I drove to Cedar Creek Gardens hoping to find a shade tolerant “spiller” for the large ceramic pots on my back deck. A spiller is a plant that trails or tumbles out of the pot and it’s the last to be planted following the thriller-filler-spiller, three-step rule for planting containers. The thriller is a showy, centerpiece plant, something big and bold like Canna lilies or purple fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum ‘Rubrum’.) Fillers are flowering or decorative foliage plants that add bulk and complement, but do not overwhelm the thriller. I’ve used coleus, petunias, moss roses, begonias, impatiens and pentas for fillers.
I pointed to a trailing, variegated green, pink and white beauty in the corner of the greenhouse that caught my eye. “I’ve never seen that plant. What is it?” I asked the nursery owner, Melissa.
“I don’t recognize the name,” I said.
Melissa leaned towards me and whispered, “It’s a Wandering Jew.”
“It doesn’t look like the Wandering Jews I’ve seen,” I replied. “Must be a new cultivar.”
Melissa cringed and looked over her shoulder. It took me a few seconds to realize she was concerned there could be customers present who overheard us say Wandering Jew. I didn’t know it was no longer PC and considered offensive. Perhaps it had always been but I wasn’t aware of it. I deeply appreciated Melissa’s concern for her customer’s feelings but she forgot we were in SW Missouri, cinched tightly into the Bible Belt. The odds of a person of the Jewish faith (or Hindu, Buddhist or Muslim ) being present in the greenhouse were ten million Baptists to one.
I picked up the pot of Tradescantia and ran my fingers across the beautiful leaves. Melissa grinned in response although she’d seen me fondle plants before.
“It’s sweet,” I said. “I’ll take six.”
I couldn’t wait to introduce the new-old plant to RJ and recap my conversation with Melissa. I waved a container of Tradescantia in the air when I stepped out of the car. “Guess what this is,” I said.
“Do I have to?” RJ answered.
“Come on. You’ll never guess,” I said.
“You’re no fun. It’s a Wandering Jew. Can you believe it? It doesn’t look anything like the old-fashioned kind,” I said in a rush before RJ made it the last two steps to the house and disappeared into cyber space.
“Wandering Jews are all over Houston,” RJ remarked.
“Houston’s a big town,” I said with a grin.
RJ frowned. “I’m talking about the plant.”
I scowled. “So am I.”
“You should plant the Wandering Jew next to the Joseph’s Coat. Create an All Faith Garden.”
“It could work. I already have a Chinese Peony Tree and a Japanese Fern in the same area. The plants are compatible even if the people aren’t.”
“And the Japanese Fern and Chinese Peony Tree would represent what religion?” RJ asked.
“Buddhism of course.”
“China isn’t a Buddhist country.”
“Don’t you have a Bleeding Heart somewhere?” RJ asked.
“What does it have to do with faith? Besides, my Bleeding Heart died.”
“What happened to it?” RJ asked.
“Divine intervention—it got too hot.”
“You need a name for your All Faith Garden.”
“I’ve got one,” I said.
“Have a Little Faith in Me Garden.”
“Have a Little Faith in Me? That’s a Delbert McClinton song.”
I nodded. “Exactly. It’s…”
“…perfect,” RJ said.