy to red leaf with chartreuse stems, while ‘Golden Frills’ offers chartreuse leaves and stems. Both work well in a combo container as your thriller or in the landscape as you might use Swiss chard. To date, the mustards have held up better in our colder weather than the chard has.
Use mustards to add some spice to your favorite meal and to your landscape. They can fill a niche in any garden. Find cultivars on-line at www.kitazawaseed.com or www.johnnyseeds.com. Both seed companies provide information on taste and best harvest times for enjoying these edible ornamentals to the max.
About the author: Jenny Wegley is the senior manager of trials and greenhouse at the Dallas Arboretum. Visit www.dallasplanttrials.org for more information on the Arboretum’s trials.