Friday, April 07, 2006

A lethal combination

The sun is shining. Please take that to protocol. I repeat; the sun is shining. Over the last weeks we’ve had snow, rain, storm, fog, more snow, rain again and so on. But today the sunshine is pouring down from an almost blue sky and the temperature is above zero degrees Celsius.

Did you by the way know that Celsius is named after the Swedish astronomer Anders Celsius who lived from 1701 to 1744? He invented a temperature scale based on water. In the original scale water freezes at 100°C and boils at 0°C (!). The scale was however reversed after just a few years. It probably seemed more logic to increase the figure with raising temperature than to do the opposite.
The Fahrenheit scale on the other hand is named after Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit who was a German physicist who lived in the Netherlands for a big part of his life. He defined the coldest temperature attainable under laboratory conditions at that time as 0°F and the body temperature of a healthy horse as 100°F.
If I was to invent a temperature scale I’d set 0°L (degrees Linn) at the soil temperature when the first snowdrop ‘Galanthus nivalis’ starts to flower. 100°L would be the temperature of the wooden floor on my porch at sunset after a sunny summers day. It is a local scale, I admit. But a useful one. Between 0 and 100, life is good. And hey, it is not much stranger than the body temperature of a horse anyway.

Even if the sun is indeed shining, the soil is still frozen (i.e. below 0°L) and digging is out of the question. Since we live on the top of a hill with very cold clay it takes time before the winter loosens its grip on our piece of land. And apart from replanting the houseplants and ordering new plants from various suppliers, there are really not much other things to do. Ordering plants has its backdrops of course but oatmeal porridge is not to bad, is it? A few months of that and we are back on track again. Early spring I always get this sudden urge to buy roses. I love roses and in the perfect world I’d be completely surrounded by them. Since our garden is one and a half acre it might take some time but we’re working on it. In the mean time we eat porridge.

I know that there are plenty of gardeners now shaking their heads. Nothing much to do? Has she never heard of seeds? Sowing? Bringing up plants early? What kind of gardener is she? I’ll tell you – a forgetful one. I have a soft spot for plant catalogues. Send me a plant catalogue if you want to make me happy but don’t send one with lots of pictures. Send one with long scientific names in very small print. Odd varieties that no one has ever heard of and I am happy. Catalogues have seduced me more than once.

A flair for the odd and unusual combined with a tendency to overdo things and a hint of forgetfulness makes a lethal combination. What happens is this: I get seduced by the catalogue and order seeds. Many, many seeds. They arrive and after a few days, often very late at night when normal people are in bed, I sow them. Well, most of them anyway. If there are many seeds in a packet about half the amount get sown. I water and put the pots away.
The following weeks I look for a sign of life in the pots about four times a day. When some of the seeds eventually germinate I try to stop myself from being too eager. I tell myself to wait with the repotting a little to let some of the other seed get a chance to germinate to.
Thus, I forget all about it for two weeks and when I, in sudden horror, remember the seeds there is mold in 10% of the pots. In 40% of the pots nothing has happened. In another 10% the compost is dry and no seed will ever germinate there. Remains 40%.
These pots are miniature jungles. Now it is really time to repot them. I start. I buy more compost. I continue. I buy more pots. I continue. I place pots is every window and on every free surface in the house. And I remember what I always seem to forget - I hate repotting. It is simply dead boring.
If lucky I have remembered to mark the pots with the name of the plant. If even more lucky they actually survive until it’s time to bring them outdoors.
I then put them in the cold frame since they need a season to grow. The general idea is that the plants should grow one season in the cold frame and be planted out in the beds the following season.
Spring and summer come and go. Sun shines. Must, must remember to water the pots. Rain is pouring down. I hope the pots haven’t drowned. Birds are having fun with the nametags. Big problem.

Next spring, the huge amounts of pots are thawing. Things start to grow in them. Unfortunately I have by now no idea what is growing in what pot. To be honest I generally have lost the piece of paper where I wrote down what went in the pots in the first place. All I know it that it probably was something odd. What to do now? I wait. I wait and search the house for some information. If I actually find the note where I wrote down what was sawn the previous season, all I have to do is to figure out which of the pots that contain tall and sun loving perennials and which that contain ground covering varieties. And which contain weed. I have been known to carefully take care of birches, dandelions and Greater Plantain plants before realizing what I was doing.

This year I have a lot of pots standing in the cold frame as usual. But now I have made my mind up. No more seeds until I figure out a way to keep myself from repeating the pattern one more time. There has to be a way. I know there is, isn’t it?


snappy said...

Hi Linn, every year i am seduced by buying seeds.Spend large amounts of time reading packet, planting, and watching fervently for signs of germination.Sometimes the compost kills the seedlings, then i think i better plant them outside, and the slugs kill them or freak weather.
months later i might have a half dozen flowering plants and im very proud.Even though about 94 have died getting this far.
keep on writing, you are so alike it makes me smile.

contrary1 said...

I'm thrilled to find out I'm not the only one! Start a support group.......I'll join!

Kati said...

hilarious! I laughed 'till I cried, recognizing myself with all my flagrantly unrealistic ambitions in your excellent writing. looks like 'snappy', 'contrary1' and I could be a good core to your support group, if we could only get organized...

Heavens to Betsy said...

While reading Linn's comments, it dawned on me that I'd double ordered the same order from an online nursery I do business with... It's either gardening frenzy that hits me every spring, or menopause. Can't seem to remember anything these days. Hope there's enough room in the garden... Maybe it's time to dig up the northeast corner of the yard. Nuthin' much there now anyway. What a riot. Happy Spring. (Can you dig it?)

Alice said...

I'm not sure that your condition can be cured, Linn. My husband and I buy seeds, collect seeds, divide plants, collect cuttings, etc. Have them all/some growing - sometimes remember to water them, but most live a strangled life in a pot that's too small because they really should be planted out in the garden but we can't think where to put them. After all, where does one plant 200 Canadian Maples, 40 oaks, 80 jacarandas, plus 100s of other things on a half acre block? We just love propagating things - and we'll probably keep doing it!!!

Hannele said...

Glad midsommar!