As a gardener, part of the fun of traveling is seeing plants you've never seen before. Sometimes they're exotic species that would never make it in Minnesota. All you can do is admire them in their native habitat -- and take a couple pictures to remember them by.



But sometimes you discover plants that you can actually try at home. 

I encountered some of both types this month. First we spent a week in South Carolina, a state we'd never visited before, and I got my first real encounter with Spanish moss. Sure, I'd seen it in movies and photos. But seeing it for real -- everywhere -- draped from trees like fluttering gray-green scarves -- was magical and enchanting. It's so different from anything we see up here that I felt like I had stepped into some sort of Southern Gothic Disney theme park -- Bayou Land!. 

I'd love to have Spanish moss hanging from my tree branches here in Minnesota, but I know that's never gonna happen.


But closer to home, I discovered a plant I would like to try. We were in Madison, Wis., moving our daughter out of her apartment, and I took a side trip to the Allen Centennial Gardens ( on the UW campus.

The garden is a teaching garden for the UW horticulture department, and it's always worth a stroll. So beautiful that it's a sought-after site for weddings, it's also a living laboratory of interesting plant species.

This visit, what caught my eye were some purplish-black tomatoes, darker than any I've ever seen, as dark as an eggplant. The tag said they were 'Indigo Rose.'  Back home, at my computer, I looked them up. Apparently Indigo Rose is a new tomato variety developed at Oregon State University. It's not only gorgeous, but it also apparently has a high level of antioxidants, so it's healthy to boot. How does it taste? "Like a tomato," according to one online review.

That's good enough for me!

Several seed companies are now carrying Indigo Rose in their catalogs, and I'm definitely going to get my hands on some next year and trying growing them at home.

What plants have you discovered while traveling? Any you've tried to grow at home?