FYI: This is what passes for an impatiens in San Francisco. If you live in a warmer climate you will be unimpressed by my discovery. If you are from my neck of the woods your mind will have been blown wide open! In case you didn’t get the memo, San Francisco is a Utopian paradise where plants grow larger than life. Everything is bigger and better there, and I’m not just talking about the marijuana cigarettes. Our Northern version of an impatiens is a dull flowering annual commonly tossed into a monochromatic ring underneath small trees and accompanied by a border of decorative plastic edging. They rarely grow taller than 10 inches before they are dug up and tossed out at the end of the growing season.
It reaches as high as the bottle brush!
As you can guess from my unflattering description, I’ve never been a fan of these lackluster flowers. Really the only thing that makes them even marginally interesting is the fact that they are edible, and even that is nothing to write home about. But I think I can respect the impatiens I saw in San Francisco even if that respect is born out of the fear that a plant that can grow with that kind of vigor from out of a sidewalk crack could probably eat me for breakfast.
A very colourful combination currently blooming at the Queen Wilhelmina Garden in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park (right underneath the giant windmill where the park meets Ocean Beach).
San Francisco is feeling like paradise this week. Everything is in bloom! The air smells amazing! Once again I’m considering my staying options.
I’ve decided to take the plunge back into the world of sunflowers. Anyone gardening in public space knows that sunflowers have a time-sensitive contract out on their lives beginning the moment they bloom. Their big beautiful blooms inspire grabbing hands that MUST rip and tear and have them all to themselves. I’d like to think those grabbing hands are taking the decapitated, stemless heads home and cuddling with them at night, clutching them with joy. The hands are lonesome. They need beauty in their life! Odds are that those ripped flowers don’t make it down the block — tossed into a City planter as soon as the hands realize the awkwardness of a stemless flower head.
The sight of enormous decapitated plants poking from the back of the garden is too heartbreaking. I got fed up years ago, throwing my arms up in defeat and announcing “A sunflower will never bloom in my garden again!”
And so I have remained since, living in denial that sunflowers exist. Allowing myself rare moments to enjoy them in other peoples’ gardens but never allowing myself to look at seeds or varieties. It’s all very sad and heartbreaking.
I let my guard down in a moment of weakness on our trip to Austin last month. We had soldiered through the rain and across a highway to visit Big Red Sun garden center. I refused to leave empty-handed having put in such great effort to get there! As soon as I saw this pack of ‘Chocolate Cherry’ Sunflowers from Renee’s Garden I knew I had to grow them. I had been withholding from sunflowers for so long that I had completely missed out on all the rich, burgundy varieties available. Now that the door is open I’ve also got my eye on ‘Cinnamon Sun’ and ‘Junior.’
You can bet I will not be starting any of these in the street/guerilla garden. No ma’am, I am saving a nice sunny and safe spot on the roof for these babies and I MIGHT attempt to grow one in my plot at the community garden where their safety is less secure but much greater than their chances in the Garden of Doom.
Another Seedy Saturday Toronto has come and gone and like last year I managed, with great effort, to make it around to a few booths and pick up some seeds. The event was more packed than ever this year making it nearly impossible to leave my brother/assistant alone at the table for any length of time or push through the crowds lingering around some of the larger seed sellers. The sellers I did manage to get to were often sold out of items on my wanted list. And forget the Seeds of Diversity trading table. I had high hopes but only managed to snag a pack of red orach seeds. Next year I plan to employ the strategy of browsing during setup, BEFORE the crowds arrive. Next year.
Here’s what I managed to bring home with me:
- Red Orach – A trade pack harvested from Jackman Public School’s Learning Garden.
- ‘Early Yellow Crookneck’ Squash – A trade with a You Grow Girl forums member. I thought I needed squash but then got home and realized I have several varieties in my stash. This is why I should have brought a list.
- ‘Dragon’ Carrot – Another trade that I already have. ‘Dragon’ is a beautiful purple carrot. If I had to choose I suppose I favour it over ‘Purple Haze’ although ‘Dragon’ would crumble in a Best Name competition.
- Love Lies Bleeding – I’ve been trying to grow more amaranth over the last few years and ‘Love Lies Bleeding’ is a classic that never gets old.
- ‘Blue Spice’ Basil – Another trade. I don’t think I have grown this variety which is kind of amazing since I’d swear I have covered just about everything in the unusual basil category at least once.
- ‘Purple Calabash’ Tomato – I fell in love with its ugly beauty last year. I am planning to grow less tomatoes this year and have not finalized my list as-of-yet. Who gets cut will be the hardest decision I have to make this year.
- Painted Lady Sweet Pea – I just love the fragrant sweetness of sweet pea flowers but tend to steer clear of them due to their attractiveness to aphids. I decided to try my luck and grow a few varieties this year. I can always pull them out if things get nasty. This variety really does look like the runner beans of the same name. I know it seems redundant to grow them when I can just grow the beans later in the season but I can’t cut those flowers and I am really craving cut sweet peas for my desk.
- Persian Broad-Leaf Cress – I have grown a number of pepper cresses but like that this variety is described as milder than other cresses.
- Tendergreen Mustard Green – I’m on a personal mission to try growing just about every salad green under the sun.
- ‘Queen Anne’s Pocket Melon’ aka ‘Plum Granny’ – I’m planning to grow some melon this year but admittedly this one was an impulse buy and not on the list. ‘Plum Grannies’ are tiny melons known for their intoxicating fruity smell. I can not resist a good back story and the story for these citrus-sized melons is that Victorian women carried them in their pockets to fight street stench. The thought of two of these in a breast pocket has me thinking about another derivative of the colloquial use of ‘melons.”
- Swiss Chard ‘Ruby Red’ & ‘Golden Sunrise’ – I’ve grown the ‘Rainbow’ mix and other coloured varieties but these two are my favourites for their saturated colours that look so beautiful in containers of contrasting colour or as a burst of brightness tucked beside boring veggie varieties.
- ‘Selway’ Lettuce - Brightly coloured greens are another edible trick I employ to brighten dull corners and containers. Consequently I am always on the look out for a good red variety. We’ll see how these fair against ‘Lolla Rosa’ aka ‘Lollo Rosa’ which still reigns as my favourite red.
- ‘Cimmaron’ Romaine Lettuce – An unusual romaine with a deep, reddish purple hue.
- ‘Yugoslavian Red’ Butterhead Lettuce – A really beautiful butterhead variety with shades of green tinged by deep red.
- ‘Black Spanish’ Radish – I’m very curious about the flavour and how to eat this root vegetable.
- ‘Black Jet’ Soybean – I have to admit I bought these for the dark bean colour. I’ve had a lot of success with soybeans in containers on the roof but that dang groundhog just LOVES to eat the plants as they emerge from the soil at the community plot.
Don’t forget to enter the Haiku Contest!