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  • Writer Login


    Is there a Walter Reeves Clinic for People Like Me?

    by | 7 | Sep 25, 2010

    “Hello, my name is Melanie and I’m a Plantaholic. And so is my father.” My Mother says my Dad and I should not be allowed near garden centers, plant sales, or greenhouses without adult supervision and that under no circumstances do we count as adult supervision for each other. (Bookstores are also on that list but that is a different story.) When my parents come up from Atlanta , Dad and I will sit at the table poring over plant books reading descriptions of exotic trees, flowers, and shrubs. If it has interesting fruit, an odd name, a fantastic fragrance or is supposed to be impossible to grow in North Georgia we wish we had one. Come to think of it, we probably want five.

    I am not sure when the illness started but I think it may have something to do with the compost pile in the yard in Atlanta. It has essentially filled in what used to be a steep ivy-covered bank between the driveway and the neighbor’s house and early in its life it produced volunteer vegetables like tomatoes, squash, and whatever other kitchen scraps sprouted. Somewhere along the way the compost pile started to have plants resting there temporarily while a suitable place could be found for them in a flower bed or up at the lake house. This, of course, led to the occasional tree being over wintered in the compost pile “just to make sure it gets a good root system.” Then there were the plants that should not survive in Atlanta but did due to the warmth of the composting leaves, grass clippings, wood chips, and banana peels.

    In our defense I have to state that in both of our yards many of our plants are edible though that does not mean we grow just “regular” things. My neighbor grows tomatoes and cucumbers like a normal person. I, however, am the only one on my street trying to grow Pineapple Guavas, Pomegranates, and Kumquats. In an attempt to prove to Mom the usefulness of all the things growing in the yard Dad and I will can, bottle, dehydrate, freeze or ferment things from time to time. Dad’s favorite concoctions contain quince. Quince pie, quince jam, quince wine, quince marmalade, candied quince, quince paste… He is obsessed with that tree. I have to admit that it is a pretty tree but the fruits are rock hard and so tart that if you tried to eat one fresh it would turn your face inside out. I think the only thing that has saved my Dad from divorce or death at the hand of my Mom over the years is that he did not actually plant the quince tree himself.

    Is being a plantaholic hazardous to my health? Not unless a quince falls on my head. Is anything going to stop Dad and me from trying to grow Key Limes in North Georgia? Of course not. After all, we are plantaholics – we can’t help it.

    ###
    Melanie Rochat

    Melanie Rochat

    Melanie Rochat is an artist and illustrator from Atlanta, Georgia who takes her inspiration from her surroundings and interprets what she sees into pen and ink renderings. Her illustrations include works in texts, manuals, children’s books and commercial applications and her fine art pieces hang in private collections in the United States and Europe.

     

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    • Go for it, Melanie. By pineapple guava do you mean feijoa (the ones that numb your tongue and lips if you eat the skin)? You might want to make some enquiries because I know that in New Zealand they grow as least as far south as Christchurch and I had some of them in Tenterfield, New South Wales which has a pretty hard winter by Australian standards. There might be a cultivar out there that’d suit you – it’s a delicious fruit.

      Don’t knock the humble quince. In Australia they used to be grown in places where no other fruit tree would survive. We had one in Tasmania that yielded 100 or more pounds of fruit each year. Quartered and gently stewed or baked with raw sugar then served with cream or good egg custard, they’re hard to beat.

      Keep growing.

      • Melanie Rochat

        Frank, they are, indeed, the same plant. So far all that has been eaten of the tree are the flowers. That may have something to do with why we have yet to see fruit… As for quince, I have to say I am a big fan! The flavor is unlike anything else and there are so many uses for it! I only wish I had a long list of all the things that my Dad TRIED to do with it over the years whether they were good or not. A family favorite is quince-apple pie which graces the table each Thanksgiving.

    • Marietta Mary

      Quince — what a lovely-sounding name for a sublime fruit. Rhubarb is better, but quince is/are soooooooooo lovely in jam on a hot buttered biscuit. My mother would have made the Plantaholics Hall of Fame; she grew okra from seed in North Utah one summer. Another year she gave pumpkins that had sprouted from the bird feeder as October birthday presents. Me, I can grow tomatoes and peppers.

    • Terri Evans

      No one who knows me would consider me a plantaholic although, like your father, I too am obsessed with a tree. Make that two trees -- my Meyer lemon trees, going on two years old now. They have rendered a whopping crop of 3 lemons so far but I remain hopeful.

      • Melanie Rochat

        I have one surviving Meyer Lemon that has fruit on it this year. If I get a crop of one I will be happy! My Satsuma, however, has about a dozen fruits this year. About an hour outside of Birmingham is a place called Petals From the Past which is a fantastic nursery specializing in edibles. They have a couple of massive Meyer Lemon trees by the building that you need to see!

    • Walter Reeves

      David McMullen, co-owner of Atlanta’s Garden*Hood Garden Center, once said “If you want to learn about plants, you have to be willing to set cash on fire!”

    • Melanie Rochat

      Thanks for the encouragement, guys! My next endeavor will be growing what I can in various containers in downtown Birmingham. I am planning to find out how many 5 gallon buckets it will take to grow corn on a rooftop. I will keep you posted on that.

      Walter, that is so true. I choose not to remember the things I bought that died a slow agonized death due to my “I bet I can make this grow here” attitude! Let Faith know when and if you get a recovery program for plantaholics started -- she knows where to find me…

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