Plant of the Year 2015

I’ve been enjoying several year end reviews on other blogs and although I would love to do the same here I just don’t have the desire to go through 2015 again.  Don’t get the impression it was a bad year, it’s just that with the weather stuck in a late autumn holding pattern I’ve already spent way too much time browsing old photos, reliving old posts, and imagining what 2016 will bring.  The idea of doing it all again with a purpose sounds too much like work, and I think we all know how I feel about excess work 🙂

Instead of a review I’ll fill in one of those glaring gaps which has been haunting me since mid July… the naming of 2015’s Plant of the Year.  Nothing like waiting till the last minute.

Solanum pyracantha,  porcupine tomato

2015’s plant of the year: Solanum pyracantha, the porcupine tomato

It seems ungrateful to pass by all the old reliable sunflowers, snowdrops, and phlox which bring such joy every year but there can be only one, and this year the porcupine tomato wins that dubious honor.  It’s been a long time coming though, probably four or five years ago was when I first caught sight of this plant on Nan Ondra’s Hayefield blog.  Since then I’ve been on the search for one and finally last summer I came across a fruit laden plant during a garden tour.  With the blessings of the owner was able to pocket a few seeds, and six months later I had my own little seedlings.

Solanum pyracantha porcupine tomato

Like a cute little baby eggplant, the porcupine tomato starts off innocent enough… but then the spines start.

At first the seeds gave some trouble, but finally they got going.  My guess is that like other members of the tomato family the seeds often need a good molding up in order to break down the chemicals which keep the seeds from germinating inside the fruits.  My collected seed would only germinate after sitting between two damp paper towels for a few days, growing mold all over the seeds, being rubbed clean, and then sitting for a few more days between fresh damp paper towels.  This process isn’t all that different than the advice given for collecting tomato seed, which involves allowing the pulp and seed to ferment and mold over in a bowl for a few days before rinsing and drying.  You can bet that it takes a good amount of convincing and distracting to be allowed to keep a bowl of rotten tomato guts on the windowsill, especially once it begins to mold over and develop an odor 🙂

porcupine tomato pyracanthum

A little sparkle of dew gives the leaves a crunchy crystalline look.  Sort of like those sugared fruits or flowers used as cake or desert decorations, except this one comes with its own built in toothpicks.

Nan Ondra refers to this plant as an “anti-social” solanum and I’ll have to agree.  Everything about this plant from the orange spines and leaf veins, to the thick velvety foliage, to the yellow eyed purple blooms is set up to attract you over, but then one inadvertent run-in with the spines and you’re suddenly giving the plant an offended glare.  “After all I’ve done for you, this is how you repay me?”

solanum pyracanthum flower

Flowers on the porcupine tomato (Solanum pyracanthum) look innocent enough, but then again even the most unsocial flowering plant can’t go around offending bees.

But that’s often how things often go.  For as hard as you try someone always gets hurt and in the words of most every Taylor Swift song, sometime the high is worth the pain.

Happy New Year and all the best from suburbia, and if I can promise anything it’s that this will be the only time Taylor Swift is referenced in a blog post on porcupine tomatoes, 2015 or beyond!

23 comments on “Plant of the Year 2015

  1. Cathy says:

    It has lovely flowers. Did yours produce fruit? (Seed for next year?) I really have to be enamoured to grow prickly plants, but it sounds as if you really fell for this little plant! Happy New Year Frank!

    • bittster says:

      Thanks Cathy and Happy New Year to you as well!
      No seeds, but I have a few left from last year. For a few minutes last fall I contemplated taking the pot in to mature the seed filled fruits…. but then better sense prevailed 🙂

  2. What a unusual and wonderful plant….certainly deserving of Plant of the Year! Happy New Year!

  3. pbmgarden says:

    A most interesting pick for plant of the year. Those spikes have a gorgeous orange color. Happy New Year!

    • bittster says:

      I think it’s the colors of the plant I like most of all… spines and such are not for everyone though and I don’t expect my plant of the year to go far 🙂

  4. No effing way, ever!! Plants that attack have got to go, ungrateful little thugs. Watch you back, buddy.

    • bittster says:

      You wouldn’t like half the plants in my garden, I feel like they’re almost all up to no good either invading or attacking. Except for the lettuce, I don’t think lettuce ever hurt anyone.

  5. Cathy says:

    It’s wonderful and very … disturbing. I’m always scared of plants with prickles (although I grow a lot of roses), but I love the dark colour of the prickles against the foliage. Happy New Year!

    • bittster says:

      Thanks and Happy New Year to you as well!
      I make many poor plant decisions, but as long as this one doesn’t seed itself all over I guess I can enjoy a single year with it 🙂

  6. Chloris says:

    I remember seeing this plant when it was a baby and wondering why you were so pleased with it. I thought that it was supervising its birth that made you look so fondly on it..But I have to say it is a very handsome foliage plant now that it has grown up. It has a dangerous look to it though, those spines are a bit sinister. Happy New Year Frank!

    • bittster says:

      It is nasty looking isn’t it? Makes one wonder about the entire island of Madagascar if this and a few other spiny messes are what make their way out of there.
      My affections are part proud parent, part trophy hunting, and part oddity proud. We’ll see if it ever shows up here again though since frost has ended the story.
      Happy New Year to you as well, may it be healthy and fun!

  7. Alain says:

    That porcupine tomato is most intriguing. I like plants that are unusual like this. Your post made me wonder what was my own favorite discovery in 2015. It has to be Eritrichium rupestre a Forget-me-not look alike. It is an annual but it bloomed most of the summer for me (I did 2 seedings). If you are interested, I could swap you seeds of it for some of your porcupine tomato.

  8. Dee says:

    That’s one cool plant. No wonder it’s at the top of your year. Yeah, those recap posts take a lot of work. I enjoyed your plant of the year post. ~~Dee

    • bittster says:

      Thanks and I really enjoyed your end of the year post, so the work has its payoffs! If things get slow in January I might tackle my own version, but work is so busy going into the new year so I have my doubts it will happen.

  9. It really is pretty, colorful and unique. Those porcupine spines do make it anti-social for sure. As a collector, I bet it makes a nice addition for you. Happy New Year, Frank.

  10. I will enjoy it in your garden, thanks. Happy New Year to you! P.S. WordPress reports you were one of my top 5 commenters in 2015. Thanks for taking the time to not only stop by, but comment as well.

    • bittster says:

      Haha, be grateful I didn’t comment each time, for as quiet as I tend to be it’s a whole different thing when the conversation goes to plants!
      I don’t blame you for passing on the porcupine tomato. Actually I’m surprised there haven’t been more ‘direct’ comments about the little plant, if this thing came up as a weed in my garden I’d be tempted to reach for the flame thrower 🙂
      Happy 2016!

  11. Peter/Outlaw says:

    It’s a beauty in form and color and combines so well with other plants. Love this one!

    • bittster says:

      I’m glad you like it. Those orange spines just amaze me every time I look at it. I didn’t think I’d need to grow it again anytime soon, but winter has a way of making you dream up strange ideas…

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