Mountain Valley Views March 2011 Newsletter


Ornamental Oreganos have been around a long time. In fact, the oregano that grows wild throughout Europe can be thought of as ornamental since it has a nice flower but not much flavor. Over time we have discovered that ornamental oreganos don't taste good and culinary oreganos are pretty homely.

 Rosenkuppel Oregano (pictured top right) has become our favorite ornamental oregano in the Origanum laevigatum group. It has striking reddish-green foliage and abundant clusters of purple flowers. The flowers are perfect for crafts and the bush is quite ornamental in the garden.

It is not the first O. lavevigatum we acquired but we consider it to be the best. Hopley's Purple (pictured bottom right) is, perhaps, a more well known member of this group because it has been in commerce for a long time. We no longer grow Hopley's Purple Oregano because the flower clusters are small and the plant is quite rangy. We grew Hopley's for years and then Herrenhausen Oregano (also an O. laevigatum) came on the scene. Herrenhausen has larger flower heads than Hopley's Purple but they tended to end up face down in the dirt. Herrenhause was a little better in appearance and growth habit but we could never harvest clean flowers and the look in the garden was a disappointment. Then we found Rosenkuppel. Rosenkuppel is thought to be an accidental cross between O. laevigatum and O. vulgare (the wild oregano that grows throughout Europe). It is more vigorous than the others in its group. It comes on strong in the spring with sturdy upright stems that give way in summer to gently swaying long flower stems of solidly filled flower heads.

Rosenkuppel plant shows its gorgeous flowers
Hopley's Purple Oregano Flowers

Interestingly, it is actually the bracts and the calyxes that hold the little flowers petals that are the more colorful part of the flower stem. The little light pink flowers drop out after a few days while the papery bracts retain their color for a long time. These can be used fresh in crafts like our Herbal Wreaths or hung to dry and used later. They look great even in a simple bouquet or add a nice bunch of Baby's Breath or Powis Castle Artemisia to really make the vibrant purple flowers of Rosenkuppel pop.

Ornamental oregano flowers should be cut for crafts when good color is evident and before any browning occurs. They best time to harvest flowers is early in the day after the dew has dried but before the sun gets too hot. If you are going to be out cutting for a while, take a bucket of water and immerse the stem ends only. If harvesting for fresh arrangements be sure to arrange the flowers while they are still pliable. If you are planning to dry the flowers and arrange them with other dried flowers later, then dry stems in small groups or individual stems so they can be used with as little jostling as possible. When dried upright the flowers will have more of a "just picked" look than if they are dried flat. 

Ornamental Oreganos make a great addition to our Crafter's Herb Garden Six Pack

  Tomato Trays  
Have happy tomatoes with Tomato Trays!

Sometimes it is the simple things that make life so much better. This is especially true in the garden. This little reusable tray helps keep your tomatoes watered on a consistent basis. It is designed to slow water your tomato plant, while keeping weeds and pests at a minimum. The split tray fits easily around the stem, and the four spikes direct water deep into the root zone. The red color reflects red light back to the plant, stimulating growth by as much as 40 percent more. It can also be used with peppers, melons, zucchini and others.

We have lots of simple ideas that make vegetable gardening easier and more successful. Visit our Vegetable Gardening Supply page for more information on the Tomato Tray and all our vegetable gardening products.

Of course we also have lots of vegetable plants too! Be sure to take advantage of our buy 5 and get one free offer. To order our certified organic veggies use this Vegetable Plant Order Form.


California Sunset Sage is one of 9 new Salvias we added this year bringing our total offering to 32. With almost 700 different kinds of Salvias known to exist, we look for those that are distinctive from each other and are easy to grow. We grow all of our plants in gardens (sometimes for many years) before we offer them to you so we know how they grow and what they need to stay healthy.

Salvias are easy to care for and reward us with lots of gorgeous colors in the garden. They have the added advantage of attracting hummingbirds to the garden. Most of their flowers can be used as edible garnish if grown organically.

For a listing of all the plants we are growing this year, please visit our Complete Herb and Perennial Plant List.

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