Production Blog

A Gift of Passion Results in Prickly Outcome

Pamela Smith
By  Pamela Smith , Crops Technology Editor
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An empty passionflower seed packet is an indication of a replant situation after the first efforts to propagate passion failed this spring. (DTN photo by Pamela Smith)

As life advances, finding an appropriate gift for partners on any occasion has become more difficult. My husband and I have pretty much adopted the practice of ignoring gifting altogether. At most, we practice practical gifting -- such as replacing a lost 5/8-inch wrench or adding a tree to our landscape.

Not that we don't indulge in romantic gestures. I once sweetened him up with the gift of honeybees. He kept the sparks flying by giving me a welding helmet and gloves. The main rule these days, though, is don't give anything that adds to the "stuff" level.

So, when he requested that I come to the shop to see my anniversary gift a little early, I was as surprised as I was skeptical. This time of year, the shop becomes a pseudo-greenhouse. The workbench is a tangled bounty of tomatoes, peppers and other vegetable starts flourishing by a sunny window accentuated with grow lights.

But growing among all this healthy produce to-be sprang a lanky plant of questionable character with prickly leaves and a barbed stem.

"Is that a passionflower?" asked the hopeful gift-giver.

Somehow, this felt like a trick question. It wasn't exactly in the no-win "do I look thinner?" category, but I could sense emotional quicksand.

My plant identification skills are decent, and I write enough about weeds to know one when I see one. What was growing in that pot was a sow thistle. The fact that my husband had carefully staked the specimen as if it was precious would never turn it into the proverbial "silk purse."

However, the sentiment was stellar. You see, he took note last fall when I returned from a trip talking about passion flowers (Passiflora incarnata). I told him about being offered a hen egg-looking pod from the vine and eating the highly scented and surprisingly sweet fruit.

That experience summoned up a long-ago childhood memory of being fascinated with the exotic frilly-looking purple blossoms while visiting an elderly neighbor. She dug up and gave me a start of passionflower. I watered and nurtured it through the summer -- only to have the vine rudely hacked off the farm fence where I'd entwined its tendrils. At the time, my youthful tears flowed, well ... passionately, and were to my recollection, barely given notice.

And therein lies the reason for this writing. There is no bigger gift than someone listening to such a tale, internalizing it and acting on it. This is, for all my sensibility, the ultimate gesture of caring -- no matter how it turns out.

Unfortunately, the seed of truth regarding the identity of the thistle planted itself on my face before I could cover it up.

"What about these?" my husband asked, pointing to three more small pots. Each held a blade of some kind of grass growing from the precise center of the moist soil. Passion had failed to emerge once again.

Eventually, a cell phone was pulled out to confirm the identification -- artificial intelligence backing up my suspicions (which is perhaps the most disturbing thing about this entire seeding saga).

We finally got around to belly laughs about intentionally and lovingly growing a thistle. The fact that my husband had gingerly scarified, soaked and precisely planted the seeds from a packet purchased for this purpose only enriched the story.

One flowery twist remained. While I snuck into the house to secretly call garden centers searching for a live passionflower to pull off a surprise of my own, my beloved husband drove to the farm store to procure another packet of seeds and had already replanted (let's not discuss the fact that he bought the seed from the same source).

The good news is we're both still passionate about something!

Pamela Smith can be reached at

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