Politics is the process whereby society makes decisions, the process it uses to establish the broader, though sometimes quite specific, rules by which we live and work. Our government is a representative, democratic republic. Our governance is a public matter intended to serve the public good…to support or improve the lives of its citizens…not that of a monarch, an oligarch, despot, feudal lord or leader of a church. It is a democracy in which citizens exercise their right to be heard through their vote and we do this generally by electing representatives who work in our interest. In some cases issues are referred to citizens or initiated by us on particular matters, but we do this primarily through our election of representatives. Ideally representatives focus and amplify the will of their constituents, expressing this through the bills that they introduce and their vote. If this will is muddled, indecisive or polarized, so to is its direction leaving an opening for other influences, such as lobbyists, to effect their votes. It can be easily argued that a divided constituency is just what powerful interests want as it will increase their own influence…divide and conquer! When that collective voice of the citizens is more focused and powerful, powerful interest lose influence and political decision making will reflect this. We are ‘taught’ early on that our ‘voice’ is limited to our voting in elections, but this is not true. Everything we do, all of our choices, have political ramifications, what we buy, where we buy it from, how we get to work, what we do there, how we choose to spend our non-working hours, how we treat others. We help shape the world through our choices. Government is an extension of our collective voice, our collective actions. Government is not the cavalry, not the hero, in our story…we are and we are also our own enemy and fool. If anyone is going to ‘ride’ to our rescue it is each one of us. Continue reading
The title’s question isn’t something we in the Pacific Northwest need to worry about. It will take an awful lot of global warming to make this plant cold hardy here and that may be part of its enticement! I chose this from Jimi Blake’s list…because I am a sucker for cool foliage. Sometimes called the Mexican Tree Poppy this is a Poppy, a member of the family Papaveraceae, a family currently containing 42 genera and 775 species, which is within the the ancient order, the Ranunculales, an order that includes some of the earliest of the ‘modern’ Eudicots to evolve. This doesn’t mean that this species of Bocconia was around at the beginning of ‘time’, or even of this order, just that it comes from that particular genetic line, a line that has been traced back to its beginning, millions of years ago. Recall that every plant, every organism is in ‘process’, that given the appropriate supporting conditions, consistent over time, will keep reproducing, generation after generation…and, that given the appropriate inducements, of consistent, changed conditions, different from those today, will work to adapt to them, each generation ‘responding’, those better adapted, surviving and reproducing, altering the species and, perhaps even becoming, producing, a new one. One of the characteristics of this family and order, having arisen in a time when genetics and characteristics of plants were less strictly defined, is a wider range of physical or morphological variation than you might expect, which is evident when you look at the flowers of the many diverse species within these genera, this family and order…Bocconia frutescens’ small flowers looking very unlike those we would commonly think of when we picture a Poppy. Continue reading
Loree, of Danger Garden, posted a comment and a link in Facebook a few weeks ago, to a story about a gardener in Australia and what gardening meant to him in the online Planthunter blog. It elicited an array of comments, both supportive and not. She posed the question, are the ‘best’ gardens the products of an ‘organic’ process, produced by the gardeners themselves, in intimate relationship with their place? Which raised the question, can garden designers create truly beautiful gardens for others on landscapes that they don’t have this personal connection to? Her question caused a flurry of comments, several containing a lot of emotion. Loree’s simple question produced a fair amount of ‘heat’. I found the array of responses, and the conflicts they brought to light, provocative and I think a lot of that heat comes from the fact that our modern society has become largely estranged from the natural living world. I spent quit a bit of time thinking about it. Below is what it prompted in me.
I retired from Parks after a career of mostly fixing and tweaking designs that I had nothing to do with, but ended up resposnisble for, tearing out neglected landscapes that had became grossly overwhelmed and out of balance by overplanted and aggressive plants, others that were lost to weeds and invasives, others still that were stomped out and abused by the public largely because of their siting and the public uses which they had to endure, a public that is often indifferent to the living world and its requirements and their resulting traffic patterns that designers thought that their massing could channel where they wanted. I did this while working within an organization that undervalued the plants and the horticulturists who cared for them….I was still able to create a few places that the public responded to positively. Continue reading
Much of today’s news media mires us in the sensational, adding little to our desperate need for clarity. Instead we are subjected to endless ‘stories’ whose primary intent seem to be distraction, obfuscation, dissipation and division, leaving us at best numbed and discouraged from taking effective action….I know many who would say that this is precisely their intent. This is not, however, true in every case. I only recently came across this story in the New York Times Magazine, yes that bastion of unabashedly liberal ‘fake news’. On the face of it, it is another such story. The story’s title plainly states, ‘APOACALYPSE’, a word which carries so much negative baggage that its inclusion alone will keep many readers away…but don’t be dissuaded! This article is more ‘wakeup call’ than hammer. It is a call for action not the simple manipulative emotional plea that has become an integral part of current political strategy. It clearly defines and lays out the problem, which is absolutely essential to taking effective action. It does indeed paint a frightening and devastating future for us all…if we choose to continue on our current path, but it also points out a way through it, and, throughout the entire article, it introduces us to individuals and organization who are credible and passionate witnesses and actors in their efforts to make a positive difference. This is exactly what we need right now. Powerlessness is not an option. Read the article!
