From the Sperry Garden – October, 2007

Believe it or not, these two handsome plants are in the same plant family. The mint family of all things! You can always tell its members by their four-sided, square stems. However, that’s not why I called this meeting today. I wanted to extol the virtues of coleus and sweet basil.

I’ve used cutting-grown coleus since I was a teenager. I found my first start of them in the trash cans at Texas A&M. I took them home and potted them up and I’ve never been without them since. When my wife and I were married in Ohio 38 years ago next month I used coleus plants in bushel baskets as decorations for our wedding reception. I’ve used them every year since. This plant is along our driveway where it gets morning sun and shade all afternoon. Obviously it’s quite content there. Oh, by the way, this is a type that is reluctant to flower. It is not propagated from seed as many of the old-fashioned coleus were. It’s grown from cuttings. You don’t want flowers to form on either coleus or basil, as blooms stop the production of additional leaves.

There are a dozen or more types of basil, some with large leaves, some with small, most with green leaves, but many with purple. They’re some of our prettiest herbs, and I have to admit, they’re great additions to my wife’s homemade pizzas. I grow one crop all summer and I buy a second round in August to grow in pots over the winter in my greenhouse.

Funny, how such dissimilar plants can look so good together. They’ve earned a spot in my heart and my garden. If you’re also inclined, many nurseries have both in stock now and you have ample time to enjoy them to the fullest the rest of the summer and up to first frost.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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