If you're visiting local nurseries in hopes of picking up new starter plants for your garden, you're typically confronted with an array of tomatoes, peppers, and basil. But this spring, follow our lead and try planting something new and different. We love rosemary, lavender, and zucchini as much as the next person, but Phoenix has some great places to shop for something new. Read on for some fresh ideas.
Right now, Baker's Nursery has many different items including Red Rubin basil and large leaf french sorrel. Red rubin basil is actually purple and has a more solid purple color than "amethyst" basil. It has a stronger flavor than sweet basil -- of course, everyone loves purple pesto. Sorrel isn't commonly found at your local grocers, but it's a great herb in salads or to flavor salmon.
Pineapple sage, also available at Baker's, has a great scent and its leaves sort of resemble a mini pineapple plant. Hummingbird and butterflies love its flower. It's always a good idea to plant sage as it is a hard-to-kill perennial, and this one is especially pretty.
Whitfill's Nursery's uptown location offers fun finds like bronze fennel, lemongrass and rue. Bronze fennel pretty much just looks cool and fennel makes an awesome homemade pizza topping. Some say it's really just for decoration, so test yours out before you go crazy with it. Since lemongrass grows very easily here with enough water and can be expensive to buy fresh, it's a great addition to your garden. Lemongrass grows fairly tall and will die back in the wintertime, so be careful where you plant it, keeping in mind it can take full sun.
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Rue is an ancient plant and is commonly used as a sort of condiment or flavoring in the Mediterranean. It grows easily and some say butterflies like it. Some people can develop a skin irritation to rue, so be careful. If you do grow it, it provides a nice ground cover and adds color to your garden. Cats don't like the smell of it, so if feral cats are causing trouble in your garden, rue should help keep them at bay.
Vilardi Gardens, which sells plants most Thursdays at The Simple Farm and at other farmers markets around town, has Moroccan mint, which can make a great tea if you're up for a little work. Of course, it is mint, so be sure to give it lots of water this summer. Over at Berridge, stylish yellow "salt and pepper" cucumbers are available. With this veggie, your best two options are eating it fresh or pickling it. The longer they are left on the vine, the darker yellow they will turn. Berridge also has red Russian kale, a larger-than-average heirloom kale. This variety is relatively heat-tolerant, but some shade is recommended.
If nothing here strikes your fancy, visit your local nursery regularly, as this is the time of year many of them are stocking up on great edibles.