The Candy Store

The Candy Store

September 27 2020

I recently had a discussion with a couple of avid gardener friends about our complete inability to control ourselves when it comes to buying plants. It’s an obsession-go to any greenhouse and you are bewitched; rows and rows of brightly colored annuals, perennials, flowering shrubs of all sizes and shapes, trees casting shade even from their nursery pots, and delicious herbs and vegetables. All making promises of beauty and joy. We’re as helpless as kids in a candy store. It is healthier than most addictions for everything but your bank account though, so I just go ahead and fold. And here’s the thing, I want it all, I want an over the top, overflowing, baccanalian riot of a garden. Probably I could walk through those rows of plants in any greenhouse and load up one of those helpful little wagons they provide. Though there are limits of time, energy, and money, somehow I just keep buying plants.

The Baccanalian festivals, named after the Roman wine god Bacchus, were first held in secret for only 3 days a year and attended only by women. It seems that things got a little out of hand when men were admitted and the festivals were held as many as five times a month. The story, according to Roman historian Livy, is that they became drunken orgies and in 186 BC the Roman Senate prohibited them, arrested and executed thousands of the leaders. Take whatever moral lesson you want to from that, but to me a garden is about passion and pleasure-just watch the flowers, the bees, the birds, and the butterflies. Sorry guys, but it’s all about food and sex and procreation. Let the good times roll.

Speaking of Bacchus brings my wandering mind to growing grapes. I planted a ‘Valiant’ grape on a trellis built into my yard fence, a cross between a native American grape and Concords. Unfortunately deer love grape leaves and I soon had to move the vine into my deer fenced little orchard where I built an arbor for it to grow on. You will never confuse me with a wine connoisseur, but there seems to be a consensus that this is not a wine grape. Interestingly, the best selling wine in Iowa is apparently made from Concords and tastes like grape juice….oh well!

There is a wine grape I am growing on the other side of my arbor called Frontenac Gris (there are also Frontenac and Frontenac Blanc) that is surviving our winters and producing grapes. I’ll probably never make wine, but it’s cool to know I could.

Someday soon I’ll sit in the shade of the grapes growing over that arbor with a glass of wine (a bottle?) and toast Bacchus and my gardens teeming with life. My own personal candy store.

“Valiant” vitis vinifera

“Frontenac Gris”, Vitis riparia x Landot noir