Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Garden Ramble: Tuberose


What with the tuberose clamor this spring and summer and all, I decided to grow some. Pictured is my first tuberose bud, ever. Pretty, isn’t it? 
Let’s see. Eighteen tuberose bulbs -- I had to plant twice...hmmmm...with shipping, probably around $40. None of the first batch came up, perhaps eaten by squirrels, maybe soil too cold, ordered the second batch and planted them. Waited. And waited. Finally, a little shoot emerged from the ground. And another and another. As of this weekend I had six plants, until one was rudely yanked out of the dirt by a lawnmower or edger; five plants.
No pampered scion has ever received more care than these plants. Not enough sun? I moved them. Other, less esteemed plants crowding them? I pulled the annoying peasants out. And waited some more.
A gardener must be two things: 1.) Patient; and 2.) Ruthless. Patient, because the natural world has its own schedule, thank you, and ruthless because plants will live long and prosper if you get rid of the stunted ones early -- but Nature’s real business is survival/reproduction and it will generally go about that business with or without you.  A field full of giant weeds, covered with pollinating insects, is nature’s proud handiwork, that’s right: weeds. We choose the more visually appealing specimens and call them “our gardens.” No gardener is quite as ruthless as Nature. But I digress.
The un-named flowers surrounding my paltry five tuberose plants came as a “bonus” in a big bulb order I placed ten years ago. I think there were six of them. They have replicated. I don’t even know what they are, just that they are hugely vigorous, having adapted quite well.


The tuberose? A little puny.  Nevertheless, this year’s star. Because I don’t believe I’ve ever smelled a real tuberose blossom. Oh, I’ve tried lots (and lots) of perfumes purporting to be that, but how would I really know? 
I am at the moment studying natural essences, essential oils, absolutes and attars. Some of these smell nothing like their lab-made molecular-dupe synthetic substance reproductions used in commercial perfumery, for example, gardenia -- a perfumery simulacrum if there ever was one. This is in preparation for my participation in the “Mystery of Musk” group blog. 
Most people think that modern perfumes are still made from flowers and resins and so on. They’re shocked when we say “Not.” Flowers, resins, seeds, synthetics, patented “bases” -- it’s all part of a difficult business.
My gardens have always been about the visual or the culinary. For the first time, this year, I’ve begun to plant with the olfaction in mind. Old roses instead of the showy hybrids that smell of nothing. Varieties of four o’ clocks whose blossoms are more fragrant than others. Creeping thyme between my stepping-stones. It’s a small space, so I don’t have much leeway, but there’s a little. Enough for five tuberose plants in (I hope) bloom.
 I’ll let you know.





Photo © Keith M. Borow, all rights reserved.

2 comments:

flittersniffer said...

Full of admiration for your having successfully nurtured even five tuberose plants. I kill even the houseplants listed as "withstands neglect" such as Mother-in-law's Tongue. At the time of writing there are half a dozen cacti in the conservatory that are also looking decidedly peaky...

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