Ok you may say, that (the banana part) is easily answered “you live in Switzerland”. You would say this to me kindly, gently even. I would be forced to agree, and then I’d point out that, if you really want something very badly, you can achieve it (I think the banana example shows that this isn’t necessarily true (absent a green-house), but it’s not the topic of this post – and neither are bananas. This post is about planting what works and thwarted passions..
This post is for anyone who has ever been passionate about something. Personally, I fear people without passion. Plants, animals, football stickers, teddy-bears, oddly shaped pebbles, love-letters, valentine cards, base-ball caps or even signed first editions (a little pricey, that one, as a love). Most of us have something we care about, even if nobody else really understands the fascination. Personally I am (with the exception of sports memorabilia – you can keep your football cards) very broad in my enthusiasms. A non-exhaustive list of passions:
- Plants: the more wrong they are for my climate the more I love them. To illustrate, an example, which would go well with the body pain motto of my favourite tattoo parlour: on a trip to Morocco, in my teens, I carried a cactus onto the plane under my T-shirt. On a trip to Dubai I spent a lot of time looking for seeds for a plant, which is a part of Iranian Sabzi, which you can get in LA and in Dubai, whose name nobody can tell me. I have tried to get seeds from Iran (but nobody wanted to send me anything as they were worried about customs) and in Dubai (not possible they only had the herb without roots) and even in Grenada…I am not alone with this passion though, recently in italy, I met a man who, although his climate is perfect for most plants I want to grow, has this odd desire to plant bananas (he did, they grew to a tiny size..)
- Animals: dogs, horses, gerbils, hamsters, rabbits, cats, fish, frog-spawn, I drove my parents mad, many years ago. Nowadays I will jump out the car to hurry a hedgehog across the road. Or do snail rescue: I recently got some plants at a garden center in Italy, there were two snails on them, big snails. I left them in the car overnight, nowhere good near the hotel to set them free. Then the next day I took the first snail, walked through the village until I found a garden with yummy plants in it and set it free. The second snail I freed in an exotic plant garden, after ascertaining that there were snails there already, and thus enough for it to eat. As it was all cacti and succulents, the snail won’t do massive damage. If you think this is odd, please note, I cannot help it I grew up in England.
- Foods: Argan and olive oils (a recent trip to the super-market in Italy confronted me with a whole shelf of extra virgin oils, bottles from so many different regions: Umbria, Toscana, Sicily, Sardinia, Liguria, Apulia – you know that song Mambo Number 5, if it were about oils not women, it would be my song. I am proud to say, I only bought 2 bottles, I think I did well., The list continues with exotic spices and herbs (think Mauby Bark from Grenada, limu omani, advieh or Tonka beans (which, nowadays, are not so strange anymore), non-run-of the mill drinks like violet and pistachio liqueurs, and fun stuff like freekeh and Mulukhiyah.
- Beautiful articles like bowls, silverware etc.
- Cookbooks: from Azerbaijan to Zimbabwe – if there is a cookbook, it’s very possible I have it on my shelf…
- Recipes: I badger little old ladies for their recipes..and chefs in restaurants (a recipe for ginger liqueur I got in Italy will be coming up soon..)
Anyhow, the thwarted passion that led to this post is named begonia. The begonia is a recent love, see how I learned to love begonias). My balconies are rather shady and now I have accepted that I cannot plant tropical stuff I accept that I must love what works (apart from chili plants I still grow those).
So I grow hydrangeas (another recent love), and forget me nots, azaleas and daffodils, I gave up on damascus roses but have two hardy “regular” roses. I have fuchsias (didn’t like them either) and Lamprocapnos (don’t you love that name?) and then, of course, there is the begonia. They are generous plants, they blossom for months on end, profusely, and their blossoms are reminiscent of the coveted but ultimately impractical hibiscus. I have grown begonias for the past years and started seeking them out. The Swiss taste in begonias runs to begonia semperflorens, a fiddly dwarf flowering plant in the varieties you can get here. In contrast, English taste in begonias is, like my passions, all-encompassing, which means, you can find a very large variety, if somebody is willing to ship them to you and sell them. To my frustration I have discovered that in general online ordering is a hit and miss affair, half the tubers arrived mouldy, which won’t do at all. And then after some research on the RHS website I discovered Blackmore and Langdon, and nobody, I repeat nobody, stocks more begonias that I covet than Blackmore and Landgon. But also, I cannot get my hands on their stock.
For the past 3 years I have visited their website – in Spring and Autumn, in Summer and Winter. I scroll through the flowers, I think to myself, 25 GBP for a single tuber is a bit steep, but oh, that blossom, I click on the bloom and, invariably, regardless of the season, I find the same sentence in red “SOLD OUT FOR THIS SEASON”. This has been going on for three years now. I even wrote to the company and asked them when exactly I was meant to order seeing as they are always sold out for the season. I don’t recall having received an answer, after all, I am only a potential client on the far-off continent. However, today, to add insult to injury I received a marketing news-mail. Proclaiming: Special sales event – visit us in London in May – begonias, etc etc on sale. Excited I clicked the links in the newsletter, clicked on the blossoms and, to my frustration, was once again met with that single red line: “SOLD OUT FOR THIS SEASON”.... I guess it’s just not meant to be.