Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Gardening With Dr. Joe White: Double Duty Plants

by BPT Staff
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It’s always good when we find something that will serve more than a single purpose such as a couch that can be a bed should there be a need, a stool that has steps that make it a small step ladder or a tool that can be used as a plier or a wire cutter. Well, there are several plants that have that ability and offer multiple benefits.

Dr. Joe W. White is a retired horticulturist with the LSU AgCenter.

Blue berries which are typically in season during our summer months are excellent as a source of several substances known to contribute to a heathy diet. But they are also a delicious fruit with a good taste and may be eaten as a snack right off of the plant or mixed into muffins… even used to garnish pancakes or add flavor to ice cream. When properly grown and maintained, they develop into an attractive ornamental plant that can be part of almost any landscape. Very much like azaleas they do best when grown in an acid soil and will tolerate light shade, but full sun is their preference. Full sun, however, is where they produce the most berries.

The blueberry plants that are grown in Louisiana are the rabbiteye types which means they will mature at a height of about 10 – 12 feet and therefore could be used for screening purposes when they reach their maximum height. In order to be most productive of fruit it is necessary to plant two or more varieties for cross pollination.

Grapes is another plant that provides more than one benefit. Many (if not most) home gardeners like to eat them fresh right out of the vineyard or where ever they are located and their fruits are typically the most common source of jelly and wine. Since they are capable of rapid growth and usually demonstrate this feature over a many-year period, they make excellent cover for arbors, fences and exterior walls. There are several varieties and kinds of grapes and in addition to the bunch type such as ‘Concord’ which is better suited to cooler climates, we now have the ‘Sunbelt’ which resembles the ‘Concord’ in flavor but is a much better choice for the South. Muscadine grapes are well suited to our local climate and many of the newer varieties are much sweeter than those growing in the wild. Muscadine vines are superior to most other grapes for constructing baskets.

One more plant that offers more than one purpose is the hot pepper. Although an annual plant, there are several cultivars each with its own characteristics. They are especially well-adapted to the high temperatures of summer and have attractive dark green foliage plus they produce peppers that can be used to spice up foods while also making a colorful spot in the landscape.                                                                                      

Pecan and black walnut trees along with several other fruit bearing trees are clearly  multipurpose  since they not only produce “fruit”, but also provide shade. Certain species when mature are the source for expensive lumber.

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