Dec 30, 2013

By way of explanation?

Just found the following snippet while cleaning up some old files. Seems this, and all that followed (which I have not found) was never posted. That was in November of 2011! Whinkla has since reclaimed his journal(s) and I haven't heard from him in months.

The Most Recent Strange Peregrination of F. S. Whinkla
. . . being an honest recollection of events as they occurred on the last leg of his return journey to Kleadrap from Dallas, Texas after wandering several months in and around the Orient.

Part VI

Apparantly Whinkla came by yesterday while I was off shopping for a load of decomposing tree bark. He left a note, pinned to the bole of the White Walnut tree growing by our front steps, which mildly berated me for not continuing and concluding his Texas sojourn. He reminded me he expected the return of his notebook before the end of the year, then added that perhaps I might like to read one or two of the several journals he kept while wandering around Asia, if I hadn't already peeked while they were in my safekeeping. (arrogant SOB) So, to keep the devil off my back, or at least my back porch, I'll attempt a quick translation and summation of the remaining pages of his 'Texas' journal.

The Great Seed and Nursery Catalogue Challenge

The Great Seed and Nursery Catalogue Challenge

They begin to appear sporadically toward the end of the year and increase in volume until a crescendo is reached sometime in January. Most are filled with glossy pictures of perfect, blemish-free mature fruits and vegetables the appearance of which the majority of us are not quite able to match. I have harvested very few tomatoes that even approached the air-brushed(?) quality (not that that was ever my goal) portrayed in the catalogues, and at least half my green beans have more curl to them than any I've seen pictured. However, I still read most of the dozens and dozens of catalogues I receive, and quite a few, the more interesting and mysterious, I read from cover to cover, like a T. C. Boyle novel one simply cannot put down until the end.

But, to quote John Walsh, a little out of context perhaps, time grows short and the water rises as one ages, and the frivolity and indulgences lavished by youth on even the mundane is gradually replaced by a sterner contemplation of priorities and actualities.

Twenty, thirty, forty years ago there were very few 'specialty' nurseries or seed companies that I was aware of, and catalogues from the large commercial nurseries were all that were available. Many of these companies are still very much alive, and hopefully will be for the foreseeable future, for they fill a very big niche, and offer more than enough varieties for the majority of gardeners, but, not necessarily enough for those who have evolved beyond the larva stage. As gardeners enter the pupa stage we begin to know and use, or pretend to know, the latin names of many of our garden plants, and talk of unique species, sub-species, cultivars and varieties and comment on their distinct qualities. For us the catalogues from Burpee, Parks, Gurney, Shumway's, and a host of others have grown thin and weak and we seek seeds and plants not offered by even the largest commercial seed houses. Even Chiltern or Thompson & Morgan, good as they are, offers a limited selection, albeit they are a step or two ahead of those cultivating a mass audience. I suppose there just isn't the demand for a more varied menu. 

Now, in the early seventies, when we first moved onto our property, I purchased many seeds and plants from Gurney, Burpee, and Parks and a handful of other highly visible companies, and I was thankful for their presence and what they had to offer, and I was always satisfied with their products. Their offerings are still sufficient for the occasional gardener, as are the plants and seeds available at retail giants such as Walmart, Home Depot, Lowe's, etc. But, if one becomes seriously serious about gardening, now more of a horticultural pursuit than simply filling a few areas with bedding plants for the summer, then a little more is required.

Today there are nationally distributed catalogues that offer a much wider range of species and varieties, some often concentrating on one or two genera. I'm thinking of catalogues/nurseries such as Totally Tomatoes, Territorial, Johnny's, or Kitazawa (Asian vegetables), . But still, these invariably carry predominantly, if not exclusively, only those genera and species generally available, albeit some of their selections are less familiar to us, but most likely you will find few if any Androsaces, Moreias, or Ypsilandras advertised.

