01 September 2009

Let the bees do the breeding

I learned to garden as a teenager by trail and error. Mostly error. But one early success came when I grew some violas from seed. A mix of colors, they flowered in the spring, limped through the summer, perked up in the fall. They grew and flowered, and I was delighted. Not dying was all I asked of plants.

But imagine my delight when they reappeared the next spring, not just not dead, but accompanied by a carpet of self-sown children. Given my garden budget at the time consisted of about $10 a month I greeted these free and effortless plants enthusiastically. Once they began flowering, I was amazed to discover each was different. Different colors, bicolors, tricolors, some with whiskers, some without, big flowers, small flowers. I picked my favorites, pulled out the ones I liked less, and next year up sprang the children of the favorites I had picked the year before.

Each year the seedlings arrived healthier and more vigorous as natural selection picked the ones best adapted to my conditions, and each year I liked the colors more and more as my personal selection saved only the ones I liked best. I realized, with pleasure and pride, that what I now had was my very own strain of violas, uniquely adapted to my garden and my tastes -- created not with deep skill and expertise, but as a novice gardener who wasn't sure of the difference between an annual and perennial.

I subsequently lost that strain of violas (time spent over seas, most of the seeds saved mislaid during moves, and those I retained suffering an sad death during a bleak gardenless period living in an apartment) but I was reminded of that lovely, personal, serendipitous strain of violas by this comment about marigolds on Garden Rant. I wish I had seeds from that original strain, but it is never to late to do it again.

So I'm buying a lot of violas this fall. I'm going to plant them all over the garden, then wait for seedlings, and allow a new strain of MY violas to emerge.
Photos from flickr by: tapsphotos, Just Neva, and Joyeux artiste.
My new camera should be arriving later this week!


Liz said...

Wow, I had never thought of it like that! Such a nice, refreshing view... Rather than wanting to stick to shop-bought why not allow natural and personal selection to create the healthiest, best suited plants for your own garden??

Very interesting!

Jennifer AKA keewee said...

Yay! for Violas, small but mighty. I love the gorgeous colors and how they keep coming back, in spite of our lack of attention.

Manuka Honey said...

American honeybees pollinate some 90 different crops that bring in more than $15 billion annually. We need to find out what is making the hives collapse and do something about it now.

joco said...


Isn't it lovely when a plant decides that your place is worth hanging about in and comes back through its seeds. Makes you feel so good, especially if they seed themselves in an unexpected spot. Hope your next viola experiment is just as successful.