Prairie plants are not at all like vegetables. Vegetables need so much care and are so varied in the way they prefer to grow. Just ask my pepper and tomato plants, newly transplanted but brought back inside for one last frosty night and put on their heat mats. Just ask the radishes that were briefly happy in the greenhouse and now are splitting as they grow because of the occasional daytime high temps. The carrots are happy, as are the beets, but they need lots of thinning if they’re going to stay happy and produce good fruit.
Not so the prairie plugs. We have more than forty varieties out there, about 15,000 cells in all, and though they are very uneven in their emergence from the planting medium, when they do come up they don’t seem to care what the temperature is like. They want water, but they’re kind of forgiving about that, too. And though there are bursts of plants coming up in each cell, they don’t need thinning, or so I’m told. (That means there are about 60,000-80,000 plants out there, multiple seedlings per cell.)
I’m enjoying seeing how varied the seedlings look. For example, the lupine have their full-petaled leaves, like a tropical plant, even at the tiniest size.
The blazing star, of which we have three varieties planted, look really cool. First come the two little leaves and then a stem like a blade of grass shoots up. Supposedly more stems will shoot up and then they’ll bind into a little ball.
The grasses are coming up, too, making me think of crew cuts and Walt Whitman’s description of grass as “the uncut hair of graves.”
I’m not a big fan of infants– I get interested at about six-eight months when the babies start exhibiting personalities and cognition. These plant babies, though, have my interest. I’d like to be able to recognize some of them and learn their names. Of course, I have been watering them and weeding the cells throughout gestation, so I earned these little guys.
Jeff says some of the plants will take two years just to get to size, which is hard to imagine. Others we’ll be able to sell come July or August. It’s enough to make me rethink my flower garden, where all those precious annuals and showy lilies now grow. Why not stuff it full of bellflower and aster and blazing star and cup plant and compass plant? (Or turn it over to vegetables?)