Believe It or Not

For the spectacle of giantism probably nothing can top the zucca melon (Lagenaria siceraria). Even a small-sized ma­ture zucca melon will weigh seventy-five pounds. It is quite common to have them over one hundred pounds, and the sup­plier has had at least one report of a 150-pound specimen. This melon grows over four feet long and once it starts to develop it races along at the rate of about four pounds a day. The zucca can be grown anywhere where the season is long enough for other melons. While a youngster would try this purely for its eye-popping effect on the beholder, the zucca melon actually does have a commercial use. With its flesh cut into bits, vari­ously colored with vegetable dyes, and cooked in syrup flavored with lemon, orange, pineapple, or mint, it is often sold as "mixed candied fruits."

Other chapters include plants that would fit into this be-lieve-it-or-not garden. For instance, some of the more eccen­trically shaped gourds (Chapter 20), some of the odd-behaving plants (Chapter 11), or a few of the giants (Chapter 14).

If you have a particular interest in the bizarre forms of plant life in behalf of your gardening tyros, you should scan seed catalogs for such things from time to time. Many oddities find their way into catalogs and then make quick exits.

Some years ago, for instance, a reputable house offered a fantastic plant called Petasites albus, described as growing five feet tall and having enormous flat leaves some four feet in diameter. It was illustrated by a picture of children using the huge leaves as umbrellas. This has long since vanished from their catalog.

Another startling innovation that didn't last was "Purple Cross Hybrid corn," the entire plant described as deep purple -leaves, stalk, tassel, husk and cob!

These eccentrics may be discarded by seedsmen because they are failures for some reason. On the other hand, possibly the apathy of gardeners where the unusual is concerned may account for certain disappearances. By keeping in touch with current catalogs you may at times be able to catch some inter­esting will-o'-the-wisp before it vanishes.