A recent column using topics beginning with the letter X was rather a struggle, but Y seems to be much easier. There are several interesting plants to consider, and I am going to begin with yams.
Contrary to public opinion (mine formerly included), yams are not sweet potatoes. Ignore the can labels - yams are tubers growing on the branches of a tropical vine (dioscara batatas).
The yam is popular in the Caribbean and Latin America where it grows and has a brown or black skin which resembles the bark of a tree. Its flesh is off-white or purple. These tubers can grow to be large, sometimes up to 3 feet long.
Yucca are evergreen plants with long, sword-shaped leaves which grow in large clusters. The white, fragrant flowers bloom on long stems in late summer.
Many varieties are native to desert areas and need to be grown in greenhouses in climates such as ours, but others will flourish in cooler climates.
All yuccas need a sunny location, good drainage and some protection from cold winds. Watering is usually not needed as yuccas can stand dry conditions. These make good container plants. The variety most often grown in this area is yucca flamentos, or Adams Needle.
Yarrow, or achillea, is a flower that is easy to grow and a useful filler for the perennial bed because it will flourish in poor soil and needs little care. The leaves are dull green and fernlike, and the flowers may be pink, yellow or white.
The yellow often is a rather unattractive khaki color. I remember there was a border of dull yellow yarrow all along the side of the garage when we moved into this house, and I pulled them out to my husband's intense displeasure. I had not known he admired them!
Since then, I have found the pink varieties to be attractive.
Yew is a beautiful evergreen that can range in height from a small shrub to a 60-foot tree. Yews do not bear cones. Their needles are a dark green - the darkest of all evergreens, and it contrasts well with trees of a lighter color.
The yew produces brilliant red berries in the fall, with openings in the skin that show the black seeds inside.
The Pacific and California yews are more common in the west, with the Japanese yew found in this area.
Yard long beans is a popular name for a variety of bean that is fun to grow. They are also known as asparagus green beans or Chinese green beans, and truly do grow to a yard long if they are left alone, although they are more tender if picked at about 12 inches.
These beans are a close relative of the chick pea and black-eyed pea. They should be planted in a sunny space and will require a trellis, tepee or fence to climb. They germinate in about a week and will flower roughly five weeks later.
The beans form around 10 days after flowering. When you harvest your beans for the table or freezer, leave a few on the vine just to see how long they will grow. Then, when your neighbors boast about their early tomatoes, you can come right back with your longest beans.
Janet Del Turco is a local gardener and a graduate of the Ohio State University Master Gardener program.
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