Monday, June 25, 2012

Vegetative Volunteers

The hollyhocks, seeds of which we imported four years ago from our daughter-in-law’s garden in Santa Fe New Mexico, are hopscotching their way around our property. Like Patty Hearst, they have changed from “abductees” to “volunteers”. Fortunately for us, unlike Tania the Terrorist, they are not brandishing weapons – although I am more than a little worried about their future plans.
Let me explain.

Our yard has a long history of vegetative volunteerism. Our first vegetable garden was planted on Memorial Day weekend of 1977 and contained, among other things, some cherry tomato plants – Sweet 100s I believe. They grew and produced, if not their eponymous amount, then certainly enough to keep us fed during our daily sojourns into the plot and its adjacent area. (Marsha and I never, ever, bring the bite-sized red fruits into our house; they are always devoured in situ while warm and at their juiciest.)

The next year we planted three more and got, in return, five or six plants – a trio of new ones and a pair of spontaneous spinoffs from the prior year. And so it has gone. This year we only planted one because actually three are enough for the two of us.

Early in the history of this same piece of cultivated land my in-laws secretly planted some amaranth that was growing (I do not know why) in their own vegetable plot. It is a tall herb with a feathery maroon flower and a thick stalk that sometimes requires the use of a pruning saw to take down. Like the aforementioned hollyhocks and cherry tomatoes it has consistently regenerated itself year after year after year….

The latter two crops have thus far limited their travels to different areas within their original garden. To me this is a good thing. I have a hard enough time managing and maintaining the stuff that grows where I put it, without having to deal with a piece of greenery that is looking to find its own place in the sun.

A few years ago that bed was converted from from 100% vegetable to a 90/10 perennials/tomatoes mix. The hollyhocks made their east coast debut as one of the new perpetual crops. Up until this season they also had stayed within their boundary. But this year they are definitely expanding their range – already advancing into the front yard.

A former fellow Men's Garden Club of Wethersfield member  recently sent me this photo that he says are some of our hollyhocks growing in the backyard of his and his wife’s new house in Boise, Idaho.

Mars and I must have given them seeds.  The alternative is just too scary to contemplate.

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