Friday, March 14, 2008

Spring & Summer Moisture

Last night there was a very gentle rain that lingered for only a short time. It announced the coming of spring and the dry months ahead. 

The peach, plums, plumcots, and quinces are the early-blooming fruit trees in my garden; the first to announce spring is here, no matter how briefly before the yearly drought of summer. Even a gentle rain can affect the pollination and bring disease such a fire blight and scab. So I watch the clouds dissipate and the fog slip back to the shoreline so the sun can dry the flowers to prevent such diseases of fruit trees. The warm, sunny days also bring forth pollinating bees (what few are left) and insects that flutter about in the warmth of the sun and "do their thing". 

The rain was typical for late winter, the roads were wet along my lane, but the asphalt was dry beneath the larger trees. The shadows of dryness follow light mists and gentle rains. In the dry times of the summer, the pattern is reversed. Fog laden with moisture often roll up the hills to my house and the trees 1200 feet above the ocean. The trees gather the fog and condense the moisture into "rain". Then the roads in the open, next the to meadows, are dry and the lane is wet with "rain" beneath the larger, taller trees. 

Many people assume only the roots absorb moisture for the plant's growth. Not always true. Both spring rains and summer fog drip directly feed the needles of the nearby redwoods. It has been discovered that the stomata under the leaf can actually absorb tiny amounts of moisture. This amazing process is but one part of the puzzle about how the forest surrounding my home passes through each summer's dry cycle.

More to follow on future postings.

I'd like to hear about the special micro climates at your home and in the garden. 

Please post a comment - I want to know what you think.

All rights reserved, copyright 2008

Thursday, March 13, 2008

How I Got Started.

Both my grandmothers gardened in their own way.

One had a wild-and-woolly garden where annuals sprung up every season among large patches of perennials. As a youth I learned very few of the names, but loved to hide beneath the enormous sweeping arms of an
unpruned forsythia shrub, right next to the self-perpetuating Black-Eyed-Susan patch. Her garden was for hiding, crawling, exploring, and climbing the sour cherry tree each summer.

The other garden was manicured, unspoiled by "weeds", tended daily, and was the epitome of the Midwestern combination of groomed lawn with annual and perennial flowers, shrubs, and vines. I worked in this garden with grandma
Kourik to gather the dew-laden flowers to be prepared for drying. With a gentle breath we scattered the dew. Some flowers were carefully covered in sand and slowly dried in the oven. Others were layered with borax and left on a ledge near a sunny window. After carefully shaking the sand or borax off each perfect blossom, they were arranged like a flower bouquet and placed beneath a convex case of glass surrounded by an ornamental brass rim. Flowers under glass for prosperity These we sold like a little cottage "industry" for spending money. But I kept many.

Now, some 50 years later; those kept out of direct sunlight still shine with their true colors. Each pansy still revealing their mixture purple petals above and yellow petals streaked with tan below. The others have shifted to a gradient of tans and browns with hints of blue, amber, and yellow. I wrote a book (
The Lavender Garden) in 1998. A few years later I was riffling through my collection of dried-floral bouquets and found one with five sprigs of lavender gracefully arching toward the rim of the glass. The scent of lavender that lingered deep within my brain began to flourish in the 1970s when I started planting them in drought-stricken gardens I maintained - and where there were interloping deer. As in Jitterbug Perfume, (by Tom Robbins) my olfactory memories gradually awakened as I began my love affair with lavender in my 20s. The roots of my gardening linger in the distant past. (Well, not that distant, only 50 years.)

All rights reserved, Copyright 2008