At 09:56 AM 8/14/2004 -0700, Jane McGary wrote: > > >That presumably is what we know in the West as "barkdust and junipers." Jane, you must live in a much better neighborhood. Barkdust and junipers, while hardly imaginative, at least sounds tidy (as in tidly boring). What I had in mind when I said "white trash gardening" was a particularly repellent combination of pass-along plants and lack of design. In contrast, barkdust and junipers sounds positively refined. >Packing a lot of blazing color into a small >space is more problematic, though one sees it done, particularly in a >certain new style of urban gardening that depends heavily on tropicals and >other non-permanent plants -- a style that makes good photos, but to me, it >is as unworkable in the long term as a lot of other high fashion. > I can get a lot of mileage out of that paragraph, especially the part about the fashionable use of tropicals. I went through my tropical phase about twenty years ago. In our climate it's a severe temptation: the period from mid-June to mid-September favors this sort of planting, and if there is not a killing frost until late October, this sort of planting provides four months of burgeoning and increasingly colorful growth. Also, there is a fascinating suite of plants now readily available for this sort of planting: aroids (Alocasia, Calocasia, Xanthosoma, Caladium), gingers (Hedychium, Kaempferia, and others ), Canna, tender Pennisetum, cutting grown "annuals" such as Coleus, Strobilanthes, Angelonia and lots more. Most of these plants are relatively pest free, and they grow like weeds in our climate. With the first hard freeze, it's all over. You're left with a big mess to clean up. For the rest of the fall and winter, you get to look at more or less roughly churned clods of dirt. You will also have the opportunity to fret all winter over the mortal remains of the ones you've brought in to "save" for the next year. I saw a local municipal planting recently which used a few dozen Alocasia. If the Alocasia are allowed to freeze at the end of the season, that's one sort of expense. If they are taken up and kept growing under glass, that's another sort of expense. Given the cost of labor, it's probably cheaper in the long run to let them freeze and replace them yearly. What's wrong with this picture? Here, I think, I'm touching on one of the great divides in the world of local gardening. Lady Murasaki has two of her characters take sides in the age-old debate about which garden is the better, the garden in spring or the garden in the fall. In some climates and among some gardeners, that debate may still have relevance. But in my world, gardeners divide neatly into two groups based on the season when they garden. For some people, a garden is a summer thing. For others, it's a September to May thing. The summer gardener in his/her most elemental form has corn, tomatoes and some annuals. These are the people who, as they become aware of what's out there, are apt to grow into tropical bedding. Speaking broadly, this tends to be a less sophisticated sort of gardening. The individual plants are what it's all about. You stand around with your buddies and gawk at elephant ears the size of sofa cushions. If you're lucky, you pick a fresh tomato and you all sit down to tomato/onion sandwiches and shoot the bull for awhile over some beers. On the other hand, there are those of us for whom gardening is a fall-winter-spring thing. We don't worry about Lady Murasaki's dichotomy: we include both spring and autumn in our gardening year. We exclude summer. These are the gardeners who are apt to be fluent in gardeners' Latin, and whose gardens are likely to show the products of obscure purveyors from several continents. Janis and Chen Yi are likely to find themselves side by side, and the gardener complains when the Anemonopsis he planted beside the Eriogonum dies. The prospect - the dreaded prospect - of having to be outside in the heat, humidity and mosquitoes of summer prompts this sort of gardener to get the impatiens planted and things tidied up by early June in preparation for the annual aestivation. And he does this with the assurance that his buddies with the tomatoes will be giving them away by the basket full in a few weeks. It's really quite simple: don't open the door too wide and let in the heat and humidity, just open it wide enough to accept the proffered tomatoes and convey sincere thanks and an encouraging (if disingenuous) comment or two about the horticultural (even if you really mean agricultural) prowess of the donor. It's my sincere conviction that gardeners are divided on the one hand into those who are essentially farmers practicing - with tomatoes or lilies, it's all the same - a sort of urban agriculture, and on the other hand the sort of romantic twits like myself who could not survive August on the produce of the garden but who can discourse endlessly should the opportunity arise on axes and borrowed space and the proper culture of auriculas or the correct placement of pergolas. And that's when they are not exercising their prime talent: shopping for plants. Well, that's enough for starters: let's see where this one goes! Jim McKenney firstname.lastname@example.org Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, USDA zone 7, where I'm wondering what malicious muse caused me to type "romantic twit" when I really meant "romantic wit".