A year or so ago, I planted some Sagittarius Gourd seedlings I purchased from the Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company. I stuck them in a pot and waited. And waited. And waited. No seedlings ever came up. So I put the pot in a far corner of the yard and forgot about it. (Do you notice a theme with me here?) It must have been getting water from the sprinklers though, because I was totally suprised to turn over the abandoned pot and discover that one seed had sprouted into a mature plant. (Luckily I’d had the foresight to stick a descriptive wooden tongue depressor in the side of the plant so I was able to identify the little sprout.) Once I pulled the plant out of the sad little corner it had been relegated to, it really burst to life.
These last few months it’s been winding its gourd-y little self up the tomato cage I stuck in the pot. Then about two weeks ago I noticed the first flowers developing. In my reading I’ve learned that gourds and squash bear first (and mostly) male flowers. But I didn’t realize just how outnumbered the female flowers would be. Each day a new flower would burst forth and I’d examine the base, hoping to see a little fruit. But I just kept being diasppointed. Males, males, males. Until finally the first female flower appeared.
There really is no mistaking the female flower: a tiny immature fruit sits at the base of the flower, just waiting to be fertilized. Bees do most of the fertilizing, picking up pollen from an open male flower and (hopefully) depositing it inside the female. Unfortunately, there are very few honeybees spending time in my yard. I have wasps and giant black bumblebees (that only seem to visit the purple flowers of a certain tree) but hardly any regular ol’ bees. I have been observing the female flower every day, waiting for her to gently open, with the realization that I will most likely have to hand pollinate her. After putting on some Barry White to set the mood, I will clip a male flower from his stem, open him up, and tap his potent pollen into the female flower. According to the experts, the success rate for fertilization is dismally low. I was really hoping for a few good gourds, but I’m realizing I’ll be lucky to get even one or two. Of course, I gave up on this plant once and it proved me wrong, so that gives me hope. In the meantime, check out the undeveloped fruit and send her lots of grow power.