Thursday
Feb042010

Was it worth it?

To celebrate my friend Janet's recent birthday, a few of us had lunch today at the Garden Cafe at Birmingham Botanical Gardens. I planned to wander around afterwards, taking photos for my blog. I was sure there would be many great photo opportunities, even in early February. The camellias would be blooming! I am running out of subjects in my own garden. There are only so many interesting ways to photograph bare limbs and dried leaves.

It rained.

Although I had hoped the weather would clear and I could get some good photographs, the rain was still coming down when our luncheon ended. It wasn't too bad, however, and Janet and I walked to the conservatory after the others had departed. She was carrying a bulky box with a birthday present in it, her purse, an umbrella, and some small plants inside plastic bags. I was carrying my purse, my camera, and an umbrella.

"I only want to get a few shots of the camellias. That's all," I said.

We admired the tropical plants in the main conservatory as we headed for the camellia house. I paused briefly to take photos of some of them.

A large pot of colorful crotons, codiaeum variegatum, was near the entrance of the conservatory.

We admired the powder puff plant, calliandra haematocephale, a vine that is native to Brazil and other parts of South America. It attracts hummingbirds and butterflies.

The largest herb in the world grows in the conservatory of the BBG. What is that? The banana tree! The bananas are used to feed animals at the nearby Birmingham zoo.

At last we opened the door to the camellia house. My own camellias are not quite blooming yet, but in the heated camellia house many were in full bloom and their wonderful colors greeted us.

As beautiful as the greenhouse camellias were, what I really wanted to see was the camellia walk outside.

"Just a few shots, " I promised Janet as we headed out into the rain.

The camellias were lovely, and I took some photographs from the shelter of my umbrella.

I spied an arch.

"Oh, how pretty," I cried. "Lets go up there!"

The view from the arch was the most beautiful we had seen so far. "Just a couple more," I told Janet.

I composed a photo in the view finder, then depressed the button to take the shot. Nothing happened! My camera batteries had chosen that moment to die. I bemoaned the lost photos, but I am sure Janet was secretly rejoicing. We were both wet as we started back.

We came to a large puddle, and the only way around it was by walking along a ledge. We balanced ourselves like a couple of schoolgirls. The maneuver took grace and agility, of which neither of us had much. We clutched our belongings and hoped for the best.

We made it!

We were well on the way to our cars when disaster struck. Somehow the lid to Janet's birthday box popped open, and her new terra cotta candle holders threatened to fall out. I grabbed them to prevent that from happening, and a million white styrofoam packing peanuts spilled out and started bouncing and blowing in the breeze. Janet handed me her stuff and began chasing the peanuts. Meanwhile, the handle of my umbrella came off, and my umbrella tilted and threatened to poke me in the eye as I stood with purse and camera and birthday box and little plants in plastic sacks. 

And the rain kept coming down.

We were laughing or crying, I'm not sure which, when a young man named Jeff Colvin came to our rescue. He scooped handfuls of packing peanuts and returned them to the birthday box and helped us rearrange ourselves. He then carried the birthday box all the way to Janet's car. He was so kind and helpful I think the whole world should know.

I plan to return to BBG on a better day. Today was only a tiny taste of what this sixty-six acre botanical garden offers. Was it worth it?

I think so, if not for the photographs, then for the chance to meet a nice man like Jeff Colvin.

 

Monday
Feb012010

Confessions of a perfectionist

I like to be in control, at least as far as my garden goes. And I am a perfectionist. This is not to be confused with being perfect.

We have two dwarf apple trees. One is a red delicious and another is a golden delicious. These are not the best apple trees for our hot climate. Their flavor is mediocre, and they tend to be sickly and need more attention than I want to give. I have threatened to cut them down. However, last year they produced bushels of healthy, large fruit from which we made lots of yummy pies. So for now, they live.

Today I pruned them, cutting their tips back to about nine feet and cleaning up the interior to let in more sunlight. Lou offered to do this for me, but I initially delegated him to clean-up crew. I use some good Felco loppers, and with them I can almost reach as high as I need to cut. Almost.

Lou watched as I stretched and maneuvered between the branches.

"I could do that," he said. "I'm taller than you are." 

This made sense. I would supervise, and he would make the cuts.

"OK. Reach up there. No, not that one! Up a little. You need to cut above an outward facing bud. There. No, don't cut the bud! Above it! A clean cut! Don't rip it! " 

By the time he had made one cut, I was clinching my teeth. "You better let me do it," I said. 

"Yeah, I can see this is like plastic surgery. I'll get the ladder."

After that, we worked smoothly, with Lou picking up and hauling off the fallen branches and moving the ladder around the tree for me as I made the cuts. The trees look great now. Tomorrow I will spray them with dormant oil to protect against insects and diseases.

I wonder if there are any co-chief gardens out there, with two people equally and happily planning, planting, and maintaining their plot. I think it would be hard if Lou said too me, "No, I think this plant would be better," or if he said, "I think we should design it this way."

Fortunately, he is happy to be the garden helper, and I do ask his input and advice. Our team works well that way.

Just don't let me go near a car engine; I wouldn't want to do that anyway!

Other things I did in my garden today:

1. Fertilized emerging bulb shoots with a natural bulb-booster.

2. Embedded some flat stones and concrete blocks on a slope to make a secondary access to the woodland garden easier. Someday I may pay someone to build real steps. For now these work fine.

3. Transplanted an osmanthus fragrans about eighteen inches over to the right. Its position just looked a little off. I said I was a perfectionist.

4. Found flowers on my hellebores!

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