Yesterday, March 10th, was the first day of 2007 that I sensed spring. It is curious how it happens so suddenly and irrepressibly. I listened to music on my Radio Shack headphones during my early morning six miles through the surroundings of Indianola. While still in the tall wood not far from our house, the unmistakable song of a robin forced its way into my headset. I paused for a moment and pretended to tie my shoe strings while contemplating the degree of emotion that this fetching song has carried. [Read more…]
There is one thing I know for certain about Edgeworthia. No one seems to know what species they have and few seem to know if more than one species actually exists. I include myself amongst the taxonomically challenged and amongst those guilty of propelling improper nomenclature through my writing and speaking.
We grew what we called Edgeworthia papyrifera for many years at Heronswood, having received our first plant from J.C. Raulston under this name. It thrived in our woodland, each year setting enormous quantities of silvery buttons in autumn that would open to yellow, fragrant clusters of flowers in late January. We twice dug a single specimen for use in Flower and Garden show displays in Seattle and it sailed through both insults without harm. Life seemed good. [Read more…]
I began a love affair with this genus in 1995 during my first visit to E. Nepal, and the romance has continued each autumn as we would rendezvous across much of Asia; Vietnam, Taiwan, Sikkim, Bhutan, W. China. Though because it was always in full flower in autumn, with youthful seed capsules months from ripening, the proposal to come away with me and try living a civilized life in the West never materialized. For reasons I cannot fully explain, despite its widespread status in the wild, it seems as if no one else has successfully distributed this plant in cultivation to the point it deserves, at least in North America.
A member of the Rubiaceae, which claims such classics as the gardenia and coffee, this rather small genus of shrubs (4-5 species) would make a splendid container candidate for the cool greenhouse in colder climates though perfectly adapted to benign gardening sites of the Puget Sound southward to the Bay Area where summer temperatures remain cool during the summer. Because they blossom in autumn through winter, they too are warranted a look by public conservatories as well as by the ‘pot plant’ industry. The staff of Quarryhill Botanic Garden in Sonoma, CA, equally perplexed as to its general absence in horticulture, report it to be fully hardy and a splendid addition to their collection. [Read more…]
As it has been said before, a book is no more a collection of single words than a piece of music an accumulation of separate notes, and this too can be applied to travel for the purpose of looking at plants. Though the seeds and spores that return with me provide the adhesive of the experience entire, they are no more significant to the sum total than each moment that unfolds and each lesson downloaded.
Along with the unexpected closure of Heronswood in May, my raison primaire of months away observing plants in the wild was also shuttered. With a return to Vietnam to areas previously unexplored, or certainly underexplored already long in the tooth for this autumn, I found myself in a quandary. Realized from a simple inquiry, the board of the Elizabeth C. Miller Botanical Garden in Seattle Washington magnanimously provided financial and technical support for this expedition. Without their generosity or their commitment to the basic premise behind the Miller Botanical Garden- the responsible collection and introduction of plants into our gardens as a means to better horticulture, coupled with conservation and education- I would not be here. [Read more…]
This morning I was mesmerized by a scene on the Sound-side bluff in front of our home in Indianola on the Kitsap Peninsula. In Hitchcockian proportions, the sky and garden to our fore was cyclonic in flocks of Pacific Crows, European Starlings, Band-tailed Pigeons and Western Gulls. The fruit of the Pacific Madrona had obviously reached a palatable ripeness and a bacchalian feast had begun.
I was particularly pleased to see so many Band-tailed Pigeons. These giant, gentle and elegant doves are normally seen in pairs or more disturbingly, during hunting season, single. The fruit of the Cascara, Rhamnus purshiana, is also favored by this species as is the red drupes of our Pacific Dogwood, Cornus nuttallii. Both of these trees however are on the decline in our region; the Cascara removed from landscapes as undesirable and the Dogwood due to anthracnose. As a rather fascinating aside, the Band-tailed pigeon has recently been found to carry a louse species, Columbicola extinctus, that had long been thought to have been extirpated along with its only other known host, the Passenger Pigeon. [Read more…]
It is from the intoxicated South Asian disorder of Kolkata in West Benghal, from which Rudyard Kipling once implied that if allowed time will bring you everything that a simple man needs, that I contemplate the the last six weeks in Sikkim. It is essentially the first moment during this time that I have had the opportunity to contemplate anything at all, being thunderstruck by the experiences of movement in and between the Eastern Himalaya.
Six weeks ago, somewhat less battered by road and trail, I began these experiences in Bagdogra, due north of Calcutta, reconnoitering with time-tested companions and dearest friends, Kevin Carrabine, Jennifer Macuiba (Seattle) and Dave Demers (Vancouver). Gathered by our guide, Sailesh Pradham- whose family name is near botanical royalty in this northern Province- we had only a night’s rest in Gangtok, the captial of Sikkim, before departing early the following morning for our first trek. [Read more…]
I have just arrived home from several weeks on the road; speaking on plants, of plants, with keen gardeners from across North America. Many might find the process of travel unadulterated drudgery and there are times, I admit, that actually getting to anywhere, anymore, seems like an ample slice of hell. Security now requires a virtual strip down and body search, something I might have truly enjoyed twenty years ago (well, ok, I still find the entire airport population in underwear a bit titillating).
Today, flying back from San Franscisco, I sat next to a big person who was consuming, in a rather fascinating syncopated tempo, a bag of flavored corn chips nearly the size of the Goodyear Blimp. It was not one of those dainty ten chip ordeals. This was a bag that would have served an entire family reunion, or perhaps an ancient religious ceremony attended by thousands near a river, as an accoutrement to miraculous baskets of fish and barrels of a good quality vintage fermented from water. [Read more…]