All winter and spring I try and try to get plants to grow. I pamper cranky houseplants, sprinkle seeds into pots and encourage them to grow into seedlings. I cheer for each crocus that pokes up through the snow, celebrate each brave hint of green, the first blade of grass, the first violet…
Then BAM. The end of May hits like a freight train, and now we have to spend the rest of the summer beating the plants back. Everyone’s out on their riding mowers, trying to get the lawn under control. With all this rain, the grass is growing so fast you can almost see it. The weeds are already eating the garden, the houseplants are stretching their legs (so to speak) and flourishing on the porch.
Each year I buy petunias and geraniums and begonias to decorate the front porch. They’re not hard to grow, don’t take much of my time. And every year I also plant another type of plant–even easier to grow. Some might say not as pretty as a petunia, but I find it has a beauty all its own.
It’s partly because dandelions are a food plant, of course. I grab a handful of leaves every now and then to add to a salad. But they’re bitter now, really too bitter to eat raw–after the plant flowers it undergoes a chemical change and the sap inside the leaves becomes mouth-puckering–most types of lettuce, which is closely related to dandelions, do the same thing when they “bolt.” Summer dandelion leaves are better cooked–a handful of greens chopped up in a soup is a nice addition.
I could get them from my lawn, of course–we’ve had really quite a lot of success growing dandelions on the front lawn. But I just like the one in the flowerpot. The most interesting part is watching the stems elongate–they start out as flowers with a stem about six inches long, and then as soon as they’re pollinated the flowers close up like an umbrella. And then the stem begins to stretch, up and up. Almost overnight, it turns into a giraffe-neck more than a foot long. This is an adaptation so they can get the seed ball up higher into the wind, since dandelions of course disperse their seeds by wind.
You can’t beat dandelions as a porch plant–better tasting, and much more entertaining to watch than a petunia!