Although she hosted Making Things Grow, a PBS gardening show in the late sixties, Thalassa Cruso was never as widely known as Julia Child, whom she admired and copied. She played the eccentric English gardener to perfection and was every bit as funny and iconoclastic as her role model. Just as Julia could drop a chicken on the floor and tell you, “Go ahead. Pick it up and put it back on the serving platter. Who’s going to know?” so Thalassa would say, “That stubborn little canna refuses to bloom? Chuck it on the rubbish heap!” Because of Thalassa, I felt perfectly entitled to take a cleaver to a fern that had outgrown its pot and hack it into three or four new plants that I could share with friends.
I thought of her this week when I went out to cut a vase of zinnias. I adore zinnias. They are crisp and cheerful when summer’s humidity has me wilted. They are heat and drought resistant and perform where other cut flowers would turn up their toes and die if neglected. I am particularly fond of the reds, the yellows, the oranges.
This is what I planted:
This is what I got:
I remembered one of Thalassa’s shows in which she went on a long rant about how her red hybrid petunias reverted to this same sickly pinkish-purple. Left alone, petunias will reseed themselves and come back year after year, but seeds from red petunias do not come up with red flowers. They come up purply. Because so many hybrid flowers of the red, pink and blue color range tend to revert, she and her mother called the color Garden-of-Eden purple and amused themselves (and us) by hypothesizing that all the original flowers must have been this color and that it wasn’t until Eve got kicked out of the garden that the colors became more varied.
I’m not quite sure why so many of my “mixed colors” came out purple, but next year, I’m buying single-color seeds!
And if you’ve located Making Things Grow on DVD, please tell me where I can buy the series. (Paging Meryl Streep!)