A Taraxacum officinale Grower Reveals Her Secrets

Guest Post by Amy Campion

We were getting ready to go to the Hortlandia Plant Sale, when Scott and I saw it. Its blossoms glowed like pure sunshine. “Oh, my God,” I said. “Is that…?”

Heather nodded.

“Taraxacum officinale,” Scott said breathlessly.

I realized then that Heather had been deliberately nudging us towards this spot, so we’d discover the specimen underneath her mahonia.

The French call it pissenlit, which I can only imagine means “flower of the gods.” Its exquisite rosette of deeply lobed foliage was topped with half a dozen immaculate golden blooms.

I’d given up on Taraxacum and its exacting requirements years before (after killing my third pricey specimen), and a wave of jealousy coursed through me.

“Where did you get it?” I asked, as casually as I could.

“From Heronswood,” Heather replied. “Dan collected it on his expedition to the Cliffs of Insanity. You know—the one where he fought the Rodents of Unusual Size and nearly died in the lightning sand.”

Scott frowned. “Are you thinking of The Princess Bride?”

“I’ve never seen that movie,” Heather said. “Anyway, you don’t even want to know how he got the plants through customs.”

I braced for that story, but Scott saved us. “My Taraxacum from Far Reaches is barely hanging on. What’s your secret?” he asked.

“Oh, I don’t know. I do all the usual things,” she said. “I mulch it with hemlock bark, I water it once a week, and of course, I feed it on the first and third Wednesdays of the month, like you’re supposed to—with compost tea made from three-toed sloth dung.”

“Right, right,” Scott nodded. “Do you get your compost from Naomi’s?”

“I used to, but now I make my own,” Heather said, waving to the backyard, where a large cage sat in the corner. A bit of grayish fur was barely visible between the bars. “You wouldn’t believe the amount of red tape I had to deal with to get Zippy!” she exclaimed. “It’s like nobody in Portland had ever asked for a sloth permit.”

We shook our heads in sympathy.

Heather continued, “You know, there’s also been some good research out of OSU showing that Taraxacum responds to music, especially the Rolling Stones.”

“I’ve tried that, but it doesn’t seem to help,” Scott said.

“Um… you’re not playing any of their newer stuff, are you?” Heather asked.

“Maybe,” Scott replied, looking puzzled.

Heather smiled. “Well, that’s your problem then! They hate the newer stuff. It’s got to be Tattoo You or older. Otherwise, you may as well be spraying Roundup on the poor thing.”

I was happy that Scott may have found the solution to his problem, and I even considered giving Taraxacum a fourth try myself.

We turned to get in the car, and a flash of blue caught my eye. All along Heather’s garage, a border was taken over by that scourge of the Northwest, Meconopsis betonicifolia. Their evil blue faces stared out hatefully at us. “Ugh,” she said. “I dig that stuff out every year, and it keeps coming back. I have no idea how to get rid of it.” Taraxacum or no Taraxacum, at least I could say that the blue menace had not yet invaded my garden.

I envied Heather no longer.

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