Home & Garden Columns
I see the inimitable Annie’s Annuals is having a sale. Some of the stuff the two Anni(e)s are offering are rarities in the plant trade, in the area, maybe anywhere. Once again I’ll have to wrestle with my conscience.
Partly it’s about budgeting. As you might have heard, income possibilities for freelance writers are shrinking rapidly around here while prices the prices of gas and pretty much everything else are rising. Annie’s plants are certainly not overpriced but they aren’t cheap, and there’s always one more—well, two more, and shouldn’t I get some of those over there too?—temptation there that I’d counted on.
I could take cash and my driver’s license and nothing else, I guess. I could wear a hairshirt and cilice too, but somehow I’m just not that kind of a girl.
Partly it’s about space. Our garden is crowded, mostly shady, badly drained in spite of various stratagems against flat alluvial clay. How badly drained? Every winter a mysterious hole opens in the mud of the driveway. This hole swallows whatever we throw into it: chips, mats, gravel, pecks of rocks ranging up to breadloaf size.
The hole, from the moment it appears, fills with water. That water and the mud for a few square yards around it stink of stagnation. It has risen from some unwholesome quarter of the bowels of Earth and it’s not going anywhere till Spring.
So I’m gambling with the life of every poor plant I bring home. I end up adopting a lot of orphans, because, well, I’m cheap and they have nowhere better to go, and rarities rarely get orphaned. This contributes to a certain vernacular, even outsider-art atmosphere here at The Belfry.
I’ve been a member of Native Seeds/SEARCH for years; they made a believer out of me when they brought some of their marvelous chili powder varieties to the Bioneers conference. They were the best thing there that year.
But I buy only groceries and artifacts from them because the species and cultivars they preserve are desert-based, and I’m sure I’d be committing murder by planting them here. Their seeds are rare pretty much by definition, and if I’m going to perform vegetable sacrifices I’d prefer at least to leave a lot of survivors somewhere.
One matter that does not rasp on my conscience when I succumb to Annie’s charms is that of provenance. That’s something you have to think about with rare plants and even some common ones, particularly bulbs.
So obscenely disparate are global wages that some bulb distributors still find it cheaper to pay some poor Third World gatherer for bulbs dug from the wild than to grow their own plants and keep seeds from them to grow out for bulbs, or even propagate by bulblets or cuttings.
There’s an ethical side to pretty much anything—maybe not crossword puzzles, but anything else—and gardeners who prize interesting plants do well to pay attention to it.
More about that next week.
Ron Sullivan is a former professional gardener and arborist. Her “Garden Variety” column appears every Friday in the Daily Planet’s East Bay Home & Real Estate section. Her column on East Bay trees appears every other Tuesday in the Daily Planet.
Annie’s Annuals and Perennials
740 Market Avenue, Richmond
Directions at www.anniesannuals.com or call (don’t trust Mapquest or Google on this one.)
Sale June 23 through July 8 at retail
Retail store: 526 N. 4th Ave.
Tucson, AZ 85705