Monday, October 24, 2011

Trial Gardens - Ornamental Peppers

While visiting the Hartley Selections Gardens on the University of Illinois campus recently I found a spectacular collection of ornamental peppers. These display gardens are absolutely fascinating. All of the plants in the garden were in containers this year and it made for quite the show. From dark and mysterious to a mass planting that looks like flames, peppers add a ton of warm options to a garden.

Ornamental peppers are grown primarily for their looks and not for tasty late-night snacking. Taste is frequently not a concern. Though caution should be taken if planting around pets and children. The real zest from these peppers shows up in the garden. They have the ability to add excitement with color and texture. These would make great additions to containers, small gardens, and add pops of color in borders. With names like 'Black Pearl', 'Explosive Ignite', and 'Chilly Chili' you really should expect pop!

Capsicum annuum 'Black Pearl'

Capsicum 'Black Pearl'
All parts of the 'Black Pearl' pepper are shiny. Light reflects brightly off of every pearl. It is a great accent plant and can really make neighboring light colors (yellow, whites, chartreuse), pop! This pepper is only 18" tall. It has small, glossy, compact, dark purple-black leaves with highly glossy black fruits that turn red as they mature. These plants work so well as border plants and have their own punch of color.

Capsicum annuum 'Explosive Ignite'

Capsicum 'Explosive Ignite'
This pepper stays primarily yellow-green, but will mature to an warm orange color. The warm, along with its name, should cause pause. This pepper is apparently hot hot hot! The color, the abundance of peppers, and upright texture is hot too! It is really an easy plant to help make your other colors pop.

Capsicum annuum 'Chilly Chili'

Capsicum 'Chilly Chili'
These fiery-hot topped plants are short at 10" tall, but real stand outs in a border or container. The fruit stands upright giving a great texture to the tops of its otherwise mounded habit. The fruits start out yellow-green and mature passing through orange right into red.

I read an interesting little note once while buying ornamental peppers once. If you are intending to use these plants as food, be sure to buy from a source that does not use pesticides. It's good advice and a good policy for all your food.

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