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I couldn’t resist posting this picture, because it reminds me of two things.

The first is where these wild violets came from: I brought them up from Tim Peters’ dad’s place after he passed away. Too bad I never had the chance to meet him; I think I would have liked him. Tim has told me about what a great dad he had. His property where we did a salvage operation is where I met Tim Peters, and that’s where a lot of Tim’s breeding work was done starting, like Tom’s, when he was just a teenager.

That reminds me: I’ve got to sow more of his perennial Sorghum! And a few other odds and ends.

I originally shot the photo because it reminds me of the name of Tom Kleffman’s NEW BABY DAUGHTER: “Violet”. I’m pleased to report that she’s thriving…just like the wild violets.

The violets are blooming next to the steps going up to my back-yard. I don’t know what species they are, but they seem to be natives, not naturalized, in the mountains of southern Oregon. They look a lot like the sweet violets (V. odorata) of Europe, and bloom the same times of year (autumn and late winter), and I suspect they are even slightly fragrant, though it’s hard for me to tell. We have similar natives here, not as common, and it might be the same species. Our most common one is a creeping evergreen with tiny yellow blossoms, that blooms in February, Viola sempervirens.

I also brought back the beautiful local Iris that grows there.

It won’t be blooming until spring. I have pix but I’ll wait until it’s seasonal. Instead here is an Iris that is seasonal now, I. unguicularis, a native of parts of Greece and parts of the southwestern Mediterranean basin. I think this one is scented and if my memory serves me correctly it smells like ionine–the fragrance of violets. It lives next to the front sidewalk for passers-by to enjoy.

How about a purple vegetable to go with my purple flowers? Here it is: the famous “Tree Collard”. Some people call it “Tree Kale”. It looks sort of intermediate between a Kale and a Collard to me, and they’re different species with different chromosome counts. Whatever it is, it’s semi-sterile, rarely blooming, though they do from time to time and I’ve heard of people getting seedlings from them, but no followup. Are the seedlings perennial? Or is perenniality a side-effect of not regularly blooming and setting seed? Some biennials that are “monocarpic” (die after blooming) will behave as perennials if they don’t set seed.

It is one of the most productive vegetables I’ve ever grown. Unfortunately, being propagated vegetatively over and over and over again, first of all that might be the cause or one of the causes of the semi-sterility issue, and ultimately it will doom the plant to loss of vigor as viruses build up, much as has been happening with the banana for the same reason. Second, I suspect that if it did bloom regularly, it wouldn’t be as productive as it is. It’s the fact that it doesn’t bolt that makes it so incredibly productive. I get about 9 month’s worth of light harvests off it.

They don’t get as big here as they do down in California. Mine peak out around 4 feet tall or so. In California they can look truly tree-like in a few years. They’re not built for snow; the leaves trap snow and the stems are weak. I would guess that Seattle is getting close to the limits of their hardiness.

I think that a cut-and-come-again true perennial vegetable for a non-tropical climate will need to be one with an indeterminate growth habit, whose leaves do not turn bitter when it blooms. A few of us have been talking about it; some of the hardier members of the genus Hibiscus might be a possibility. What do you think?

One perennial vegetable that probably will work out better is Hablitzia. I’ve got pictures of the new shoots, but I’ll save those for another time. Will it finally bloom this year? And set seed that we can then offer to you? Stay tuned.

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