Eventually even the most ambitious gardeners must realize they have neither sufficient space, time, money, soil, accommodating climatic conditions, or any combination of the above to grow everything they would like. That is the golden moment the hopelessly smitten gardener/horticulturalist/plantsman-plantswoman begins to narrow his or her focus and turns toward a particular type or style of garden - Rose, Heather, Conifer, Alpine, Bog, Xeriscape, Rhododendron, etc., or to focus on a particular class of plants.

It took me about fifty years to reach that point and for the past five years or so the majority of my seed and plant purchases are from the various societies that focus on a particular Genus or gardening interest. Their seed exchanges are well worth the annual membership fee, and the other resources available through membership are without parallel, not to mention the camaraderie of belonging to a group that shares many of your own interests. I belong to the American Rhododendron Society, American Primrose Society, Pacific Bulb Society, North American Rock Garden Society, Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden, American Penstemon Society, and the American Conifer Society. If I could find a few more dollars I would join two or three others, particularly the Scottish Rock Garden Club.

Another phenomena that seems to be growing is the sale of seeds from individuals and small companies via the internet. I've had a few problems with such purchases i.e. wrong seed, sterile seed but such offerings have definitely broadened the breadth of what seed is available. Regionally there are many dozens, if not hundreds of unique, one or two person nurseries or seed companies that offer many difficult to find varieties the larger establishments can't afford to carry. They don't usually offer catalogues except on line but are almost always worth the search.

I still buy many packets of seed locally, 'off the rack', or from any of the previously mentioned main-line catalogues, but these are mostly annual bedding plants, Marigolds, Zinnias, Stock, Snapdragon, etc., or main-crop vegetables. Although I grow some of the newer varieties of vegetables each year, the Red Cored Chantenay, or Danvers Half Long carrot, Detroit Dark Red beet, Cherry Belle radish, Kentucky Wonder or Blue Lake pole or bush beans, and any of several readily available lettuce varieties are still my mainstay, and seed is available anywhere.

Catalogues, the kind printed on paper, may they continue, and may they flourish and multiply. If only there were more like Heronswood, now sadly deceased.

Oct 11, 2013

Captivated by Caddo

Captivated by Caddo

Caddo, Oklahoma

I'm sure everyone is familiar with those occasional associations we experience or observe that occur spontaneously, usually in groups of three, over a short period of time which we call coincidence, happenstance, synchronicity, etc. My latest experience with such a phenomena happened yesterday.

By way of preface let me say that until a few years ago I was blissfully unaware of the existence of the Caddo Indians. Only when my wife and I took a 'road trip' to Oklahoma and Texas in 2009 to trace her relatives, living and dead, did the Caddo indians swim into my ken. My wife's grandfather died, was murdered, in 1909 and was/is buried in Caddo, Oklahoma, The Antique Town on A Buffalo Trail, so that was an obvious destinations. Curious name for a town I thought, and mused about its derivation. In order to find the cemetery we stopped at the public library which was housed in what seemed to also be an antique store on the one main street for directions and information. The gracious librarian let us finger our way through several volumes of historic cemetery records where we eventually found the location of the gravesite of James Franklin Lamb. She also explained the origin of the town's name and its Native American origin. After a pleasant walk through what I thought was a rather large cemetery for such a small town, we located Mr Lamb's grave, paid our respects, wondered about his life in a frontier town like Caddo at the turn of the last century, took a few pictures and moved on. Other than the purchase of a facsimile license plate advertising 'CADDO' I thought that was the last I would ever hear of Caddo.

Last night, reading The High Lonesome by John Long, a collection of epic solo climbing stories, I reached a chapter describing solo winter attempts to scale Denali, Mount McKinley, in Alaska.  One of those to make the attempt was Vern Tejas from Texas. From the book: ". . . he changed his surname from Hansel to Tejas, which is pronounced Tay-hoss (the Spanish way of saying Texas) and means friendly in the dialect of the Caddo Indians." (emphasis mine)

Earlier, in the same chapter, what was likely the first successful solo winter ascent of Denali was described. Again, from the book: "On February 12, his 43rd birthday, he (the Japanese climber Uemura) was spotted above 18,000 feet. He radioed pilot Lowell Thomas Jr. that he expected to reach the summit by 4 P.M." (again, emphasis mine)

From Wikipedia:

His son, Lowell Thomas, Jr., was a film and television producer who collaborated with his father on several projects before becoming a State Senator, and later the Lieutenant Governor of Alaska, in the 1970s. Today, Lowell Thomas Jr. remains an active bush pilot and environmental activist in Alaska.

