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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Eye Catchers: Corkscrew Rush and Tomatoes with Fern-like Foliage

Jessica Walliser
Hobby Farms Contributor

Corkscrew rush (aka corkscrew juncus) has tightly coiled grass-like stalks and thrives in very wet conditions. Photo courtesy Jessica Walliser (HobbyFarms.com)
Courtesy Jessica Walliser 
One of my plant obsessions of the moment is corkscrew rush (aka corkscrew juncus), which sends out tightly coiled stalks.

I've posted here before about how I’m a sucker for interesting plant forms. Well, I've got two more fascinating plants to tell you about that are special because of their funky growth habits.

The first is a favorite of mine for container plantings. Corkscrew juncus or corkscrew rush is an amazing grass-like plant that produces stems that are twisted like a coil. The foliage is deep green and each narrow, hollow stem looks like it has been curled around a pencil. The twists loosen as the stem ages, but each newly produced stem emerges in a new, tight coil. Corkscrew juncus is hardy to USDA zone 4, though I grow it as an annual because it requires very wet, boggy soils to really thrive, and I don't have those conditions anywhere on our property.

This year, I might try to overwinter the plant indoors in a container with no drainage holes and keep the soil constantly moist. Corkscrew juncus prefers full to partial sun and grows about 12 inches tall. Although it does produce flowers, they are insignificant. This plant is an incredibly interesting foliage specimen that will get everyone's attention!

The second unusually formed plant is a tomato. Yup, a tomato. You are probably already familiar with the many potato-leaved tomato varieties on the market (including the ubiquitous heirloom variety 'Brandywine'), but you might not be familiar with the unique foliage of the Silver Fir Tree tomato. This interesting and tasty tomato variety has finely divided leaves that look more like fern fronds than tomato leaves. They’re lace-like and silvery in color. I'm growing it for the first time this year, though a friend has grown it in the past and raved about both its delicate appearance and it's fine flavor. Silver Fir Tree is an heirloom variety that produces early, bright-red fruits that reach 3 inches across. It reportedly hails from Russia, and its determinate growth habit means that it's well-suited to container growing. Plants top out at about 4 feet in height.

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