I love unusual flowers, which was evidenced in my column a few weeks ago, "Spring Planting." But that wasn’t the rest of the story. In my best Homer Simpson voice, here’s part “doh.”
As a flower freak, I love all flowers, so I buy petunias, begonias, impatiens, you name it. But I also search for unusual plants, or unusual colors. Because I live in the boonies, I usually find them online. And most often, in the form of seeds unless you want to pay a hefty shipping charge. The problem is, I haven’t had much luck growing anything from seeds. But since when has failure stopped me from trying just about anything?
My first foray into sowing seeds came in the form of nasturtiums. Nasturtiums are edible flowers that have a mild peppery taste and you can find them in a lot of nurseries. I had never seen them in cream and black until I came across a seed packet. I wanted them. I read the back, which claimed that they are easily grown from seed.
I followed the directions and soaked the seeds overnight before I sowed them. I watered and fertilized them and watched them like a hawk. After a few weeks, there were no signs of life; so I watered and fertilized them some more. Finally, I had to admit that they weren’t growing nor would they. My friend and garden guru, Andrea, told me that I mothered them to death. I should have put them in the ground, watered occasionally and not even bothered with fertilizer.
My kids are always telling me that I mother them too much. The nasturtium is proof that I can actually kill with this skill.
Another time, Matt decided that he wanted to recycle old newspapers, so he turned them into homemade peat pots. We sowed vegetable seeds, and of course I added flower seeds. In about a month, we had a wild tangle of leaves and stems. We were thrilled with our success.
Turns out, we celebrated a little too soon. We hadn’t thought to label the plants. We were staring at foreign stems and leaves with no clue which was which.
I took a gamble, and put several of what I thought were the flowers into a hanging basket. I kept an eye on it and was happy to see vines bursting through the soil. They surrounded an even larger center plant, trailing along the side of the basket. I was so excited, I couldn’t wait to see what they were.
Unfortunately, it took weeks before there were any flower buds, but they did begin to bloom. That’s when I recognized the little yellow flowers on the center plant. I had a three-foot tomato plant growing in my 12-inch hanging basket. When I asked Matt what kind of tomato seeds he bought, things went from bad to worse – it was the huge beef steak variety. The basket was already precariously tipping to one side. It would most likely tip over once the softball- sized fruit grew.
Still, it was surrounded by beautiful vines. Unfortunately, they turned out to be snow peas and a cantaloupe vine. Out of all five plants I’d potted in the basket, only one turned out to be a flower. It was quickly choked out by the vigorous vegetable vines.
I’ve planted at other times in my life, watering and fertilizing and patiently waiting to see what came up. Once I was rewarded with huge, healthy plants covered with bright yellow flowers. They thrived and spread in the limited areas I’d planted them. My mother-in-law had a name for them. Hmm, what was it she called them?
Oh, I remember – weeds; creeping buttercups, to be more precise.
This year, I’ve fallen in love with a beautiful annual that looks like a peony and blooms most of the season. I’ve always loved peonies, but they’re mostly bushes, and only bloom in the spring. When you have limited space you want more bang for your buck. I asked my friend, Andrea, about this new “peony” and she feels that even I should be able to grow them.
Did I mention that one of Andrea’s best qualities is that she’s an optimist?
With my record, one might think that I should give up growing flowers or vegetables from seed. That may be true, but spring is the ultimate symbol of hope and rebirth. Looking through flower catalogues reminds me of that and makes me think that this year I might just manage to grow something other than weeds.
And if I’m being honest, those yellow buttercups were most often included in the bouquet of wildflowers that my children would gather for me. They were so proud as they produced the arrangements in their tiny little hands. I’ve put bunches of dandelions, clovers, and oodles of buttercups in vases on my counter as if they were the most precious, coveted flowers the world has to offer.
Because to me, they were.
This year, I’m hoping that what springs forth from my garden is what I had planned for. Like this time of the year, hope springs eternal. If it doesn’t turn out, however, I’ll be very happy with bunches of yellow buttercups, clover and a few dandelions.
I have just the vase to put them in.