Sorry! I know it’s been some time since I have updated. The weather has been cool today and rain has been steadily falling since the morning: it’s a perfect day to catch up on things. Other than doing household chores and updating my expenses, my roommate and I headed to the garden for a walk in the rain and a browse through the Plant Centre and Gift Shop.
Before I got here I told myself that since I am only staying at Wisley until Christmas break I wouldn’t buy any plants, instead I would live vicariously through the gardens. It went well for the first week, but by the second week I indulged in cut flowers. (I still wasn’t quite satisfied.) By the fourth week I found myself in the Plant Centre shopping for plants. My first instinct was to go with seeds because they were inexpensive and I can easily pack them away when I need to pick up and leave to my next placement. These seeds needed to be able to handle drafty (windowsill) conditions, lower light, and didn’t require involved treatment for germination. This led me to the annual section and I grabbed a packet of Tropaeolum (nasturtiums) and Calendula seeds. Both these plants are tough and will still grow even if conditions aren’t perfect.
While browsing the Plant Centre I passed a display of pansies and I couldn’t resist their little grumpy faces, so I stopped to look. Pansies – or botanically speaking, Viola - naturally lend themselves as autumn and winter bedding annuals because they can survive (and even bloom) frost, wet, and low light levels. If you plant/seed out pansies in the autumn they will out grow and bloom the ones you plant out in spring. I tend to go for the yellow ones since they are usually sweetly scented, but since pansies are started from seeds that rule doesn’t always work. It turned out that the only one with the gene for fragrance was ‘Banana Cream’, so I sniffed out the one with the strongest scent and a six pack came home with me.
One of my projects while I was working with the Trials Department this week was to take down a potted Begonia display. While we pulled the plants out of their pots and tossed them into a trailer to be composted, I took pity and saved some of the bright flowers for a bouquet. In the mix were a few hot colored Pelargoniums, so I collected the blooming stems and added them to the bouquet. (I think this Pelargonium is part of the Caliente Series, since it has the same intensity as the one I have back in Seattle.)
As some of the flowers faded, one thing led to another and I felt compelled to keep the clippings alive, so I decided I would propagate them. So today the Pelargonium stems got sliced up into bite size cuttings and I left both the Begonia clippings to see if they will do anything in the water. I hope the Pelargonium cuttings take root quickly, because that means flowers won’t be far behind and by the time I will have to move they will be suitable for travel.
I saved a couple tin cans the past week and planted the Tropaeolum seeds a few days ago in one and potted up a pansy from the pack in the other today. I picked the bushiest out of the pack since it’s bound to stretch in the lower light and an already straggly plant stretching for the light is not a comforting sight. I am hoping I will see (and smell) few flowers in about a week or two.
The Tropaeolum seeds have swelled up, but no sign of roots yet. The Calendula seeds on the other hand are germinating within a few days of being sown. It’s kind of amazing. I feel that I may have flowers within a month, but that may be wishful thinking for indoor conditions.
Aside from picking plants that can put up with my dim window conditions I also thought about packability. When it comes time for me to pack up and leave the Tropaeolum and Calendula can be restarted from left over seeds. The Pelargonium can be cut back to tuck away for easy transport and the empty containers stacked and packed. (I haven’t forgotten about the begonias, they can come too if they root.) I guess this what you may call a “suitcase garden”.
It’s nice to wake up and come home to a windowsill full of greenery and flowers - I just hope the plants will do well despite their makeshift conditions. Anyway, I will write posts soon on my visit to the Chelsea Physic Garden and the Cambridge University Botanic Garden, and my time working with Informatics and the Trials Department. Anyway, I hope to see you soon and here’s to suitcase gardens!