Sunday, May 21, 2006

And the plants come marching in

This year I ordered plants from two local sales: the Botanical Gardens, and Urban Roots, a fledgling co-op nursery that as of now only exists as an order sheet and a vacant lot—from which plants were dispensed Saturday morning. I must say the prices are right: for about 10-15 bucks, I got 10 sixpacks of lobelia and torenia. The torenia seemed leggy, but the lobelia was at just the right stage.

The Urban Roots gang is terrific. I love them. My only complaint would be that they’re almost freakishly obsessed with heirloom tomatoes. These are the only plants that receive detailed description on their website. For perennials you might get a short phrase; for annuals, you’re lucky if you get the color. But tomatoes? Oh baby.

There is nothing like the magic mix of sweetness, sourness, earthiness, freshness, and sexiness that comes in this little magic vegetable that's really a fruit.

These tomatoes are like tasting the finest wines.

There is nothing, nothing like the taste of an heirloom tomato right off the vine. It’s vastly similar to seeing a 6-foot waterfall and thinking it’s majestic without even knowing Niagara Falls exists.

I don’t care about the tomatoes. I want their drugs.

On to the Botanical Gardens. Now the BG has been doing this for years and they know their shit. Once I get there though and look at the plants I ordered—yikes! The diascia are huge, practically toppling out of their sixpacks. I thought most of the BG annuals came from on-site greenhouses, but that must not be the case here. Overgrown diascia has a tendency to crap out right away, so we’ll see. Otherwise, my impatiens, lobelia (what can I say—I love it), and fragrant purple nicotiana—an unusual cultivar—looked fabulous. While I was there, I also picked up a couple Wyoming canna and some sixpacks of two things I never buy: zinnias and marigolds. The BG people search out interesting new introductions from these familiar flower families. The zinnia cultivar, in particular, seems pretty wild—a little red cowlick sticking up in the center above the orange petals.

This is really the only way gardeners in our area can avail themselves of new varieties; because the commercial nurseries around here suck in that regard. Every year I go to the All America Selections display at the Erie Basin Marina and see all kinds of cool stuff, like this:

but it never shows up at the nurseries. Only the Botanical Gardens makes the effort.

And the nicotiana is actually called Deep Purple.

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