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Success is Relative

Sunday, July 15, 2012


The mower laid this plant down in June but somehow didn't cut it off. It's blooming while lying on its side. I know how it feels. My arthritic toe's been acting up lately. Cortisone shot I got in March has worn off. I still run, but I'm grateful nobody's around to see how. Not much looking forward to another shot, but I see one on my horizon. Kind of like hoping a ten-foot long wasp will fly down and sting you in the big toe.

You will recall that I have been trying to "grow" rose gentian, Sabatia angularis, from seed. For two years I've been trying.

Nature is forever trying to explain to me what is possible and what isn't. I just won't listen. See toe, above.

For two summers and one winter I have nurtured teeny tiny seedlings of this plant, grown from seed gathered in November of 2010. I started with over 120 seedlings. That got narrowed down, and narrowed down a few more times. The marvel is that any lived.

So this spring I planted them out, all nine or so that made it for two years. They were so pitiful, so tiny. Nothing like the robust two-year-old plant shown above that's currently blooming its head off, untended, unwatered--nay! practically mowed to pieces on a dry bank along my running route. 

At the same time, I planted out another hundred or so rose gentian seedlings started in April of this year that were so tiny I had to take off my glasses to see them. I lugged water out to them in 5-gallon jugs, in the garden cart.  Big Toe didn't like that much.  I tried to keep them alive. But when we had to go to Maine, the temperatures soared and they went unwatered for over a week. And they all simply disappeared. Withered away. And so did the nine two-year old plants I'd worked so hard to bring along. 

A lot of other stuff happened here at the farm in that week. It wasn't one of my favorites. 

But some good things happened, too. When we came home, the royal catchfly I'd been growing for a couple of years was finally in full bloom. All its leaves have since turned yellow. I guess it doesn't like 103 degree blazing sun so much. Tough summer. BUT it is setting seed, and for that I am grateful. This plant may not survive, but I'm going to take its seed and start over this fall. This plant, I think, I have a hope of growing. After all, one of my two plants lived long enough to bloom. For me, that's a pretty good batting average.


Here is the bank where the rose gentian grows without anybody caring for it but me. And all I do is mark it off so the guy won't mow it AGAIN. Phoebe is coming back down from smelling the fabulous cluster shown in the first photo.



Phoebs has always loved flowers, like I do. We've been admiring the chicory. Chicory is one huge reason to get up early in the summer, because it's done by noon.


 This chicory has been cruelly mowed once this summer. It sulks for a couple of weeks and then sends up a zillion bushy stalks and blooms more beautifully than ever. Wow, what a show. I don't give a fig that it's Eurasian. You could never call it invasive because it grows where nothing else will--in the compacted, bone-dry gravelly soil of roadsides and waste places. Chicory is my second favorite wildflower, right behind rose gentian. There is no blue like chicory blue.


 Our chicory comes in pink, too. I photographed a little girl by a pink chicory plant a bunch of years back. Now she's driving her brother to Open Track and the pool. And I am beginning to believe that they will come home again each time I watch them roll down the driveway, talking and laughing and listening to the songs they like on the radio. I watch my whole world drive away, and I force myself to have the faith that it will roll back home again.


She's a good driver. 


If I look hard, I can usually find a purple intergrade between the pale pink and the true blue chicory. Bewitching.


They go so well with goldfinches.



I'd make a lousy plant breeder because I don't appreciate things just because they're different or rare. I don't find the pink an improvement on the blue. It's kind of wimpy. But I love to spot the pink plants in our population.


Anyway. Back to the rose gentian. When we left our heroine she had squandered approximately two hundred rose gentian seedlings by transplanting them out on Bill's dad's grave. None, apparently, had made it. At all. 

And then on the evening of July 15, 2012, she walked out to check once more. To see if the catchfly was setting seed. To see if she could find any trace of the gentian seedlings. 

And there was one. She laughed aloud to see it there.  One rose gentian plant that had made it through the storm and the drought and the neglect and the general ineptitude of this wishful wildflower horticulturist. 

It is three inches tall, but it is going to bloom.



 Success is relative. 






9 comments:

Love chicory! High summer to me is the roadsides of home (Champlain Valley) in July bursting with Queen Anne's lace, chicory and black-eyed susans in those gravelly waste places.

I love chicory. I was always so disappointed when I was little because bouquets of it don't work. Is there only one rose gentian plant left roadside? I was wondering about digging it up with a huge allowance around it and transplanting it...? if there are more...?

About the driving, I so empathize. When Robbie was finally allowed to drive to the mall, he took Ethan with him. I paced and paced. Robert said "Relax. He's a good, responsible driver." And I promptly and almost tearfully said "But not everyone else out there is good and responsible! And my life is in that van - BOTH my boys!"

I can sympathize. I am trying to introduce more variety into our hard clay field in Downeast Maine, when we are only here for a few months in the Summer. I plant hardy things, and they either get mowed or disappear.
But yesterday I found a few Rudbeckias struggling up among the big strong grasses. I'll feed them and help them along, but after Labor Day, they're on their own. They're tough,though, and should make it.
So hooray for your one seedling. It will grow and scatter its seeds, and there will be more.

I bury hickory nuts and like a squirrel, forget exactly where, but I looming for them when I walk Bear.
So far, no sign of them.
Your chicory is lovely.

Bonitas fotos,la que mas me gusta es la del Jilguero,teneis por alli una especie muy bonita.Saludos

I love blue Chicory and FINALLY have it growing in flowerbed this season!! Now, how does one have success with Milkweed for Monarchs??

Also have been watching 4 half grown skunks in evening--eating under bird feeders, turning over stones for grubs and bugs, chasing fireflies and play fighting like kittens. Found out they like apples!

Chicory is blooming along our roadsides here in MA now, too, along with Queen Anne's lace. The bouquets must stay where they grow, however, as chicory folds when picked.

I recognize the feeling you get when watching the kids (your whole world) drive away. They come back, but once they've driven off, they seem to keep doing that, too!

I'm all in favor of stopping mountain top removal, but it's really hard to read posts when the buttons and message are imposed over the writing. Or is this a glitch in my system?

Posted by Anonymous July 22, 2012 at 4:25 AM

Success is where you find it, right? Thanks for this wonderful post, as always. I've been catching up today after a few busy weeks without my usual window into your world and it's a great treat. Summer starts to fly about now and it's so nice to have a reminder to look around.

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