Stick a pin in it!

A guy at the place where I work got flowers sent to him recently. I love it when guys get flowers at work. It just makes me grin. Anyway, this was a tasteful little, contained bouquet of various stuff—allium, foamflowers, love-in-a-mist, pincushion flowers, a.k.a. scabiosa. This last one is one of those “okay” flowers for me. I don’t love it; I don’t hate it. I’ve never tried to grow it. But I think that next year, I will. Because this guy’s bouquet contained regular old pincushion flowers, and then, right beside them, it contained … well, how do I describe them? Pincushion flowers on steroids? Pincushion flowers gone postal? They were such wild-looking things that I took a picture. You can see what I mean in the flower on the lower left. The insides of the blossoms got all weirdly overgrown and mutated, kind of like floral cancer. (Not a pretty image, I know!) I found these singularly appropriate for a guy’s bouquet. There’s nothing run-of-the-mill “pretty” about them, but they sure are interesting!

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Down to the Garden Wire

When I ordered flower seeds from a catalog last spring, the company, Select Seed (I tend to use a different one every year, just to keep the catalogs coming), threw in a free packet of Nicotiana alata, also known as jasmine tobacco. I love the sweet-smelling flowers of nicotiana, so I was pretty excited. I wasn’t, however, excited enough to start the seeds indoors, as the package advised. Instead, I tossed the nicotiana seeds in the ground when I did my first direct outdoor sowing of seeds, on St. Patrick’s Day. The other stuff I planted then—poppies, cornflowers, calendula, larkspur—duly grew, bloomed and withered. I forgot about the nicotiana, to tell the truth. By the time the dreadful heat of July gave way to the monsoon rains of August, I was pretty much done with gardening for the year.

The nicotiana, however, weren’t done with me.

I noticed them about a week ago, in the back of the bed. I went to college in North Carolina, so I know what tobacco looks like in the ground. And the big, strong monsters of plants coming up back there looked like Carolina’s best. There are flower stalks on them as well, growing up from the center. They look to be a few weeks away from blooming at the moment. The trouble is, jasmine tobacco isn’t hardy. Which means that if frost hits, I’ll never get to see my huge, gorgeous nicotiana plants bloom!

So it’s a race, out there in the garden bed. Oh, I know, when it’s as hot and muggy as it was today, and the Phils are still playing, it seems like summer. But autumn arrived last Friday, ready or not. (And I was not.) Which will get here first, I wonder—frost, or frosty white nicotiana flowers?

Incidentally, you can make cigarettes out of jasmine tobacco once you cure it, and there’s a ton of info on the Internet about how to cure the leaves after you pick them. Too bad I quit smoking. That would have made for a most interesting DIY!

Photo by MRaccine licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

The autumn harvest

Been too long since I posted! First there was the long, hot drought, which meant that commenting on gardens–at least mine–was basically senseless, since everything was as parched and dry as the Texas panhandle. And then I went on a brief (but lovely) vacation to the seashore, and moved my daughter into her first real apartment … oh, what the heck. You don’t want to hear excuses; you only want to see the baby. So, for a good month and a half after the initial early-July plethora of tomatoes, there were no more tomatoes (see drought, above). But now the tomatoes have started to come back in, as has a fine mini-crop of jalapeños. And I cut a bunch of white (now green) hydrangeas–they’re Proven Winners’ ‘Incrediball,’ and the flower heads really are as big as a child’s head–and put them in a white vase a friend from work gave me, and took a photo of the whole blessed thing, and this is the result. It makes me feel better about a harvest year that didn’t quite turn out as well as I had hoped.

I should mention, however, that I planted some free nicotiana seeds that came with my seed order this year, way back in the spring. Then I more or less forgot about them. Hey, guess what? The seeds germinated, the plants got WAY big and fluffy before I realized what they were, and if frost holds off just another three weeks or so, I’ll have the lovely, unmistakeable fragrance of Nicotiana alata in my garden this year!