The freak members of the plant world aren't usually things that adult gardeners can be bothered with. Descriptions of these sideshow plants leave them cold or reasonably skeptical. But what child wouldn't be curious and want to find out for himself about such things as those listed below? Never mind practicality. This garden is just for fun.
Serpent (or snake) cucumber (Cucumis melo flexuosus). This has curious long slim fruits, two or three feet in length, which coil into snakelike positions-behavior which would appeal far more to a small boy than to his parents.
China Long cucumbers, from the Orient. Keeping a slender diameter of only two inches or so, these vegetables grow twenty to twenty-four inches in length. They are very good to eat, and highly disease resistant. Grow them on a fence to get nice straight fruits.
Yard-long beans (Vigna sesquipedalis), sometimes called
asparagus beans, produce pencil-size pods two to three feet long. They are pole beans and rampant growers.
Jack-and-the-beanstalk vine, known also as New Guinea butter vine (Lagenaria leucantha longissima), is really a white-flowered squash. Its fruits grow to enormous size, three to five feet long, and weigh as much as fifteen pounds. They are edible when small, but not when they reach exhibition size. The blossoms resemble Japanese iris and open at night.
The unicorn, or proboscis, plant (Proboscidea martynia or jussieui), is a real curiosity because of the way the ripe seed pods curl into strange birdlike shapes. With the help of a little paint the resemblance to a number of birds can be made quite striking. The ripe pods may also be used in dried arrangements for winter. The green ones are often pickled. The plants themselves are very attractive, wide-spreading, and exceedingly productive. One or two of them will be quite enough.
Calabash pipe gourds (Lagenaria leucantha), sometimes called penguin gourds, would be at home in the curiosity garden, too. Their form is startlingly like that of a penguin. With white paint daubed on the breasts and with glued-on hands and feet, there is no question about it.
Flowering kale is freakish enough also for the garden of oddities. It is a frivolous member of the cabbage family, with large, spreading, loose leaves, intricately curled and ruffled. To begin with it is a sedate green, and gives no hint of its flamboyant intentions until autumn. Then, like the butterfly, it undergoes a metamorphosis which transforms it into a thing of gaudy beauty, with blotchings and marblings of white, cream, pink, orchid, rose, ruby and magenta. No two are exactly alike. Flower arrangers love it.