Human Flower Project
Gardening & Landscape
Tuesday, October 12, 2004
Organic? Get Down to Seed
A Santa Fe-based company scours the world for organic seed, the building block of organic gardening.
When I see “organic” at the vegetable or flower market, I think about compost v. Ortho. But an article in Saturday’s (Santa Fe) New Mexican has changed that. It reports on Seeds of Change, a company that collects and sells organic seed.
What’s that mean? Bob Quick’s article explains, “Unlike most conventional seed companies, which sell hybrid and genetically modified seeds, Seeds of Change seeds are open pollinated and will reproduce true to form, meaning seeds from the parent plant are viable, unlike that of hybrid seeds.” Hybrid seed may be sterile or produce flowers that bear little resemblance to their parent.
Until recently, growers could sell their produce as “organic” based solely on how they manage pests and fertilize the soil. But in 2001 new federal National Organic Standards were passed, that require organic seed too.
HFP readers will be especially interested in Seeds of Change’s online catalogue of organic flower seed. Warning, they’ve run out of Sweet Pea seed!
Note: For now, anyway, the Human Flower Project has no commerical purpose. Neither am I vouching for this product or any other—just conveying information. Another form of “open-pollination.” Diverse (and divergent) opinions/suggestions are always welcome.
Tuesday, October 05, 2004
The Secret of the Secret Recipe
Gardener-alchemists brew plant elixirs, and local enthusiasts have blooms to show for it.
Joy-Juiced ‘Pat Austin’ rose in Nancy Morris’s garden
at Pinecrest, Louisville, Kentucky. Photo: Julie Ardery
It seems every locality has its garden wizard. And of course every wizard needs a magic potion. In Austin, Texas, our magus is John Dromgoole and his potion—one of them—is John Dromgoole’s Compost Tea. He sells it by the gallon in plastic jugs and once you’ve bought it you need to think like Cinderella: act fast, before the magic fades. Gardeners who’ve sprayed it on the leaves of flowering plants swear by it.
I recently returned to Louisville, Kentucky, my hometown, where every gardener with bragging rights wound up with a confession: their not-so-secret secret is Monty’s Joy Juice.
Nancy Morris showed me around her gorgeous gardens at Pinecrest, featuring lotus (not your typical Kentucky fare), a veritable zoo of hosta varieties, a fairy garden (check your wand at the gate), and two big blooming rose gardens. Monty’s a frequent visitor to Morris’s garden, and she says she pours the Joy Juice to her plants for four weeks straight, then watches the wonders unfold.
Montrose “Monty” Justice started concocting his formula in the late 1980s, to improve his blue-ribbon roses. He began with Dromgoole’s milk jug method of distribution but by 1997, after raves from local customers, began marketing the stuff nationwide. Monty’s Joy Juice is available now in more than 40 states.
One customer in Memphis tried Monty’s juice on his vegetable garden and wound up with a 14 pound cabbage. Nancy Morris’s roses, while perhaps not 14 pounds of petal, are heavyweights too.
The cashier at St. Matthews Feed & Seed, where Monty’s Joy Juice has two shelves to itself, told me that somebody’s written a biography of Monty; there’s a booksigning planned for later this month. She noted that there was a similar secret flower elixir that made the rounds in her hometown of Charleston, SC, too. Anybody out there know its name?
What’s the secret bloom formula in your area, and who invented it?
Saturday, September 25, 2004
Red Stars in the Morning
Cardinal Vine Seed, while it lasts….
My father claims that flowers have wills of their own. “Some years they decide they’ll bloom, and other years they say, ‘Nope. I don’t believe I will.’”
I’ve found this to be true. This summer, for example, I spotted what looked like cardinal vine, its telling feathery leaves, sprouting in one of my flower beds. I coaxed it along and now have about twenty feet of vine woven through an iron railing. It’s managed to survive the Texas summer and is putting on a fine show.
Cardinal vine (ipomea X multifida) is an annual. I bought one plant three years ago that barely bloomed. So explain why this vigorous plant—just one of them—emerged in June of 2004. Cardinal vine resolve is as good an explanation as any.
It looks as if I’ll have seed to give away. Send a comment here with your address and I’ll mail out as many mini-seed packets as I can. That is, if you can stand a strong-willed, unpredictable addition to your garden, star-shaped and bright red as the button in Pasha’s hat.
Friday, September 24, 2004
How can Philly’s flower judges go gaga over an invasive plant?
Philadelphia’s flower arbiters are ivy league. Their garden clubs and flower shows, some of the oldest in the nation, set floral trends for generations. But recent Gold Medal winners named by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society cast doubt on the sanity and—dare I say it?—the taste of this grande olde organization.
For, along with Korean fir and an orange variety of winterberry, the PHS chose Gelsemium sempervirens"Margarita” (Carolina jasmine) as a 2005 winner. We call it Carolina jessamine here in Central Texas. I think of it as cowboy forsythia, garish enough to survive our drought and alkaline soil. It’s everywhere.
This spring it was I who deserved the gold medal, for having hacked out a thicket of the stuff six feet high and twenty feet long. Already new clumps are fighting back.
So how could a plant that kindly Austin nurseryman Scott Thurman calls “a workhorse” captivate Philadelphia’s garden connoisseurs? Greg Grant, one of my favorite flower scholars, nailed it: “Gardeners want what they don’t have.” So while Carolina jessamine may deserve excitement and a little nursing in Zone 6, here in Texas, most of us can’t love it—it won’t go away.