A Gardening Year

The adventures and misadventures of an heirloom gardener

Thursday, January 20, 2005

How many do I need?

I owe an apology to all the heirloom tomato growers that I have laughed at for years. The ones who swear that THIS year they are going to limit themselves to only 6 or 8 varieties of tomatoes. Come on, does anyone honestly NEED that many different kinds of tomatoes? Then I took a close look at my seed orders for this year, added them to what I am already growing and was appalled. 4 kinds of cosmos, 4 kinds of marigolds, 4 kinds of zinnias, 5 kinds of columbines and 6, count them, 6 kinds of morning glories.

I can explain the morning glories. It all started years ago in an attempt to beautify the ugly chainlink fence that encloses my backyard. I started growing morning glories on it not realizing that they are basically weeds. I started out with a collection of antique varieties. They were lovely but the next year I fell in love with Fuji morning glories in a catalog and planted those. Lo and behold, morning glories from the previous year had reseeded themselves. Crimson Rambler. What a pleasant surprise. Year after year, both types came back. At one point, they were so rampant, they covered sunflowers I had planted along the section of fence where they grew. The original plan was for the morning glories to ramble on the fence, but they also rambled on the sunflowers. It was quite a sight. Then I just had to try Flying Saucers. I had given up on the sunflowers at that point and just let the morning glories take over the fence. Meanwhile, my daughter had started and then abandoned a garden. In it, she had been growing Milky Way on a small trellis. That gave me an idea. Wouldn't the dark purple Grandpa Ott look great growing on trellises on either side of the door to my large, white shed? Last year I tried Heavenly Blue on the section of fence at the end of my driveway. They were wonderful to come home to each morning. Huge, bright blue flowers so intense they didn't even look real. I'm not sure that they reseeded since the seeds I saw didn't look ripe on the vines before they were killed by the frost. Just in case, I am ordering them again this year.

I have no excuses for the columbines. That is just plain greed. I first grew columbines at my last house. Songbird hybrids, I believe. They reseeded freely but being hybrids, reverted back to all yellow. I tried establishing them here but they didn't do well in the hot, dry conditions. I finally managed to get one growing happily, a lovely lavender. A darker purple with white William Guinness had been planted in the abandoned garden. Then I discovered heirloom columbines. After many tries, I have a small colony of Grandmother's Garden columbine established. This year I am adding Green Apple columbine to the Green Garden and Ruby Port columbine to grow around the base of the trellises at the front of the shed. I also wanted either Nora Barlow or Tower columbines but couldn't decide which nor where to put them. And there is a lovely yellow variety, probably a hybrid, that would be perfect for the Orange/Yellow Garden. I realized I was getting out of control and skipped that one also.

I'm not laughing any more. One does need that many different kinds of tomatoes.


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