Despite the tornado watch Sunday night and Monday morning’s random snowflakes, spring really is here. As I looked out the window this morning, the grass had turned its usual bright green and my neighbors’ forsythia burst forth almost overnight.
Even better, the area greenhouses are bragging about what they have for sale. I think it would be difficult to work in a greenhouse without developing a huge amount of enthusiasm for your merchandise. I mean, flowering plants are much more interesting that your basic hammer.
A lot of people are impelled to go to a greenhouse on a bright sunshiny day. I have a preference for visiting them on a day like today or, even odder, on my February birthday if the snow is flying.
Greenhouse workers will look at you like you have two heads with horns sprouting from them. They are usually up to their elbows in wet potting soil in late winter, transplanting cuttings and such. They just aren’t geared up for retail customers.
“Never mind. I know you’re busy. I’m just here to look around and enjoy.”
The exasperated looks give way to smiles. They know exactly what you mean. And you are accepted as one of the cool kids.
Meanwhile, since it’s Monday and I have a couple deadlines to meet, I’ll stay home. I will need a little recess at some point, and so I’ll break out the seed catalogues again.
I admit to being something of a reactionary in my spelling. “Catalogue” needs its final “u-e” every bit as much as “analogue” does. And “doughnut” will always have its extra letters because, well, anything less smacks of a decline in American literacy.
My collection of annual seed catalogues is much slimmer than it used to be. I outgrew the familiar old ones printed on newsprint and splashed with lurid color photos of 40-pound kohlrabis and whopping five-pound tomatoes.
People believe those claims and yet make fun of those who read science fiction. I never understood that.
On the other hand, if you were into making sauerruben, you might want to try the freak-of-nature giant space-ship veggie. This is a fermented vegetable concoction much like sauerkraut but using kohlrabi or turnips instead of cabbage.
That piece of information is definitely worth the price of a year’s subscription to the L-V.
Still, the more modern seed catalogues have their own share of hyperbole. There is one that I drool over all the time on dark winter nights. Headquartered in the Ozarks, they have great success growing all kinds of colorful Asian vegetables.
None of which would have time to reach maturity here in windswept western Pennsylvania, by the way, without a tremendous outlay of time and money. I’m a bit of a fascist in that regard. If a plant cannot stand up to a bit of chill and wind, it has no place in my garden.
I make an exception in the case of fresh ginger because it can be brought inside and raised as a pet houseplant when the weather turns cold. I would be willing to do the same thing with lemongrass, but I didn’t have much luck with it a couple years ago.
That is pretty much it for the more exotic plants. A few vigorous climbing hyacinth beans from Thailand would look smashing at my place, but they would die before I got any beans to eat.
Instead, I’ll grow scarlet runner beans this year. Mom used to grow those beside our old patio when I was a small girl, and I loved them because they attracted hummingbirds. Bees like them, too, and it’s probably a good idea to give honeybees every advantage you can these days.
While Mom never fed us any of the beans, she told us that people ate them during the Depression and earlier. I’m up for an adventure. I’ll let you know how it turns out.
This bit of garden dreaming just did wonders for my mood as I wrote it. The snowflakes have given up for the moment, but the rest of the day looks like a washout.
The good news is, the farmers’ market will be back in business next month. That’s always a good sign.
[Susan Kerr is a semi-retired freelance writer living in her hometown of New Bethlehem. Previously, she was the managing editor of a regional-interest magazine and a business journal in State College.]