Tropical Gardening — Vitamins abound
Sunday, January 15 2:10 am
Lucky we live Hawaii, but we can learn a lot from gardeners on other tropical islands. Right now, we are in the Dominican Republic working with farmers on a project sponsored by the Florida Association for Volunteer Action in the Caribbean and the Americas, or FAVACA.
Voltaire Moise, who is from Haiti, is working on the uses of edible crops while I work on some of the production problems. Like the folks in the Dominican Republic, we in Hawaii can grow almost anything. We have many climates, depending on elevation and whether you are on the rain-swept eastern side or the dryer leeward part of the island.
Below 2,000 feet we grow the tropicals and above we can grow the warm, temperate and even cool season crops. Tropical fruits are the favorite for most, since they are varied and unusual.
Many of these fruits are high in vitamins, minerals and energy.
So instead of popping vitamin pills every day, we should consider fruit. Those vitamin pills on your shelf, besides being pretty expensive items, are not nearly as palatable and eye appealing as fresh fruit — especially when it is grown in your own backyard.
After three or four hours digging and weeding, a hot bath, a soft chair and a couple of aspirin have their appeal, but I like to think I’ve got a fair few years of full-bore gardening in front of me. And yet I do wonder what happens when you reach that point in life when the limbs are too feeble or arthritic for the work.
For many folks, not much will change. They will continue to view the space around the house as a necessary evil and get the mow-and-blow brigade to cut the grass, mulch the beds and shape the bushes. (Favorite cringe scene of the past year: mow-and-blower sculpting a gumdrop azalea with gas-powered hedge clippers.) But for active gardeners, who love to nurture plants and work the soil, the decision to scale back gardening also means scaling back the garden. This can be hard, to let go of beds that are full of memories as well as flowers.
Page Dickey, a garden designer and writer in North Salem, N.Y., has consciously dismantled some of the beloved elements of her 30-year-old, three-acre garden at her property, Duck Hill, now that she and her husband, Bosco Schell, are in their 70s.
They’ve waged war against deer and battled hungry possums that snatch tomatoes just when they are at the peak of their flavor. But there’s one pest the Newark Street gardeners have been unable to thwart: a certain two-legged rat with a penchant for peonies.
For 10 years, gardeners in this Northwest Washington neighborhood believe the same man has been stealing spring blooms from their plots in the Newark Street Community Garden. Not just a few stems, mind you, but bunches — as many as 30 to 50 at a time.
“He does this every year, starting with the peonies,” said Marcia Stein, one of the flower thief’s victims, who lost a bunch of blooms this month. “Last year, he stole all of my peonies.”
Gardeners say the suspect has expensive taste. He ignores lesser flowers in favor of pricier blooms. (At Johnson’s Florist and Garden Center in Cleveland Park, peonies sell for $8.99 a stem.)
And when he steals them, he’s not gentle: He rips the blooms right out of the ground.
For years, the gardeners kept quiet, fearful that publicity would encourage more thefts.
The Chelsea Flower Show is perhaps the world’s brightest stage on which to launch new plants. It’s great opportunity to tell gardeners about new plants, and blogs, websites, newspapers and magazines are full of the news. The Chelsea Plant of The Year award, launched last year, has ratcheted up the interest.
But some nurseries announce plants as new when they’ve been around for years. Others fail to mention really good new plants that they’re exhibiting and have to have the information coaxed out of them. And can a plant first publicised last summer really be “launched” at the show?
Hillier Nurseries have a very attractive new ruby-red leaved maple, Acer palmatum ‘Shaina’ (pictured above), a lovely plant, which they say is “Available exclusively through Hillier Garden Centres and online at www.hillier.co.uk in 2011”. But in fact it’s been available since the 1990s, the RHS themselves say it’s listed by 24 other nurseries and garden centres all over the country have it. Despite three or four attempts I have been unable to get hold of Hillier to ask why they’re promoting the plant in this way.
Clematis ‘Celebration’ Clematis ‘Celebration’. Photograph: Fred Godfrey/Sussex Plants
Clematis ‘Celebration’ is certainly a breakthrough clematis – the first ever large-flowered type with yellow foliage – and Thorncroft Clematis are lucky to have it.
An English gardener has landed one of the most prestigious jobs in French horticulture. James Priest, 53, has been appointed head gardener at Giverny in Normandy, the former home of the Impressionist artist Claude Monet, who painted his waterlilies series there.
The appointment means that Priest, from Maghull, Merseyside, becomes a direct successor to Monet, who looked after every aspect of the garden until his death in 1926.
Priest, who qualified at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew, said: “Monet is the factor that brings everyone here. It’s an Alice in Wonderland Monet world and you have to capture the imagination of all these nationalities who visit. Monet would paint in layers and I think he made his garden in the same way.”
Mr Priest takes over from Gilbert Vahe, the head gardener who was largely responsible for restoring the garden in the late 1970s from an overgrown wilderness to its former glory.
Priest was hired initially for three years but has ended up staying for 17. He will take over on 1 June. He first saw the work of the Impressionists when he visited Paris as an 18-year-old student “I like art with emotion. I work a lot on emotions; my gardens must speak to people of all nationalities.”
Monet started to create his flower-filled garden when he moved to Giverny in 1883, refining it over 43 years.
a post from Jessica Story, Meadowbrook Farm
Poinsettias are NOT poisonous, they are the most studied decorative plant ever and no toxic effects have been found. In 1919 a 2 year old child of an army officer was found dead under a Poinsettia tree in Hawaii with poinsettia leaves in her hand. The investigation cleared the plant, but the record was never set straight and it has become an urban legend.
In nearly 23,000 recorded cases of Poinsettia ingestion, no life-threatening effect has ever been reported. The equivalent of a child eating over 600 leaves was tested and found to have little or no effect. Vomiting and diarrhea, while unpleasant, is the most likely result for a child or animal that did consume the leaves.
Interesting note-the Poinsettia and the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society have a long history together-the first public introduction of the plant was at the first Pennsylvania Horticultural Society Flower Show in 1829)
Like a number of common houseplants, many common holiday plants are mildly toxic, but are so foul-tasting that ingesting enough to cause harm would be difficult. Holly and Mistletoe probably pose the most risk, because the berries can be swallowed whole. Jerusalem Cherry is extremely toxic and should be avoided in households with young children. Ornamental peppers may cause discomfort like any other hot pepper, but are not toxic.
Other common “toxic” holiday plants (safe to use, just use common sense too!)
Yew, as cut greens
Juniper berries on cut greens
Have you ever had a problem with children or pets eating any of these holiday plants?
Instead of a roundup of “gardening books,” maybe we should just refer to this category of publication as Dirty Books. Anything to do with soil falls under our new rubric. That way, writers who farm wouldn’t feel the need to elbow aside rosarians who write, who in turn wouldn’t jostle rudely past backyard gardeners concerned with mundane raised beds of veggies, bruising thin-skinned egos along with the tomatoes. Anyone insane enough to dig holes, pour money into the ground, wait to see what happens and then sit down at a computer to tell us about it has earned the right to a little respect.
While it’s true that we can’t live without food, it’s equally certain that we need beauty to live well. Anna Pavord, a gardener who plants sweet peas with her cabbage, understands this very well. The author of “Bulb” and “The Tulip” has collected in THE CURIOUS GARDENER (Bloomsbury, $35) selections from 20-odd years’ worth of essays published in the British newspaper The Independent. Let me lay my seed packets on the table: I am a Pavord groupie. Anyone who can look at a vase of tulips and offer a cogent explanation of world economic history has my devoted attention. She is intelligent, perceptive and well informed, writes gracefully and has a dry, sly wit.