Our gardens connect us to the world through the plants that we grow. Our choices have reverberations through the knowledge we gain, the demand we create through our purchases and even our decisions to grow and thus protect plants that are critically threatened or extinct in the wild. Similarly, what we choose to eat impacts the wider earth shaping the landscape locally and across the planet. Sometimes our choices create demand for exotic foods, other choices, demand for common foods…out of season, that must come from the opposite hemisphere. All of these choices together can bring prosperity to others thousands of miles away and suffering to others while simultaneously creating a demand for more land and resources there to produce the bananas, grapes, beef, etc. we want, while putting wild species under threat, reducing the genetic diversity these same lands once effectively supported. Other times, the consequences can flow more directly back at us, when the crisis we have added to there, comes back at us in the form of crop failures, price increases and the absence of these foods from our grocery stores, as does the increasing spread of disease currently threatening much of the world’s banana production.
I love bananas. I probably eat more of them fresh than I do apples over a year, and, apparently, so do most Americans. Statistics say we eat about 26lbs. of bananas a year per capitata here, none of which are grown in the US (Small amounts are grown in Hawaii and some local areas in the far south of the US, but those are consumed locally, not distributed elsewhere.) If we think of the plants and the growing of them at all, many of us tend to assume that most bananas produce edible fruit, but they don’t…at least nothing we’re used to eating! While gardening in the public sphere downtown I had many people ask me, as they looked at the occasional flowering on the Musa basjoo, one of the four bananas that had taken up semi-permanent residence in three of my large display beds, if they fruited and could be eaten…my usual response, yes, but you wouldn’t want to. The temperate world’s experience of bananas is largely limited to the produce section at the grocery store. Most of us would be surprised to learn that sweet bananas, which are typically eaten fresh, and cooking bananas known commonly as plantains, together, comprise the fourth most important food crop around the world, in terms of volume of production, after only Rice, Wheat and Corn…ahead of soybeans which go into tofu, soy sauce, which are consumed by much of the world and as a common component of livestock feed. That’s an amazing statistic! The banana is cultivated as food in 100 tropical and sub-tropical countries. In some parts of the world the fiber from the pseudostems is harvested and used locally for making twine and sometimes a coarse cloth. In Okinawa friends have told me that Musa basjoo was once a common source of fiber for a cloth. Other bananas are utilized in other ways, the corm of the African, Ensete ventricosum has traditionally been ‘processed’ by indigenous people as a ‘survival food’ for periods of drought when other sources have failed. Continue reading
[I decided to break this out of a previous and larger piece and post it its own here, slightly edited.]
Jimi Blake’s slide of this plant reminded me of seeing this plant growing in the San Francisco Botanic Garden in Golden Gate Park. It was a standout and prompted me to immediately start looking for it. Annie’s Annuals carries it and I discovered that it was a zn 9b plant, cooling my ardor somewhat…still…..I returned a couple years later to the Botanic Garden, rekindled my interest and made a stop at Annie’s on our return trip to home, but it wasn’t available, so it went back to my wish list. Then Jimi’s presentation at the Seattle Study Weekend moved it up in the queue.
I am most familiar with the species of Sonchus that are weeds. I have pulled more than my share of Annual and Prickly Sow Thistle, Sonchus oleraceus and S. asper, but like many genera Sonchus contains several plants of horticultural merit. Most Sonchus are annual species, a few are perennial and fewer still are ‘woody’ species all of which occur on the Canary Islands alone, like Sonchus palmensis. Continue reading
Another Jimi Blake plant. I have history with this choice of Jimi’s…and the NW has a history with Bananas as well!
There’s an old hand colored postcard floating around the Washington Park office of bananas as part of an elaborate bedding out scheme around the ‘Chiming’ Fountain, near the Sacajawea statue. If memory serves, it is Ensete ventricosum, which have a uniquely identifiable form. Back in the day, Ensete v. seems to have been a thing. It is a non-suckering species, unlike the spreading, mat forming Musa spp. and cultivars, and is commonly grown from seed. It is interesting to me that they were available prior to the 1900’s and relatively common, probably up to 1929 and the stock market crash…at least for the more horticulturally involved, as specimen in annual display beds. Gardeners must have dug them out in the fall and hauled them to greenhouses to ‘protect’ them for use in the following year. I did some research in the early ’00’s of catalogs and area nurseries to get an idea what was available in the 19 teens, and of a few Park’s planting plans of this period, influenced by the Olmsted’s and under the direction of Emanuel Mische…. Compared to typical planting plans of more recent years these were relatively adventurous, especially given that acquiring such plants was often a much bigger deal in the nineteens and twenties than it is today. Back then if you weren’t wedded to a particular clone and you could find seed for it, exotic bananas were a possibility. There was an excitement around the novel and exotic that had spilled over from Europe. Local inventories also included a wide array of bulbs which could be more easily shipped than grown plants widening the range of choices. They often times had choices that you would have to spend some time searching for even today. With the economic collapse of ’29 it is no surprise that tastes and possibilities became much more conservative. There were those who clung to the use of some of the old exotics, but you would have to look hard for them in public places and gardens. Botanical gardens became refuges for the forgotten and newly collected. It took many years before enough of the gardening population reclaimed their sense of wonder and awe enough to create a new market for the plant’s of the world. We experienced a similar contraction of the nursery industry in the Fall of 2008 when the real estate boom stalled and demand for plants collapsed causing the closure of many nurseries and a reduction in the selection available from local garden centers. Locally gardeners have become increasingly interested in such plants and have continued to support the many small specialty nurseries that provide them Continue reading