Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Castormania Redux

So now that work has calmed down a bit (at least for this week) I hope I can get some more late season shots of the garden soon. Since rain is in the forecast for most of Tuesday and the evening, I'll have to rely on Fernymoss' shots from yesterday to tide me through the week ... I somehow suspect you won't mind with what else he has in store for you! It's a good thing he's taller than I am because it's getting harder to shoot the really interesting things that are going on in this Castor way up high. And of course since Fernymoss is fascinated by capturing textures he did quite a few in this series that do a great job of getting to the underside of things (by necessity ... point up, focus and hope for the best!) These two shots are the same plants seen in yesterday's post, just from different angles. In the first you can see the shadow of a maple leaf that got caught in the cup of one of the upper leaves ... and you can get a really great look at the texture of the undersides of the leaves as well. Castors just scream tropical! in everything they do, especially in the second shot which nicely highlights a few remaining blooms and a whole stalk of developing fruit.which (with luck and no early freeze) will soon develop into the full-blown seed pods. The blooms are toward the bottom (it blooms from the top down) and look a bit like cauliflower ... nothing quite as dramatic as the spiny fruit they become. Not that I can imagine any critters brave enough to try to eat the fruit (since the entire plant is toxic, remember), but Castors aren't taking any chances that their seeds will be gobbled up before they can start the next generation. Though not as painful to handle as Datura pods, they still get pretty prickly when they dry out, and harvesting the seeds does need to be done carefully. Each pod produces 4-5 seeds, so you can see that if this stalk makes it to maturity, we'll have plenty of these to share!

Now, way back when I first posted the earlier pictures of these Castors in August, I alluded to a story about a neighbor who was frightened by them the first year we planted them in the garden. We share a fence line with the woman behind us, and the second year we were in this house (hmm, that would be spring of 99), we went gung ho and planted all sorts of tall plants right along the fence line, just to see what we could do. We planted broom corn (which gets to about 9-10 feet tall too) and Castors, along with lots of morning glories which quickly came to be called those vines by our neighbor. Uh oh. We realized we had a plant phobe living behind us ... yikes! Come to find out, she was terrified of being 'tickled' by the dreaded vines when she walked her dog by each day.

Now of course we aren't the types to be terrified by plants of most kinds (unless they come with retractable jaws and very long, sharp teeth!) so we were a bit baffled by this and tried to keep them on our side of the fence as much as possible. That was nothing to compare with what came later in the summer as the Castors really hit their stride and grew to about 12 feet when a machete was threatened from her side of the fence. The broom corn wasn't a hit either. In fact, she was quite disturbed by these ferocious looking tropical trees that had sprung up in our garden ... so, we got an ultimatum: if it reaches over and tickles me, I will chop it off. So, in the interest of neighborhood peace (and our early reputation on the block), we said that was fine ... apologizing yet again for having troubled our neighbor (though we laughed a lot about it outside of her presence). Needless to say, the Castors lost a few branches and looked rather 'one-sided' from our perspective, but we had learned a lesson not to go for our gigantic plants in that particular location.

Since then, we try to keep the Castors far enough away from the fence or sidewalk so that no unprovoked tickling occurs ... though we do love to taunt her a bit by planting them in full view (ergo, where we have them this year), but at this point it's all good natured fun between the parties involved. You see, this was the eventual outcome of our friend the flower phobe ... after a couple of years, she got bitten by the bug and has taken up planting up small beds on her property, and no longer complains about the dreaded Castors (
though she did look a bit askance at the Dragon Arum in May!). In fact, we've shared a few perennials with her (the non-scary kinds) and have given her a hardy hibiscus and toad lilies as gifts that she thoroughly enjoys. We take a lot of satisfaction in having converted her to the rampant evils of gardening, and she's done quite a nice job planting various perennials and annuals in her yard. So ultimately, we not only made friends with our initially skeptical neighbor, but also now think of her as an essential person in the life of the immediate neighborhood. And though she's recently retired, we're doing our best to keep her from selling her house and moving away .... that's how much we would miss her. And, since her young son just got married two weeks ago, a bit of the landscape has changed ... a bit sadder with his absence, and the potential change of neighbors should his mom decide to move.

Further proof of our basic gardening philosophy: gardening is sharing and sharing is winning people over in time. The green brings us together ultimately. And that's a good thing.


FARfetched said...

Toxic? I was wondering whether this is where castor oil comes from.

That's a great story, too. I'm glad your neighbor came around, people usually do when they see something cool like that (even if it's a bit scary). Mrs. Fetched used to describe herself as a "brown thumb," i.e. she could kill just about any plant, but she's grown much more confident over the years — especially once she kept up the flower beds the previous owners left at FAR Manor.

olivia said...

Thanks for telling the story of your neighbour IVG ... And that you were able to win her over makes it even better. (I lol about the arum though, as we agree that it is not a plant for the faint hearted ... lol).

I was struck by how thick the stems are on these close up shots -- but that makes sense considering the overall height.

I wonder what other things are to be found cupped in those leaves ... :)

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Howdy there FAR and O-livia!
Yep, they're 100% toxic and the sseds are supposedly the most potent, though somehow when they extract the oil (dreaded laxative of yore and very powerful purgative) it loses some toxicity and can be used internally. (I think on my previous post in Aug I had the wiki link on how this is done, but frankly I'm too lazy to look it up right now, lol. It's in that post of Aug 7 though, I'm sure)

Interested in any seeds to try at FAR Manor next year? Just let me know. I haven't forgotten that I'm gathering poppies and such to send on this fall ... so let me know. Planning an assortment of other stuff you've seen here and should have these ready before Halloween, in time for post-frost planting for next year.

Glad you both liked the Castor tale ... it was a fun summer trying to figure out what plants were going to scare our neighbor. All is well now, she loves flowers and even comes over with her camera to take pics of ours now. hehe, gotta convert!