I’m often reminded by my wife how unobservant I am – and even though I am, I’m still probably a lot more observant than most humans, at least most men. This is true on so many levels, but one prime area of our unconsciousness is of the physical world of which we are a part – we simply pay little attention to the natural world that exists right next to us – or should I say, that we are a tiny part of.
Two books have managed to redirect my attention to this fact: “The Secret Life of Plants”, a 1989 tome by Peter Tomkins and Christopher Bird, that manages to bridge the gap between the mystical and the scientific, and to force our attention to things we just failed to see. And I’m quite sure that Michael Pollan’s, “Botany of Desire”, was inspired at least in part by the former, but less well-known, book – and it too suggests that man has perhaps overlooked a parallel world of natural reality existing right next door, but somehow still invisible. Both are enlightening and fascinating.
One of the most fascinating -even frightening- things suggested by both books is the prospect that plants are far more intelligent than we’ve given them credit for – and that we, in fact, may well be working on behalf of plants as we go about our gardening and farming activities. Once we are willing to accept this premise – and both publications present strong argument in that defense – it is not much of a stretch to the concept that maybe it’s the world of plants which many millions of years ago made our existence and development possible. Is it possible that maybe man is not the highest level of intelligence on earth – and that perhaps we are not intelligent enough to know this? Humm.
Whatever! There are times when even man is forced to pay a little attention to the world of nature and its cycles – and spring is one of those times. On this simply beautiful spring day, I thought I’d walk you through my backyard and we’d take a look at the evidence of the intelligence and beauty of plants. Let’s have a look.
Here’s a Nandina (Heavenly Bamboo) – it’s brand new, having been planted here just a week ago – this one is growing alongside our deck, along with 7 of his brothers and sisters, and is the type which turns bright red each fall – should be beautiful.
This is a Stella Sweet Cherry, and it’s one of my favorites! It produces huge black cherries that are both beautiful and delicious. You can’t see much in this picture, since the petals have just fallen away from the blossom, and the fruit has not yet begun to form – but cherries are quick growers, and within a few days the cherry itself will become very evident.
These cuties are Seckel pears – no, this shot is not upside-down – as they develop, their weight will pull them down into a normal position. Seckel pears are also known as sugar pears because of their sweetness – and I think they are beautiful as well.
These pretty blossoms are from a Braeburn apple – apples are later bloomers than other fruits, and this one in particular blooms later than do any other of my apples – but it is the first apple ready to pick in late August!
This is my mountain of garden gold! I’m lucky enough to be able to get aged and drained cow manure delivered to my yard – it’s old enough that all its heat is gone and I can use it immediately if I wish – but the longer it sits here, the better it gets.
Here’s a shot looking up at my Kiwis growing up on a large pergola – they actually cover the entire thing and very soon the foliage will be so thick that it’ll be entirely shady underneath.
These are kiwi blossoms forming, not kiwi fruits – the fruit will develop later – kiwis are very aggressive and develop into huge plants – the flowers are quite beautiful.
I haven’t done much work in the garden itself – mostly because it’s rained so much that there was no way I could have done any tilling – and besides, my tiller is in the shop getting tuned up for a hard year’s work – so only a few things have been planted yet. These are Sugar Snap Peas, which are the ones where the pods and all are eaten – considering their price in the grocery, I think they are one of the garden’s best productions – and easy to grow too!
Turnip greens, awaiting thinning – have I ever told you how much I like greens? I grow lots of greens.
Strawberries – they’re so eager to please that even before their roots have a grip on the soil, they’re already making berries – what a wonderful plant!
Walla-Walla onions – these babies may be a case of too little, too late – I’ve never had good luck with onions – they need to be in the ground early enough to get some good size by Memorial Day – and I’m thinking these will be another failure. We’ll see.
Now garlic is a different story! Always had good luck with garlic – it gets planted in early autumn, and overwinters in the garden, so that whenever it’s ready to start growing in spring, it just does it. Maybe I should try that with the onions.
I’ll bet this guy just can’t figure out how to get into the garden – normally, I’d put him out of his misery – but, since you’re here, and he’s kinda cute, I just left him alone out there. I’d be willing to bet that he eventually found his way in!
These are the spent blossoms of the sour cherry – they make a smaller cherry than does the sweet cherry, but they make a hell of a lot more of ’em. In truth, they are far more useful than are the sweet cherries, just not as delicious out of hand – actually, a fully ripe sour cherry is not really sour, and not bad eaten right off the tree.
These belong to a grape vine – each leaf cluster will develop into a new branch supporting many leaves and fruit clusters. Left alone, a grape vine will create so much foliage that its grapes would be tiny – so a producing vine must be cut back severely each year. Deer find grapes irresistible!
Here are the early spring leaves of the most loved, and most hated, wild fruit in Oregon – the Himalayan Blackberry – this plant has made me love it, mostly because it gives me thumb sized blackberries every August – this plant was the subject of my very first blog post, and is like a family member. It’s a late blossomer – July – but then quickly grows and ripens its delicious fruit in September – I love it.
A “volunteer” Calla Lily, and a damn healthy one at that! My garden area was once planted with Callas and Rhoddies, and it took major effort to move them out to other areas of the yard – but the Callas, just like the lost family dog, keeps insisting that this is where they belong. I have no idea what it takes for a new Calla to spring forth, but it can’t be much, ’cause I never see anything in the soil – but come next year, zip – there they are!
A common lilac (Syringa vulgaris) – this is one of my wife’s favorite flowering shrubs – I think maybe the flowers are not that mind-blowing, but the fragrance is superb – so, why not? This shrub in bloom always reminds me of my childhood; it is as old fashioned as an American shrub gets.
You could probably guess that this is an ornamental cherry in blossom – it is perhaps nature’s most impressive tree in bloom – this particular one is a Shogetsu, and is a very late bloomer, as well as having a long bloom period, often lasting 3 weeks or more. Its flower is a double blossom, and contains 20+ petals – it always reminds me of a dance floor filled with Southern belles in full and frilly petticoated gowns. This one is on our deck and always provides us with the full assurance each year that spring has finally arrived.
OK, so who exactly is the alien here? We arrive millions of years late, announce that we’re in control, and proceed to destroy the very environment which has sustained other life forms on earth for billions of years. I can’t help thinking that if we took a little more time to see what nature was doing around us -without our help- perhaps we’d learn enough to slow down our own extinction.