Soon to be renowned!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

"Saving Seed"

I don't know why I didn't figure this out sooner. It's brilliant—the best thing to happen to gardening since sliced bread. Yeah, well … hey—gardeners eat sandwiches too. I mean, as long as they're gluten-free—for this gardener anyway. So I guess it's the best thing to happen to gardening since gluten-free sliced bread … which, If I'm going to be completely honest, and with few exceptions, is pretty awful. But at least it's bread. And it's sliced. So that's something. Maybe, in retrospect, not something to include on a great-moments-in-gardening timeline, but if you stick around you'll see that this post deals in part with laziness, and, that being the case, I see no reason to waste my time deleting things I've already committed to text. So butter yourself a nice slice of particle-board GF toast and pretend this first paragraph never happened.

What in the name of gobsmacked heck am I talking about? Well, if you'd bothered to read the title, you'd see I'm newly enamored with the time-honored gardening tradition of “saving seed”. Yes, in quotation marks. It started out without them—a genuine desire to leave various heirloom vegetable crops in the ground long enough for them to flower and produce seed, which could then be collected, dried, and saved for sowing at a later date. In this way, I could theoretically do away with the overflowing grab bag of impulse-buys that is my annual seed catalog order.

In practice, however, and to date, I have saved … no seed. None. Sorry. One of two possible fates awaits each crop I leave in the ground tagged for seed-collecting: 1.) After a couple weeks it becomes so overgrown, pest-riddled, and generally hideous I am compelled to attack it by some urgent combination of horror, shame, and self-defense or, 2.) I just forget about it, becoming gradually more desensitized to its malignant presence until the window for meaningful seed-collecting shuts behind my back and I'm left wondering what all those brown, brittle corpses in the vegetable garden are.

Beets, firmly in category 2.

The previously alluded-to brilliance (and the origin of those suspicious quotation-marks) lies in the latter fate. For, as it turns out, I can justify almost any failed gardening experiment, fatal procrastination, poor plant placement, general lapse in sound horticultural practice, or just plain laziness as part of my grand “seed-saving” scheme. Nope, that plant's not dead. Just waitin' for those seeds. Yep, that one too. And that one. And that one—look, I've got a lot of “seed to save”, okay?

Do note, however, that this cunning little strategy does not translate well into other branches of domestic/professional life. Repeated failures to fold my laundry, for example, are not so easily written off as “saving seed”, no matter how insistent my appeals to time-honoredness or economic efficiency. And the neighbors' dirty looks, unfortunately, can only be averted from your overgrown lawn for so long before your “saving seed” argument wears thin.  

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Playing Favorites

Let's just start by saying it would be ludicrous for me to choose a favorite plant. Absurd. A tenured horticultural professional such as me choosing sides in the glorious orgy of plants that is the palette of my vocation? Fie! Pfff! Tssch! I should rue the day any single specimen—no matter how beautiful— blinds my eyes to the vast spectrum of color, texture, and form—nay! the very breadth of Life ITSELF—which I've the good fortune to pass before my gaze on a daily basis.

All that being said, let's just continue by saying that this here Hydrangea is my favorite plant.

Whatever. I don't have to explain myself to you.

I know, I know, but just … shut up, okay?

Here's where I should probably launch into some poetic manifesto enumerating the virtues of Hydrangea serrata 'Bluebird' in order to justify its exalted place in my personal pantheon of plants: how its beauty surpasses all others; how the grace and longevity of its bloom charm for untold months on end; how I would settle for leaf or flower alone but the two together are twin arrows through my heart; how my own little Bluebird huddled in a cramped pot for years before finally taking root outside my bedroom window to wave good morning! in the first dawn breeze and goodnight in the evening's sough; how not a week goes by in the whole year where I don't fancy a glance in its direction, now swollen bud, now breath of blue, now burnished autumn spilled upon the leaves … and now rest. Winter's rest. A rustle of paper lacecaps in the cold.

But I'm not going to do that.

Because the truth is as soon as you try to justify or explain why something is your favorite, the purity of your conviction gets all scribbled-over by the crayons of language. Like that! See what I mean? “Crayons of language”—what does that even mean?

It means I should just stop talking. Because discovering that something is truly your favorite, without preface or discourse, is a very rare occurrence in this world, and we'd do well to just enjoy it while it lasts.