Two vignettes with plants

By April 29, 2010 Uncategorized 12 Comments

Today I  uploaded a vast array of art for Batbreath, which ties up the computer pretty thoroughly, so I went out to the Botanical Garden for an hour or two.

They were selling jewelweed. One pack left. I picked it up, pleased–I’ve been wanting to plant jewelweed, it’s supposed to be easy, the wildlife likes it, it’ll take full shade, and since it’s a weedy native wildflower, you never see it in stores. I read the label, which informed me that jewelweed seeds easily, has a very high germination rate, and should only be planted if I wanted a full stand of jewelweed.

This was fine. There is an entire twenty or thirty foot stretch of wooded area around the side of the house that is full of dead honeysuckle, a little wild grape and Virginia creeper, and one lone Northern Horsebalm. It can go all jewelweed, all the time, except for the horsebalm, which is a relative of bee balm and should be able to hold its own. I picked up the last pack.

A man came out from the greenhouse area, said “Great! You got the last one!” I said “Yup, I’ve been wanting to plant this for awhile…”

He inspected the plant. One of the six pack had been snapped off. He said “Wait just a minute…” and went into the back again.

He came out a minute later with three more (larger) pots of jewelweed and said “Here! One of those is missing–take these. On the house.”

So I found myself with my arms full of jewelweed, eight plants for $3. (I’m guessing it’s VERY easy to germinate. Possibly the nice man went back to the greenhouse and did the dance of having finally gotten rid of all that goddamn jewelweed, but nevertheless, I was pleased.) I hope it likes that woody area, but just in case, I’ll pop a few down in the drainage ditch, where it stays damp for most of the year. That will be a tick-infected journey. Joy.

And then there was the other thing…

So last night, I was reading the Plant Delights nursery catalog on-line, which was hysterical and occasionally off-color and generally left me very amused, as well as determined to visit the nursery at their next open house. (I mean, seriously, a nursery that has a section for “Hate Mail” and “Twilight Zone” is not to be missed.)

At one point, around the lobelias, they mention a plant owed to master lobelia breeder Thurman Maness of Pittsboro, NC.

“Hey!” sez I. “I live in Pittsboro, NC! I wonder if he’s still here?”

And then, for absolutely no reason I could think of, I thought “I wonder if he’s that one guy selling plants at the farmer’s market?”

There is absolutely no reason I should have thought that. There are at least three or four people who sell plants at our little farmer’s market.  Most of them are boring, standard, run-of-the-mill hostas and tomato starts and potted begonias.  But there’s one guy…the guy I bought my oakleaf hydrangea from…who occasionally has odd stuff. Hearts a bursting, solomon’s seal, lots of ferns…

Pittsboro is a small town, but the last listing for the guy was in 1997, when his plant business closed, and he could have died or moved or anything. And there’s plenty of gardeners around here. Niche Gardens is like twenty minutes away. One of the people at Kevin’s church is having prairie restorers in to put in a prairie planting (I’ve begged her to keep me apprised of the progress.) I had no earthly reason to think that it might be him.

But I was going to the farmer’s market anyway to pick up some local ground beef for Saturday’s cookout, and some goat cheese from Celebrity Dairy (oh my god, this goat cheese is like…I mean, I was opening the wax paper and sniffing it.) And there he was, with his van, and his odd little ferns, and a newspaper clipping in front of him–“LOCAL MAN PATENTS FERN.”

I leaned over and read the first sentence, which began “Local gardener, Thurman Maness…” and said “You’re the master lobelia breeder!”

He grinned. I had not previously seen any expression on his face that was not either vague annoyance or plant-related concentration. “That’s me, but that was a hundred years ago.”

I explained about the plant catalog.

“Really? Which plant are they selling? Tall…pink?”

I thought so. I hadn’t actually noticed the name of the plant, but tall and pink rang a bell. “That would be mine, yup.” He considered. “You got any?”

“What, lobelias? I’ve killed a few.”

He grinned again. “That doesn’t make you a bad gardener.”

I gotta tell you, that was rather gratifying, because I am in no way a good gardener–I can water, I can apply cow manure, and there my talents end. Any success with my garden mostly arises from buying tough-ass plants that can take anything (believe me, native gardening really is EASIER, or else I couldn’t do it!) so it was kinda nice to hear.


  • Becky in VT says:

    You mean you can BUY jewelweed? If you lived in new england you’d be welcome to come dig swaths of it for free in my yard.

    Not that I’m trying to get rid of it, just that it really is THAT easy to grow. If your forested area is anything like mine (poor soil, shaded, weedy) the jewelweed will take over, so enjoy! Oh, and the bugs (and hummingbirds) love it.

  • Jen says:

    Haha, awesome story! How much was the oakleaf hydrangea, been thinking about picking some up. Also, you will love the PDN gardens, amazing!! Bring a camera!

  • Krin says:

    I was looking for some “old school” filk songs to send to my grade school niece and came across this one that made me think immediately of your garden.

    “Monster’s Lullaby” by Meg Davis

  • thurman maness says:

    What a cute story, The vauge look on my face is built in- had nothing to do with anything. However, I never say the word ‘yup’ or yep.

    thurman maness

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