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Originally published Thursday, April 4, 2013 at 5:01 AM

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Ciscoe Morris: Corydalis glows in the garden; eggplant from seed

Garden writer Ciscoe Morris recommends some early maturing eggplant varieties well-suited to the Northwest climate, plus blue- and red-flowering Corydalis as hardy additions to the garden.

Special to The Seattle Times

Gardening Events

Ciscoe’s Picks

8th annual Garden Lovers’ Book Sale:

Browse gently used gardening and plant books; proceeds benefit the Miller Library. Wine and cheese preview party/sale, 5-8 p.m. Friday ($20; call the Miller Library, 206-543-0415). Sale 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday (free). Center for Urban Horticulture, 3501 N.E. 41st St., Seattle (depts.washington.edu/hortlib/index.shtml).

Seattle Audubon Annual Spring Plant Sale: Seven nurseries will be selling plants, including many natives, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, The Nature Shop, 8050 35th Ave. N.E., Seattle (www.seattleaudubon­­

.org).

Snohomish Garden Club: Richie Steffen, horticultural curator of the Elisabeth C. Miller Garden, will talk about great plant picks. 7 p.m. Monday, Snohomish Senior Center, 506 Fourth St., Snohomish. Free.

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Thanks for these tips, Cisco. I always find something wonderful to plant tucked into... MORE
Great tip, can't wait to get my hands on these beautiful flowers. MORE

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In the Garden

If you aren’t growing Corydalis, you’re missing out on some real jewels of the spring garden.

Available at nurseries, plant sales or online, these members of the poppy family are hardy to minus 20 degrees, plus they are easy to grow and feature colorful spurred flowers above fernlike foliage.

There are many varieties, but it’s impossible to resist blue-flowering ones. “China Blue” has deep-blue blooms, while those on “Pere David” are of a brighter hue. “Purple Leaf” features purplish-blue blossoms atop purple-blotched foliage. The true beauty of the bunch is “Blue Heron.” Hardy to 0 degrees, the fragrant, iridescent flowers shimmer like sapphires above lacy blue-green foliage.

As irresistible as the blue-flowering ones are, wait until you see the red ones! Corydalis solida “George P. Baker” is adorned with spectacular red flowers, varying from brick to dark red.

The flowers of C. solida “Beth Evans” open bright-pink before softening to a paler shade as they mature.

Corydalis tend to do best in well-drained soil and moist shade and will bloom from spring into early summer if given adequate moisture. After the blooms fade, cut the foliage down to about an inch. Your Corydalis probably won’t rebloom, but the lacy leaves will grow back looking fresh and lovely.

Eggplant from seed

Eggplants are great in all sorts of dishes because they absorb the flavor of their cooking partners. They’re also ornamental and fun to grow, but to get the tropical, sun-loving fruit to ripen, it’s important to choose early maturing varieties.

A beautiful eggplant offered by Ed Hume is “Eclipse.” This one is well adapted to our Northwest climate and produces the classical glossy, dark-purple fruit. It will ripen in about 65 days from transplant if it’s planted in a warm sunny location and we get a decent summer.

If you don’t have the optimum conditions, try a couple of varieties offered by Territorial Seed that ripen even earlier. Although “Dairyu” lacks the classical eggplant look, the 6- to 8-inch-long, 2-inch-wide purple fruit are just as delicious and ripen in only 57 days.

The record-holder for quick ripening is “Millionaire.” Its 8-inch-long fruit ripen in only 54 days.

Start the seed indoors, under lights, placed a quarter of an inch deep in sterile seeding mix as soon as possible. Place the flats on heated propagation mats, as the soil needs to be close to 80 degrees for optimal germination. When the seeds lose their second set of leaves, transplant into 4-inch pots.

Harden transplants by leaving them out increasingly later each night for about two weeks before transplanting into the garden around the beginning of June. Harvest when the fruit has sized up and the skin is firm, smooth and shiny.

For a real treat, cook them with Brussels sprouts to allow them to absorb the wonderful flavor!

Ciscoe Morris: ciscoe@ciscoe.com “Gardening With Ciscoe” airs at 10 a.m. Saturdays on KING-TV.

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About Ciscoe Morris

Ciscoe Morris' column runs Thursdays. His show "Gardening with Ciscoe" airs at 10 a.m. on Saturdays on King 5.
ciscoe@ciscoe.com

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