Ground Cherries: A Unique Flavour

ground cherries

Have you ever tasted ground cherries? To me, they taste like a cross between a grape and a cherry tomato. Hubby used to eat them as a child and encouraged me to plant some this past growing season.

What are Ground Cherries?

FoodPrint describes ground cherries as follows:

The ground cherry, also called physalis or cape gooseberry, is a unique fruit. With its papery husk, it looks like a small, orange tomatillo, but its flavor is uniquely sweet: to our palate, a mixture of pineapple, strawberry and green grapes — sweet, tart and vaguely tropical.


To me, they look like miniature Chinese lanterns.

Plants vs Seeds to Grow Your Own

I was unable to find plants but did manage to order some seeds to start indoors. Unfortunately, as most of my seed ventures are, these were not prolific. Of two seed packets, each containing lots of tiny seeds, I managed to cultivate three plants. The squirrels and chipmunks did not help, every time we looked, they were digging up the seedlings that did manage to survive the process. We moved the last pot indoors when we saw a chipmunk scurrying off with one of our almost-ripe ground cherries. You can tell I don’t spray my plants with herbicides or pesticides. To deter bugs from moving into the house too, I sprayed the soil with hydrogen peroxide often.

ground cherries

My Verdict on Ground Cherries

I love the taste of these tiny, unique fruits but they are lots of work to grow your own. Perhaps I will start looking for plants earlier next spring to get a head start on growing some. And, find a way to deter the chipmunks and squirrels from feasting on them before we can.

Magnolia Scale, Yikes!

magnolia scale

A while ago, when trimming off a few lower branches, I noticed sticky stuff dripping from my magnolia tree. Upon closer inspection, I saw blackened leaves, as well as a black residue on my white veranda rails and porch. Next came the swarms of hornet-like bugs attracted to the sugary residue. What a mess! Apparently, my tree is infested with magnolia scale, as described by the University of New Hampshire:

Magnolia scale feed on plant sap with piercing-sucking mouthparts and excrete a sweet, sticky fluid called honeydew. Unsightly black fungus called sooty mold often grows on the honeydew, making the leaves look dirty and reducing photosynthesis. Honeydew also attracts sugar loving insects such as ants and wasps.

University of New Hampshire

The Stages of Magnolia Scale

Instead of laying eggs, the adult female magnolia scale insects give birth to young crawlers, which then molt into adults sporting a waxy, outer soft shell that protects their bodies. If you discover whitish patches on the branches of your magnolia tree, that would be the time to treat the tree. Otherwise, the tree will suffer greatly.

Treatment for Magnolia Scale

Treating the scale insects at this stage is easiest. My magnolia tree is not yet fully grown so I can still reach all the branches, especially when standing on my veranda. I used another of my trusty Melaleuca products, a concentrated solution of thyme and lemon, called Solugard. I coated each white patch and sprayed the veranda and railing. I may have to repeat the treatment, will keep you posted.

You can also prune out infected branches and twigs if there are not many involved. Most of my branches are so that was not an option. Another solution is a pesticide specifically for the magnolia scale; you probably know what I think about pesticides.

Also suggested is a late April (before the buds open on the tree) application of dormant horticultural oil such as neem oil. This early treatment will kill the magnolia scale insects that have overwintered on your tree.

A cold winter helps too. Our last few winters here in Ottawa have been unusually mild so more of these insects survived on the branches.

Bring on the cold, just not yet please. We have several more months until I am ready for that weather, hoping for another beautiful autumn first.

Before the Magnolia Scale

I will be heartbroken if this gorgeous tree does not survive. Fingers crossed I caught the scale in time

Gardening on a Budget

gardening on a budget

I like to joke that I tend to spend more money on plants than clothes, especially since retiring. However, with increasing costs around the world, life’s essentials take precedence over plants and flowers. That’s where gardening on a budget comes in.

Propagate Your Own Plants

I have shared several posts on this theme. Propagation is not difficult, it just takes patience. The good news? It is very rewarding when you get the hang of it and it saves you an incredible amount of money.

Starting Plants from Seeds

Probably the most rewarding adventure, growing plants from seeds takes the most time, effort, and paraphernalia. Pots, heating mats, and grow lights all add up. Without those things, your success rate will inevitably be low and frustrating.

You also need space to set up your nursery. I am an empty nester so have spare rooms in my home that I easily convert in the winter months for the propagation of all types.

Using Leaves to Create New Plants

I’ve had great success with propagating succulents with little to no work or failures.

Simply remove a few leaves from a mature succulent and lay them (horizontally) on top of a shallow bowl of chunky, made-for-cactus/succulents, soil. Light spritz with water every day until a baby develops. That’s it!

I grew over thirty new succulents last winter for my niece’s wedding decor. I started with four succulents (I had two and purchased two others for variety), two large saucer-like pots, succulent soil, and a sunny window. Although I had great success without a heating mat, I did add one part way through the process to speed it up. That was my impatience kicking in, I would have been better off keeping them smaller for the driftwood project I had in mind.

Divide Perennials When Gardening on a Budget

This is by far the easiest way to increase your plants if gardening on a budget. Many perennials thrive when divided every few years too. Some will divide easily, others might require the use of a sharp spade or fork.

Simply place the severed chunk in a new pot with fresh soil or straight into a new spot in your garden. Either way, water well after the split.

I also used lots of divided perennials for the recent wedding I put together floral displays for.

Share with Neighbours, Family, and Friends

The best (and most economical) thing about propagating is the fact that you will have lots of baby plants to share, trade with, or sell. Markets on Facebook or other forms of social media are full of plants every spring.

Houseplants can be Propagated as well

I’ve also extended my collection of houseplants over the years with various propagation methods and success rates.

The bottom line? Gardening on a budget is easier than you think!