Friday, April 27, 2012

invaders appeased

Last Saturday's garden tour, held on the day before Earth Day, was appropriately advertised as a 'green' garden tour. This epithet referred not so much to color as to sustainability. Indeed, plants with grey, blue, dark purple, or cream colored leaves were standouts among the water-wise cacti and succulents.

Politically and environmentally correct practices abounded: rain barrels, drip irrigation, hydroponics, permaculture, cob building techniques, etc. Birds, bees, and butterflies were attracted, invasive species repelled. Literature was distributed, but not lavishly, as attendees had been enjoined to follow interactive on-line maps to the garden sites. It was a day for feeling responsible and resolving to continue along one's righteous pathway, paved with permeable materials so as not to overburden the storm drains and pollute the ocean.

I picked up a few brochures and cards, including one on invasive plant species, a favorite topic on this blog during my recent wars on Sprenger asparagus fern and Confederate jasmine plus pre-blog struggles with Algerian ivy, plumbago, Cape honeysuckle, and Banks rose. But wait! This 'Weed Watch' campaign -- sponsored by the worthy California Invasive Plants CouncilLos Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers Watershed Council, and SMSLRWMA -- includes nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) among the species NOT to plant if we are to "Stop the Invasion" of plants that "fuel wildfires, degrade grazing land, contribute to soil erosion, clog streams and rivers, and increase the risk of flooding."

Having posted nasturtiums rampant just over a year ago, and being delighted with this year's stand of the cheery yellow and orange blossomers,* I took umbrage.

One of the things I love best about nasturtiums is that they are so easy to get rid of after they have run their course, or at any time they become tiresome (yes, it occasionally happens!) . Nasturtium roots are so inconsequential as to bring Marvell's On a Drop of Dew to mind: "How loose and easy hence to go, / How girt and ready to ascend."

I do not plant nasturtiums, but I welcome their annual invasion, in my garden and along the highways and byways. Sometimes appeasement seems appropriate.
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* My spell checker disapproves this word, but Yeats used it in the majestic Among School Children ("O chestnut-tree, great-rooted blossomer, / Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole?") I can't resist a parody: "Nasturtium, small-rooted blossomer / your leaves and flowers feed my soul!"

Friday, April 20, 2012

paltry in pink

A little over a year ago, I complained about the limited range of color in my 2011 sweet pea crop, which had actually started blooming at the end of November 2010 with a dark purple volunteer and eventually produced a few pink flowers. The pink ones may have been volunteers, or may have come from the saved seed I'd planted. One thing is certain, however: there were absolutely NO Blue Celeste sweet peas to be seen. Alas! Blue Celeste was the one variety I'd planted out of a commercial seed packet.

After mulching the front garden lavishly with spent sweet pea vines, I thought I'd get a good showing of volunteers. Sure enough, as soon as the first rains came along in October, I saw sweet peas coming up among the naturalized freesias and calla lilies. Only two came up along the chain link fence where I'd planted sweet peas in the past, but, having read somewhere that it's okay to let sweet peas sprawl about on the ground, I decided to leave things as they were and not plant any sweet pea seeds for the fring-winter-spring season on 2011-12.

Now that April is more than half over, the volunteer sweet peas along the fence have barely started to bloom. They're pale pink, with short stems, and the vines are less than two feet tall. Nary a one of the sprawling sweet peas in the front garden has managed to bloom, but some are reaching over a foot long, so I haven't exactly given up hope. If they do bloom, they should deflect attention from the drying freesia leaves, and if they don't bloom, they'll continue to 'fix' nitrogen in their magically fabaceous way. This is a sort of "win-win" situation, but the score is not high.

Years ago (like in the late 70s when magazines came in the mail), Sunset Magazine informed me in a somewhat authoritarian tone that if I wanted sweet peas for Thanksgiving I should be ready to plant them in September. "Who wants spring flowers for a fall festival?" I asked myself. But after we put in our chain link fence, I was hooked on vines.

Though preoccupied with perennial sweet peas and the quasi-perennial hyacinth bean for the last couple of years, I must admit that I miss the conventional sweet pea's fragrant frilliness. In early October, I'll be out there with my saved seed and will even give Blue Celeste another chance

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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