People will often ask me how I grow something, generally when its something they’ve killed, when our conditions, exposure etc, seem pretty close. I’ll shrug, because I may not have done anything special for my plants beyond, hopefully siting them appropriately. Then, there are all of the plants I’ve killed, sometimes repeatedly, that others seem to have success with while doing little more than ‘dropping’ them in the dirt.
I have a bit of a thing for the members of the Podophyllum…and almost everyone I know, who grows them, does so more successfully. I do have a very ‘happy’ clump of P. pleianthum, and I’ve grown it in Park beds very successfully downtown, but until now I’ve had very little success with any of the others. Most have lead short, tragic lives….P. delavayi…dead; an unnamed P. delavayi hybrid…dead; P. versipelle…dead; P. x ‘Kaleidoscope’…dead; P.(Sinopodophyllum) hexandrum…dead; P. x ‘Spotty Dotty’…dead; even P. peltatum...dead. Some of these I’ve killed more than once. These are usually relatively costly plants to acquire and their loss is more than emotional. Sometimes I’ve grown them on in their pots for a year before I’ve thrown them into my garden to their deaths. I’ve lost several other plants from the Barberry family as well, having consistent success only with the shrub forming species and Epimedium spp.. I’ve lost both NW species of Vancouveria as well as Achlys triphylla, one of my favorite ground covers, all of which I’ve grown successfully when I worked in Parks. These shouldn’t be hard. I’ve grown quite a few different Epimedium spp. and varieties at home and several in Parks, all of which have been consistent and dependable performers. For a long time, my failures with Podophyllum and assorted woodlanders, was an embarrassment. I couldn’t figure out why I kept losing them. I have a hard time with many Himalayan plants in my garden and a lot of woodlanders in general, I think because it may just get too soggy over the winter. They’ve taught me to shrug when they fail to emerge in spring.
Understanding the New Phylogeny of Angiosperms, part 2
We tend to think of evolution as a historical process, something that occurred in the past which has resulted in life today, with us at the pinnacle. Humans with our opposable thumbs, our relatively high ratio of brain to body mass, our consciousness…our souls, we often argue, are the ultimate life form. We have a hard time imagining that this is not the case, that we as a species, are a part of a continuing process, that some day will fade from the Earth, as other species, more evolved and complex, develop. This is what happens to organisms over seemingly impossible long periods of time. It has happened and is still happening to plants. It won’t happen today or tomorrow and this doesn’t mean that what we are or what we do doesn’t matter…because in evolution…’everything’ matters. Continue reading
Sunday night our son and his girl friend came over for dinner on the deck. The week long heat wave had passed and it was another very comfortable evening outside. They had been at the beach attending a wedding the day before, Julie’s birthday. When they first arrived, because I can be a bit obsessive, I noticed that the still tightly ‘rolled’ petals in the extending flowers on my Puya mirabilis were ever so slightly beginning to curl back and open. It was one of those times I wished I had a camera to set up to do a time lapse series, but I don’t. Regardless, within 2 hours the five lowest flowers were completely opened with stamen and styles fully extended beyond the corolla. Continue reading
Many gardeners are self taught and haven’t formally learned Botany, the science that helps us understand plants in a more formal, academic way, though they may be excellent ‘gardeners’ in terms of their growing of plants. Botany provides a pathway toward the understanding that many of us crave, that for others is an unwanted burden..they are happy with the doing. For them the task of learning botanical latin, binomial nomenclature and the classification system by which we organize and study the various species, understand their structure, development and common history…is of less interest. No doubt a good many fall somewhere in the middle. I have always been among the more curious ones with regards to this. Continue reading
It’s noon and Sharkey is dismembered. Here’s how it happened:
‘Agave down! I repeat, Wind is up and Sharkey is down!’ (This was the Facebook post I made on Oct. 13 coming home after dark.)
Nothing terribly dramatic, Sharkey just succumbed to the wind, toppling to the east, guided by the fishing line into the adjacent Callistemon and Palm. More wind this afternoon and, of course, on its way tomorrow! (This followed the next morning.)
Do you remember last nights storm? I was out for about an hour during commute with a neighbor trying to keep drains clear and the river of water out of our basement! Sharkey is now laying on our railing. Julie says that I’m like a pet owner denying the inevitable who thinks he’s getting better. I’m afraid he’s just a head knocker for pedestrians now! (I posted this this morning.) Continue reading
Flowers can be ‘incidentally’ beautiful. We often selfishly view them as products of nature intended to fulfill our own hunger for beauty, failing to recognize them for what they are, living organic structures evolved over time to continue their own species, organs and tissues meant to attract the necessary attentions of pollinators, to produce the seed of generations to follow. We, as a society, have learned to view a select few of these as beautiful. We respond to them in a way not unlike the pollinators themselves do, and by either ignoring them or focusing our attention upon them, we too alter their future form and their very existence. Sometimes we do this more directly through choosing the plants we want around us. Other times it is our indifference that seals the fate of a plant or landscape, especially when the flora is unable to grab our often preoccupied attention and we clear land for development wasting all of the ‘lesser’ weedy natives we’ve learned to undervalue, or, through our efforts to ‘improve’ plants by controlled breeding and hybridization, intentionally altering their form even the conditions under which they will grow. Sometimes, in our desire, for fashion and an idealized beauty, we attempt to control and remove that which we don’t want, creating sterile flowers, the antithesis of what a plant would ‘want’. We select for bloom size, scent and color, for period of bloom, we seek to increase the number of petals and alter the pattern they may be held in, even the lifespan of the individual flower, the height of the plant so that it doesn’t flop over, the ability to grow it in more sun or shade, the shape and color of leaves and the form of the whole plant. We attempt to control all of this and crank out a uniform product that can be ‘plugged’ into landscapes and gardens as desired. Plants with dependable performance characteristics, a pedigree.
We need to remember that this is what we ‘want’, not what the plants ‘want’, nor is it necessarily in their best interest as either a species or a member of a plant community. These days most of ‘us’ aren’t gardeners. Our relationships with nature were broken long ago. It is difficult to see the critical connections in nature, between plants and the organisms they have evolved with, upon which they are dependent, especially if someone is not looking. It is even more difficult to see where we ourselves fit into this in our materialistic, consumer society where so many of us measure ourselves and others by the things and property we own…and are quick to ‘take’ from others. I’m going to paraphrase a snarky rejoinder I’ve heard these last several years, ‘Yeah, you’re special, just like everything else!’ and I mean this in the broadest sense. Continue reading