Herbaria (August 3, 2012)

The week was marked by the first serious spurt of larger tomatoes. I have started weighing them now as I generally don’t weigh the cherry or currant varieties unless I am bringing in a big glut all at once. It looks like it will be a good year, but I don’t expect to beat 2011′s total of over 100 lbs of ripe fruit (plus several more green). Some of my plants have sustained irreparable damage this year due to pests and others are showing signs of blight due to the high humidity. I also think that the very high night temperatures we’ve experienced off and on has contributed to some flower drop. Oh well, 100 lbs lead to more canning sessions than I have time for this year so it could be a blessing in disguise. We still have uneaten jars left over from last year!!

From Left to Right:

Top Row: 1. ‘Goldilox’ Tomato I received these seeds from my friend Julianna back in the winter, knowing nothing about the variety other than that it is a dwarf plant with golden fruit. I’ve been surprised by both the size of the fruit and how prolific it is. Definitely one that I will consider growing in the future. 2. Verbena (Verbena bonariensis) This was an impulse buy that I found on sale last week for $1.66. I’m a little worried about how it will perform in my dry and sandy soil, but at that price I could afford to take the risk. 3. Columbine meadow rue (Thalictrum aquilegiifolium) seed pods I like the idea of following up on previous Herbaria plants as they develop into new stages. You saw the flowers back in May, now here are the seed pods.

Middle Row: 4. Bachelor’s Buttons ‘Black Boy’ (Centaurea cyanus) I have had the seeds from this heirloom variety in my collection for over a decade now, but could never bring myself to grow them. I love a black flower, but the casual racism that lurks behind its name leaves me cold. Turns out the flowers are more purple than black so I doubt I will be compelled to grow it again. But still, the question remains regarding my feelings around varieties like this one that hold in their name the reminder of a dark past and a present in which little has changed. 5. Sunflower (Helianthus annuus) I let this sunflower go in the hope that it was one of the varieties I grew last year self-seeded. Alas it is a fairly typical variety sown from birdseed or leftover from the plant that was here when we moved in.6. Iron Cross Oxalis (Oxalis deppei) You might recall this oxalis that I featured on the site last June. It is still going strong in the same pot and has flowered for months now with little attention or encouragement. What a trooper. Highly recommended.

Bottom Row: 7. Fringed Dahlia I have to admit that I know nothing abut this plant. I bought it on impulse from the discount bin at Honest Eds here in Toronto. Probably not the most responsible place to buy from, but the tubers were already sprouting when I found it so it would have gone to waste had it sat in the box any longer. That’s my excuse anyway. I planted it up in a pot and that turned out to be the right way to go as it is a very compact plant. It doesn’t look anything like the photo on the package, and isn’t as interesting, but I wasn’t expecting much. It was just nice to grow a dahlia again after a decade without. 8. Globe Thistle (Echinops ritro) This poor plant has been through the ringer. It’s a tough plant to be sure and the fact that I still have it after what it went through in the Guerilla Garden is a testament to its resiliency. It lives in the Dry Bed now, but I think I’m going to have to move it again soon as I know it will soon become too large for that space. 9. ‘OSU Blue’ Tomato I last grew this variety in 2010. The plants I grew that year had a lot of blue in the stems as well as the fruit. The plant I grew this year lacks blue pigmentation and the fruit, while exceptionally prolific, is sort of meh. The tomatoes are also much larger. It’s interesting to see and experience variation within an unstable variety, but I don’t think I will bother saving the seeds from this particular plant.

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Herbaria F.A.Q

What is this?

An herbarium is a collection of plant specimens. Herbaria is the plural form. A collection of collections.

Every week, until I can no longer find anything living to fill up the boxes, I am photographing and posting a collection of flowers, leaves, stems, and other plant parts that are in my garden. This is an experiment in celebrating diversity and I hope it will allow me to focus more closely on the beauty that is inherent in the different parts of each plant. It also serves as a visual file of the seasons and a record of my garden, my gardening practice, and the plants that I choose to grow.

Why doesn’t this start at the beginning of the calendar year or garden season?

I would have preferred starting this project at either of those times, but alas, that is now how things worked out. The idea for this project came to me rather spontaneously one May morning as I sat pondering how I could best use a stack of nine wooden, pint-sized fruit boxes that I had recently purchased at the flea market. I have a thing for wooden boxes and I love to display little collections of cherished items within them. These nine little boxes begged to be kept together as a display — it didn’t take long before the idea came to mind: little boxes within a box, framed within weeks and months of boxes. Within the hour I had worked out the logistics of the project and was photographing my first box. That was May 16, 2012.

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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12 thoughts on “Herbaria (August 3, 2012)

  1. It’s possible that I’m completely clueless, but I really don’t feel that black boy is a racist variety name anymore than the Early Girl tomato is a sexist one. It’s a black flower. Just like early girl is an early ripening on-it’s a literal description not a derogatory one. But again maybe I’m just naive.

    • Well, back in the day it was not uncommon for a white man who wanted to diminish a black man to refer to him as “boy.” I stick by my initial assessment. The name leaves me cold.

  2. Gayla, I have been enjoying your herbaria. But I’m following up regarding the mystery tomatoe seed that was in my packet of Hahms Gelbe Topftomate seeds. The plant is now over 6ft tall, the leaves are still feathery and the fruit is yellow, about the size of a small grape and bursting with flavour. I understand that you might want Hahms seeds. I would be happy to save some for you. I live in East York.

    • How very odd. That is definitely not ‘Hahms Gelbe.’ Of the varieties I grew last year, that sounds like ‘Broad Ripple Yellow Currant’ a small golden and very sweet currant type. The rogue seed must have ended up in the packet somehow. How is beyond me… But definitely not an accidental cross as they were separated by a large distance.

      I hope you like it and are not disappointed. I really like that variety. Really prolific and tasty.

  3. I agree with Steph. I’ve seen blue, pink and red “boy” bachelor’s buttons. I’d imagine it being due to the fact that bachelors are male.

  4. Hi Gayla,

    Loving this particular herbaria (as usual)! The name notwithstanding, those bachelor’s buttons sure are a beautiful rich purple. If youre saving seed from them at all this year, I’d love to purchase some or do a swap. Although I can’t imagine what I could have that you wouldn’t already. :)

  5. I’m growing ‘Black Boy’ too! And it’s the first time I grew them since I got them in a trade about 6-7 years ago. I always saw them in my box and thought about growing them, but the name kinda made me feel gross. Anyway, I mentioned I was growing it a bit a go on Twitter and some people thought I’d made up the name. I wonder what the difference between ‘Black Boy,’ ‘Black Magic,’ and ‘Black Ball’ is. They look like the same plant, just with different names.

    • I mentioned it to you on Twitter before…but I do feel like I copy you all the time. I was catching up with the herbaria posts and saw that you were growing it too and had to laugh. You’re right in that it isn’t “black” but it’s dark enough for my tastes.

      I posted a picture to Twitter a bit ago of mine because it is trailing over the side of a pot, and was wondering if it was normal since I’ve only grown the blue one before.

      Other than the name I think it’s a pretty enough flower. Not sure if I’ll grow it again, but I just wanted to make sure to grow it out so that the seeds were viable since I had them for so long.

  6. Seriously? ‘Black boy’ is racist? That’s political correctness run amok. It’s clearly just another color in a series…

    • I don’t see the problem in being conscious of/ questioning the naming of historical varieties. Names have meaning and are made within a specific socio-historical context. They are not benign. It’s a discussion. Not sure what is wrong with that.

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