Monday, April 19, 2010

Plant Haul Adventures! and Battle won on plant mislabeling!

I had the fortune of being able to attend the Botanic Garden and Lichterman Nature Center plant sale this past Friday and what great finds there were!

(I feel a little silly talking about “my haul” as this reminds me of a recent article about people, specifically teenage girls talking about their clothing purchases online on Youtube.  Granted I’m not going through the effort to upload a video of this, so I feel better about gushing in text about “le haul.”)

The day began with a plant dropoff to a good friend’s place and then a dig n’ dash (with her permission of course!) of what I identified as an arum from her newly inherited backyard garden (she just moved there).  Though not edible, it’s somewhat rare to find (at least for me) and the cherry red berry studded spathe (ok, that sounded just a little salacious)  in the winter months will be pleasant to look at.

Then I jetted off to the awesome Lichterman Nature Center plant sale (which was awesome and lovingly laid out) where, though I didn’t get everything I wanted (stupid budgets as usual) I did get: 2 spicebushes ($10/apiece!), a good size yarrow ($4), a baby ornamental pepper ($4) by the intriguing name of “Fish,”
and I won a mini-mislabeling battle on the spicebush!

Explanation of won-battle:

Prior to going to the sale I was doing research on the plants I was interested in that would be at the sale.  The Center is brilliant enough to put out a preview list, which makes things very helpful when you know what to expect/pick up what you want immediately.  The spicebush was a definite draw.  There were two plants listed by the common name spicebush, but from research, Lindera benzoin is the native edible kind.  Crushed leaves make a spicy tea and the berries are like allspice.  They also have the advantage of being one of the first plants to flower in spring, so that’s pleasant.

I found the spicebushes soon after my first run through of the place and was setting some nice looking ones off to the side talking out loud about “how these are going to taste great!”  when a lady overheard me and said that the description sign on the plant stated that “all parts are poisonous.”

“WHAAAAT?!?!?”  I explained that it couldn’t be.  The internet does not lie (ha, btw on that one), but no really, I looked up the LATIN name to confirm that it was indeed edible and every source confirmed it.  I frantically whipped out my netbook in hopes that there would amazingly be wireless available in the MIDDLE OF THE HUGE LICHTERMAN LAWN, but to no avail, no connection for confirmation.  I was pretty confident that something was wrong, but worried that Lichterman’s staff knew some news that I (and the internet community) wasn’t aware of about the plant.

After confronting a very helpful volunteer about the labeling, she too was confused because she had always been told of the bush’s edibility.  During this entire time and a little prior a few people had walked by at the few available spicebushes and clucked that they had been interested but saw that the sign noted it was poisonous.  In a weird way, I think that might have helped me get the bushes I got, due to misinformation!

A half an hour of research on the Lichterman staff and confirmed with 3 other sources that yep, the sign was wrong and out of nowhere a new sign replaced it with the correct info.
Ok, so a little over-proud of myself here, but I think it was really important to fix that mistake because it’s my mission obviously to educate people that you can eat nearly everything (to me, apparently).

Though excited about the spicebushes, I got 2 because they are dioecious, meaning they need a male and female plant in order to produce berries.  Unfortunately plants are not labeled or were in flower to be able to ‘sex’ the plants (harder than chickens, I swear!)  So unless I wanted to wait and try to locate the opposite sex plant later, no berries until who know when.  So I decided to gamble and got 2 plants for that fun 50-50 thing.  Tell you how it goes and if I get berried or buried eventually.

On another note, I convinced a lady to purchase a Haight-Ashbury hibiscus because it’s awesome of course.  In addition to this note, this lady buys these hibiscus for her dog who eat the flowers.  Yep, hibiscus flower eating dogs.  AND, she gives EACH of them a hibiscus of their own to consume/destroy and they each know which hibiscus is theirs to eat.

I wonder if they pee on their respective plants to fertilize them and get them to produce more flowers (though I am sure this could stimulate more foliage growth… and um, that was a little crass thought, but if you have a dog the peeing thing shouldn’t make you blink).  I also told her that you can just keep taking cuttings of the Haight Ashbury and have forever amounts of it eventually to feed to the dogs.  I wish I had gotten her number so I could have had opportunity to witness hibiscus flower eating dogs someday.  Obviously I am easily amused.
The yarrow purchased was for potential edible reasons and also I happen to purchase plants that have the potential/are noted to repel pests because I need help avoiding getting bitten by mosquitoes/ticks/THINGS at all costs.  I have mosquitoes with apparently steel syringe mouth parts on them because they bite through thick jeans when I garden and I don’t appreciate it.  Thus, I have a nice collection of pennyroyal, citronella, lemon thyme, Artemisia, oregano and the like around the garden for pest repelling properties and not just for taste.  I literally give hugs to them all prior to gardening in hopes that their properties will linger with me as I garden.  (I also tend to tuck a sprig of  pennyroyal into my hat as a precaution too).

Obviously this is a long-ish entry so allow me to hurry it up a bit.

Next was the Memphis Botanic Garden’s Spring’s Best Plant sale which was also wonderful and huge (and crammed, lots of people and plants).  There is obvious love for hostas there, a plant that I have little fondness for (unless someone tells me the leaves make a good salad), but there is one variety called “mouse ears” that caught my attention some years back.  I wondered if the price had gone down at all, and when I was led to the plant by a volunteer, we both gushed at its cuteness and minuteness, but spending $15 for a 3 inch diameter plant I’m not that even fond of was not going to occur.

I did fantasize about how much fun and “Alice in Wonderland”-like it would be to plant a tea set with one in a tea cup, a little larger version in the pot and some small flowering plants like white violets in the creamer and sugar set (!!!)  With also maybe a tea spoon with light colored lichen in it on the tea saucer (!!!!!)  So, um, if anyone does something like that, take a picture of it for me.  OR if anyone has any money to spare I’d love to make a display like this for you.  I wouldn’t even want it, or ask for money to my time, I just want to make this happen! (<---plant design geek)

The ginger scented geranium was to replace one that died earlier this year.  Smells like ginger ale and I look forward to cooking with it, or making delicious drinks from the leaves!
Little pots of rue were a steal at $2/apiece if I can keep the swallowtail butterfly caterpillars from completely eating them again.  Note to self again: DO NOT place rue  right next to the other caterpillar food plants such as cilantro, dill and parsley.

So, my total haul for Friday was this:
Arum (FREE!)
Spicebush (x2) ($10 x 2 = $20)
Yarrow ($4)
Ornamental pepper “Fish” var. ($4)
Ginger Scented Geranium ($5)
Rue ($2)

TOTAL: $35

Amazing.  Lesson learned: Go to local plant sales annual for a great deal on unusual and awesome plants.