A history of failure


When I was nineteen, I worked for a few months at a research station in Upper Michigan by the shores of Lake Superior. Aside from ticks the size of horses, the native biota I remember best are the thimbleberries (Rubus parviflorus), relatives of raspberries and brambles that I used to gorge myself on during walks through the woods. On finding this species in the sadly-now-defunct Future Foods catalogue, I decided to give it a go and was soon rewarded with healthy, spreading plants. The drawback is that over the last ten years they have yielded not one fruit, nada, but have made a spirited attempt at taking over my whole garden.

Another great disappointment was Elaeagnus x ebbingei. Ken Fern of Plants for a Future raves about this species and, having spent a pleasant May afternoon browsing on its berries in Crystal Palace Park in London, I can see why. Unfortunately my own plant has steadfastly refused to fruit and, having looked carefully round the municipal plantings of Aberdeen, I think the failing is general.

Having put up the list of plants that I grow, I realised that, like drug companies that only publish positive trials, I was missing half the story. In an experiment, negative results are just as valuable as positive ones, so I’ve added another section to my plant list: all the things I’ve ever tried and, one way or another, failed with. I hope it saves you some time with your own experiments.

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