Monday, June 11, 2007

Urban Seed Gathering

Back in March I was sick of watching my Abutilon 'nabob' languish in this spot in the western planter. I decided I'd try a Ricinus 'dwarf red' a.k.a. Castor Bean Plant. The plant has poisonous seeds, which goes along with so much else in the garden. In fact at this point I'm thinking most plants are poisonous, and the ones that are not are the exception, maybe not the same ratios as mushrooms, but it does seem that nearly every plant I pick has poison stems, poison seeds, agitating sap, or all of the above.

So back to the Ricinus: Despite my efforts to secure a seedling from a local nursery, they all said that these would come in a few months. Interestingly, I did place an order for one at Sloat, and they have yet to call. I know our winter cold snap devastated many of the outlying nurseries, but still, sometimes I think someone should establish a nursery in SF to get ahead of the competition.
I really wanted this plant. I drive by a large one every day on my way up 20th street onto the hill. I decided one day during nap-time to walk up the street with a trowel and a scissor and see if I could secure a cutting, or even better a seedling. At first I concentrated on finding some ripened seed pods to harvest and germinated. Then, Lo and behold, I saw that the entire bed beneath the giant (10-ft tall) tree was sprouting with seedlings. I gently pried one out of the ground and carried it home after cutting a few pods for seeds and stuffing my pockets.

I gently transplanted my seedling, but it didn't take. I then planted a seed. Weeks and then months went by and I gave up and came up with a new plant for the space--a Cana lily. Again faced with having to wait until summer to get one, I gently dug up a corm from one I have and cut a chunk free to transplant. As you can see here, despite severing the top of the leaf, it is sprouting and has taken. Then, as I was watering by Cana, I see to have awakened what I thought was my failed Ricinus seed, and POP, out it came one day last week. So the two shall grow together side by side, until I have to move one or the other.

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