i don't know if spring is actually coming early this year, or if it is just a matter of perception, or, if i am going to get a rude awaking with 3 inches of snow in a week. all i know is i've been digging and planting and hovering over seed beds and choosing the next section of lawn to dig up for garden expansion, like it's mid april. i'm a lot more cocky this year. i'm not so fearful of frost. i know the vegetables that don't mind a little cold, and i've planted them. we've had a few nights of below freezing temps since then, but everything is doing great.
indoors, i've started brandywine tomatoes (from seeds i saved last fall), cherry tomatoes, sweet peppers and hot peppers, poppies, and husk cherries. i found out later that the poppies could have just been direct seeded outside. they germinated quickly, and are growing like weeds. besides the poppies, the brandywines were the first to come up (let's hear it for heirlooms!). my farmer friend, amy, warned me that peppers can be difficult to germinate. they need warmth. so, i set a heat lamp over them, and a heating pad underneath. at one point i stuck a thermometer in the soil, and it was over 90 degrees. eventually they came up, and i'll tell ya, i felt so proud!
the last one to germinate was the husk cherry. i first encountered this lovely fruit when i was in switzerland for a semester abroad as a graduate student. i found them growing on the grounds of the villa where we lived and had our studio. they have a husk over them, sort of like a tomatillo (their close relative) but it's small, golden, and looks like a paper lantern. inside the husk is a marble-sized, orange-colored berry. being a brazen forager, of course, i tasted one. i could tell it was edible because it was so delicious. later i found them in a candy store, the paper husk still attached, but pulled back, and twisted above the berry, which was dipped in smooth, dark, swiss chocolate. wow.
since then, i've been searching for information about this plant. i would tell people about it, draw (and paint, see above) pictures of it, but no one would know what i was talking about. i found some growing in a park in chicago, but still didn't know the name. when i saw them featured in johnney's seed catalog, i decided i had to try to grow them. i figure, if they can grow in chicago, they can grow here. they are also known as cape gooseberry, ground cherry, and they had a very cute name in the swiss candy shop, which i cannot remember. in my bastardization of the french language (though we were in the italian part of switzerland), i refer to them as mon cheri.
what new plants are you experimenting with in your garden, this year?