Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Late-night thoughts




I received the last of my back-ordered seeds yesterday (soybean Beer Friend, Par-Cel cutting celery, skirret and Kablouna calendula mix). I woke up pretty late last night and had some trouble getting back to sleep, and my mind kept going over my current seeds, and my seed-starting past.

In that past, calendulas were overlooked. They were too dry, too low. I was an "eyecandy gardener" in my city house, and concentrated mainly on tall-growing perennials that tolerated some shade. I had a pretty nice setup in the basement by the gigantic octopus gravity furnace where the growlights were suspended on adjustable chains above a nice raised table large enough to grow hundreds of seedlings. Often, my friends were the beneficiaries of many of those baby plants, and at the time, I had a lot of gardening friends.

Minneapolis in the early-mid 1990s was a place that young-ish types like me (an architect with a tiny salary) could buy decent, older houses in hip neighborhoods, and fix them up. (Now, well, like most of the country, you can't buy anything there under $300K: hardly a bargain.) So those young-ish homeowning gardeners got my extra seedlings. I remember well going to my friend Jason's house and just falling over at the size and amazing color of the foxgloves I had given him: these puppies got to be 3.5' tall, and I remember one was a deep burgundy. I ADORE foxgloves. And they never grew for me in my shady yard!

Now, well, I can grow foxgloves. I have the sun. And I will be growing hundreds of seedling again, but selfishly, I will hoard them all!

9 comments:

The County Clerk said...

Like you, I'm crazy for the digitalis. Well worth the two year wait.

Plant a bunch... A BUNCH... as the big risk is winter. It hurts to plow through that first year only to find that some do not return for the show.

These are supposed to be winter hardy but I lose some. How 'bout you? What do you do to keep 'em through?

Also, any good sources for exotics?

I love foxgloves.

El said...

Hey Hank

Mulch, man, solves most problems. You're right, though, even in Minnesota (especially in Minnesota?) we tended to lose a lot of stuff over the winter.

The bestest seed source I have ever found is this guru in California. The catalog is available only by mail.
J.L. Hudson, Seedsman
Star Route 2, Box 337
La Honda, CA 94020

They have, if not everything, then damned close. Name something and I will look it up in my catalog.

The County Clerk said...

I'm ordering a catalog now.

meresy_g said...

I love foxgloves too, although they are very fussy for me. They reseed, but only between the bricks or flagstones in the walk. And the ones that swear they are perennial rarely turn out to be. So most of the time I treat them as very expensive annuals and only buy a few. Oh how I would love to have a huge plot of foxgloves, full of fat little buzzing bees!

Annie in Austin said...

Your lots and lots of hoarded foxgloves sound lovely - I used to grow them in Illinois. They also seemed to disappear if the ground they grew in was too wet when the cold came.

In Texas people talk about 'Foxgloves' with no Digitalis in sight - that's the common name for certain varieties of Pensetemons here.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Carol said...

I love foxglove. I tell people that the spots on the flowers are the footprints of the garden fairies.

El said...

Wow, it's great to see I'm not alone in my digitalis desire!

I've got exactly one perennial foxglove, Meredith, and I brought it down with us from Minnesota...so it is about 4 years old now. I think it'll make it through this year, especially with all the snow we have. I confess it doesn't make such the show that the biennial ones do, but I still love it. It's a lemon yellow.

Annie, I think it is hilarious what people call things. Though there are a lot of penstemons that look vaguely digitalis-like, I would say these also look a lot like snapdragons more than folks-gloves. And Carol, I'll buy the fairy feet idea. I often find bees sleeping in mine, so fairies aren't a stretch.

And I agree with you all that they're fussy. My answer is to not put much hope in them, and then be surprised when they return, reseed, or just plain make it through their first winter. (I find I am a much better perennial gardener if I am more forgetful than obsessive, frankly.)

Jane said...

Isn't it wierd how plants that grow like weeds somewhere are fussy little things elsewhere.
Here in Scotland, foxgloves - the straightforward digitalis purpurea - are a very common wildflower. The deer and rabbits don't eat them so they grow along the verges.

I would even say that they are a shade plant here.

I grow them for cutting - they help prolong the life of the other flowers in the vase - but I don't sell them to anyone who lets their children eat flower arrangements.

I love the spotted white ones best and try to eliminate most of the purples at seeding stage.

I love the sound of bees in foxgloves - the change in the frequency of the buzz - as though they are panicking about getting stuck.

Though they are officially biennials, I find that if I cut all the flower spikes off before they seed, the plants will last a few years.

farmer, vet and feeder of all animals said...

I too adore foxgloves. They say they grow here but I have never seen them or had luck with them. Of course I also love lilacs--and have been lucky enough to find a few that bloom here but nothing like when I was a child up North. Ahhh the plants of our memories :-)