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September 2012

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Franco and Rosco!

Last year my seed-sowing frenzy was in full swing by late winter. The list of plants I was germinating read like an A-Z catalogue. There was angelica, brugmansia, chionochloa, dodecatheon, eccremocarpus, felicia, gaura, hesperis and isoplexis. The list went on and was tempered only by availability.

Each type of seed had to be researched and sown at the required temperature and my kitchen and greenhouse were filling. My sons wanted to help so I decided to give them a seed type each. The older boy got francoa and, in rhyming mode, the younger was assigned roscoea.

With little ceremony, the seeds were soon sown. My boys are getting on, you see, and encouraging ten and twelve year olds to gardening becomes more difficult by the season. I didn't expect that the lads would follow on with the seeds but in the following weeks there was good interest, fading to sporadic enquiry over the course of the following year. Seeds, it would seem, are a bit like children. Some are difficult. Some are quicker than others but all are worth the extra trouble.

Joshua's choice, Francoa ‘Pink Giant', was the more obliging of the two. It gave a good germination rate, took only 21 days to come up and quickly grew into sturdy little plants. It did like it said on the tin. However, my youngest boy's choice, Roscoea ‘Blackbird', was another ball-game altogether. This one just wouldn't germinate. Every week myself and Sammy would pore over the pot in the greenhouse, willing it to sprout. Yet it did not. Normally I would not agonise over seeds that refuse to come up but, since francoa had done so well, the success of my boys' seeds seemed to take on a more personal note.

Sammy kept asking why his seeds hadn't germinated and Josh's had. Had he done something wrong? Was he a worse gardener than his brother? I tried explaining that we had done everything right and now we had to just leave it to Mother Nature. Roscoea was a different type of seed and would not be hurried along. But then, just when Sammy was losing hope and interest, and a whopping 89 days after sowing, a meagre five tiny grass-like blades emerged from the surface of the pot. Yes, it was a poor germination rate but after 89 days those little seedlings seemed like a miracle.

Neither francoa nor roscoea flowered that year but they came into their own the following one. Francoa ‘Pink Giant' flowered at about 4 feet with airy, pink spires. I mass-planted them in a new border and thought they were just fabulous. But Josh said that he imagined they would be more masculine, with a name like Frank. And, as for Roscoea ‘Blackbird', the final four plants produced delicate, orchid-like blooms on three-inch stems. A connoisseur's beauty to stoop to enjoy.




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