Yet the vendors, clutching steaming cups of coffee and stamping their feet, were cheerful — and we were treated to their full attention, since there weren’t many customers braving that chill. They gamely answered our queries as my husband, Kevin, and I searched among the flowering annuals and potted vegetables for a few exotic plants to finish off my wish list.
We soon found rosemary, but not the Zone-5 hardy Madelene Hill variety I would’ve preferred. We selected a lush specimen, and I’ll just have to remember to winter it inside. Our number of “tender” charges that spend the colder months on our sunporch have grown to include a fig tree, a lemon tree, lemongrass, lemon verbena, culantro, Greek oregano and epazote. The rosemary will have plenty of company.
Eggplant, too, was a simple acquisition. Only two Thai eggplant seeds had germinated after multiple sowings earlier this spring, so I was hoping to add at least one more plant. We chose Little Fingers, a petite purple eggplant that promises an abundant harvest of slender, delicately flavored fruit.
I knew the remainder of my list would prove problematic.
“Comfrey? No. I’ve seen it in catalogs. What do you use it for, anyway?”
After I explained yet again that it makes a great addition to compost and can be used to create a “compost tea” with a broad nutritional profile, one vendor seemed interested, but disappointed. If it were edible, she said, she’d have an easier time selling it; she could suggest using it to make “chicken comfrey.”
Growing a plant strictly to add to compost is a concept her customers wouldn’t readily grasp. Oh, well. I guess I’ll have to start it from seed next year. On to another vendor.
“Bay laurel? No. I’ve never carried that. Too hard to grow.”
This herb we suspected was a lost cause, because we’d asked repeatedly for it last year, too. It’s an extremely slow-growing aromatic evergreen tree that can be kept as a houseplant, using its leaves to flavor soup, sauces and stews. A vendor at last year’s Flower City Days had suggested that it’s so rare that I should order it online wherever I could find it. Regardless of price and shipping costs, he said that would be my best bet.
I reluctantly resigned myself to that fate after striking out repeatedly again on Sunday.
At the final vendor, I studied plant tags out of curiosity while Kevin valiantly asked one more time: “You don’t happen to have bay laurel, do you?”
To our utter delight, this vendor replied ‘Yes.”
He had three specimens — each about 8 inches high. They were the prettiest plants I’d seen all morning.
I picked out the best looking one as Kevin handed over $15 — far less than we’d have paid from an online nursery. I settled it in our basket with the rest of our finds, and we hot-footed it back to the car.
It didn’t seem so cold anymore.