Monday, April 11, 2011

a plethora of purple

Plethora is a word I use very rarely and with considerable trepidation, because I think it has faintly pejorative connotations. For purposes of today's posting, however, I think it accurately conveys my mild annoyance with a situation that folks outside our favored Mediterranean/subtropical climate zone will probably envy.

On January 15, 2010, when I wrote perennial sweet pea, there were no sweet peas of any kind blooming in my garden, though some vines had reached the top of the fence. I was anxious to see and smell the blossoms, but not overly concerned since I thought it was too early for them. Ultimately, I had a long and successful season of multi-colored sweet peas, and saved a lot of seeds. I did not attempt to identify the seeds by color.

Then on November 28, I reported that a volunteer sweet pea, brought on by fall rains, was already blooming on my fence. It was dark purple. It was the first and only sweet pea that had sprouted exactly where I wanted sweet peas to grow. Others popped up farther from the fence and in the front garden among sprouting freesias. These I moved to stand along the fence, spacing them to occupy a much longer portion of the fence then I'd devoted to sweet peas last year. At the same time, I started more plants from last year's seed.

Late last summer, a community group was giving away free seeds (limit two packets) at a nearby farmer's market . I gratefully took 'Blue Celeste' sweet peas and  'Legion of Honor' poppies*. You may wonder why I took the sweet peas when I had plenty of saved seeds at home. Well, these giveaways were PALE BLUE! I know that truly blue flowers** are very rare, and so I just had to have them.

I planted a lot of 'Blue Celeste' seeds along with my saved seeds, but so far, the only plants in bloom are dark purple and a very pale pink. The pink ones are just starting to open up, whereas there are two more dark purples blooming prolifically in the same section of fence with the original volunteer. Right now I have a bouquet of sweet peas on my desk -- twenty or so dark purple with ONE light pink. Moreover the purple ones have longer stems and larger blossoms, and about half of them are from the volunteer plant that bloomed in November.

Four months of exclusively dark purple sweet peas? To misquote Shelley again: "If purple comes, can blue be far behind?" The answer is a resounding "Yes!" Each day I check the buds for hints of PALE BLUE. It's a vigil.

The wait for perennial sweet peas to bloom has been an even longer vigil. These were planted from seed in fall 2009. They grow wild along the coast of Maine, so I admit they're not in their element here. The vines are tall and healthy, but, after at least a year and a half of easily being green, are just beginning to show some tiny buds. BTW, perennial sweet peas range in color from white to            
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*I intend to plant  poppies when when it starts raining next fall.

**My borage is looking good, and it's not only true blue but also edible.

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POSToccupations by Frances Talbott-White is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License