Last Friday, I took a trip out of the city with some friends to buy herbs, and came home with something unexpected. Pig’s Ear (Cotyledon orbiculata) is a pretty grey-blue-green succulent with big, fleshy leaves and orange flowers. According to my favourite go-to succulent identification book, “Succulents: The Illustrated Dictionary” by Maurizio Sajeva and Mariangela Costanzo, it’s from South Africa and not hardy in my zone so I’ll be keeping it in a pot and it will go outside in another month or so with my other tender succulents. Those of you in zones 7 and up will have the good fortune of keeping it outside year-round and may even be able to put it in the soil if you have lots of sun and a dry spot that drains well. It’s look and spreading growth habit reminds me of Flapjack (Kalanchoe thyrsifolia), but with pointier leaves.
A day belated simple blue bird…
The birds I have posted here so far with Gayla’s invitation have been calls for Spring. As of today, while Winter’s legacy does still linger in crusty countryside ditch snowbanks and the occasional flurry of odd styrofoam-like snow pellets, many signs of Spring are happily appearing.
The scents and smells are returning. Even the sometimes fetid first whiff of last year’s decomposing plant matter can be wonderful. Winter can often feel sterile, even dead, with natural smells locked in temporary cryonic freeze. In these early Spring days, with animals and plants reappearing to the delight of our senses, and the air so much easier to draw in to our lungs, we wait even for that first ozone-tinged rain storm. Smells tie us to life and memory so directly.
Make your way outside, breathe as deeply as you can and identify those smells that mean Spring to you.
Just the other day, I was walking in the sunshine, music playing through the buds stuck in my ears, when the song, “You Are My Sister” came on. As Antony Hegarty’s melodic and impossibly high-pitched voice filled my head I thought back to when we first “met” and how we bonded very quickly over a mutual affection for this album. Immediately my mind took me back to late summer when we met in person for the first time. There I was again, driving up to your place in the rental car, a canopy of tall trees shading us from above; you standing at the gate, that familiar green and red house behind you, the garden surrounding us all. And then, jumping further ahead again, my mind made a b-line to the nicotiana.
No, it’s not a sea creature out of water. It’s a super freak, super freak, super freaky (Rick James approved) mutated succulent!
Fasciation, cristate, cresting, or bundling: all are words for an interesting genetic mutation that causes a plant to grow gnarled and twisted, thick in some parts and thin in others. Sometimes the plants appear super-pumped, almost as if it were doubling and even tripling back onto itself. These mutations, often occurring at the tips in new growth and sometimes even in the flowers, are triggered by a range of traumas ranging from environmental issues such as chemical exposure and frost, to insect attack, over-crowding, and disease.
And then plant breeders take these random mutations and use them to their advantage to produce far-out, freaky, alien varieties, such as this Echeveria runyonii ‘Topsy Turvy Cristata’.
“Memory is a gardeners real palette; memory as it summons up the past, memory as it shapes the present, memory as it dictates the future.” – from My Garden (Book) by Jamaica Kincaid
Hello writers. Our first writing prompt was meant to jog memory and take us back to our beginnings (or somewhere nearish), back to where we have come from as gardeners. Memory and past experiences have a place of distinction in our gardens. It doesn’t always dictate the outcome, but memory (conscious and unconscious) folds into our gardening practice, building a basis for why and sometimes how we garden, and infecting the many choices that we make.
I considered guiding us further down this path, but in the end decided that it makes more sense to come back to the past intermittently rather than sinking into it all at once.
Instead, with the winter behind our backs (or very nearly in some cases), it is time to look to the future, or at least, the fantasy future that we desire. I don’t know about you, but I’ve just spent several months dreaming about my garden. What will I grow? What changes will I make? Where will this growing season take me? Lately, I’ve been marking up the calendar with plant sale dates and anticipating all of the new plants I will be bringing home in the next few months. I have enough springtimes behind me now to know how it will play out. Some plants will be planned for, but others will be the product of pure impulse and spontaneous desire. I think of these as Id plants. “OH, I must have that!”
Sometimes these Id plants come home and take me and my garden in new directions. Other times they are a disaster (and a predictable one) because they are in direct conflict with the practicalities of the real garden that I have. But sometimes in these spontaneous choices lies the key to something that I need. Something that I have not brought into conscious thought.