a project

An assignment:

ENGLISH 596h–Nonfiction Craft Seminar: The Science, Poetics, and Politics of Plants. From the syllabus:

I’d like each of you to choose a plant for research this semester. I’ll ask you to make this an informal obsession. Preferably you can grow the plant. Visit the plant and its relatives or seek it out through cultural use and references (research into natural and cultural history, artistic deployment of your plant, food/drug/clothing deployment of your plant, toxins required to grow your plant, songs referencing your plant, field observation, changing human relationships with your plant, anticipated effects of climate change on your plant, etc.) Keep looking for what you do not know about your plant. Invent what you cannot know about your plant. This is an experiment.

Earlier: an article: Is Sugar Toxic? New York Times Magazine, April 11, 2011. By Gary Taubes. A book: Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. By Sidney Mintz. A realization: sugar is in everything.

An email, to KatFord@DreamingofTheTropicsNursery.com

Hi Kat,
I’m interested in growing a bit of sugarcane, and wanted to find out a bit more about what you offer. Is it possible to grow sugarcane in a large planter or pot? I live in Tucson, Arizona, so it’s very warm here most of the year, though also quite dry. How are your seedlings shipped? What is your price for a single seedling? I’m a writer working on a project about sugar, so I’m only interested to grow a small bit of sugarcane to understand the plant a bit more, so I would appreciate any information you could provide me!
Thank you,

Two weeks later: A package! The tropics arrive to Tucson.

A sapling. Heirloom Red Sugarcane. Leaves rather peakish and dry after a long journey. (“These plants can grow up to 10’ within the first growing season”):

A trip to Home Depot (“Sugarcane definitely can be grown in a large pot and honestly grows like a week so the dry hot weather isn’t a problem.”) Overwhelmed by choices: soil, pot, mulch. A 35 Liter bag of Organic Choice Potting Mix for $9.98 (twice the price of non-organic soil, but only the best for my heirloom red sapling). A $3.99 10″ Terra Cotta pot.

The heirloom red sugarcane seedling is planted. Where should the pot of sugarcane live? (“Until after all danger of frost has passed they would be best indoors.”) What about the bathroom, where it is most humid? The living room, where it will get the most sun? Limited floorspace dictates that for now, Red shall occupy the bedroom. The tropical terra cotta pot joins a row of desert succulents.


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