}

July 13, 2011

Organic Home-Grown Opium

PAPAVER SOMNIFERUM - PAEONIFLORUM GROUP IS A  SELECTION OF THE OPIUM POPPY WITH HIGHLY DOUBLE FLOWERS, IT IS ALSO SOMETIMES SOLD AS P. LACINIATUM - IT'S A STRIKING ANNUAL FOR THE JUNE AND JULY GARDEN WITH TALL STEMS AND BEAUTIFUL, TENDER FLOWERS THAT LOOK LIKE NOTHING ELSE ON EARTH.
 Morphine anyone? I've grown Opium poppies since I was a kid, but sadly, I never liked drugs, so apparently my crops are always wasted. Rarely seen in modern gardens, this poppy was a common heirloom plant in classic cottage borders at the turn of the century ( the 1899-1900 one, not the last one). The Opium Poppy has a long and rich history, with some historians tracing cultivation of the species back to 4000 BC, perhaps no other garden plant has such a history so important to medicine and trade. I always wondered where modern medicine gets its poppy grown morphine and codeine from, for I could not imagine vase fields of Papaver somniferum growing in Oregon for Morphine.

Most of the narcotic material used in modern medicine today comes from India and Turkey, where policies are established between the US government and those countries. Apparently Afghanistan is proposing a program where it may produce some medicinal opium similar to the deals struck with India and Turkey, with will help promote the economy in that country where the poppy is native. Regardless of what we all thinks about this plant and the politics related to it, there is hardly a plant more essential to human medicine than the this species of poppy.
THINKING THAT YOU MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN GROWING YOUR OWN HOME-GROW ORGANIC MORPHINE? THINK AGAIN - YOU WOULD NEED A FEW HUNDRED PLANTS, AND ENOUGH MONEY TO PAY FOR A VERY GOOD LAWYER. A FEW PLANTS IN A HOME GARDEN IS OK THOUGH, JUST DON'T PLANT AN ACRE OF IT AND THEN START HARVESTING IT.

 The buds and stems on P. somniferum are graceful and very tender. A strong breeze can cause an entire stand of seedlings to collapse, and a dog passing through the garden can ruin an entire bed with nothing stronger than a tail wag.

We has Chris Chadwell , of the Sino-Himalayan Plant Association staying with us again this past weekend, with his son Matthew who has just graduated college. We were planning our trip with him to the Himalaya next summer, and in the scramble and prep for  house guests, I forgot that our other good friend Kris Fenderson was hosting his biannual garden tour at his famous and fabulous garden in New Hampshire. The poppies reminded me first, because we had admired a bed of them there, when we were there two years ago. His single species with their pink, nodding buds remained in our minds.
PAPAVER SEEDS ARE INDEED THE SAME SEED YOU FIND ON YOUR BAGELS, ON ROLLS AND IN POPPY SEED MUFFINS. IT'S TRUE THAT EVEN A FEW SEEDS IN A MUFFIN CAN CAUSE YOU TO FAIL A DRUG TEST.

Sowing seed is easy, but P. somniferum is not an easy plant to grow, so I won't kid you. It prefers cool, damp springs and summers, and is absolutely despises being disturbed once seed is sown, sow thinly, directly into the garden  can careful thin once you see seedlings with true leaves. The broader the area you sow in, the better chance you will have in getting a good crop. This year I made the mistake of sowing seed along side a row of Kohlrabi, and by the time I realized the mistake, it was too late, so I just carefully looked for seedlings, and then pulled out the Kohlrabi. Sowing in a prepared bed is best, so that you can keep weeds at a minimum, and watering the tender seedlings is easier. Once you have plants, there will be plenty of self-sown seedlings, just be careful when weeding, the seedlings remain small for many weeks, but you will learn to identify them from the weeds. I prefer to pick the highly ornamental seed pods in the fall, and then sow the seed in early spring in lightly tilled soil. ( you can order seed like I did this year, from Thompson & Morgan).

July 9, 2011

CUCUMBER MOLDS FROM JAPAN

Grow your own heart-shaped cucumbers
Cuteness from the garden. Who wouldn't  love these heart cucumbers from their own garden?

What more can I say about these fun and cute cucumber molds from Japan that I haven't said already, except that - yes, my past posts on these molds when I first saw them in Japan 5 years ago have been kind of insanely popular on Pinterest and in social media.

