Why do we grow the plants we do? That is the question running through my mind as I search through seed catalogs trying to decide what plants I should grow for 2015. We all get lured by the luscious pictures of vegetables and bountiful blooms of new varieties as seen in the catalogs that fill the mailbox. But what about those plants we grow every year no matter how much they want to take over the garden or how finicky they may be, or from the business standpoint, those plants I think should have sold (because I love them of course) but just took up greenhouse space and water. Why, why, why?
Sentimentality, that's why. I give the legitimate reasons of fragrance, hardiness, disease resistance, length of bloom, flavor, or they're good sellers as to what plants make 'The List' but deep down inside certain plants have special meaning to me and I just have to grow them. Dianthus is one particular flower that lives up to all these reasons but one, they don't hardly move from the greenhouse bench unless it is to go in my garden. I have grown Dianthus 'Super Parfait Series' since I first grew them at Ashwood Nursery over twenty years ago. Back then though they were just Dianthus 'Parfait Series' and customers loved the fragrant, perky pink and white washed blooms, and how indestructible they were. I fell in love with them too and dotted the edge of the garden along the walkway to the house with them and Sweet Alyssum every year. I would have to deadhead both once during the summer, then they bloomed until the freezing temperatures came. Light frosts didn't phase either one and some years the Dianthus would winter over, added bonus! The walkway to the house has changed along with the garden. The area is no longer conducive for Dianthus as a border to greet visitors. These changes and even the sad realization that if I was a real cold hearted business person I should cut Dianthus from 'The List' but I won't. Why? Sentimental reasons, they remind me of a time of starting a home, a family, and all the hopes and dreams that go along with starting.
Another sentimental plant for me are foxgloves because they were my first perennial crop at SUNY Cobleskill even though they are a biennial not a perennial. I let them pop up wherever they choose because I know they never stay in the same place. The year we celebrated my grandparents 50th wedding anniversary I was able to cut enough foxgloves from the gardens and woodline to make two magnificent arrangements with them.
The list goes on; bearded iris because my mother had a garden full of them. While my sister, brother, and I waited for the bus my mother would cut bouquets of the fragile flowers for us to take to our teachers. She would wrap the stems in a damp paper towel then a piece of aluminum foil and send us on our way.
The original variegated hosta that I have growing under the clematis will never be a big seller and I really don't even care for hostas because they are deer candy but I will always keep that one plant. It came into my possession a bit scrupulously. You see when Raymond and I were dating we would pass by this old abandoned house on this dead end dirt road and ...one day we noticed the hosta growing in amongst the weeds and overgrown lawn and next thing we knew it was in the back of the truck. That's how it happened really, sort of, but it went to a good home and the house is no longer there. So all is good.
Every year I try to grow peas. I love peas. Their delicate tendrils, flowers, and their glaucous blue green rounded leaves. I love hearing the popping of the pod as I open it to eat the little round gems inside. Each year though the harvest is slim or like last year nonexistent but I keep trying because I love them.
So, I will keep Dianthus on 'The List' along with Nicotiana for it's evening fragrance even though by the time it lands in my garden it is a bit lanky, Verbena bonariensis because it is so tall I can see it from my desk when I'm daydreaming instead of bookkeeping, and I will plant two rows of peas this year and not feel guilty one bit. I believe it is okay to be sentimental when it comes to gardening because it's a way for special memories to keep growing. What memories are you growing in your garden?