Thursday, January 17, 2013

Roots, literal and otherwise...

Several of the succulent cuttings I took last fall have developed air roots.

There is something a little unnerving about them, kind of like old man ear hairs (I know…and yes, I’m sorry).

As January progresses I've been thinking about Spring Fever, one of my favorite essays from The Roots of My Obsession. It was written by William Cullina and this particular passage I can’t seem to forget:

“In truth my gardening life would be greatly diminished without winter. The blanket of snow puts the tangible parts of gardening out of sight and out of mind, so when spring comes, it is the very first spring. Without winter, there would be no end–and no beginning. Last year’s season would trail on into this like a dull conversation filtering in from the room next door and preventing me from sleep. Still, I can’t wait for spring.”

Without winter there would be no end–and no beginning” makes me wonder…what would it be like to garden with no end and no beginning? Would I love it? I think I would, but until you experience something for yourself how do you really know?

I also got a little lost in this comment from Tom on a recent Alternative Eden post by Mark and Gaz…

“Sometimes I really hate the winter but then I realize it's a blessing in disguise. Every time I visit a tropical climate in the winter everyone’s gardens look tired and unkempt, probably because they're just tired of gardening. At least here we have a forced break from gardening which allows us to be excited about it all over again. I think having a spring time where EVERYTHING is fresh and new again is also really helpful, I imagine living in a climate where everything is growing all the time there really wouldn't be any one single time where everything is fresh and new.”

Imagine…

37 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. I thought you were a winter (snow!) lover!?

      Delete
  2. We can tell ourselves these things, but our summer loving hearts will never really accept them. I think for me the difference would be between truly tropical and just much much milder, like San Diego. I think they have seasons that stand in for winter. For example in Florida even, the seasons are there, it's just warm, hot, insane hot, hot, and back to warm. :) ill take the SoCal winter with blooming aloes galore!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am right there as your next door neighbor in SoCal....heck if we're dreaming I want to live in Santa Barbara...

      Delete
    2. Oh good call on Santa Barbara! We'd be the coolest neighbours ever! Imagine plant shopping for side by side gardens!

      Delete
  3. I think I wouldn't mind trying tropical gardening for a few years, just to see if I miss winter that much. :)

    ReplyDelete
  4. We could get your succulents one of those special little hair trimmers. I kind of enjoy seasons being different, there's always something to look forward to that way. Although, like Alan, I'd like to try tropical gardening. But they have snakes and bugs as big as your head and stuff like that.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The bugs are definitely a factor. Scorpions in the desert....no thanks!

      Delete
  5. Great quotes, especially this one from the William Cullina essay: "when spring comes, it is the very first spring." I used to live where winter was way harsher than here, where everything disappeared under a never-ending blanket of snow and below freezing temps for three months. I know it makes me sound naive, but for over 50 years I didn't realize how wonderful a short (yes, short) winter of simple rain and occasional freezing temps could be. I installed my new garden here in February, and I have gardened here in January, unimaginable back in New England. I respect winter for the reason Cullina gives, and I wouldn't take that snowy winter back for anything. I appreciate our short winter because it does put some plants to sleep and allows them to wake up all over again. I love spring most of all (more than summer, I know, Sacrilege!)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm with you Alison! My gardening life in Spokane's zone 5 winters left a lot to be desired, we are lucky. But someday ideally I would like to not have to pack it all away for winter.

      Delete
  6. I agree with Alan. I think I'd be just fine with a tropical garden :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You guys should move into a tropical duplex, what a garden you would have!

      Delete
  7. The lack of a cold, killing winter doesn't seem to be stopping anybody from gardening in the tropics, so it must not be so terrible.

    My personal, all-indoor collection doesn't slow down that much in the winter, so I don't really have a down season. I've never tried it with a three-month break, so I can't be sure I wouldn't like one, but there's something to be said for consistency. I think I'd rather have it needing the same amount of work from me year-round than have to go through a big exhausting ramp-up every spring, and then spend the fall watching everything fall apart 'cause I'm too tired to cope with it anymore, as some hardcore outdoor gardeners seem to.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes! You called it. The maintenance involved in continuing the garden status quo vs the spring ramp up and fall clean up would be very refreshing. Very refreshing indeed.

