Back in November, I wrote about receiving a green amaryllis from a friend (it’s just starting to bloom) and mentioned another variety that I was coveting called ‘Green Dragon.’ Well, I went and bought that one, too. Or rather, I bought three.
It must have been the influence of that month in the Caribbean where they are as big as trees, because I haven’t craved a holiday poinsettia in ages. The last time I remember growing one was the year I published a piece on restoring a dormant poinsettia to its original glory. That must have been ten years ago now.
What surprised me more than my own rekindled interest was that Davin was into it, too. We chose and bought this one together, an impulse buy at the Loblaw when we went in to get some money from the machine for subway tokens. The path to the ATM takes you right through the garden section. They know how to get me.
We loved that this one seemed to be a mutt of every variety jammed into one plant. It’s got a bit of the deep mahogany type, a few white and pink blush leaves, and lots of speckles. Later, I found myself eyeing a dwarf variety for sale in a corner shop a little too closely.
Perhaps I will keep this one and bring it out of dormancy for next year. Perhaps not. When it comes to plants, I don’t know who I am or what I will do anymore. The Year of the Id is sliding into a second.
One of my goals for the 2011 growing season is to try expanding into other species of the nasturtium genus (Tropaeolum). My love of the well known and edible Tropaeolum majus is well documented on this site, and elsewhere, but I have never tried to grow, nor have I even seen any of the other species in person.
I’ve been wondering why the others are not popular in my part of the world, and have concluded that it must be down to climate and their difficulty to grow here. Like its cousins, the typical garden nasturtium will not survive the winter in my zone (around 5-6 depending); however, it is easy enough to start from seed each summer. Some will even self-seed and come back on their own the following year.
The two species I have decided to try, T. speciosum (aka Flame Flower) and T. peregrinum (aka Canary Creeper) are also not hardy, but what’s worse is that they are more difficult to start from seed. In fact, I am quickly discovering that T. speciosum is downright near impossible to germinate and can take up to a year or longer to budge! The stories I am hearing are not hopeful. I have a feeling this will be a test of wills, requiring every ounce of patience I have managed to cultivate as a gardener. T. peregrinum appears to be the easier nut to crack. Germination rates are listed at around 20-30 days.
Either way, I’d better get on starting them sooner rather than later. I’m not sure I am up for the Flame Flower Challenge, but Canary Creeper’s kung fu seems beatable. If neither work,I can always depend on good ole T. majus to make an appearance sometime in June. I’m thinking about trying a variegated variety with salmon/peach flowers called ‘Saucy Rascal’ and ‘Empress of India’ is a compact variety that I always grow in pots, no matter what.
UPDATE: T. peregrinum (aka Canary Creeper) took less than a week to germinate. All of the seeds I started germinated and the plants are now taking over my seed starting station. I had to cut them back! Meanwhile, T. speciosum continues to do nothing.
Guest post by Davin Risk
I am asked now and again if “I am a gardener too” and my answer is an invariably unsure, “Well, yes and no, I help.” As Gayla’s partner I am often by her side in gardens and a certain level of gardening knowledge has seeped into my brain via osmosis. I garden, therefore I am… a gardener? What would Descartes do?
My hesitation in claiming the title is common. Over the years many people I’ve met with Gayla, and many more who have come to the You Grow Girl site, have either shied-away from calling themselves gardeners or have simply stated that they are poor ones—the infamous black thumbs club. What I’ve realized though, and seen Gayla champion on many occasions, is that if you get a thrill from seeing any plant grow and you actively want to plant and foster more of that lovely green growth yourself—you can wear the title gardener with pride.
I thought of my own trepidation when Gayla asked me to write a short something about my experience with Dominica’s beyond lush, wild, varied, and rainbow vibrant plant growth. That feeling came up… who am I to write about plants or most especially gardening? But here goes… I love plants. My affection far outstrips my knowledge and so I chose to write about how much I loved the very bane of gardeners everywhere, those climbing, twisting, cover-everything plants that are especially pervasive in vastly sunny and moist Dominica.
In Dominica they struggle year-round to slash and burn back the beautiful twists and turns of plantlife. Flowering vines adorn every pole and telephone wire. A nuisance sure… but gorgeous and wonderful especially to us Northern plant lovers beaming at every bit of warm moving colour so contrary to the cold stillness of our winter.
Those wild dense spaces—bursting with life—do drive the most plant-fond gardener to the brink of sanity. But I think even those Dominicans who complained about the constant encroachment of nature had a passion for that same indomitable green force.
I choose to embrace the beauty in nuisance plants and I think that actually makes me more gardener than not.
Back in the spring, when I guiltily purchased this kalanchoe tubiflora (aka Widow’s Thrill) on impulse, it was all about the tall, spotted tubular leaves and the way it looks like a bottle cleaning brush.
I didn’t look for photos online or in books to see how it would turn out down the road. I repotted it, watered it, and let it tell me what it needed. I let it be and enjoyed it as it evolved through several stages into this wonderful surprise.
I didn’t realize it would bloom through the first cold and dreary days of winter. I didn’t think about the flowers or imagine that they would be such a beautiful shade of orange, nor did I consider how much delight they would bring me as I trudge through the emotionally turbulent final days before I hand over my next book manuscript for scrutiny.
After all of these years, I think I’ve finally come to understand what a necessity it is to keep a few plants that will make pretty, colorful flowers when we need them most. They’re not decadent or self-indulgent; they’re essential.