10 July 2006


I grew up in zone 6, so I don't expect any sympathy for the travails of the the California garden. I know how lucky I am to grow these plants. But I'm not sure continental climate gardeners understand how literally brown the grass is on this side. First of all, we don't have enough winter chill to grow a lot of things you take for granted: tulips, apple trees, herbaceous peonies, my grandparents' snowdrops.

[Again, please note that I am not complaining about the the lack of cold. Why do you think I moved here?]

Conversely, it doesn't get hot enough in the summer to grow many plants acceptably: tomatoes, the gardenia, possibly this Hedychium, which is happy enough, but may or may not decide to flower. And the wonderfully fragrant flowers, notwithstanding the interesting quilted effect of the foliage, are the whole point. (The lack of heat is a zone 17 issue, not a zone 9 issue).

And of course there is no rain for 7 months. This shows up not just in brown grass and absurd water bills but also, for example, in the invariably burnt tips of the Hedychium and similar plants -- and a very dead feeling in the garden come September. (This problem is slightly ameliorated by the previous one in zone 17).

Moral: even paradise* has its drawbacks.

* Horticulturally speaking only, of course.


Anonymous kk said...

Now, I might have thought plant paradise was somewhere ...wetter. From my limited travels, I would have thought Jamaica, Hawaii, and Costa Rica all have a crazier array of possibilities, but I've only ever gardened around Boston, and that's decidedly not the hub of the plant world.
love the pomegranite flowers.

7/10/2006 2:14 PM  
Blogger mmw said...

Paradise is in the eye of the beholder, of course, but Cali. qualifies for the the number of tropical and temperate plants you can grow here. If all you're interested in is tropical, I'd go with Hawai'i.

7/11/2006 12:21 PM  
Blogger Carol said...

I'm going to keep my zone 5 garden, in spite of unpredictable winters... though I wish I were just a bit further south in zone 6. I would have to start over learning about gardening if I moved all the way to zone 9!

7/11/2006 5:16 PM  
Blogger chuck b. said...

I'm a Zone 17 gardener and I fully expect my Hedychium to flower! :) I'm told they will when the new leaves are especially wide and fleshy-feeling as mine are this year.

7/11/2006 9:56 PM  
Blogger mmw said...

Chuck, I hope you're right. One would think, were one innocent and trusting, that the nurseries wouldn't sell plants that won't flower in the area...

7/12/2006 11:26 AM  
Blogger chuck b. said...

Well... I was told that by my friend in Menlo Park who has the same Hedychium in her garden. It gets a lot warmer in Menlo Park than it does in San Francisco... but I am optimistic.

If it doesn't flower, are you going to remove it from your garden? I might.

7/12/2006 12:36 PM  
Blogger mmw said...

I'll at least give it another year. But yeah, that's a lot of water for some nice foliage and no flowers.

7/12/2006 12:47 PM  
Blogger lisa said...

well here in zone 4, we gotta get our garden thrills in fast n' furious, since summer is 10 minutes to winters 6 mos. (exaggerating of course). I must confess that I lust for your beautiful plants...they will grow for me only indoors, and look enemic at that! however, I won't trade you for the water bills and bouts of blazing heat...not when I can have 60 degrees and a campfire every night all summer. (but those pomegranites.......!)

7/21/2006 11:27 AM  

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