Friday, September 10, 2010

Morning Glories

I realize we're getting on towards fall, but it's still hot enough here in the afternoon that a few rogue cicadas can be heard droning on about the heat.  Summer in Japan is not my favorite season, as I dislike sitting in pools of sweat, but I do like morning glories.  And they are everywhere, as the hydrangeas are during the rainy season.  People string twine up to their laudry poles for them, drape netting over windows for them.  But the best thing about morning glories is that every kindergartner and every first grader grows them at school.  This is beginning science in Japan, and they do it right. 

When my oldest son was 3, he brought his first morning glory home from kindergarten.  He'd been taught how to put the seeds into water to tell which were good and which wouldn't sprout (throw out the ones that float:).  All the kids got nice, deep sturdy plastic pots with stakes and rings for the vines.  They used their fingers to poke "eye, eye, mouth" into the dirt to plant three seeds in--easy to remember, and easy even for 3-year-olds to do.  The teachers helped them prune the plants back, too, so they'd grow thicker.  And, of course, the kids had to water their plants every day.  By the end of the summer, I was convinced that this was the best beginning biology project ever.

We had more fun waiting to see what color they'd be.  The kids learned to tell the difference between a bud and a dead flower head.  Every night, we would count the buds to see how many flowers we'd have the next morning.  And every morning was like Christmas--a rush to the porch to see the new flowers.  Since morning glories bloom and fade in a day, they are the perfect choice for young children to learn about plant life cycles.  Not so much waiting:)  And before too many weeks pass, the green hips begin to turn brown--easy to see when seeds are ready to harvest.

We saved seeds for several years in a row, so we could plant as many colors as possible.
The white ones were my favorites--very elegant, I thought.  Though, being my mother's daughter, of course I liked all the colors.  But the real beauty of morning glories is that you don't need a huge yard to grow them in, or any yard at all.  A planter and some string or a piece of netting will do just fine on even the narrowest of apartment porches (you can see what ours looks like).
All in all, a simple, non-time-consuming thing to do with your kids (or for yourself--why not?) in the summer for the cost of a pot, some string, and a packet or two of seeds.


  1. I was starting to feel quite jealous of the botanist's/zoologist's picture-book world you seem to inhabit. But last night I was sat in my doorway having a smoke (I know but I started over thirty years ago, and it's way too late now) and saw a badger snuffling its way through the hedge-row. Watched it for about 10 minutes before I twitched my leg and it spotted me and made a hasty retreat. I love moments like that.

  2. OOps, I meant to ask, what's Brian Cox like as a writer? I've only encountered him on telly.

  3. Oooh--a badger! Lucky! We're in Yokohama, but just close enough to a really big nature park that we get quite a bit of overflow wildlife in spite of being nearly next to a really big road. I'm going to start taking the videocamera around with me since it has better zoom than the digital--then I'll put up Little Egret, Great Blue Heron, GoiSagi:)

    Brian Cox is as good a writer as he is on telly. It's actually co-written with Jeff Forshaw, so I can't say which bits are whose. The cool thing about it is that they're actually going through the math (simplified) of how you you get to E=mc2. Right up your alley, Daz! I really should be reading it with pencil and notebook handy:))

  4. Here's a good quote from the book (kids have been using mommy's computer, so I had to post this in two comments:))--

    "All of this does beg the question of how we know such fine detail about hydrogen atoms (that they weigh more out of ground state with the proton in a higher orbit). Surely we don't go around measuring these tiny mass differences using weighing scales? At the heart of quantum theory is an equation called the Schroedinger wave equation, and we can use it to predict what the masses should be. Legend has it that Schroedinger discovered the equation, one of the most important in modern physics, while on a winter sojourn with his mistress in the Alps over Christmas and New Year's of 1925-1926. Quite how he explained this to his wife is rarely discussed in physics textbooks. We can only hope his mistress enjoyed the fruits of his labors as much as the generations of physics students who know the eponymous equation by heart."

  5. Literally LOL. Great quote! Apparently Schroedinger was something of a marathon-man in the ladies department. Jim Al-Khalili did a tv series a while back about the history of quantum physics, and he had to be a tad circumspect about all that, too.

    Another one for the bookshelf then. *sigh*

    I think you're overestimating my maths abilities on the basis of me knowing how to find the volume of a sphere :-) I look forward to making the attempt though.

    Glad to see Tim Ferris in your reading list. I must try to find more of his. *SIGH*

  6. Yeah! I grabbed Ferris' book because you and KK both recommended it! I wish I could read everything at once...

    Echo the *sigh*...