Text and photographs are © by Ellen Spector Platt & Ellen Zachos, all rights reserved.


Friday, February 20, 2009

COTTON PLANTATION ON THE UPPER EAST SIDE:STARTING SEEDS

Other Ellen and I say that if you can garden here you can garden anywhere, and ‘here’ for me is a windy rooftop 18 stories above the street. I reinforce my planting obsession by working without a committee, choosing plants that attract me, even though my roof garden isn’t “mine” but is shared by 100 apartments in my condo building.

In a great display of friendship, Other Ellen allows me to inhabit precious car space when she drives to wholesale nurseries on Long Island. I prowl through fields and hoop houses, sniffing and eyeing until I see what I can’t live without.

Two years ago when I
was exploring the sep-
arate topicsof ‘black’
leafed plants and chil-
dren’s gardens I spied
4”pots of black cotton
(Gossypium nigrum),
with leavesof deepest
burgundy. HAD TO
HAVE THEM. I bought
three little plants.
Placed in containers
amid Lantana, Million
Bells (Calibrachoa), and
Zinnia ‘Profusion’ they
bloomed, formed bolls,
and eventually popped
open to display real cotton.I had grown cotton before on my flower & herb farm in Zone 5, carefully starting the seeds indoors in flats on the sunny windowsill of my guest bathroom. Those cotton bolls had eventually popped open, aided and abetted by knife slits and drying in 140-degree temperature of my oven. But growing cotton in New York City in containers feels like more of a triumph. Kids playing on the roof were in total disbelief when I pointed out what we had.

After waiting several weeks, I cut the cotton, and picked out about 30 large, hard but very fuzzy seeds and left them out on a paper to dry in my office. Last March I planted them in a seed tray, on yet another sunny windowsill, and eventually had more cotton to plant last summer. I put one or two seeds per cell in a sterile seed starting mix, covered seeds lightly with soil, watered until just damp, then covered the tray loosely with plastic wrap until I saw sprouts. When all danger of frost had passed and the seedlings had gotten used to being put outside, I scattered them in containers with other plants. Satisfaction guaranteed when you plant, grow, save seed and plant the next generation.

2 comments:

Donna said...

Do you have any of the cotton seeds left? I would be very interested in purchasing some. The only plants I have been able to find are from a wholesale supplier.

Ellen Spector Platt said...

Donna, sorry I have no seeds left. Google 'cotton seeds' and you'll find lots of suppliers. good luck.

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