South African heaths

Jim McKenney
Thu, 25 Aug 2005 08:39:11 PDT
Years ago a gardening friend was telling me about her childhood and the
probable sources of her interest in gardening. She mentioned that her father
grew tulips. I quickly interjected "Oh, no one grows tulips any more."
Anyone who has considered the millions of tulip bulbs imported annually into
the United States alone may be prompted to ask "Jim, what planet do you live
on?" But my friend understood exactly what I meant: although there are now
probably more and more varied tulips in our gardens than ever, no one really
grows tulips. Tulips are a commodity, and we gardeners simply buy the bulbs,
plant them , enjoy the results, and move on with our lives. 


But when was the last time you went into a garden and the proud owner took
you over to his tulip patch to show off his latest tulip hybrids? I've never
had that experience, and I'll bet that very few of us ever do. 


I was reminded of this story by John Grimshaw's comment "Who now grows a
South African heather?" In responding, I responded to the literal statement
rather than to the rhetorical question. It was, of course, the rhetorical
question which conveyed John's real meaning.  Thousands of people each year
"grow" a South African heath for a week or a month or so. Thousands of us
"grow" tulips each year. 


But as John said,  who indeed among us really grows South African heaths -
and I'll add,  or tulips? 


Jim McKenney

Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, USDA zone 7, too cold in the winter for
South African heaths and too wet in the summer for tulips. 

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