Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Mystery plants

This year I vowed to only grow things I could eat, but I strayed from that promise a couple weekends ago at the farmers market when I bought four mystery flowers from one of the vendors who didn't seem to be selling much. I knew they were Zinnias, but not whether they were the powdery mildew-resistent kind or what colors they were. Nor even how to take care of them. So into the pots they went... two in the big pot with the remnant lemon thyme that lived through the winter and a tomato plant. One in a new square container. And the fourth in a shallow ceramic dish without drainage. I was happy to find they were all different colors. The first to open a vibrant orange, then a dusty rosey orange with a double layer of petals, then a spunky magenta and finally a dustier pink. They're quite tall,but so far none are drooping. I think I see another flower bud on the bright orange one. Whatever happens next will be an adventure, but I'm hoping for a table bouquet by the end of summer.

And then there's my mum. I couldn't take my eyes off it last year at a big shin-dig over at the Bruce. It was a stunning pale violet mound so dense that I couldn't see the leaves. Well, it declined rather quickly after I set it in my window sill. I reckon I wasn't giving it enough to drink. And then there were a bunch of wooley caterpillars that kept emerging from the plant's depths. So outside it went. But it didn't like that either. Soon it lost all the flowers and a little while after that the leaves dried up. It got cold and I considered throwing it away. Several times. In fact, I was pretty sure I did throw it away. But early this spring, there was the dried out tumble-weed of a plant, in its original thin plastic pot, minus the purple tin foil and gaudy lavendar bow. I took to snapping off the twigs, hoping to come upon a pliable stem. But I was able to crack off the entire plant, save four stubby branches that were too thick to break. I don't know why I didn't throw it away at this point. It seemed entirely lifeless. But either a glimmer of hope, (or more likely), my bad habit of shutting down the part of my brain that acknowledges a lost life form, caused me to leave the sorry pot on the patio.

In early March I noticed a little tuft of dark green coming from the base of the plant. Not exactly out of the four nubs I've left weeks before, but it looked promising. The tuft expanded; weed-like in its determination and amorphic appearance. One morning as I waited for Joe to drive us to work, I noticed several tufts with identical leaves in our front lawn, near where the plant sat on the front step the summer before. It's just a stupid weed that I've been watering!? That afternoon I starting yanking the tender green leaves out of the pot. It wasn't as easy to uproot as I thought. So again, I left the thing alone. The tuft of green, now pruned, came back even bushier than before. In the next few weeks it had replaced all that I'd torn out with smaller leaves and fuller branches and what appeared to be the tiniest of buds. This whole month I've been watering it along with my other plants-- but none of the buds have grown or opened.
Well. This weekend I was still doubting the indentity of this curious creature, when I noticed some of the buds had begun to unfurl tiny, spikey, purple petals.
Yay! The mum is coming back!

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