Nothing About Gardening

I’m greatly relieved. Being female and from the 60’s and American I have some shame connected with the “conspicuous consumption” label that often stereotypically follows Americans.  That shame is no longer there. I’m currently hooked on a cable HGTV show called “House Hunters International” which follows cross- cultural moves and house hunts all over the world and I have discovered that Americans are no more conspicuously consumptive than anybody else. As a matter of fact, after carefully “studying” (off work for 2 months) the house buyers in House Hunters International, it looks like people are pretty much the same everywhere. The wealthy homebuyers are very particular and the middle-income homebuyers are very grateful.

In the same vein…and still hooked on House Hunters and House Hunters International…Remodelers!  Get ready for steady work . All the prospective house buyers now looking for homes are insistent on these four things: stainless steel kitchen appliances, granite countertops, hardwood floors, and an “OPEN CONCEPT”.

They envision “Martha Moments” with happy, quiet children watching videos in the media section while the adults belly up to the granite island with their oversized wine glasses, engaging the cook in meaningful conversation as she chops, cuts and bakes.

Are they nuts??????  Fun  and reward in “entertaining” in one big room?  Really?  It sounds like a recipe for disaster.

REAL-LIFE-CHECK! The “entertaining” idea will last about as long as a new video game. Then you will discover:

1. Guests eat, drink and leave dirty dishes.

2. Kids get bored and the older they get, the less they want to be with adults.

3. Stainless steel appliances stay gorgeous if you polish them every day.

4. Everybody looking at the cook is not necessarily a good thing.

5. The staged “open concept” that appealed to you to begin with will suddenly take on the look of a really big room with a really big mess. You have the same mess as before but without the luxury of walls to hide the mess.

So, remodelers and renovators, be ready…soon you will be re-building walls.

“Midnight Bayou”, Well Stocked Tool Box and Digital Gardening

Midnight Bayous and Flame Throwers

Collectors beware! New plant varieties are on the way. Hybridizers are still cranking out new Heuchera and Echinacea varietes for 2010. Look for  Heuchera ‘Electric Lime’ (huge lime-tinted leaves and white flowers),  H. ‘Midas Touch’ (seer suckered, ruffled and fluted foliage of peach and gold) and H. ‘Midnight Bayou’ (maple like leaves of purple and black). New Echinaceas (coneflowers) from Oregon’s Terra Nova propagators include E. ‘Hot Lava’, ‘Flame Thrower’ and ‘Mac and Cheese’. No descriptions needed…names are self-explanatory.

Well Stocked Tool Box

We all have our favorite garden tools but there are a few “crossover” tools that get high ratings and the most use. A Hori Hori knife tops the list followed by Korean Plow Hoe (Ho-Mi), Felco #2 pruners, Felco 600 saw and a Nejiri Gama Hoe. These are the basics for day to day weeding pruning and planting. It’s well worth it to get specialty garden tools for specialty jobs. It makes a difficult job easier and saves lots of time.

Digital Gardening

The best time to figure out the “bones” of your garden is now. Grab your digital camera, download the pictures in black and white  and you can focus on your  design. The “bones” (evergreens, deciduous plants and hardscapes) pop right out. Focusing without the distraction of color gives you a truer picture of  your design. It’s an old designers trick.

Slug Sneaks

Just because it gets cold, don’t think the slugs are gone. They’re hibernating a few inches under the soil waiting for a decent day to devour young shoots. They live over as egg bundles that re-emerge at the end of winter and early spring but they can also hibernate and pop out any time the temperature is mild. Starting in December, protect tender and more susceptible plants with a dose of Sluggo.

Reverse Garden Envy

“The Brother Gardeners” by Andrea Wulf (Botany, Empire and the Birth of an Obsession) follows the lives of five avid plantsmen who played major parts in the collecting, shipping, distributing,  cataloging and systemizing of plants sent from the America to England. It’s worth reading twice.

The English have long been known as the world’s most serious and most avid gardeners. London’s Kew Gardens is the horticulture equivalent of London’s British Museum (the one filled with “procured” artifacts).  Kew Gardens houses plants from every corner of the globe.  It is the most famous public garden in the world.

It’s beyond interesting to find out that grand gardens like Kew and the famous bucolic landscapes of England that we so admire today began in the mid 18th century with seeds collected from a Virginia farmer, John Bartram. When English plantsmen saw all the new species of plants in John Bartram’s America they couldn’t get enough of them. Collecting plants from the “colonies” became an obsession. They wanted plant specimens of everything growing in Virginia and beyond. Those grand gardens and bucolic landscapes in England are filled with plants from mid 18th century “colonial” shrubs, trees and wildflowers. Who knew…

The Brother Gardeners by Andrea Wulf, Windmill Books, UK