Garden, gardening

The Mad Horticulturist

Hi, my name is Cedar, and I have a plant problem. All right, it’s not a problem. It’s more like… well, you know, for as long as I wanted to be a scientist, I wanted to be a botanist. As I look back now, I realize that what I wanted to do wasn’t the dull and boring parts of science – the number crunching once you collect data, the statistics analysis, the hypothesis design – it was the learning more and more about plants, and especially plants you could eat. Pretty sure that last part took root in my brain (heh) when I was a skinny kid and hungry all the time. Now that I really am a scientist, I’m surprisingly ok with the boring bits, and actually (shh, don’t tell anyone) like Minitab. But I still want to surround myself with plants and immerse myself in the pleasure  they offer my senses, not just taste.

wild edible plant
Heart-shaped leaf of an oxalis plant, at very high magnification using reverse-lens macro photography. The sparkle on the surface of the leaf is a waxy coating that prevents water loss. Plants, and science, and art, muahaha!


Which is a problem. I once promised my partner I’d not make the house into a jungle. I’ve kept my Great-great-grandma Clara’s Christmas Cactus alive all these years together, and a sparse handful of orchids, an easter cactus, and stray other pots have come and gone. I started a Teeny Garden at the little house we first lived in, put everything on hiatus for the two years we rented a house, and now… we own just over a half acre. I’m in garden heaven. I’m also aware that I have to plan this out properly, or I will have more plants than I have room for. I mean, I want a full orchard, berries, nuts, food forest madness – but I know that will have to wait until we have a forever home and a few more acres than we have got currently. I’m also aware that some of what I’m planting now may have to go live with my Mom when we sell this place until we find that place. (Hey Mom, did you ever think through the ramifications of being a Plant Grandma and having to babysit? At least the dang Quince!)

Flowering Quince, which is lovely but not what I want. I’m looking for fruiting quince so I can make jelly!

I came to a realization as I pored through sources of native and unusual plants, seeking the elusive fruiting quince, and maybe a couple of hazelnuts, and passionflower vine, and Virgin’s Bower, that I’ve become a mad horticulturist. It’s not the first time I’ve come to this conclusion. And as one of my kids pointed out recently, it shows. People walk up to me in garden centers and ask me questions like ‘does this bloom all season?’ and I can glance at the plant they are holding up and tell them ‘yes, but that’s a rock garden plant, stays very short, and you should make sure it has plenty of light.’ This happens to me… a lot. The Little Man was with me during a recent encounter, and told me afterwards ‘you look like you know things about plants.’ I wasn’t aware that was  a look.

Ok, so this is my gardener ‘look’ from a few years back. I need to find that pruning shears holster again…

I mean, I’ve been involved peripherally in preserving heritage species and heirloom plants since I was a kid. We saved seeds for… always. Partly because it’s so much cheaper, but also because being able to reliably grow stuff from seed is better than relying on the latest and greatest hybrids. Nothing against hybrid vigor. It is a thing. But when you want to grow the kinds of veg and plants that have been around for hundreds of years in gardens, sometimes the only way to get them is to swap seeds, or plants, with folks who have that variety, and you have what they want. I used to belong to a huge garden community online (where my handle was, of course, Linnea) and swapped plants with people all over the nation. I miss that. I miss talking sports, species, and varietals with equally mad horticulturists. The only reason I’m not looking for a local garden club is a. lack of time and b. social issues. As in, mad doesn’t begin to describe how fervid some little old biddies (even the ones my age) get about flowers and landscapes in town. There is a reason there’s an entire sub-genre of cozy mysteries around garden feuds.

The beginning was more lawn than garden. I aim to reverse that, somewhat to the First Reader’s dismay.

Which is not to say all gardeners are that nutso. We just have mutually agreeable crazy spots. My mother-in-law (who is not Mad) and I bonded over walking through her garden sharing plant knowledge, exchanging common names, and discovering that we are very much kindred spirits. She shares plant starts with me and I take pictures of her garden and have toyed with creating a photobook of those for her to enjoy. Might be a good Christmas gift. I love meeting people who show me their gardens and talk about their passions for plants, whether it be vegetable or floral. Now that I have my own spot of ground to dig in, I feel like I’m back where I belong in the shape of the universe.

The new improved flower, herb, and edible landscaping bed at the front of the house. The anchor is a dwarf peach at the far end, and the end closest to the door will be herbs for easy harvest.



10 thoughts on “The Mad Horticulturist

  1. Shhh,,, I promised myself I wasn’t going to buy any more plants this year and you’re giving me the urge to break that promise. Of course, everything I buy has to be ‘deer resistant’ because if they aren’t, the deer munch them to the ground. Which is why I don’t plant food. And even if they are deer resistant, it’s still a gamble because the plants the deer won’t eat are still fun for them to play with.

    Pretty much everything I plant these days comes through catalogs. Michigan Bulb has a pretty good track record with me for providing plants that thrive. Springhill is good, too. I also get Burpee and Gurney’s and Breck catalogs. I tried the local greenhouse, but of all the perennials I purchased there, only one is still alive. I get my annuals at Wallyworld.

    And now I want to go plant shopping. =op

  2. Run your bricks all the way around the end to keep the dirt from escaping!!

    And that’s what I’ve got to do today. Plant the durn veggie garden. At least it was easier to spade up this year. Tho eventually the entire thing will be volunteer potatoes.

    Oh, and grass. Grass is fascinating; there are so many different kinds…

  3. good luck finding the pruning shears holster. its way too close to you having moved for you to find anything

  4. If you like macro photography of plants, you might enjoy playing with focus stacking. One of the issues with macro photography is a very narrow field of focus, so that only a small part of the plant is in focus. With focus stacking, you take multiple photos, focusing on different parts of the plant, and then combine all of the in-focus parts. There are plugins for this in the open source (free) image processing program from the NIH called “ImageJ.” Do a search on “focus stacking,” and “ImageJ”. You might like the results.

    1. Thanks! I’ve done a little with Lightroom and photoshop to Stack, but have never been happy with the results. I will definitely check this out. I’m working on a project to photograph all the native pollinators in my region, so this could be very helpful.

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