Kiss Me Over The Garden Gate (Polygonum orientale)
Rumor has it that this gorgeous bush was grown in the U.S. for the first time in history by President Thomas Jefferson. However, it is also claimed that John Custis of Williamsburg Virginia was the first to grow it in 1737. It was quite popular a century ago and is making a comeback.
Kiss Me Over the Garden Gate, a.k.a. Oriental Persicary, Persicaria orientalis (Polygonum orientale), Prince’s feather, Princess feather, or Lady Finger, grows to 5′-8′ tall and 5′ wide. The branches cascade with hundreds of flowers. Every 3-inch cluster of these pearl-sized flowers bounces in the Summer breeze, adding so much vibrancy to your sunny memories.
This beauty flowers from mid-July until the first frost. Harvesting Kiss Me Over the Garden Gate seeds requires removing the oldest catkins and drying them. Then you simply have to rub them in your palms to discover the seeds.
The best time to plant Kiss Me Over the Garden Gate is during the Spring after the last frost. Make sure you place it in partial to full sun, since it is sensitive to low temps and frost. The soil should be moist and have good drainage. Place the seeds 1/4” deep and 2′ apart in peaty media or one containing pumice. Do not overwater.
The seeds are fairly hardy, so you may require a minimum of 4 weeks to germinate them. They are activated by cold. So keep them in an outdoor shed during Winter, in order to plant them next year.
This annual flowering bush is difficult to transplant, but readily reseeds. Transplanting requires the roots be undisturbed during the move.
Growing Kiss Me Over the Garden Gate requires a good amount of experience. It grows in sandy, loamy, or clay soils, but prefers loamy to clay. It also tolerates a variety of pH levels, but prefers slightly acidic.
Kiss Me Over the Garden Gate comes back well in the Spring if humus, slow release fertilizer, or mature manure are added in late Winter to the soil around the base of the plant. The Spring fertilizer should be strong in nitrogen and potassium. Dose the water you use on the plant at an interval of 20-25 days.
Protect the plants from low temperatures with dry leaves or straw around the stems. They are easily damaged from the cold.
You should water generously, but rarely. Once in 2-3 weeks will suffice. Be careful to water deeply, but ensure the soil is dry during the few days prior to watering. Do not allow any standing water.
Pests, Diseases, and Animals
If you are growing Kiss Me Over the Garden Gate in a damp climate, you will want to protect it from aphids and fungi. These plants are also a delicacy for Japanese Beetles and attract many species of moths, so be careful and guard your plants closely. However, rabbits tend to ignore them. Kiss Me Over the Garden Gate grows quickly and attracts bees who cross-pollinate the hermaphroditic flowers. So it really is a pleasurable addition to any garden.
It has been found to have anti-oxidant properties in some studies Journal of Food Composition and Analysis. While this species has not been indicated as a health problem, members of the genus have been reported to cause light sensitivity in people who include these plants in their diet. Since so many of these plants contain oxalic acid, as also does rhubarb, there are specific potential health risks from consuming them. Oxalic acid is non-toxic, but it chemically binds to some minerals, stealing them from the body. The result is that the person becomes deficient in these minerals. Cooking will lower the levels of oxalic acid, but those who suffer from arthritis, rheumatism, kidney stones, acidic stomach, and gout should avoid consuming plants of this genus. If you plan to eat Kiss Me Over the Garden Gate, you can cook young shoots or the seeds, as they do in Southeast Asia.
Many consider polygnums to be invasive. There are mixed reports about how invasive polygnum orientale is though.
However, Persicaries growing near wheat fields are often accidentally harvested with the wheat, since they propagate quickly and widely, falling among the wheat. Persicaries are susceptible to fungi and molds. So they introduce wheat smut into the harvest when stored.
The inference for the gardener is that if you do not take care of your Kiss Me Over the Garden Gates, you are likely to find fungus or mold introduced to the fellow plants in your garden, even the fruits and vegetables that you might eat.