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Well, it’s just under a month since the winter solstice and the days are getting a bit longer at last. Most of the houseplants are coping, some better than others. The only winter casualty so far is the marjoram plant; I’d managed to keep it going for three years straight, but I think this time I missed watering it. Mediterranean herbs generally need less water, and many plants in winter need less water, but my experience with marjoram (this and ones I had before) is that it’s a bit of a water hog.

I did some risky business with seeds today. Back in…November, I think…I ordered some seeds from Europe. Nothing special. Except when I browsed the company’s offerings, I saw a couple listings for blue roses and black roses, along with accompanying pictures of beautiful flowers. I thought, “Huh, that’s interesting…looks like a crock.” Neither blue or black roses exist in nature, and horticulturists aren’t likely to breed any; the genes for those colours simply don’t exist in the Rosa genus.

Oh, they’ve got things they call blue roses, which are all some shade of mauve. On the whole, true blue flowers are relatively uncommon, so the horticultural industry likes to call mauve flowers blue and expects you to believe a dog is a cat because they say so. And true black flowers don’t exist in nature either. So the possibilities are: 1. these aren’t roses at all; 2. they are roses, but not quite the colours in the pictures; and 3. these are real and direct genetic manipulation of roses in horticulture has gotten further than I’d realised.

So what did I do? I ordered 10 seeds of each (they weren’t expensive), and today I sowed 5 each. It’s far too early to be doing this, of course; I shouldn’t be sowing seeds indoors for another month (six weeks would be smarter), but it should be okay (I hope). The seeds do resemble rose seeds in a general way, but according to the germination instructions on the website they don’t need a cold period; this supports the ‘fake’ theory. Roses grown from seed take three growing seasons to bloom, so I’ve got a wait ahead of me. You could call these a test run; I’ll sow the remaining seeds in spring.

I did order from the company, however, a true blue flower, or rather a true turquoise, which is even rarer in the flower world. Lachenalia viridiflora is a bulb native to South Africa and endemic to a small area. This makes it “rare” and unfortunately getting rarer because of habitat degradation. Fortunately the plant seems to be easy to grow in cultivation. Because, you know, I’m in dire need of more houseplants. These also take a few years to bloom.

That’s mostly it for now. I’m probably jinxing myself by saying this, but I might have halted the whitefly cycle on the jasmine (Jasminum sambac) plants this year; usually the infestation shows up in mid-January. This is probably because the whitefly showed up a month ago, and because of the unseasonably mild December we had it was easy to take them outside and give them two damn good sprayings a few days apart. It’s usually vexing to do that indoors: you have to put the plants in the bath or shower to spray them to avoid making a sticky mess elsewhere in the house.

I’ll end this post on a sad topic. A member of my Master Gardener group passed away on January 3rd. He was 98 and a half years old, and still sharp as a rose thorn up to the end. The only thing that stopped him from gardening was a fractured hip at age 97. We’ll really miss him.

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