Putting DNA to Work

by Brad Nelson   3/26/15

The East Coast caught a bad break for winter this year (global warming…sheesh), but in the Pacific Northwest, spring came a month early. And we didn’t have much of a winter to speak of. (Maybe we caught some of that global warming while the East Coast had “climate change.”)

I’ve never done much gardening in my life. But I guess as we age, the need to putter arises…or the putter gene turns from recessive to dominant. I’ll have to ask Richard Dawkins about that next time I see him. Anyway, I happened to see these four-shelf greenhouses on sale at a local hardware store, I bought a couple of them.


And a couple more. It’s sort of getting out of hand. But part of my plan was to beautify the front entrance to the business here. And having become fascinated by tulips — particularly after reading the book, Tulipmania…and also gaining an interest in the wacky and wonderful world of DNA via my studies in intelligent design — I thought I’d see if I could not kill a plant or two…such is my record with vegetation.

Well, the tulips are doing splendidly. The one that is pictured above just fully opened today. And it’s got a wonderful mild orange scent. My brother likened it to the smell of an orange Pixy Stix. It is almost an edible, candy-orange fragrance.

Since planting the tulips (and I have two more tulip plants in now…one solid yellow and one solid magenta), I’ve installed about 5 tomato plants, 3 spinach plants, 3 or 4 kinds of lettuce, Swiss chard, kale, collards, peas, and some mint. I mean for this garden to produce a lunch or two…at least the base layer for a salad.

And I’ve got some primroses and a few other flowers and ornamental plants just for decoration. Hopefully nobody will mess with any of this, although it sits outdoors. But in this day and age, anything goes. But however it turns out, it’s been a lot of fun to actually do a little gardening and grow something. The magic of DNA. The magic of all that information and design stored in there waiting for me to either over-water it or under-water it.

As these plants grow (particularly the tomato plants), I’ll put them at the bottom shelf and let them grow through to the top, removing shelves as needed and staking them as necessary. At least that’s the plan. I have a feeling this jungle could quickly get out of control. But that’s half the fun. You discover something new….such as the smell of an orange tulip.


Brad is editor and chief disorganizer of StubbornThings.
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Brad Nelson

About Brad Nelson

I like books, nature, politics, old movies, Ronald Reagan (you get sort of a three-fer with that one), and the founding ideals of this country. We are the Shining City on the Hill — or ought to be. However, our land has been poisoned by Utopian aspirations and feel-good bromides. Both have replaced wisdom and facts.
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14 Responses to Putting DNA to Work

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    We have a fair number of spring flowers on the front lawn, blooming at different times. Currently the crocuses are starting to bloom, unless the cold snap we’re getting into takes care of that. Among the flowers we will eventually have are some tulips.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Tulips are cool. I’ve got a few more bulbs planted as well. I’ve got some dahlias and some ranunculus. Frankly, I’d never heard of ranunculus before. From appearances, you’d suspect it’s closely related to the rose. But apparently not.

      I watered everything today because it was sunny…including the tulips. I’ll try not to over-water the tulips. I’ll leave them alone for a while. But we are expecting some very nice weather this weekend, and partial sun tomorrow. Let that salad grow, baby.

  2. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    I grow tomatoes every year, but with limited success. I do better with flowers. But I do best of all when my wife handles things.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Elizabeth likes to garden, and tried to raise vegetables and herbs in back, but we have too many trees there, blocking out too much sunlight. It’s better in front, where she has the flowers I mentioned earlier, particularly with a couple of trees removed for various reasons.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      I’m going nuts with tomato plants. I just picked up another variety last night…indigo rose. I’d never heard of it. Anyway, I have some redundancy built in in case something doesn’t do well. And, really, growing season hasn’t technically started. You could plant things anew in May and still have a fine and full crop.

      So I’m trying to push the edge of this non-winter/early spring that we’ve had on the upper Left Coast. No frost to speak of. The coolest it’s gotten overnight in the last month is probably 38 degrees. With these greenhouse thingies, any cooler temperatures are moderated by keeping the plants out of the breeze and next to a building where some re-radiated heat no doubt helps.

      I’m also growing tomatoes for my mother who now either finds the task too daunting or it’s just a result of old age “eff-it.” I see that coming on. You just begin to feel the autumn coming and interest in things begins to wane…or something. Anyway, I’m hopefully the tomato guy this year. You can’t get good tomatoes in the grocery store and farmer’s markets are expensive and no assurance either.

      Maybe your heat where you live is too much for tomatoes. I don’t know. They do well enough in the Northwest if we get some sunshine. And speaking of trees, there are a couple I wouldn’t mind removing to get more sun. Unfortunately they’re much too big to tackle.

  3. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    Mint, basil, oregano and rosemary grow like weeds in our back garden. We also have sage and thyme. This is great for cooking at home. I think I like rosemary the best. I use it to smoke meat when I barbecue.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Mr. Kung, your weeds are your good fortune. I’ve got some cilantro growing just for the heck of it. But that’s my only herb. I’m still trying to figure out which herbs are best suited for the soups that I make. I tried basil…better perhaps with beef than the veggie/turkey soups I usually do. I love the smell of rosemary, but maybe not so good for soups. Any suggestions?

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:


        I discussed this with my wife and she thinks a little sage, oregano or thyme would be good in your soup. But it is probably more important to use a bay leaf when cooking the broth.

        Nice tulips.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Thanks. I’ll try growing some sage.

          And I’ve used a bay leaf with beef-based soups but not turkey or chicken-based ones.

  4. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    I’ve updated this with a new photo (near the bottom of the article). The tulips are just going crazy. Having read a book about the history of tulips, it’s my understanding that they now have cultivated tulips — early, middle, and late — so that you can enjoy the year ’round. I don’t know how long these will bloom, but I will do a little studying and find out how to take care of the bulb for cultivation next year. I’m not cheap, I just think that since these tulips did the courtesy of blooming in plenty, they should be given a chance for an encore.

  5. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Here’s a flower in my garden that I particularly like. Its petals are so perfect that they look as if they’re made of paper. The red isn’t quite as bold as in the photo. It’s more of a soft pastel, adding to the paper look.

    And because sometimes the information about the flower is listed only on a label affixed to the cheap plastic pots you buy them in, I lost track of the name of this flower when I put it into a larger pot. So if anyone knows the name, do tell.

    And it has a delightful and complex fragrance. It combines a sharp sweetness with a kind of musty, earthy fragrance. A nice combo.

    Mystery Flower

  6. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Another flower I’ve recently acquired is the diamond heights ceanothus. The photo is something I found on the web, but is representative of how my plant looks. It has a glossy plastic look to the leaves which themselves are fascinating for the splotches of dark green in a field of light (almost lime) green. And the dark splotches do not seem to follow any pattern I can discern, which makes them even more fascinating.

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