By Ginna Parsons
TUPELO – When Wentris Alford moved into her home in the Winwood Hills subdivision, she decided she wanted to plant something different around her mailbox that sits near the street in her front yard.
“One day my daughter and I were talking and I said I wanted to plant a cotton seed,” Alford recalled. “I thought she knew someone who had some, but she ended up ordering them on eBay.”
When the 10 furry little seeds arrived, Alford followed the planting directions. She soaked four of the seeds overnight in water and then she stuck them in the ground.
Within two weeks, all four plants came up. So she planted two more.
“It has really been a conversation piece in the neighborhood,” said Alford, a Hurricane Katrina transplant.
Of course, Alford, 71, is no stranger to cotton. Her father was a sharecropper in Dennis.
“I picked cotton growing up,” she said. “My father always expected to see a bloom on his plants around the Fourth of July. He’d go and fertilize his plants – he laid it by. So that’s what I did around the Fourth of July. I gave it a little extra dose of fertilizer.”
One day, Alford was visiting with a neighbor, Jane Carter, who admired the plant.
“We were just talking one day and she thought it would fit in with her yard,” Alford said. “So I gave her one of my transplants.”
Carter planted her cotton plant on the east side of her home, among other annuals such as phlox, dianthus, verbena and begonias.
“It has a place of honor,” Carter said. “I’d never had a cotton plant before. I thought it would be interesting to watch it grow.”
Carter, 76, was also no stranger to cotton.
“We grew up on a farm, but my father stopped farming when I was 12,” she said. “When he quit, my sister and I hired ourselves out, picking corn and cotton so we could buy nice school clothes.”
Plant again next year
Alford planted her seeds by the mailbox in mid-April. When the plants were hardy enough to move a month or so later, she gave a seedling to Carter.
“The plant forms a little square before it blooms,” Alford said. “The first blossom will be white and then it will eventually turn red. The cotton boll is under the blossom.”
Right now, Alford’s and Carter’s plants are covered in white, yellow and red blossoms and where some of the blossoms have withered and dropped off, there are unopened green football-shaped bolls.
“They will bloom another three weeks and then the bolls will start to open up,” Alford said. “When they do, I’ll leave them on the plant. That way people will know it’s cotton. Right now, some people recognize the plant right away, but others don’t.”
She said she’ll pick some of the bolls so she’ll have the seeds inside them to plant next year.
“I’m going to hang onto my seeds,” she said. “I might have me a cotton patch next year.”
Carter also plans to harvest some of her seeds.
“I think I’ll save some seeds and plant again next year,” she said. “I’d love to have a whole acre of cotton if it all looked as pretty as this.”