Obviously, novelty raises the share ability and social media quotient! There is no denying that there are many home gardeners and mommy bloggers who adore these molds, but even though are mostly just pinning them to their boards on Pinterest or sharing old images with their followers on Twitter and Facebook, not to mention Instagram -- I did have to wonder if anybody has actually tried them?II decided to invest in a few imported from Japan (warning, they are pricey and probably not worth spending $75 dollars or more for, as surely, commercial growers will be dabbling in introducing these soon. Not deterred - as I am one whom is always up of some novelty- it's time to test these guys out.

July 7, 2011

Pricks-The Joys of Thorns

SOLANUM PYRACANTHUM HAS ATTRACTIVE GOLDEN THORNS, THIS ORNAMENTAL TOMATO RELATIVE IS AN UNUSUAL CONVERSATION STARTER FOR A SUMMER CONTAINER, IT'S FLOWERS AND FRUIT ARE EVEN MORE INTERESTING, MORE ON THIS PLANT AND OTHER ORNAMENTAL SOLANUM SPECIES IN A FUTURE POST.
People act funny around thorns. You may freak out at the thought of picking berries in a thorn-infested blackberry patch, or scream when you accidentally grab a black raspberry seedling while weeding, or even wear gauntlet gloves when pruning your favorite rose bush, but thorns on plants aren't all bad, and some thorns on plants are the specimen's most intreagueing feature, making them ornamental. 


Some of the ornamental tomato relatives known as Solanum's have amazing thorns, Solanum pyracanthum has firey toned thorns that are much more interesting than it's average purple blossoms. Many of these Solanum's are now trendy container plants, found at upscale nurseries and in designer collections, but others are being selected for not having thorns, such as the Solanum quitoense below. I much prefer the thornier variety than this new thornless one, for this is a plant that had row after row of devilish thorns both on the top of the leaf, and below. Now, it's practically a fuzzy eggplant.
NOT ALL ORNAMENTAL SOLANUM'S ARE THORNY, THIS IS A THORNLESS S. QUITOENSE, NEW TO MOST MARKETS FOR ORNAMENTAL CONTAINERS AND SUMMER PLANTINGS. (I MISS THE THORNIER SELECTION, BECAUSE THE THORNS ARE WHAT MADE THIS PLANT SO INTERESTING).

Some thorn plants, like cacti and those on other desert plants define their species, and agave are often grown for their radial form and symetrical, yet deadly, thorny leaves. I believed that I would never cut these off, and sometimes even selecting the prickliest vartieties to grow, like 'Meat Claw'. I don't really care if I get tormented by 'Meat Claw' or any Agave for that matter, that is, until you step on one by accident, or shove your hand into it without looking. But now with a puppy who likes to hunt, with eyes at thorn level, I have a different outlook on such attributes. Rather than shoving foam peanuts onto each leaf tip until the plants are relocated back into the greenhouse for the winter, I have decided to trim the very point tips off of some of the Agave. Although an eye-patch on a dog has its cool-factor, I'd rather not take that route right now. Our vet bills are just too high as it is.

AGAVE 'MEAT CLAW', APTLY NAMED.


Some thorns are just too dangerous, especially the ones found on many species of Agave. Since we keep many in our Agave collection on the steps of the deck, or on the ground in containers where the dogs wander, we have started snipping the tips off. I know that the thorns are some of the best features on Agave, and the snipping them off many equate with declawing a cat, but after seeing a dog at the Tuft's Vet Hospital with an eye patch, and after two nose incidents with our dogs ( not to mention a nasty infected long Agave thorn in Joe's middle finger joint last year), I am taking precautions and simply snipping the very tip ( not the whole thorn) off of the most dangerous Agave plants in pots.


EUPHORBIA MILII, OR CROWN OF THORNS, IS A COMMON HOUSEPLANT, BUT ALSO A LOVELY THORN PLANT TO KEEP ON A WINDOW SILL. OUR GREENHOUSE IS TOO COLD AND WET FOR THIS SPECIES IN THE WINTER, AND THEY PREFER TO GO DORMANT, OR ROT.

A YELLOW FORM OF CROWN OF THORNS, ALMOST GLOWS WHEN IN BLOOM, SINCE THE THORNS ARE GLAUCUS BLUE AND THE FLOWERS LESS OF A HORRID SHADE OF RED.