Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Oddities in the garden

I spend a lot of time studying my Benning's Green Tint squash plants while I look for squash vine borer eggs, rogue caterpillars, and female flowers that need to be fertilized. My familiarity with these plants makes any aberration readily apparent, and this morning an odd-looking flower on one of my plants stood out. It looked like the stamen had split into two. I suspected some type of insect problem, but closer inspection revealed that the flower center had two of everything, mirror images of one another. Could it be a confused flower that was both male and female? It would make for efficient fertilizing. I looked under the flower and saw it was 100% male with no baby squash below. Very odd.

Internet research led to the answer. We have twins! According to cyber experts, twin flowers occur on squash plants with some regularity. Female blossoms can also be twins, leading to a conjoined double squash that looks odd but is perfectly edible. I had no idea twins occurred in the vegetable world, and find this parallel with the animal kingdom fascinating.

I love making these odd discoveries in the garden. A cayenne pepper that is impossibly contorted and twisted. A tomato that is yellow, green and red all the same time. Flowers that open in the morning only to close soon after. Every morning I take a walk around the garden to see what's new and interesting. No one in the family shares my excitement about these admittedly minor discoveries. Perhaps too many action-adventure movies have numbed them to the drama taking place right under their noses.

True to gender stereotypes, our boys are hunter-gatherers more focused on the the harvest than the process when it comes to the garden. There's not much interest in planting the seeds, but they are eager to cut the vegetables off the plant. Two mundane gardening activity have captured their fancy. The first is weeding -- there's something so satisfying to them about killing all our evil invaders. Their favorite activity, though, is watering the garden. The boys fight over the hose, and would happily spend hours soaking the yard. Several plants have gone to their death thanks to the "power wash" setting on the hose (now strictly banned), and the kids get much wetter than the plants. But any help is welcome, especially since it gives me more time to study and learn in our garden.


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