      Delete
  8. The beauty of cycles, where there's a beginning and an end, and then you start again, fresh and hopefully wiser and more appreciative....

    So what is it like to garden in the tropics, where it is warm all year round, and often season are just classified as wet or dry? I could write an entire post about it having had first hand experience of gardening of gardening here and the 'tropical' there....

    There's something very special about spring, the new growth, explosion of colour, the increasing warmth and length of sunshine. And then to be followed by exuberant growth in the summer. Wonderful and magical.

    In the tropics? First of all I think you and everyone else reading and have replied will be just fine. You will be growing different types of plants altogether, suitable to a tropical climate of course (in reality a lot of our garden plants here in the 'four seasons' region won't thrive there, too hot and too humid for them despite them looking tropical and heat tolerant). What you do get is constancy, growth is slow, steady, and even assured. What you won't get is the excitement of new, almost simultaneous growth of plants, the vibrancy of plants flowering at the same time, and the very visible growth rate in the summer.

    A gardener is a gardener and most will do fine wherever they may live, they will always find plants to grow and adapt to whatever necessary. But yes, there is something extra special about having a winter, a season that may not be always comfortable to go through but it does make the heart grow fonder for the warmer months, a sensation that you will not get living in the tropics :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope you will write an entire post about it, I would love to read it. I really enjoyed reading your perspective here, thank you!

      Delete
    2. A pleasure! :) I remember you mentioning in a previous post before how you live in an area with perfect gardening weather. I think you may be right!

      An ideal situation I think would be somewhere that still has four season but winters are not too cold, just cold enough to feel nip in the air but temps don't dip and stay low too long; where summers are sunny and warm but not too warm as to feel oppressive... If only moving around was that easy!

      Delete
  9. I have to be happy with what i'm dealt in zone 8. I become bored with the garden at some point every summer, so I try to dabble in succession planting. Having Winter interrupting tender plants means that I can start over fresh every year, learning from my mistakes and successes, which makes each Summer so much more entertaining and rewarding.

    If I had a tropical garden in a tropical climate i'd become bored so much more quickly. Why? Because it would look just like my neighbours' gardens!

    We're in the middle of our second long cold spell here. I hope the weather is being kind to your plants over there.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Why would your garden look just like the neighbors?

      I can't complain about our winter, it hasn't been bad. Hope yours isn't too cold!

      Delete
    2. I imagine bananas and such to be par for the course in tropical gardens, whereas they stand out a bit here. I'm a bit naive when it comes to tropical flora though.

      Cold here but nothing too bad.

      Delete
  10. Haha...well, I'm pretty sure I'm in the minority on this one (perhaps a minority of 1)! Coincidentally, I've been working on a similar post...but haven't been focused lately. I do crave the change of seasons, and would be miserable without them (no tropics for me). I also tire of each season in their due time, and long for the progression that comes. I love having the previous year cleared away, with a clean(ish) slate, just waiting to be reborn. Each year is like a fresh start, with no new mistakes (yet). I always think of the gardening year as a symphony. Without tempo changes or crescendos and decrescendos, it wouldn't be nearly as dynamic or entertaining :-) Then again, to each his (or her) own!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I thought you might be in this camp Scott, sometimes I really wish I could be. Fall is a gorgeous time and I could embrace it whole heartedly if I wasn't dreading the winter that comes after.

      Delete
  11. Scott has said it beautifully. I'll throw my trowel in with that minority.
    I've been puzzled by the hairy things. On the Kalanchloe fedtschenkoi they are more like twigs. Have you determined their purpose? Delicate hairs are growing on the undersides of the K orgyatum for the first time (I have had that plant for many years).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well I'm glad to hear Scott has company, I would hate to see him get lonely.

      I did a little reading about the air roots but didn't find anything that told me why these plants specifically were doing it.

