Saturday, May 21, 2005

Mostly Mignonette

I’ve been taking a plant propagation class at my local community college. The school has two greenhouses and fabulous teachers. The rule is that each student must give back to the school at least 50% of what they grow. In the spring there is a sale each month. It was so exciting to arrive this morning for the last sale of the semester and see a line of 50 people waiting for at least a half an hour to be the first to get at the plants.

I’m really interested in fragrance and cottage-y garden plants. I successfully grew Reseda odorata (Mignonette ‘Machet’) but had to do a lot of marketing to sell it to both the teacher and the customers. I had never seen it in cultivation but had read about it and was seduced by the following description at Select Seeds:
The small spike of fringed, pale salmon flowers possess a wonderful sweet fragrance with overtones of raspberry. Napoleon brought this seed to his Josephine, who was entranced and named it 'mignonette' or 'little darling.' E.A. Bowles wrote in 1914, 'I like to place mignonette in a glass bowl, it is so cool and fresh in its green and gold and a spangling of silver and a ruby here and there that brightens it at close quarters.'

Well, guess what, I had 32-4 inch pots of the little darling and one had a blossom and the small description was right on. I sure hope the fragrance is better really early in the morning, or late in the afternoon, or early evening, or sometime, because we had a really hard time detecting anything. You’d think that with odorata in it’s name the wonderful fragrance would be discernible.

I also grew lots of basil, including ‘Genovese’ seeds brought back from Italy by my friend Janine, and lettuce leaf basil. Another student persuaded me that she loves to use leaves of this variety of basil in her sandwiches. Is your mouth watering with the thought of a slice of a crusty ciabatta, vine-ripened tomatoes, fresh whole-milk mozzarella, and lettuce leaf basil glistening with extra virgin olive oil?

But the easiest thing to do in a plant propagation class is to buy other peoples’ plants, before, during, and after the plant sales. As a result, my porch is full of plants waiting to get into the garden. And my patio is full of plants waiting to get into the garden... Did I say that I’m really good at starting things and not so good at finishing?

Well, it’s exhausting. But I'm recovering. I’m off to cut up those lovely batiks, I promise.

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