South African heaths

Jim McKenney
Thu, 25 Aug 2005 10:55:34 PDT
Actually, Lee, what I had in mind when I said "grow" was something a lot
more comprehensive. Simply finding sorts which respond well to your local
conditions and persist from year to year is not what I had in mind. What I
had in mind is that all pervasive sort of interest and enthusiasm which
causes some people to pursue as many aspects of a plant's life cycle as
possible. In particular, I had in mind raising plants from seed, selecting
variants, developing a strain with characteristics which will identify it as
your own. 

Apparently there was a time in the not too distant past when ordinary
gardeners such as you and I actually did this. There were people who
actually raised garden tulips from seed. Today we have people such as Jane
McGary who raise wild tulips from seed, an effort no less admirable, but I
know of no one who has a strain of garden tulips uniquely his or her own. 

That's why I say tulip culture has died out among amateur gardeners. It's
cheaper and easier to simply buy the commercial product - a product so
marvelous that I'm unashamed to be one of the buyers. 

But I still think about the waxing and waning of these plant enthusiasms. I
think about the days when everyday people raised auriculas, or ranunculus,
or carnations, or gladiolus, or irises, or lilies or whatever caught the
attention of their generation. I have garden peonies here which I have
raised from seed. They are nothing special; but as so many peonies are, they
are beautiful and fragrant, and they allow me to indulge the fantasy that
I'm part of that tradition.

And who knows, some day I may try tulips. 

Jim McKenney
Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, USDA zone 7, where the willingness to grow
plants from seed seems to be one of the great divides in amateur

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