Tuesday, October 26, 2010

This Orange Bouquet has a Serious Story

Sometime early Summer I planted one of my favorite flowers in the universe, Tithonia (Tithonia diversifolia) or the common colloquial name, Mexican Sunflower.  It is a glorious specimen, the cultivar I planted has blooms a minimum of  4 inches across, and because of its native country of origin, it needs little water. Tithonia diversifolia is very hardy, attracts butterflies and hummingbirds like nobody's business, and grows enough flowers to make a bouquet weekly.  The flowers are not known for their aroma, but the smell is soft and distinctive, and can add a nice scent to a small room.  I have grown Tithonia in years past, so I thought nothing of it, took no special care or anything.  The seeds germinated easily and the plants grew in the starter plastic food container I use.  After a couple weeks, I decided to plant just two Tithonia seedlings in the garden because I expected them to be 6 feet tall and as wide, and space was diminishing in my beds.  And I was right about the space they'd occupy.  They grew tall alright, and then they grew and grew and grew.  I actually began to wonder if someone was sneaking some seriously off-limits chemical fertilizers in my natural organic garden while I was sleeping because by month three, the taller of the two was 11 feet high!  Whoa Baby!  I was getting my vases ready for some real lovliness to bring in to decorate my kitchen.

Despite this record height, though, and unfortunately for the flower-loving soul that I possess, there was only foliage.  Thick and lush foliage albeit; it testified heartily to the copious amounts of horse puckey I'd put in that earth, BUT not one single, solitary bud.  Pooh.  I waited another month. Pooh.  I waited patiently.  Then I waited really really Paaaatiently.  I was rewarded with better character for it and nothing but even lusher leaves and a ridiculous stem, the likes of which I'd never seen, almost as thick as my wrist.  I began to visualize my orange and glorious Tithonia flowers after being picked in an artsy glass vase on my nightstand. I would water those plants a bit extra each time I was in the garden.  I caressed Tithonia's fuzzy leaves.  I told her that she was exquisite, unique, just the most elite shade of green ever. But still, Pooh.  Nada.  Mrs Tithonia understood 'nada' because she's from Mexico.  The worst part for me was that with a plant that huge, one can only imagine how many flowers it could hold.  It was tortuous. 

One day a brisk windy storm came through, and Mrs Tithonia fell over almost like Goliath;  that's how big she'd become.  By this time, I wasn't actually all that sad.  I had begun to berate Mrs Tithonia at times; I had now given up hope on seeing any Tithonia flowers for 2010.  I noticed that at the base of the fallen 'trunk', the roots came through the earth in a circular plate, at least two feet in diameter. Wow! It looked just like the base of the trees one sees toppled over when the power goes out, pulling up the earth along with its exodus from Mother Earth to keep itself company I suppose.  And I was sad to notice, still, not one single flower.  I couldn't figure out what had happened.  I have an uncanny way of recognizing seeds, so I knew that I had definitely planted the Tithonia variety, which come to a triangular point at one end, and have fuzzy bristles at the other. Perhaps, this was some sort of hybrid, accidentally packaged up?  I was desperate to find Mr. Burpee seed catalogue's express direct hotline to figure this thing out. 

Perhaps my Tithonia flower could be in a record book?  "Tallest dang useless flower to never grow a single solitary flower" would be the proper entry if Guinness should ever call.

Five months had passed now, and I had planned to chop up the foliage and trunk-like massive stem of Mrs Tithonia for the compost pile come November when - OH GOLLY GEE - and lo and behold, this very week, this very late in October, my fat, mutant gargantuan Tithonia plant was covered with blossoms!  My Summer Girl walked all around that sad giant plant as it lay down on the Fall earth....it rested there as if it needed to languish a bit to finally bloom (maybe that was why?) and Summer Girl counted 23 flowers, huge and sunny in color, looking like the tastiest shade of bright lollipop orange, with over 100 buds ready and waiting their turns to burst open. Those buggers are waiting to put on a show for me!  Despite the roots uncovered to the air and the prone position of that 11 foot tall plant, it is blooming right now crazily.  Suppose I should call Mr. Burpee now?   Usually in the Washington, DC area, we get the first freeze a week after Halloween, but there have been years when my flowers continue to bloom until almost Thanksgiving.  I am hoping that this will be one of those years.  I plan to cut luscious bouquets, ambrosial and touched by God, daily as new blooms open so that I can enjoy every picture perfect blossom for as long as possible.


Joanna said...

I love that story!!! Now to just get you up here to do all my gardening for me....

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