Tuesday, October 4, 2011

From My Garden- Mrs. Johnson's Cockscomb

Today's post is a little long, but I want to share about the importance of careful seed collecting.
At first glance, I know that this may not seem like a very impressive flower- so I want to let you know what makes it so special. I have always called this variety of crested celosia Mrs. Johnson's Cockscomb. Cockscomb is the common name for these flowers because they look just like the red comb on top of a rooster's head.
Mrs Johnson was my neighbor in Raleigh about fifteen to sixteen years ago and she always grew these velvety cherry-red cockscombs in the flower bed in front of her porch. One day I commented on how beautiful I thought these flowers were, and she gave me some of her seeds. Then I started growing "Mrs. Johnson's Cockscomb" too.
I saved seed each year and they came with me to my new home. What made these plants so different from other forms of cockscomb was that they packed ALOT of flower on short sturdy stems. That's why they looked so lovely in her garden beds. The flower heads would grow to about six to eight inches wide, but the stalks remained only a foot tall. They were stunning in mass plantings.
One year I just neglected to plant them and then the next year I wasn't very careful with the plants that I did grow until finally I noticed that my seed supply was very low. About three years ago I grew only three plants and saved lots of seed (or so I thought), but I wasn't very careful with the next planting and lost almost the whole batch of flowers.
Last year I was down to three plants again. Sadly these plants suddenly died and I was only able to collect about ten seeds. Needless to say I was not very optimistic about this year's prospect- I did pray though that just maybe the Lord would give me success and He did- three plants again!!! This one is still in the garden just waiting for all the seeds to mature. The others I have already harvested the seeds from and was able to get over one hundred.
And what about Mrs. Johnson's plants?
Well... I still drive by her house, but I haven't seen her cockscomb in years. Last week after collecting that first batch of seeds, I started to wonder if just maybe she would be interested in having some. I found her phone number and called her up. She remembered me (I think)... she's eighty-two years old now and has seen lots of folks come and go in that neighborhood. But when I told her about the cockscomb, I could tell she was very excited. Yes that cockscomb grew in her flowerbed for years, but one year it just didn't perform well and after that it dwindled out and stopped coming back altogether.
I told her that I called it "Mrs. Johnson's Cockscomb" and she laughed and told me that was a good name because it originally came from her husband's family in South Carolina. She said she was sad when it stopped coming back in her garden beds because she had never been able to find any other like it.
Well we are both very excited to have the chance to grow it again. I will try to be much more careful with these seeds and the plants next year, and I hope to have plenty to share with other folks as well!!!

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