What makes this reference so interesting is that just last week I picked up a book at our local Salvation Army titled: Pageant of Adventure, a signed, first edition by Lowell Thomas! His name may not be familiar to the vast majority of Americans today, but in the first half of the last century his name was a household word. So it was a surprise when his name suddenly appeared twice after so many dormant decades. Just a coincidence, I suppose.

From Wikipedia:
Lowell Jackson Thomas (April 6, 1892 – August 29, 1981) was an American writer, broadcaster, and traveler, best known as the man who made Lawrence of Arabia famous. So varied were Thomas's activities that when it came time for the Library of Congress to catalog his memoirs they were forced to put them in "CT" ("biographies of subjects who do not fit into any other category") in their classification

Now, what will be the third unexpected Jungian connection?

Hoping for a word from Whinkla. Over a year now and not even a postcard.

Oct 9, 2013

The Effect of GA3 on Lathrus odoratus, Bouquet

For the past two years I have been experimenting (amateurishly) with Gibberellic Acid as an aid to seed germination. The effect, depending on the genus and species, has been enlightening. I sow several hundred kinds of seeds in any given year and I treat mainly, but not exclusively, those that are reputedly difficult to germinate. I generally divide the seeds into two equal parts and soak them overnight, or up to 24 hours, one half in distilled water and the other half in a 500ppm solution of Gibberellic Acid. Both groups are then treated exactly the same as regards soil, moist, heat, light, etc. In some cases I could discern no visible difference in germination or growth. in others it may actually have had a detrimental or deleterious effect, but in more than a few the results appear to be positive, both in shortening the length of time for germination to occur, and in the number of seeds germinating. I will try to compile a list and brief summary of my finding thus far at a later date.

Because of our physical location - 90 days frost-free, perhaps a few more the last few years due to you know what, and living in a frost pocket I start most seeds, even many fast growing annals, indoors. Yes, it gets a little crowded at times.

Lathrus odorous, the sweet pea, germinates readily but this spring, because I had mixed extra GA3 I decided to treat some of the sweet pea seed.

I keep a comprehensive record (at least I start out that way) of difficult or rare seeds, but for the annuals, and a good percentage of the 'common' perennials I keep almost no notes of their progress. If for some reason I have used GA3, or some other method to treat the seed then I do make an effort to at least make sure growing conditions are the same until they are planted out in the garden. With so many flats of seedlings it is difficult to keep track and a few get overlooked for a time. Thus it was for the Lathyrus odoratus.

For weeks I had been mentally reminding myself there were several flats of seedlings that simply had to be planted out as they were rapidly becoming pot-bound. One day I realized I could wait no longer and began to carry plants to various parts of the garden to be planted. When I came to the sweet peas I had quite a surprise. Half were healthy looking plants while the others reminded me of Jack and the Beanstalk. The stems were elongated and the leaves smaller and narrower (see picture). There were three 6-packs of each and after checking my records (I number all plant trays etc.) the obvious was substantiated. I don't recall whether GA3 had speeded or enhanced germination, and at the time of thinning I apparently noted no difference, but it certainly seems to have had an effect on subsequent growth. I only regret not planting out the GA3 treated plants to see what the final outcome might have been. In other cases where GA3 has had a beneficial effect regarding germination, subsequent growth differences have not been noted, but I have not looked that closely, which leads me to believe any differences in growth after germination are slight, if any. But, I am going to take a closer look, once it stops raining.

I am reminded yet again, you can never take enough notes!

