Monday, 8 August 2011
This week's Illustration Friday prompt is imperfect. Hmm. I've just realised that it sounds like there's something wrong with the prompt...
Anyway, imperfect. In botany, an imperfect flower is one that doesn't have both male and female parts. Stamens and pistils, if you prefer. It's a way to try to avoid self-pollination, for the most part. Sometimes you find male flowers on one plant and female flowers on another (a dioecious plant), but sometimes both flowers are found on the same plant. That's a monoecious plant, and that's the way it is with pumpkins.
When I started thinking about imperfect flowers, pumpkins came to mind because we grew them on occasion when I was a kid. I don't anymore, though. I'm not sure they'd be terribly happy in my balcony planters. Um, anyway. When I was growing up I'd occasionally enter the children's gardening section of the county fair, and one year we decided to try the pumpkin competition. The problem was that the fair was at a perfect time for flowers, but way too early for pumpkins to have any chance at developing a worthwhile size. I don't know why my mother and I decided to give it a try anyway, but we did.
To have any hope of having a showable pumpkin a person couldn't leave it to nature to figure out how to get the pollen from the male flowers to the female ones, and as a result I had my first real experience at manipulating a plant. I remember looking at the flowers every day to find one that had the tell-tale swelling at the base that said it was a female (and getting impatient because there seemed to be sooo many more male flowers out there). If I was lucky enough to find one, then it was time to pick a likely looking male flower, strip off its petals, and "introduce" it to the female.
I think I ended up with three whole growing fruits, only one of which even looked faintly like a pumpkin by the time of the fair. If I remember right, it was maybe twenty centimetres in diameter -- that might be generous -- and still green, but it was well-formed enough to give it a shot.
A long shot, I was pretty sure.
I was pretty shocked to get the first place ribbon, but I was a little more shocked to see that none of the other entries were bigger than a tennis ball. It seems that I was the only one whose parents had told her that pumpkin flowers sometimes need a little help getting to know each other.
It was an interesting experience, but the next year I went back to the flower competition. It was easier than waiting for a pumpkin to get around to making a female flower.
And as far as imperfect goes, the weirdness in the background is because I decided I didn't like my wonky wash and scribbled over it with a moistened Inktense pencil. It's... it'll do, I suppose. A little imperfection never hurts anyone. A lot? Well, that's pretty much what you find on this blog.
I'm ok with that.