It’s been a long, cold, stark winter here in the northern hills. How stark? Stark enough to make watching plants grow and blossom indoors a popular winter activity. If you’ve been spared the long cold winter – good for you! But I really wouldn’t want you to miss out on the miracles of plant life we’ve slowly witnessed while warding off cabin fever, so scroll away: Paper Whites Way back in Novemeber a kind & thoughtful friend gave me a kind & thoughtful present – Paperwhite bulbs. I didn’t know much about these bulbs. Wikipedia suggests I should imagine myself in the western Mediterranean (or Texas/California/Louisiana) as I gaze at them:
Narcissus papyraceus (from papyrus and aceus; meaning paper-like), one of a few species known as “Paperwhite,” is a perennialbulbous plant native to the western Mediterranean region, from Greece to Portugal plus Morocco and Algeria. The species is considered naturalized in the Azores, Corsica, Texas, California and Louisiana. The white flowers are borne in bunches and are strongly fragrant. It is frequently grown as a house plant, often forced to flower at Christmas.
Paperwhite bulbs sprouting after ~1 week (that’s a top down view for those feeling disoriented):
Straighten-up and grow right:
The Paperwhite Glamour Shot:
Did I mention these Paperwhites did all this growing indoors during winter?!?
After about 5 weeks they grew so tall they flopped over, coincidentally or not around the same time the flowers were beginning to lose their luster. That was the end of the Paperwhites. The container with marbles either needed to be cleaned up and put away, or…
I could live a life of adventure and set a carrot top inside…and wait to see what happens. While I’ve grown carrots outdoors in summer before, this was my first experience with spontaneous indoor winter hydroponic farming of a single carrot stub.
First delicate white roots grew out of the bottom of the carrot top stub into the water. Then little green stalks grew from the top surface of the carrot top. These little sprouts were tiny compared to the carrot stub, and really tiny compared to the container. It all looked very bonsai-ish (sorry no photo).
Then more and more “branches” (or are they “stalks”?) grew taller and taller. After ~8 weeks when the tallest branches/stalks were ~1.5 feet high I noticed something different looking clumped a-top of one of them. Do you see it? (Look carefully in the top left and top right image below) Can you guess what it is? (Hint: It was good timing for Valentine’s Day – no roses needed.)
I suspected it might be a carrot flower bud (not that I had ever knowingly seen one before – just a hunch). And, yup, it is! Winter is long, and so is the time it took for this carrot flower to blossom. Here’s how it looks today after a total of ~3.5 months of simply water+sunshine (or rather many grey days with barely any direct sunshine):
Yes, this carrot plant is tall…~30″ tall! And yes, that flower has a lot going on. Wikipedia says we are looking at not just a single carrot flower but a compound umbel with umbellets:
Flower development begins when the flat apical meristem changes from producing leaves to an uplifted conical meristem capable of producing stem elongation and an inflorescence. The inflorescence is a compound umbel, and each umbel contains several umbellets. The first (primary) umbel occurs at the end of the main floral stem; smaller secondary umbels grow from the main branch, and these further branch into third, fourth, and even later-flowering umbels. A large primary umbel can contain up to 50 umbellets, each of which may have as many as 50 flowers; subsequent umbels have fewer flowers. Flowers are small and white, sometimes with a light green or yellow tint. They consist of five petals, five stamens, and an entire calyx.
Whoa, so many umbels, so many words. For the visually inclined, here’s the picture worth a thousand words, the image you’ve all been waiting for…
The Carrot Flower Glamour Shot
glamour [glam-er] noun 1. the quality of fascinating, alluring, or attracting, especially by a combination of charm and good looks. 2. excitement, adventure, and unusual activity: the glamour of being a carrot flower photographer/windowsill gardener.