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August 2023 - I give you zinnias
My zinnias are blooming, and they are wonderful. These I grew from seed, a mix of varieties that looked great in a seed catalogue. I’ve sacrificed a significant patch of my vegetable garden to them, and I don’t regret it one bit.
And I’m not the only one growing zinnias.
This zinnia bloomed on the ISS in 2016 (more here). But why grow flowers at all, especially when space is limited?
By day I’m an oceanographer and I’ve been to sea, including several Arctic expeditions. On one trip I was on a ship for six weeks straight. We were always in view of the shore, but the shore was rocky and from our angle seemingly barren (up close it wasn’t). I couldn’t help but think about how the Arctic explorer William Parry, in 1819, resorted to growing mustard and cress in his cabin in an attempt to ward off scurvy among his crew (as and aside, I’ve met several modern explorers who grow sprouts while out to augment their diets).
I’m from a verdant landscape and not having plants surrounding me felt off. If I’d been a sea for years rather than weeks, I’m certain my well being would suffer—even growing sprouts wouldn’t have cut it. For anyone going on a space mission (or inhabitants of the scifi I write) travel time would be in years. A place full of plants even smells welcoming, the air is different. For me, it feels right (full disclosure, my house if full of plants too).
Here’s how the authors of Dinner on Mars, a book about how we might feed ourselves in a martain habitat, describe it:
Life will be incredibly tough for the early inhabitants, so ensuring that they enjoy a beautiful living arrangement will help maintain the mental health of these pioneers.
To me, zinnias are special, just looking at them improves my mood. If by some twist of fate I end up heading off to Mars, I’ll be bringing their seeds with me (smuggled if I have to). They provide a comforting nostalgia. Every time I look at those blooms, I’m taken back to my first garden—a small patch out of a much larger family food garden. The very first choice of plants I can remember making was to choose zinnias.
What seeds would you bring?
If you like to read more about the topic of gardening in space, check out this:
It’s summer and I realize my writing has slowed down. The wonderful hammock I was given recently hasn’t help my productivity—but that’s not a bad thing, we all need downtime.
I’ve booked a few weeks off in August and one of my goals is to start drafting my time travel novel tentatively titled Tangled Timelines. I’m looking forward to getting started.
Subject 34, the conclusion to the Encoded Orbits series, will be out early fall—I’ll send out a note as soon as I have an exact date.
Looking for a summer read? Check out these series starters:
And if you aren’t already a subscriber, what’s stopping you (especially if you have read this far)?