      Delete
    2. Some succulents will grow air roots if the air is too humid, or if they have some other reason to think that there'd be water available. A number of my jade plants started growing air roots when I moved them closer together, and I've seen it on Kalanchoe bracteata in the fall when the air gets cooler and the relative humidity goes up.

      Delete
  12. I garden in zone 10b and recently have found myself envying gardeners in those snowy climes who, facing a blank slate, have an opportunity to sit back and envision what they want next for their gardens without being confronted at every turn with what's already there and without feeling forced to take action now because there's really no good excuse not to. On the other hand, my friends and I complain when - OMG - the temperature gets down to 40 at night or 55 during the day...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh how I envy the idea of a zone 10b garden. Whenever I go to a garden centre they tell me how I "can't" plant anything that I've picked outside. Of course I don't listen to them, but I would love to pick up an agave medio picta alba and confidently march it over to the till.

      Delete
    2. I have to say I agree with Louis, zone 10 sounds heavenly! Then again the grass is always greener....right?

      Delete
  13. I'd take my chances with boredom in a warmer climate. But since it looks like I'm getting plenty of Zone 8 in my future, I try to do all those 'winter" things like look at catalogs and plan my spring and reorganize the garden in my head. And I read blogs and think about going to points south - soon.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I nice long trip to someplace warm sounds like the perfect antidote to a cold grey January in Portland...but then again I'd be afraid an arctic outbreak would hit while I was gone!

      Delete
  14. Though I don't care for winter much, it's existence makes spring such an exciting time..I love coming home from work every day and peering at the soil-there is always something new happening. I have never regretted leaving zone 10, and though LA will always be my hometown the diversity of gardening opportunities presented by seasonal change here in Norcal are cherished.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So Kathy exactly what zone are you in?

      Delete
  15. As much as I compain about winter, I don't think I would want to garden twelve months of the year. Spring and early summer are magical times in my garden (central CT zone 6). However, I would prefer a milder winter-on the east coast that would probably be a coastal zone 7. Of course if I ever get that I'll probably wish for zone 8! Oh well, for now I'll work with what I've got.

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this thought provoking post and all the subsequent comments. Well done!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And thank you Sue for chiming in as well!

      Delete
  16. I'd love to be back living in the tropics of Brazil or Malaysia again, as I was in my 20's, but with a real garden rather than just an apartment balcony or patio. There is just as much variety possible with garden style or plant palettes in the tropics, and one thinks of seasons by season of bloom or fruit, such as prime mango season, or rambutans and mangosteens, etc. It is entirely possible to have gardens with varied season of blooms, or a garden that looks much the same year round, and may always be lushly in bloom. Instead, I live in a unique version of a Mediterranean Climate, the familiar zone 9b/10a temperature range and mild wet winters and dry summers, but with the addition of our year round coastal fogs, often making the gardening weather seem like one long year round spring. There's no one big annual clean-up or maintenance schedule here, but I do try and take advantage of our rainy winters and plant more in November thru February if possible, the plants will almost always grow better. And in our haywire Bay Area banana belt conditions, I personally prefer my gardens to be in peak bloom from fall into late winter; spring and summer can revert to more emphasis on foliage color and texture with grace notes of blooms, or contrasted with year round flowering high impact plants like Bougainvilleas, Blackeyed Susan vines or Tibouchinas. But to be honest, I've never had a garden in a zone any colder than here in the Bay Area, and have grown to love both our native California plants and all the other Mediterranean Climate plants as well as subtropicals. Heaven for me would be able to split time between different gardens around the world, and it wouldn't bother me to miss out on a real winter season at all. If I had to choose just one spot, high elevation tropical cloud forest would be my ideal. Cool enough to still grow some favorite Mediterranean Climate plants as well as all those tropical favorites such as Heliconias, Melastomes, tropical Acanthaceae and Rubiaceae. It would be tough to have to give up growing current favorites such as South African Proteas and Aloes. All in all, a year round gardening season isn't stressful, and also the winter rains always mean that the garden is less work/no need to water all those container plants!
    David in Berkeley

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for taking the time to comment. Comment moderation is on, I will approve and post your comment as soon as possible!