by Stephanie Frischie
Here we are in February, the month of love being pushed up to front and center. It is as great a month as any to share some of my plant love stories with you.
Part 1 - Family plant love.
The earliest memory I have of a relationship with a plant is when I went along with my mom to the greenhouse to buy summer annuals and she let me pick out a purple flowered Verbena hybrid in a hanging basket for my bedroom. We hung a bracket in the window and even though it was a southern window, verbena is not a houseplant and it did not last long, but so began my notice and care of plants.
About this same age, my dad inadvertently gave me plant love when he took me fishing with him and I would soon leave the bait and pole on the ground and instead crawl into the cattails and rushes and sedges along the shore and poke around in there. Twenty years later I was back at some of those same ponds collecting seeds for wetland restoration at Kankakee Sands in NW Indiana. On those collecting trips, I never failed to squeal with delight when seeing Scleria verticillata in the wild. So scrawny and elegant at the same time and why and how does a sedge
smell so amazing?
Nowadays, one shared activity is advising my sister and parents on native plants for their yards and tending them together, getting to know them and the “weeds” alongside.
I have 3 deceased grandparents. There are plants that I associate with their gravesites. For my Frischie grandparents, pussy willows and jonquils (as my grandma called them) at Easter. For my Grandpa Young, who is buried in Wisconsin, he gets a grave blanket of evergreen boughs in December, to mark Christmas and the month he died and because if you are buried in Wisconsin you need a grave blanket.
Love is around because plants are all around.
Part 2 - Romantic plant love.
Many years ago, I was a Peace Corps volunteer in the scrublands of southeastern Bolivia. I love dry biomes and their open, grassy, thorny, spiny scleophyllous vegetation. Southeastern Bolivia is like that. Wow! I had a boyfriend at that time who was a local and we were hiking on his family land one day and kept seeing the same 3 cactus species and I loved seeing them. They were so wonderful to me! And I loved them so much that I wanted to posses them and cage them up in pots to put on my patio. I sighed admiringly at all the lovely cacti and he quickly took out out his big pocket knife and surprised me by saying “Which ones do you want’ I said this one and pointed and he carefully dug it up and we it took it to live on my patio. That’s love.
Part 3 – Winter indoor plant love.
Still it is the month of February and still the month of winter for us in the temperate Northern Hemisphere. Herbaceous plants are alive, underground and not so visible. Since, I admit, I don’t notice trees that much, the plants that get my love this time of year are houseplants and seeds, the little plants inside. I think of seeds on the ground, in the soil, on shelves, in packages, in cupboards. Looking forward and waiting until the springtime and to gardening.
Some of those seeds on shelves aren’t going to grow, though. I am going to eat them. Is your pantry organized by plant family? Mine is! Yours is probably pretty close. A shelf for Poaceae with wheat flour, popcorn, grits, oatmeal, rice; a shelf for Fabaceae with lentils, garbanzo+fava flour, and beans beans beans. And here’s my canister of sugar – that goes in grasses too. Wait- is it from sugar cane or from sugar beets? Does it belong with the other jars of Amaranthaceae – amaranth, quinoa, epazote?
Another place that plants are on shelves indoors are in books. My plant love shines on as I read books. Certainly I read plant books but even when reading a novel I am watchful for the plants. This month I read a novel, set in the Caribbean. Why oh why is the protagonist tending tulips in her garden!? That wouldn’t happen! Time to go back to the fulfillment found in field guides.
Part 4. Colleague plant love.
In all the nooks and crannies of life there are people whom we share love with and right with them are the plants. There are so many dear people I have learned from and worked with to do a little bit to increase plant diversity out in the world. An now, this moment and each of you are part of my plant love stories.
Love is all around because plants are all around.
Always be botanizing, always be loving.
Based in northwest Indiana, Stephanie Frischie provides pollinator habitat expertise to farms in Canada and the central U.S. as the Agronomist / Native Plant Materials Specialist with the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. She works with the native seed industry and researchers to plan and develop seed supply of underutilized conservation species. It is hard to love one plant more than another, but her perennial favorites are annuals, psammophytes, Eryngium yuccifolium,Asclepias amplexicaulis, and Scleria verticillata.