The Wrong Lilies

The Wrong Lilies

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Peggy’s Purple Periwinkles

It’s perhaps strange that even though I tend to be drawn to fairly unique plants, one of my favorite plants is an ordinary periwinkle variety given to me by a neighbor several years ago.  I call it ‘Peggy’s Purple Periwinkle’ because while she didn’t develop it, she has certainly done her share to populate the world with it.  And her name is Peggy.  And I like alliteration.  These particular  periwinkles would reseed vigorously and escape from the areas she wanted them to inhabit, so she would simply reach down and pull out a handful while we were visiting and hand them to me.  I would think to myself that that’s what I do with weeds, but I would take them home and pot them up, and you know, they would just thrive.  I started thinking, “Hmmm, this is a plant I need in my life.”  It is a lovely shade of purple, which I love.  It often compensated for the flower failures I had, mostly due to either choosing a variety unsuited to my climate area, or unsuited to the uneven, shallow-soiled, shady area I had for planting.

Anyway, when we moved away from there, I made certain I had potted up some plants of that periwinkle to take with us, and then the following spring seedlings also emerged from pots I had brought with me.  We spent that spring and summer installing flower beds in the new place, so the periwinkles had to stay in pots that year, but just in case no seedlings reappeared the next spring, I took cuttings because while periwinkle is an annual in our area and in most of the country, it’s actually a tender perennial, and so I thought, “why not try?”  Those cuttings did well, for the most part, and I have planted new plants in several areas, hoping for a plant generosity such as Peggy experienced.  Well, what with weather conditions and other factors, I’ve only been moderately successful so far.  I only ended up with two seedling plants this summer, but the plant started from a cutting last fall bloomed all winter in a cool garden room, unheated except by a simple electric heater to prevent a freeze, and now that plant is blooming and growing in 100+ heat and so I hope for many progeny from it next spring.  I always hope.

But I won’t take any chances.  I’ll be taking several cuttings and potting them up and visiting them all winter with encouragement.  If I knew what specific variety this plant was, of course I’d be glad to buy some new plants each spring, or several packets of seeds, but while there are wonderful offerings of periwinkles every spring in the nurseries, I’ve never seen anything to compare.  Besides, I kind of enjoy the experience.  I’ve learned a lot about appreciating a plant which is very ordinary (except of course for its stamina), and also about trying experiments, such as rooting a cutting of a plant to see if I can.   And doesn’t that pretty well sum up gardening?  Appreciating all plants for their qualities, and asking one’s self ‘what if I tried …’?

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