Friday, June 24, 2011

Garden Snobbery

I had one of those ah ha moments the other day while taking this picture of my Cobweb Houseleek (a kind of Hens and Chicks), which has the latin name Sempervivum. I enjoy learning the meaning behind scientific names because it gives insight into the plant. Kind of like why Jamaicans call marigolds "Stink'n Pretty".  But anyway, Semper means always and viv relates to alive. Makes sense since it is hard to kill Hens and Chicks. I see a lot of Semper Fi bumper stickers around here and I never really knew what that meant, but I made the connection to my plants. Turns out the "Fi" comes from fidelis meaning faith, so "always faithful". Oh, I love when I can make a connection to plants. Turns out that isn't hard for me to do when I'm so obsessed. Anywho, back to plants. Hens and chicks are native to dry and harsh conditions, often found in the mountains and scree of Europe and Northern Africa. They are one of the few hardy succulents to grow outdoors. I like to pop mine into tin cans and every once in a while you may be lucky to see them flower. Here's what it looks like:
Thyme plant creeping on the right side.

Houseleeks are easy. Moving on to something that isn't easy for me: Amaranth. When I buy a packet of Amaranth seed I hesitantly look down the envelope and say a little prayer that there will be a million seeds at the bottom because I suck at getting them started. There never are, but oh well. I keep trying anyway. Why? Besides being optimistic that I'll get it right someday I'm also on a perpetual search to extend the growing season of greens in my garden, because Amaranth flowers are cool and because I believe once I get them going I can collect my own million seeds to make it easier next year OR they will reseed on their own (which is ideal). So, here's what I've discovered to be the best scenario for getting them going. You need fine soil. Scatter the seed on the top of the soil just before a nice rain. Make sure it rains again for a few more days just enough so the soil doesn't dry out for a week, which is to also say it should be warm enough and yet not too warm at the same time. But also, it shouldn't rain too much or else they will rot. Got it? I hate to say it too soon, but I think that magic happened this week. I saw the clouds, I ran out with my packets of Kerala Red, Miriah, Vietnamese Red and Elephant Head. I scraped the top of the soil and sprinkled the seeds over it. It rained. It rained again and then it has been in the upper 70's and low 80's since. The soil is still moist, but it's sunny out and TA DA:
I think there are a million coming up. 

Easy. Hard. Now for the rejects or Stuff That is Overrated. I like Globe Amaranth, but starting it too is a P.I.T.A. I found this new "Fireworks" Globe Amaranth that looked really cool in the picture and it was in a small pot so I didn't need to worry about getting it started. Well, let me tell you about these fireworks. They're a dud. Sorry. It grows into a small bush. Right now mine is about 3 ft wide and about 2 ft tall (and smothering my lantana) with sparse leaves and even more sparse flowers. The flowers are ok. If the "shrub" were covered in them that may cause some fireworks for me, but they also have no other redeeming qualities that I so snobbishly look for in plants- it doesn't seem to attract any insects, it has no aroma and I can't eat it. Dear Fireworks Gomphrena, Hope you enjoyed the summer we had together. 

Creme de Cassis. The pictures of this Hollyhock made me salivate. Hues of deep purple waves in luscious saucer shaped blossoms. I got a pack. It looked nothing like the picture. I thought, maybe I should buy another pack. Maybe my first pack was genetically flawed. The pics I've seen had me believing there was no white to speak of in these flowers. I should only expect a raspberry and blackberry jubilee. But every time I got the same thing. Now, maybe this isn't so ugly after all, but I can't seem to get over what I had in my mind which is causing me to cast this one aside. I suppose if seed shall fall and new ones pop up I will likely not terrorize the offspring, but I won't be buying this again and maybe I hold out hope that there is some gene that will resurface in the progeny yet to come....

Only because I'm feeling particularly prissy about the ghastly false advertisement of plants I'd like to point out another flawed dawg. Purple Prince Zinnia. Now, I actually like the color of this zinnia. It is called a "true purple zinnia" and it may be the closest thing to purple you can find in the world of Zin, but purple it is not. I would like to rename this fella Fushia Queen. This transgendered dude can stay, but I have a feeling he is going to cross with the other rogue Zins I allowed to reseed last year. Such is life. 

I think I've had enough of riding this high horse. Time to step off. Got work to do in the garden. There are other plant names to slay. Now, where's my machete?

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