Crown of thorns (Euphorbia milii) is a tough-as-nails, mean SOB of a succulent from Madagascar that is commonly grown as a houseplant here in North America. Those thorns will get you and make you curse like a sailor.
I love it!
I spotted this one in Barbados growing along the front fence in front of a small home. The plant was the size of a small bush and bursting with tiny bright red blooms. Oh to have a crown of thorns flanking my front garden. That should keep the Friday night bar hoppers looking for an outdoor urinal out of the garden.
I’ve come to associate the plant with the Arcade Fire song, Crown of Love.
“In my heart, there’s flowers growing.”
And inversely, these are the flowers I always imagine growing in the singer’s heart.
If you’ve been reading this site over the years, you can probably make a pretty safe guess as to where I am right now in the areas of seed starting and garden planning 2010. Behind. Barely started.
Most of my decisions so far have been made over a cup of coffee and with some lazy flipping through catalogues. Thankfully if you’re in my zone, we still have time. I don’t start to panic until all of the Seedy Saturday events are done. And us urban gardeners often have the advantage of hotter growing spaces that speed the growing process up once the summer heat comes on.
That’s my excuse anyway.
- Tomato ‘Reisetomate’: Baker Creek Seeds sent me a preview catalogue a few months back and this was the first tomato variety that caught my eye. I love an ugly tomato and I believe this just might be the most hideous beast out there. It is essentially a large bunch of cherry tomatoes smashed together into one enormous mess. The catalogue also says that the plant’s name, meaning traveler, is derived from its use as trip food in Central America. Considering the current state of travel between the Canada and the U.S, I don’t think they’d let me bring one in my carry on as sustenance.
- Tomato ‘Orange Fleshed Purple Smudge’: This is another tomato from the Baker Creek catalogue that caught my eye. These are an orange ribbed tomato (my favourite) with purple smudges on top. Reviewers describe them as mushy and tasteless but I’m going to try them anyway.
- Poppy ‘Mother of Pearl’: I have nowhere to grow this one but when has that ever stopped me? The subtle, pale shades and delicate crinkliness of these poppies are too much to resist.
- Pole Bean ‘Conio’: Last night I asked Colette of Urban Harvest about what was new in their 2010 catalogue and she mentioned this pole bean that she brought back from Terra Madre in 2008 and had grown out locally. Colette never fails to draw me in with new bean varieties. But what really got me about this one wasn’t the description so much as the name. Apparently conio or coño is an expletive referring to female genitalia. I’m always looking for an excuse to swear without being chastised for it.
- ‘Christmas’ Lima Bean: While I’m on the topic of beans, I tried to grow this variety last year. I only had about six beans so they were special. I planted them and they germinated. And then the raccoons or squirrels got them. The end. I’d like to give them a go again this year but haven’t found a source. Urban Harvest has them listed but Colette says they don’t have any. If you’ve got a source please tell us in the comments!
- Sweet Pea ‘Wild Yellow’ (Lathyrus chloranthus): I saw these sweet pea flowers in the West Coast Seeds catalogue and was smitten by the yellowy-green hue. My only hesitation is in that descriptions I have found say nothing about smell and I make it a point to only grow sweet peas that smell wonderful. Otherwise, what’s the point?
- Nodding Onion (Allium cernuum): I grew nodding onion in pots out on the roof nearly a decade ago and have got the itch to try my hand at these unique and ornamental alliums again. Botanical Interests have come through with seeds that have been newly added to their repertoire for 2010.
- Spinach ‘Bordeaux’: I saw these last year and regretted that I didn’t get any, especially since it turned out to be such an excellent year for spinach. Imagine a windowbox full of this colourful and architecturally shaped spinach. I always find spinach to be particularly gorgeous, but these have burgundy veins to boot.
Two years ago I wrote about my disappointing experience eating fresh cacao in Cuba. Cacao (Theobroma cacao) is the tree that chocolate comes from. The fruit is a big pod that forms directly on the trunk and older growth of the tree. It kind of looks like a squash and smells like one too.
Chocolate is made by fermenting, sun drying, and sometimes slow roasting the little beans that form inside the pod. However, a sweet, white, and sticky flesh grows around the beans that can be eaten fresh out of the pod. Eating that fresh flesh was on my list of things to do before I die; however, my first attempt was thwarted by an over-ripe pod that was neither sweet nor sticky and kind of tasted like a giant eraser for BIG mistakes.
When we were planning this trip I knew that we would come into contact with fresh cacao again and that I was not going to miss the opportunity to have a proper do-over. Still, I thought trying cacao in Dominica would mean making a special trip to a cacao plantation, but it turns out that cacao trees grow practically everywhere on the island. The tree grows well in mountain regions where the weather is humid and shaded by taller forest trees. That pretty much describes the entire island of Dominica, save the city where we stayed and a handful of dryer areas on the west coast.
Most flights come into Dominica on the east coast and it’s about an hour and half drive through the interior to get to the capital, Roseau. I must have spotted a million cacao trees along the route, although we did not stop to pick one on that day. I had hoped I could buy one from the market, but while I did purchase several unusual items there I never did see a cacao pod for sale. I think that may be simply because it is so easy to come by. Why buy one at the market when you can pick a pod right off the tree growing in your own yard?
I’ve seen torch ginger (Etlingera elatior) flowers in floral shops and thought they were interesting, but it’s quite another thing to see the waxy flowers in amongst the massive leaves and stalks of a 20 foot plant. As our friend David pointed out, It’s amazing how much plant it takes to support the flowers.
This is a follow-up to yesterday’s post that showed the entire banana (or plantain) flower. Here you can see the tiny bananas (or plantains) forming and the bract curled up above them.