I continue to require eye-candy this winter, and here’s a dose for today. Salpiglossis ‘Stained Glass’ (Salpiglossis sinuata) is a beautiful annual flower from Chile that derives its name from the hand-painted quality of its blooms. I first grew it from seed a few years back and have been considering it for this year’s garden.
All photos in this post are credited to Avant Gardens.
As a gardener with particular tastes and interests that border on obsession, it’s always a treat to meet someone who shares the same enthusiasm and passions. I was introduced to Katherine Tracy and her nursery Avant Gardens (located in Dartmouth, Massachusetts) through Margaret, who found out about this off-the-beaten-track plant treasure trove by word-of-mouth through some of her gardening friends. “She’s one of us,” Margaret explained, meaning to say through verbal shorthand that she’s a bit plant crazy (the best kind of crazy) and with impeccable taste to boot (because, of course, being somewhat mad, we happen to believe our own tastes in plants are impeccable).
Collectors of unusual and interesting plants since the 1980s, owners Katherine and Chris Tracey sell all manner of colourful foliage and dependable perennials. Like many of the most interesting nurseries, their business got started by way of a personal passion that simply got out of hand. They began doing mail order in 1997, focussing on uncommon annuals, but gradually moved on to include some of the perennials, trees, and shrubs they personally grew as well.
I have a special place in my heart for currant tomatoes. They’re wild and free-growing. They are quite literally their own species (Lycopersicon pimpinellifolium). Naughty, unruly, and rebellious, they will blanket the garden in a webbing of lace-like foliage if you turn your attention away for even a moment. They are out of control and promiscuous. They readily cross-pollinate with other tomatoes in the garden, spreading their genes where you don’t want them. And once they get started, they never seem to stop producing legions of the tiniest, pop-in-your-mouth fruit.
They are too much, and yet I always go back for more.
Winter 2013. It’s not really a hardship compared to the thirtysomething odd winters of my lifetime past. No, my problems with this winter are entirely mental. And it’s not depression. I simply want out. I am full of energy and ready to start but winter laughs at my impatience. “You will wait until I am good and ready. Sucker.”
Today I am a caged animal. I’m howling and shaking the bars and smashing my feeble and pale, vitamin D deficient body at this winter prison. Friends of ours are headed to Cuba next week, and even though I once proclaimed that I would, “…sooner poke my eyeballs out of my head than stroll the beaches of the resort nightmare that is Varadero,” I still begged them to take me. And I would go. I would travel inside a large box and I would dance and stumble and shake across those beaches cackling like a madwoman.
Let’s look at some pictures I took on trips to Guama and Santiago de Cuba in winters past and pretend that we are there. Let’s imagine that there is a warm breeze that smells like jasmine and burning cane fields with a touch of plastic. We can feel the vitamin D surging through our skin as it comes back to life. And we are laughing and dancing; losing and then finding our minds in the sunshine.
Colourful flowers that sway and jitter on wiry stems, Fame flower (Talinum calcycinum) is another example of a rough and tumble, easy-grow plant that is disguised as delicate and fragile. Rather, it is a hardy (zones 4ish-9) succulent that is native to the North American prairies. Related to the common edible weed purslane (Portulaca oleracea), fame flower likes it dry, so if you do not have sandy or gritty soil, consider keeping it in a pot as my friend Barry has with the specimen pictured here.