I have a pet bean — actually, I have two now, Hongli and Song Jiang. How this happened? Well, a few weeks ago I decided it was time to start plants in the house, you know, tomato and basil. I had a packet of seeds — beans — unopened from a little shopping trip I took with a friend when she came to visit three years ago at the end of summer. We ate our green chili smothered enchiladas at Ninos, then wandered around downtown Monte Vista which is mostly empty storefronts. BUT among those empty storefronts is an awesome mom and pop hardware store. My friend is a professional gardener, so she was drawn to the seed rack. I saw these beans. They have red flowers and a wonderful name, Scarlet Emperor Beans. I bought them thinking I would grow them along the front fence.
I put them away and forgot about them for two years. But this spring, I opened the packet and jabbed a few of these giant and beautiful beans into little seed starter things.
I forgot important information such as “Jack and the Beanstalk.”
Most of them didn’t sprout but ONE did. Over night that thing was four inches tall. I got a pot, I planted it, it sang rapturous songs in gratitude. I named it Hongli, the original name of the first Manchu Emperor known as Chien Lung. The sound “hong” in Chinese has many meanings but one of them is “red.” “Li” usually means “bright.”
Hongli began his life and his adventures, taking the sun in various spots in my yard. I have had a good time following his imperial journeys (and sometimes posting them on Facebook where he has garnered three or four diehard fans). He especially enjoys mornings spent in the Garden of the Undaunted Violas.
Meanwhile, another one sprouted,and I had to name him. I decided that he should have the name of a different kind of hero. One of my favorite works of fiction is The Water Margin known as The Men of the Marshes or All Men Are Brothers. It’s a late 16th century Chinese Novel that’s (weirdly) often compared to Robin Hood. The central characters are 108 semi-supernatural outlaws. It’s a lot of fun to read especially if you like tigers and cannibalism. 🙂 The hero of that story is Song Jiang who is everything you’d want in a heroic bean.
The two now hold audiences together in various parts of my yard (we call it garden). One of Song Jiang’s first outdoor excursions was to the Quiet Courtyard of the Serene Leper Bells.
It appears that through the Scarlet Emperor Bean “grapevine” the word went down that this is a good place because a THIRD sprouted. He had a hard struggle to make his way into the light, but he succeeded. I was out of pots so he has gone directly into the ground (raised bed). His name is Li Ho because every Chinese court needs a poet.
This probably seems like a very elaborate life for a bunch of beans, but it’s been a cheerful distraction for me as I wait for hip surgery. This morning Hongli made his wishes known so I am building him a trellis.