Saturday, June 24, 2006

Midwest Horticulture (And Other Scary Stories)

Ditch lilies and arborvitae: the backbone of midwest gardens

Iowans and other upper midwesterners are blessed to be sitting on some of the best topsoil in the world, and we grow great corn and soybeans. That farming skill and interest doesn't however always transfer easily to flower gardening. Our climate is part of the reason; long cold winters that seem bent on killing everything to ground level, and hot, humid summers, buzzing with mosquitoes. Still, it's odd that there isn't more interest here in horticulture. Although my Mother was a gardener, I doubt I'd have followed suit if I'd not moved to the San Fransisco Bay area for post-graduate medical training. I lived right next to Golden Gate Park, and its botanical garden, where I saw rhododendrons as big as a garage, and rare plants from all over the world, and I started growing orchids on my deck, which thrived in the cool, foggy weather. Flowers and keen flower gardeners were everywhere, so that horticulture there was a very social hobby. Moving back to Iowa has been a challenge; no rhododendrons as big as a garage... any evergreen rhododendron here, above the snow line is living on borrowed time. Also, one would sooner find here a flying saucer in your yard than, say, a primrose society. I live in a major university town, yet there is not even a proper flower club; it meets the third Wednesday of every month at noon in the senior center, if that tells you anything. Still, I was determined to look on the bright side, and to look for subtle floral displays as I drove about. For example, I was pleased to note that the little red brick house I passed by every day, had sprouted some lovely green window boxes, filled with cheery red geraniums; a sight that pleased me each time I went by... until it snowed for the first time that November, and the geraniums were still there, their bright red plastic blooms sticking up through the snow. Sigh!
Over the years, things have gotten better; I've slowly met more and more passionate gardeners, and seen some quite remarkable gardens. Besides, if I'd stayed in San Francisco, I'd never have learned how to turn old truck tires inside out, spray paint them in an assortment of neon colors, and place them strategically about the yard as flower planters. I've even started thinking the elegant Japanese tea garden in Golden Gate Park might look nicer with a few bright tire planters scattered about... I'm home!Posted by Picasa

As a former Iowa Citian and a gardener, I was delighted to stumble across your blog. I wish I had known you when I lived there. Its a shame that rhododendrons and azalias won't grow well except in very specific places in Johnson County. Too much lime! I now have slightly acid soil and a climate that won't kill everything in the winter, but no fireflies! I guess you can't have everything.
LMAO.....The tire planters. I had never even known they existed untill I moved from CA to the midwest...And what is with all the fake plastic plants stuck in the ground? People, they do not look real, especially after they have been in the sun for two years!
Peggy... if you ever get back to I.C. for a Hawkeye game, let me know; I'll buy the Paglia's pizza!

GGG... Yah, there are lots of eye openers when you move from Ca to the midwest, as you know. On the other hand, we can get pretty awesome brats and steaks here.

Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?