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!