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Monday, January 9, 2012


One of the nice things about living in a tip is that one is always coming across surprises.

Nearly all our shopping bags seem to have fallen into an invisible abyss. Ming found one with scraps of paper and  random photographs stored inside and asked if he could use that. Of course. So he tipped out the rubble and went off to the library.

Things to sort - mostly to be re-cycled; scraps of paper with phone numbers, horticultural society newsletters from 2010, a couple of photographs I wouldn't like to have lost, a poem, a drawing, a picture of Van Gogh  and a packet of seeds. Chinese Lanterns. Physalis alkekengi.

It's speckled and old, colour faded and, although it doesn't have a 'use by' date, I suspect the lot number code means it was packed in July 1997.

So, here are a range of mysteries.

Why do I have it?
I suspect I was given it.

Why did I not plant the seeds?
I expect because the plants (fruits? unripe fruits? leaves? stems? roots? just looking at them?)are poisonous. There were little people around at the time.

What are the leaves like?
It doesn't say on the packet.
This, I think, is remiss.
Most plants have leaves longer than flowers.
(In months, not necessarily in inches.)

(Some plants have pretty flowers but clumpy leaves. You need to know.)

There are roughly 110 seeds in the packet.
Would anyone want 110 Chinese Lantern plants?

(I imagine lining the paths with them.)

Will I grow some now?
Most of the family is big enough not to eat the garden - so, maybe.

I look at the instructions.
'Easy perennials.'

Good. I might have a go.

'Place seed on the surface of a good free draining, damp, seed compost and cover with a fine sprinkling of compost or vermiculite.'
(Bother. To me, 'easy grow' means scatter the seed directly onto the earth in the garden. At a push, I suppose it could include making a drill and filling it in.)
'Seal container inside a polythene bag and keep at 15 - 20C (59-68F) until after germination.'
 (Bother. Seed trays in bags take space and wobble around and you have to keep an eye on them to make sure the seed doesn't get furry.) (Another bother. These seeds can be sown February to June or September to October. If I sow them now, keeping them above 15C will pose problems about where to put them. If I wait till June I'll forget about them - again.)
'until germination which can take 1 - 6 months.'

One to six months. One to six months!
That's not 'easy grow'! That's
'Oh, what's-this-dried-out-old -seed-tray-doing-on-top-of-the-kitchen-cupboard-when-we-are-reaching-down-for-the-big-casserole-next-Christmas-grow'.

Perhaps that's why they were in the shopping bag.


Tear up a few old envelopes.
Put the rest back in the shopping bag . . . oh, Ming's got it.
I wonder if it would matter if I just shoved the seeds and the unsorted scraps in an old box.
Now . . . where can I find an old box?


Kara said...

I remember being fascinated by the Chinese Lantern my father grew when I was young child. I don't remember ever eating them so I can't vouch for the poisonous bit ;) but I can tell you he sowed the seeds outdoors (in Canada). Perhaps they didn't bloom until the second year.

Thomas said...

Pretty, but they do spread by the roots. The flowers are small white stars, like a potato's. They're fairly tough, I remember them growing in the backyard of my childhood home (Portland, Oregon, USA), spreading slowly under the fence from the neighbor's under a tree in dry shade. They are related to cape gooseberry and tomatillo (used to make salsa verde). I have read different things about the berries, saying they're edible and/or medicinal, but haven't yet came across anything to say they're poisonous. I think if you just spread some of the seed around now you should get a few plants - doubt you'll want more than that.

catharine Howard said...

Love that notion of easy to grow......impatient.

Cro Magnon said...

I put all my old un-sown seeds into a glass jar, then scatter them around every few years. A few things pop up in unexpected places, but mostly they don't.

Mark Willis said...

Isn't it frustrating that when you get a pcket of seeds for something that you do actually want to grow it has about 8 seeds in it, but when it's something of which you would only reasonably require one or two specimens, you are given hundreds of seeds!

Janie said...

Easy to grow is the way to go Esther.
You are curious about a lot of things, I do that too.
I too wish you could go for a walk at the garden arches you commented on. It is a winery in Sonoma near my house.