By Judy Funderburk, Extension Master Gardener
First there is Peter, our resident bunny who periodically comes hoppin’ along. It’s especially good timing if we Master Gardeners happen to be explaining to a visitor that our garden is a Wildlife Habitat certified by the National Wildlife Federation. Peter seems to prefer our parsley to lettuce and violets to chard. He devours sorrel, that lemony sour leafy green that makes such a fine addition to salads or soups, to the point that each year we try to grow it, we soon have none. As long as he does not chew the stem of our Purple Hyacinth Bean plant growing on the Cemetery fence, we (and any children in the vicinity) are delighted to see him hoppin’ through the Garden.
Second, there is a Golden Hops vine (Humulus lupulus ‘Aureus’), growing beautifully though a bit crazily up and around the arching supports of the gazebo, growing with such vigor that it has even sprouted a topknot on the roof – hoppin’ indeed!
Most people when they hear the word “hops” think immediately of beer. But did you know that the hops flower, often referred to as a hop cone because of its baby pine cone shape, has ornamental value? It is not only pretty to behold, it also develops a lovely scent as it dries on the vine. The hop plant was first mentioned in the writings of Pliny around 77 A. D. He speaks of it as a garden plant among Romans who ate the young shoots in spring, in much the same way as we do asparagus. Historically, wild-grown hop plants are also known to have been used medicinally to ease anxiety and stress and as a mild sedative, with documentation going back as early as 739 A.D.
Today, specific varieties of hops are used by brewers to give their beer characteristic flavors, bitterness, aroma and stability. Hops contain a substance that is anti-bacterial so it has for centuries been added to beer not only as a flavor enhancer, but as a preservative which deters spoilage.
Hops vines are perennial herbaceous plants which send up new shoots in early spring and die back to the cold-hardy rhizomes in winter. Our Golden Hops vine is in its second year and probably grew so vigorously (they can grow from 8 to 20 inches a week and up to 25 feet in a season!) because we did not know that we should have trimmed the new growth this spring to two to three vines. Otherwise they develop into a tangle, are hard to harvest in late summer, and make us gardeners less ‘hoppy’. The vines wrap clockwise onto the uprights of the gazebo, needing no tying as they have sticky stems with bristly hairs that grip.
For the home brewer, the process of picking and drying and keeping the flowers from getting mold or mildew sounds a bit daunting when you read the various websites. But, one site (“Brewing Techniques,” May/June 1994) made this gardener grin with its quip, “It’s rumored that a homegrown hop is the best variety because it’s flavored with self-satisfaction.”
For those of us working in the Glencarlyn Library Garden, the Golden Hops vine is a delight because it is unusual and allows us to teach about yet another beautiful vine. Plus it is easy to grow, has a unique flower, and provides a lovely frame to look through. You are hereby invited to come sit in the gazebo and look out at the early autumn blooms of the garden framed by our ‘hoppin’ Golden Hops vine!
Hops, Wikipedia the free encyclopedia
“Backyard Hops Plant,” by Jackie Rhoades on the Gardening Know How on-line source http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/vegetables/hops/growing-hops-plants.htm
A Modern Herbal by Mrs. M. Grieve, Website: www.botanical.com