I returned late Thursday night from the International Trials Conference at Longwood Gardens. The conference was fantastic because of the information presented, the people I met, and the new plants that we saw at various trials. I have a new listing of plants that I want to grow in 2014 at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. At the top of this list is the ornamental black-foliaged rice, Oryza sativa ‘Black Madras.’ There is a wonderful mass planting of Black Madras rice in the annual trials at Longwood Gardens. It is planted in front of the black leaved Pennisetum ‘Vertigo.’ The dark foliage is fringed with a yellow celosia and a light colored Alternanthera.
The Black Madras rice was in seed which are actual rice kernels. The rice kernels are a chartreuse-green that contrast nicely with the dark foliage and flower stalk. The plants were growing in a regular garden bed that had been amended with compost and receives adequate moisture. When I think about growing rice, I think about submerged rice patties. Oryza ‘Black Madras’ will grow well in a patty like environment but it will also do well in a garden bed with full sun and sufficient water. This would be cool to try in an aquatic planter if you do not have the right place in the garden for it to grow. These rice plants can be purchased as annual plugs or grown from seed. In looking at various seed sites, it appears that you can sow seed in late winter in flats or direct sow in late spring into the garden bed.
We will probably start our from seed in late winter since we cannot plant our annuals into the gardens until early June. I am starting to think what I can use for companion plants around the rice. I hope we can even get some rice to set on our plants. It would be fun to harvest some and then serve it in our cafe as “micro” harvested rice. Well, maybe that last part would be a stretch but worth a shot!
Photos: botanickateplice.cz, davesgarden.com