Diary - 05/07
Diary - May 2007
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May 2007


Since now is the time for planting seeds outside and increasing plant yields, I thought I’d recount some of my stories about plants and seeds.

Last year I bought a very small cardamom plant from Poyntzfield nurseries. It needed a lot of careful nurturing by my mother in its first few months. She kept it in the kitchen with a plastic bag over it and watered it regularly as its leaves kept going brown and looking decidedly sick if it were left anywhere cold or in a draught. Once it was well established and repotted, I brought it home and stuck it on the floor in front of the south-west facing French window behind the patchouli plant. It is thriving. A couple of months ago, I decided to try propagating it by chopping through some side shoots and roots and giving them their own pots. I made two "new" plants and all three never turned a hair at the violence. The mother plant is putting up new shoots where the cuttings were taken. I probably could have taken some more, but I didn't want to greedy!

My aloe vera plants get very long, straggly and very unseemly after several years. I got so fed up with having to prop two of them up, I decided to chop off the very end which still looked healthy and see if they would grow with no root system. They did. Both are still alive and reasonably happy. Interestingly, part of the stem of one of them was also still green, so I stuck that in the compost as well, just to see what would happen. The leaves on this plant section are decidedly on the way out, but it has thrown up a completely new baby at the base, so I shall have a new plant thanks to a stem section which I was just going to throw away.

I'm trying to grow a whole load of heel cuttings from my aunt's purple sage plant to make new plants. Last year I harvested some leaves when she was "otherwise engaged" and it made the best sage vinegar I have ever encountered. The cuttings were taken with her permission, so we shall see what happens. I've also taken some orange thyme heel cuttings and it will be interesting to see how those turn out.

I'm always worried about losing my pineapple sage to the frosts, so this year I over-wintered two cuttings on the kitchen windowsill. They bolted about two feet high and both of them flowered. One plant then threw up a new shoot at the bottom and the original stem died back. On the other plant, one of the side shoots was losing all its side leaves, so I put the tip in water until it rooted and then potted it. When the weather went really warm, I repotted the two larger plants and put them all outside on the patio where it's sunny and fairly sheltered. The fascinating thing is that all three plants immediately shot out new leaves covering their entire main stems. Now they look like vigorous bushy plants. (Of course the original plants survived the winter in perfect condition and are now growing back!)

Next to the pineapple sage plants is a large pot containing a balm of Gilead shrub (I have the tree at the Sanctuary). This plant is the first generation seedling from the original plant which died off last winter after two years. (Do other people keep genealogies of plants?) It was looking very straggly, so I decided to give it a haircut at the beginning of April. There weren't quite enough leaves to make an infused oil, but it seemed a shame just to throw all the "branches" away, so I snapped the tips off six of them and stuck them around the edge of one of the pineapple sage pots. Four of the cuttings seem quite healthy and two have disappeared. This weekend I'm intending to pot them up, so I shall have four new plants -again from material I was just going to throw on the compost heap.

Interestingly, I have taken both a pineapple sage and a balm of Gilead seedling into work as I was trying to develop a selection of perfumed herbs on my windowsill to help with stress. Both died because they weren't watered over a holiday, so I shan't repeat the experiment. I now have six African violets instead which bloom regularly and make me feel happy!

My last story is one which has made me laugh. Four weeks ago I planted some runner bean seeds from plants I grew last year and some butter bean seeds in ordinary soil - hoping to grow a “three sisters” garden this year. Two runner beans emerged followed by two of the butter bean seedlings (I think!). In one of the other pots some large leaves emerged which looked vaguely familiar but I didn't consciously put a name to them. I had to laugh when I realised they were milk thistle seedlings yet the soil came from part of the garden where no milk thistle plants have grown in the past and I know I didn't plant any seeds in those pots!


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