Monday, September 20, 2010


What a short summer! We had Junuary this spring, a cool summer and now early the fall rains. This has not been the best year for ripening tomatoes or for growing tender tropicals in the garden. Our Hedychium 'Tara' (the earliest blooming hardy ginger) are just starting to bloom where last year they had been blooming for over a month. We have been eating tomatoes since late August where last year we had then ripen a month earlier. Our musk melons are finally ripe while last year they were done long ago. Well, perhaps we can take some solace in the fact that those in the eastern USA have been suffering extreme heat. We also must remember that as gardeners we are really farmers with miniature farms and as such, we are vulnerable to the whims of nature. There is no room for hubris when dealing with the whims of mother nature- we are lucky to get what we get. Most tender tropicals grown here in the Pacific Northwest have until early to mid October before we must bring them in, except for very tender plants like Furcrea gigantea variegata and basil,which will start going down hill very soon if the temperatures stay cool and wet. In our own garden, we will monitor the weather and start pulling in tender tropicals in a week or so and putting them in the greenhouse. Our large bromeliads, Alcantera imperialis and Aechmea blanchetiana do not like frost so they will come in soon. Some people ask why go to all the trouble to grow plants that are not hardy? While most of the plants in our garden are hardy, the dramatic, extroverted tropicals like Furcrea and Aechmea and tender succulents like Echeveria give us so much pleasure, they are worth the extra effort to have them in the garden. Like some high maintenance relationships, they are worth the extra effort so we can enjoy their special beauty.  In our own garden, we use them with hardy plants to give the garden a little extra exotic beauty, a little extra "wow!".

But now it the time of year that the exuberant, extroverted topicals go to sleep and time for enjoyment of more subdued, introverted plants such as conifers, hardy olive trees, grasses and hardy cacti. As leaves fall and annuals do what they do, the structure of the garden becomes more important and all that work we put in to build stone walls, place boulders and large trees becomes so important. Autumn and winter give our gardens (and us) us a chance to slow down. It gives us a time to walk through the garden between rain showers and see the bones of the garden and see what fall and winter bulbs are doing. It also gives us a chance to brush up on our cooking skills and create a special dinner for a fellow gardener and enjoy the nesting instinct that often accompanies this time of year. A nice fire in the fireplace, a nice glass of Oregon Pinot noir, a good garden book and time to dream of future gardens- and maybe plan a trip to San Diego! With that in mind, as time permits we will be putting slides shows on our web page of botanical and private gardens we have visited over the years. This will offer visitors a glimpse of other gardens though out the world and hopefully help ease the dreary days of winter and provide inspiration and ideas for your garden in the spring.