Jan 27, 2013

The Non-electric Non-kool-aid Gibberellic Acid Test of 2012

Last spring I used gibberelic acid, hereafter referred to as GA-3, as an aid to seed germination, for the first time. Though my notes were a far cry from what I had originally intended I did manage to jot down a few observations and have subsequently taken an oath on a very tall stack of Horticultural books to do a better job of record keeping this year.

In 2013, all information I can think of pertaining to each pot/pan of seed sown is being carefully entered into the 'Big" book of 'Seeds and Seedlings'. In addition, I have created a numbered file card for each initial planting. Sub cards, using one or more suffixes for each viable seedling propagated, are made when individual seedlings are 'pricked out' into their own containers or are otherwise modified. But already, with only a dozen or so packets of seed planted I find errors in my record keeping. In a few weeks I will begin planting dozens, if not hundreds, of different seeds representing dozens and dozens, if not hundreds, of different species and I only hope I can manage to keep all data current.

As to the results of my GA-3 experiments from last year, I had varying results. Solution strength was 500ppm and seed was generally soaked for 18 - 24 hours. Control portions were soaked in distilled water for the same length of time. Germination medium, heat and light etc. were as identical for each pot of seeds of the same type as I could manage.

Seeds which seemed to exhibit a positive response to GA-3 were:

Aquilegia caerulea v. Ochroleuca (Columbine)
Campanula rotundifolia
Edrianthus serpyllifolius v. major
Lobelia cardinalis
Meconopsis cambrica (Welsh Poppy)

Seeds which seemed unaffected by GA-3 were:

Morina longifolia
Petunia, Blue Daddy
Primula florindae
Salvia splendens
Gomphrena globosa

Seeds which seemed to be adversely affected by GA-3 were:

Layia elegans (these germinated in a few days with or without GA-3)
Lobelia siphilitica
Gomphrena globosa
Salvia splendens

And this year, if I can remember, or steal the time, there may be pictures for comparison. If only Whinkla was here.

Jan 20, 2013

Art, by Accident, or Design

During the darkness of evening all the smaller maples (palmatum, circinatum etc.) burst into bloom; the bare twigs covered with exquisite gypsum-white, translucent flowers. I think I have identified the flowers as Aqua nebulas ssp. unum diem durantia var. delicata. With temperatures remaining in the mid twenties they survived until mid-morning, shedding petals one at a time until only the boney branches remained. But most of the truly glorious moments we experience are as fleeting as ghosts, and need to be enjoyed at every opportunity.

I had a very pleasant surprise yesterday, one that will be difficult to surpass. I received in the mail 240 back issues of the American Primrose Society journal. They date from 1945 to 2008. What an unparalleled delight. Now I find myself (almost) wishing the ice and snow will persist well into March or April. However, seeds have begun to arrive. Seeds from seed exchanges, little known catalogues in various parts of the world, and the occasional on-line source. I am anxious to begin planting. Well, I have begun, by stratifying some of those that require such treatment, planting others in pots and plunging them into deep snowbanks, some have been folded in damp paper towels and tucked into plastic bags and kept warm, but the majority are being kept dry and dark at 40 degrees F. or so. My fingers itch and I watch the calendar. Last year I had great success with Rhododendron, Iris, Lily, Primrose, Campanula, Meconopsis (alas not betonicfolia or Grandis) and a host of others. Cold frames and beds bulging with hundreds of Rhody's etc. etc. and it will be interesting to see how many survive the winter. It's not so much the cold, the beds and frames are semi-covered once the snow falls, but rodents are still active beneath the undulating white shawl possibly gnawing at roots, or making a salad of the vascular cambium of others. Then again, what am I going to do with several hundred Rhododendrons of unproven worth?

For those who keep track of such things I might add I haven't seen 'hide nor hair' of Whinkla for several months. I'm sure he's OK, just 'holed-up' somewhere warm trying to prove the Lindemann-Weierstrass theorem wrong by squaring the circle, or something like that I suppose.

Meanwhile, back to the journals.