Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Gas Plant, Foxtails–Indoor Tomato Growing

This weekend I am doing 2 PowerPoint presentations for our local Home Show. One program will be on Roses and the other on growing vegetables with flowers. While going through pictures, I found that I have never posted on two of my favorite spring flowers. Dictamnus albus purpurea, Gas Plant and Eremurus, Foxtail Lilies. Plus an update of my indoor tomatoes.

Early spring, this lovely plant grows by the walkway to our front porch. Lightly touching the flowers leaves a citrus scent. I say lightly touching because a heavier touch leaves a pretty strong citrus scent! This plant is commonly called Gas Plant. I once told someone that I wanted the gas plant because of Ted.  I got an odd look and a snicker. I quickly explained that Ted used to be a propane gas dealer. 
The story is that on a still day, a match held up to the flower will for a second “flame”.
Fox Tail Lilies bloom near the double Mock Orange. The Mock Orange provides such a sweet scent! A  cut flower will continue to have scent even after it dries.
The roots of Eremurus are very odd looking.  They look a bit like a starfish. I recently read that the roots should be planted 6” deep.
A month ago I bought some tiny heirloom tomatoes. I usually don’t put out tomatoes until the end of May or sometimes early June. So the challenge is to grow a large “root ball” tomato plant and harvest the earliest possible tomato. Years ago Ted made me a bookcase that I have in front of a small basement window. I have it set up with lights. I adjust the plants so that they sit about 2” under the lights. I set a timer so that the lights are on for 14 hours. The plants grow!  With the right kind of fluorescent bulbs they will also flower and set fruit. I have an aquarium bulb and the highest lumens bulb I could find at Lowes. It was either a Daylight or a Sunlight bulb. As the plant grows I plant it in a deeper container. I wanted a narrow container, so I walked around the house looking for a deep container. I save vinegar plastic bottles to use as “cloches” when first setting out plant starts.  I removed the cap and placed a coffee filter over the opening. I lined the container with a plastic grocery bag. It makes the tomato plant easier to lift out and plant without breaking off the tops. As the plant gets taller it tends to break off in the transplanting. The narrow bottom plastic container sits in a clay pot for balance.
We are continuing to have a cold spring. But in our basement, I have 3 small tomatoes on my “bloody butcher” tomato plant. I have 5 tomato plants growing in our basement under lights. See the huge tree outside our kitchen window! I had just transplanted this little guy and decided it should go into the blog. Happy Spring!


  1. You now have me very intrigued with both the gas plant and Eremurus. Love how they look in your photos. Do you know if either is the least bit deer resistant? Do they need good drainage? Thank you for posting!

  2. The Gas Plant is very deer resistant. It is very scented and that scares deer. The Eremurus also grows in my front yard which is open to deer. It might be that deer do not like the generally fragrant front yard. They like good drainage and seem to do fine in a dry area. The Gas Plant takes a while to grow, I have it self-sow at times. Once established it does not like to be moved. It dies down in the winter and sprouts up early in the spring. I mark its location.

  3. Both the gas plant and the foxtail lilies are just lovely. I don't think I've ever seen either one before. As for your tomatoes, we too use aquarium full spectrum actinic bulbs. They work great for preventing that leggy appearance that tomatoes indoors can get. I can't believe you have fruit set already though! I'm surprised...it's only April!

  4. Hi Gloria~~ I love that photo of your Gas Plant and the Foxtail lily is outstanding. These are two plants I love but don't grow. BEAUTIFUL!

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  6. Your beautiful gas plant gives me hope. They are very slow to establish, but mine has languished (and never bloomed) for three years now. It's still tiny (the foliage is clean and interesting looking though). Should I keep waiting? I do want one that looks like yours!

  7. LOVE those Foxtail Lilies, always loved the foxgloves that grow in the hedge-groves here in Ireland in the summer, im afraid they just wont look the same anymore. Thanks for sharing these Gloira

  8. The gas plant is beautiful, and your photos wonderful. We have had quite a cold spell but warmer is on the horizon and I have to restrain myself in regard to the tomatoes. I have had a few years where I put them out too early.


  9. Hi Clare, yes, I too am surprized at having little tomatoes on the heirloom bloody butcher tomato.When the flowers bloom, I shake them to pollinate them. Actually, when I go down to visit them I always give them a little shake. I think it makes them stronger.

  10. Hi Grace, thank you! There is so much that blooms o in spring that last year I missed posting on these 2 plants.

  11. Hi Laurrie - I have this plant in a dry hot area. I think it grows a deep tap root....maybe you need to give it a little neglect. I think that is my secret. :)

  12. Hi Sunny -The other day I was thinking about you and your stone work. It amazes me that every spring I move rocks around! Good thing we never cemented them in. I seem to keep getting different ideas of what to do with them. Oh well, it keeps me in muscles.

  13. Hi Eileen, so true about the tomatoes. I usually don't get them out until June 1st. But, by growing them indoor, I get some large plants. Happy Spring!

  14. That's on of the beauties of stone really, re-recycling them over on over again. Maybe even in a few hundred years some one will be doing the same thing with those same pieces of stone you passionately shift around your garden. I use to love Lego when I was a kid, Stone is just my new Lego.

  15. Gloria, Do you actually have gasplant and foxtail lilies in bloom already? How can your Dakota garden be further along than my Gettysburg garden (Mason-Dixon Line, zone 6b) where the daffodils have just started to open? Your flowers are beautiful, and I'm impressed by your little indoor tomatoes. -Jean

  16. Sunny, I never thought about stone moving as re-recyling. I like it! This week, I re-recycled the stones around my pond. I think I'll tell the story on a post. At least I am strong. Rock work is a workout!

  17. Hi Jean - Those pics are pics I found that I never posted last year. I don't even have daffodils blooming yet. But, I do have the first crocus. :)

  18. Such a beauty! I think I need that gorgeous flower in my gardens, too. And, deer resistant, too good to be true! :)

  19. Gloria - After seeing your Fox Tail Lilies, I realize I have much to learn. My knowledge of flowers is so parochial - it's time to branch out. Great photos!

  20. Your tomatoes look terrific - I gather from your post that a large root ball is the secret to fruit - is that correct?
    We have experimented with hydroponic tomatoes in the past and the roots totally filled our nutrient trays - love your blog :D