By LYNNE IRONS
Bragging rights to Lee Scott. Her white tree peony has 42 blossoms. I get smug when mine has one or two. I think the blooms last less than a week but in the big picture of the garden year it is worth the purchase price. One has to clutch the chest and exclaim, “Oh, my God!” at the sight. Tree peonies are, in fact, deciduous shrubs. The term is rather misleading. The herbaceous peony dies back in the fall and the new shoots emerge in the spring. Peonies can be years’ worth of garden column writing material. China is home to the wild Moutan tree peony from which all others are bred. Sadly, the tree peonies are a bit more temperamental than the herbaceous ones. They do prefer a little shade from the midday sun. You will never regret planting one near a traveled walkway.
Hopefully, I will finish the big planting of my vegetables this week. I started the cucurbits on the propagating mat. Don’t you love the word cucurbit? It means any member of the gourd family as in squash and cucumbers. They are in four-inch pots and have their true leaves. I set them into some good compost surrounded by flakes of hay and allow the winter squashes to run as they wish. The Hubbard squash will take over much of the driveway when all is done. One winter I cut up one Hubbard, pressure-canned 18 pints, made a pie, and ate for the better half of a week. No wonder the Native Americans were so fond of them. I have had them last for months in the pantry. I do, however, prefer canning them. A pint can be tossed into a soup or will cut the acidity in a tomato sauce.
As far as cucumbers, I love the old-fashioned Boothby’s Blonde. It comes from the Boothby family in Livermore, Me., by way of the Seed Savers Exchange. It is yellow with black spines. I harvest them at about three inches long and eat them whole. They mature in 63 days. I get them from Pinetree Garden Seeds for 95 cents a package.
For tomatoes and peppers, I try to stay with the non-hybrids whenever possible. I want the option to save seed when things really get tough. Also, the genetically modified seed situation completely freaked me out years ago. Let me refresh your memory about the Terminator gene developed by the Monsanto company. They spliced a gene into various plants which does not allow the plant to reproduce. Therefore the following year, you need to purchase more seed as opposed to saving your own.
Back to tomatoes. My friend Sharlee and I take turns starting them. She did a great job this year. They are not leggy, and a rich green. We plant tons of Romas and San Marzanos. They are the Italian paste variety, do not require staking, and make the best sauce because of their low water content. We also grow the Principe Borghese, the one used for sun-drying in Italy. They are very meaty and dry on the vines in the dry Italian climate. Here in humid New England, use the oven. I like a few old-fashioned heirloom plants. This year I am using Mortgage Lifter. The story is that a man named Radiator Charly crossed the German Johnson with Beefsteak and sold seed during the Depression to pay off his mortgage. That sold me . . . I need to pay off my mortgage.
I found my copyright 1946 edition of the Constitution of our country by Rexford and Carsen. It was dedicated to “American girls and boys, citizens of the United States, heirs to a precious heritage. May this book encourage you to appreciate the ideals of our forefathers, to understand the principles of our Constitution, and to assume gladly and wisely the obligations of citizenship. On you depend the future of our country, her welfare, and the fulfillment of her destiny.”
I read Article XII concerning the election of the president and the vice president by the electoral college. It says the electors shall name in their ballots both the president and vice-president. It goes on to say that if a majority cannot decide on the vice-president, the Senate shall choose. How interesting is that little tidbit in light of the present primary situation. There is no hope for you, dear reader. I am committed to reading the entire document and burdening you with my opinionated take on it 50 years out of civics class.