Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The End of Gardening Fiscal Year 2010, Part I

Though not quite as cold nor nearly as long as last year, the early arctic spell Seattle experienced in November 2010 was dessimatingly desiccating. The in-rush of cold & dry arctic air in a matter of hours was enough to burn the leaves on some plants that weren't even scratched last year. Evergreen magnolias, in particular, are looking very out of place around the city with their brown drooping leaves. Below is a summary of the havoc old man "fall" (it wasn't even winter yet!) bestowed upon the garden.

A glimpse of the pond - it went from being complete liquid to frozen enough to place a cat on the surface in a matter of 24 hours. Last year I was able to walk on it (all 190 pounds of me). Not so this time - which I am happy about.

The frozen fruit of Solanum aviculare (Kangaroo apple) will bear dozens of viable seeds that will sprout on their own all over the garden next spring. This plant can be treated as a fast growing annual, growing to 6' tall by mid-summer and 8'-10' tall by the end of the season.

With Christmas lights and canvas, miracles can be made. Under the white painter's cloth is a Washintonia robusta (Mexican fan palm). I've been growing this type of palm in Seattle for several years and it takes "normal Seattle" temperatures beautifully. The only time it needs protection is when a significant frost is in the forecast. In this case, a strand of old Christmas lights wrapped around the trunk along with two wooden stakes and a breathable covering did the trick. The goal was to keep the temperature of the bud in the 32-40 degree range. Under the blue tarp in the background are the stems of the hardiest banana on earth, Musa basjoo. While this plant will generally reshoot from the roots if left unprotected, I like to protect the stems so it will grow taller next year. I cut the stems back to 6' and used the leaves and upper parts of the stems as mulch. I wrapped some Christmas lights around the stems as well. Everything was then tucked under a blue tarp and secured with plenty of rocks. While it's not a lot of fun doing this sort of thing in 20-degree darkness, with fierce winds numbing my face, it will all pay off in the summer when I'm the only person in the neighborhood with 20' tall banana plants growing effortlessly in our cool Seattle climate.

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