I know, I know. If you’ve been following along with the Daily Botanical this spring and summer, you’ll find that it is fast becoming The Year of the Clematis around here.
Blame Barry, a neighbour and new friend who has more clematis (clemati? clematises?) growing in his backyard than your average botanical garden. And Barry’s choices are anything but average. He has rather good taste, don’t you think?
I am yet to actually grow a clematis, but I am definitely getting a good education in them should I acquire more growing space someday.
According the Barry, both ‘Cassis’ and ‘Vienetta’ were bred for the potted plant market. His are currently growing together in a large container and one or both were rescued gift plants that someone had thrown out. And here I was stigmatizing clematis as rather bougie (bourgeoisie) plants when it turns out you can just pick them up off the curb if you keep your eyes peeled on garbage day!
I’ve sung the praises of white valerian (Valeriana officinalis) in the garden many times on this site and in public presentations. It’s one of the most impressive perennials I grow in my community garden plot. Although it isn’t directly useful as an edible like most of the other perennials I’ve put in, it does good things for the garden. We are continuously impressed by it’s beauty, size, smell, and ability to attract beneficial insects.
In all honesty this could be any Rudbeckia. There are just so many that look alike and this was in a public garden. Who can know?
They do photograph well.
One of my tips when doing the magnifying glass/box camera trick is to seek out shapes that are large, simple and repetitive. It’s especially helpful if there are lots in a cluster like in this shot and the last because then it doesn’t matter if your focus is exactly where you planned for it to be. If you’re striving to photograph a single subject, chances are good that it won’t be in focus. I carry a retractable measuring tape to check the distance but it’s still mostly a guess.
It’s been a difficult year and every cell in my body has been craving simplicity and play in an effort to rebound. When I’ve had some free time lately, I’ve found myself reaching for box cameras that I haven’t used in years rather than my usual mainstays. These cameras are as simple as they come: no light meter, focus, and no aperture. It’s just a box that holds film with a lens and a shutter. The viewfinder barely functions. Hold the box, point it, and click the shutter.
Oddly enough, this simplicity actually opens things up to a certain amount of complexity and fun experimentation. Most box cameras like this one can’t focus less than 2m. I took this close-up photo by holding a magnifying glass in front, juggling a ruler to be sure I got the distance right.
This photo was taken with an old favourite, the Ansco Shur Shot. I love the smell of the old leather cover. Unfortunately, it appears to have sprung a leak somewhere, which you can see by the numbers and dots from the paper backing that have burned into the film. Of course, some people would see that as an advantage that adds something to the image.
On the plant: Bladder campion (Silene vulgaris) aka cowbell is one of my most-loved edible weeds. I’m not a huge fan of the eating part but I do love those bloated flowers. I’ve secretly come to associate the plant with a favourite director, Jane Campion. But given that it’s alternate name is cowbell, I think you could make a case for calling it the Christopher Walken plant. More cowbell!
You can’t eat the leaves at this stage since the leaves are tough and bitter this far into the season. Instead, pick the tender shoots when they first emerge in the spring. Like most edible weeds, it tastes kind of like spinach.
Can you believe these flowers belong to a black currant bush?
It recently occurred to me that I have a red currant bush and a gooseberry bush, but do not have a black currant bush. This despite the fact that I like the idea of gooseberries and red currants more than I like to eat them. Black currant on the other hand is divine.
Anyways, I actually do sort of have a black currant bush growing in my community garden plot right now. I say sort-of only because I’m not entirely sure it’s a black currant. A seedling that looks like a black currant came up as a volunteer a few years back so I stuck it in a corner and let it grow, waiting to find out what it is and hoping that it is indeed a black currant. I have absolutely no idea where the plant came from. Two years in and it is now taller than my gooseberry bush and continues to look like a black currant with the possible exception of the leaves that seem a bit too big, but it’s hard to say because some varieties do have slightly bigger leaves. Also, while at the garden centre, I noticed jostaberry, which is not unlike a black currant bush but with larger leaves. So perhaps it is a jostaberry. But who can know? Until it flowers and produces fruit, I remain in the dark. That could take another few years yet, but I like a good mystery and am willing to wait it out despite a lack of space.
Meanwhile, I have been longing for a real and true black currant and had decided I was just going to suck it up and get one. And then I almost didn’t, again. Because the bushes at the store were $14.99 each and not particularly big. And because I am cheap and figured I should just wait until the fall when they are on sale, which is how I got the gooseberry bush. However, while browsing the selection I found this one, called ‘Crandall’, with beautifully ornamental yellow and orange flowers. That sealed the deal.
You’ll note that ‘Crandall’ is not a regular black currant (Ribes nigrum), but is another species, Ribes odoratum. Apparently the berries have a spicy or clove flavor, and I can tell you that the flowers certainly do. Unfortunately, I did not choose well for my small community garden plot and managed to find the largest bush going (4ft at maturity). Some people say you need two bushes to produce fruit but other more reliable sources say you don’t. I guess I’ll find out soon enough.
And there you have it. I am now the proud, albeit tentative owner of a black currant bush. Jam to come in another 12 to 24 months.