Have you ever noticed how two people in a relationship make their own culture? Just a baby-society for two. When my friend Jill and I get together we always go yarn shopping (its our national pastime), and stop at a chocolate shop for the same candy (national dish) and we even tell the same funny stories every time (oral tradition). We fall into a way of speaking that is unique to our little friendship: Christian-speak peppered with odd vernacular and little half-punch lines from years of inside jokes. (It’s our Official Language.)
When my stepdad and I get together we have our own culture, too. We both like to talk about sports. I don’t know if we even have any sports teams in common (he’s a Cubs fan and I’m White Sox; he’s a Packer fan and I’m Bears, he’s a Wisconsin fan and I’m Illinois) but we speak the same language, even if we each have our own dialects. We talk about biking and travel and homesteading, and just the nuances of these things: we’ve long-established mutual opinions on these subjects, so we usually just talk about small details that interest us.
And we talk about gardening. We talk about surprising successes from that season, and of course: our frustrating failures, too. We live in two different zones (He’s in 4, I’m in 5) which keeps things spicy. He envies my longer better growing season and I’m totally jealous of the good berries that just grow wild in his woods. On our visits to each other’s homes, the host gardener give a tour of the grounds, with the guest gardener offering compliments and suggestions as we stop and admire each little garden. We talk about bunnies a lot, too, those terrible little things.
In talking garden shop over the years, he has told me about his father’s geraniums. They were full and thriving and beautiful, attracting lots of attention every year. After describing the famous geraniums, he always mentions
quite casually that at the end of the season, his father would pull the geraniums up, cut them down, and hang them to dry in his basement for next year. (Now if we’re sticking to the metaphor of a two-person culture, this would have to be our culture’s Mythology.) A perennial _ annual? I hadn’t heard of such a thing when I first started gardening and frankly I didn’t really believe him. How could such a thing be? Don’t they call them “annuals” for a reason? Not “Oops I meant ‘perennials'”?
Since he first told me about his dad’s perennial annuals, I have, indeed, heard of such a thing. Every year now, I pull up my Elephant Ear caladiums and my cannas, and store them for next season. This is basic care for plants that can’t overwinter in Zone 5. But I was always intrigued by the idea of saving other annuals like those mythical geraniums.
When I was disembarking my petunias from their window box this September, I troweled into the nub of a potato vine. (Every year I plant one sweet potato vine among my wave petunias because I love the bright color combination. Chartreuse and fuchsia. Pretty, pretty.) The little nub was scorched and almost-dead and I thought, “why not?” Why not try out this whole perennial-annual thing on this sorry potato vine nub – what have I got to lose? So the dead petunias went to the compost pile and the potato vine got a new home on my windowsill.
I had to conjure all my science class memories, but I remembered that potatoes can spout if their roots can reach a bit of water. So I found a glass that I wouldn’t mind looking at for eight months (a souvenir juice glass from Arkansas – kitschy, and funny to me) and plunked my little potato vine in, with an inch of water to drink. And it’s made it! It’s almost March and God willing, I think this potato vine will be viable come window box season. I add new water about once a month, and that’s it. And as an added bonus, this little science project on the sill has given my kitchen that Homeschooler swag that its been missing.