Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
November, 2004
Regional Report

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Seafoam statice is a perfect candidate for division, and you can never have enough of this hardy plant in your garden!

Something for Nothing -- My Favorite Thing About Gardening!

I've been busy scurrying around the Bay area taking cuttings and harvesting seeds. My latest find was a source for Italian saffron. After a bit of research I have found that this is not the traditional saffron (Crocus sativus) but rather Carthamus tinctorius or common safflower.

The nice Italian lady who gave me the seeds said they came from plants her grandmother had back in the early part of the 1900s. She and her family have been saving the seeds and cooking risotto rice with the saffron threads since then. I can't wait to plant the seeds next spring.

The propagation of plants from saved seeds and cuttings is one of my favorite things about gardening. You don't have to be rich to enjoy gardening as a hobby; as a matter of fact, there are quite a few things that you can grow that won't cost you a penny. Getting something for nothing is very rare in this day.

I have been known to pinch a few inches of philodendron from time to time. Growing tropical plants from cuttings is an inexpensive way to expand your indoor garden. Taking a cutting is a guarantee that the resulting plant will be an exact replica of the original. The scientific term for growing a new plant from a cutting is cloning.

My sister-in-law grows the most magnificent citronella you can imagine. It grows like a hedge at her Delta cottage. She and I are busy trying to spread the gospel and populate the earth with citronella. We constantly make cuttings and share them with anybody who will take them.

The nice thing about citronella is that, in addition to being hardy, looking elegant, and smelling heavenly, it keeps bugs at bay. My sister-in-law picks a huge bouquet for the outdoor dining table, and her guests think she is brilliant. Sometimes, if the bugs are especially bad, we will rub a leaf directly onto our bare arms and legs. I don't think she will put Cutter's out of business, but citronella works like a marvel and grows easily from cuttings. You don't have to pay for insect repellant plus you have something nice to look at.

Recycled milk cartons, coffee cans, and soup tins make perfect containers for growing potted plants, as long as you make accommodation for drainage. My grandfather never bought a pot in his life. His little nursery was a conglomeration of rusty olive oil tins and whatever else would hold dirt; I recall a lush fern growing happily for years in an old tire. I guess my thrifty ways are inherited.

Composting is the epitome of getting something for nothing. Compost, which is nothing more than old garbage, is more precious than gold in the garden. Ask anybody who makes their own compost how much they spend on the process in a year. After the initial expenditure for the bin -- which you don't actually even need -- you are free and clear.

All the plants in my little garden came from cuttings, saved or purloined seeds, or rejects from the local nursery. I find that the most expensive thing about gardening is the land. Maybe if I make enough compost ...

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