Snowcover has a way of throwing a brand-new look to the garden, making you look closely at what’s already out there. After the first snow, my eye and the camera fell upon a spouting leek blossom. Lookee that, I thought. What an anomaly.
I had allowed this particular leek to go to seed because it had the fortitude to live through a tough winter. It duly sent up three big flower stalks this spring, followed by a couple of leek pearls and at least one leek bulb. So I cut and harvested the seedheads this fall after they’d dried, and harvested the leek bulb for a greenhouse transplant, but I ignored the rest of the plant. Well, we must have had a wetter autumn than I had previously thought because one of the smaller blossom’s many seeds had sprouted right on the bloom itself.
When I was a kid of about 11 or so, I picked up a ratty copy of The After-Dinner Gardening Book by Richard Langer at a library sale. This one unassuming paperback has actually been one of the most influential books of my life. It was written by a sun- and soil-deprived New Yorker who had a hankering to see what he could grow from the castoffs of his meals. (The 1970s were, after all, the Age of Indoor D.I.Y. Plants: whose house didn’t have an avocado pit or a sweet potato half sprouting in a jar of skunky water, toothpicks stuck in their midsections?) Anyway, this book was transformative for me, a gangly preteen with a hankering for her own windowsill garden. It certainly made me look (and continue to look) at any and all plant-like things as POTENTIAL.
So here I am, not even a day of snow-covered ground behind me, and I am pulling the sprouting leek blossom apart, planting the babies in a leftover take-out container filled with seedling mix, leftover take-out chopstick as my planting tool.
The babies will sit inside on the dining room table for a while, inside a perforated plastic bag to keep our one evil plant-munching cat from eating it. The babies will get bigger, get a haircut, get bigger still and then they’ll be transplanted out in the greenhouse. It’s quite possible I will never get a leek from them, as the trip from warm house to chilly greenhouse might signal them to go to flower this spring. But I couldn’t just let the blossom winterkill with all those little babies clinging to it. What would Richard Langer say?