I’m really enjoying Michelle Obama’s book American Grown. An audiobook is unusual for me, but in this case it’s been particularly delightful to hear the story of the White House kitchen garden through the voices of Mrs. Obama, of course, but also White House horticulturist Dale Haney, and of particular interest, Beekeeper Charlie Brandts. There are so many interesting stories centered around the produce that is grown.
John and Abigail Adams planted the first White House garden in 1800 and from that time forward many distinguished gardens have flourished in both war and peacetime. I am particularly interested in Thomas Jefferson’s role as an experimental and avid horticulturist. He took a scientific interest in unusual seeds, trees and plants from around the world, eventually creating a showpiece at Monticello that continues to amaze today. Seeds from some of his original plants have found a new home in the current White House kitchen garden.
While listening to the stories I thought of some of my own garden experimentations. Much of what I know about gardening I’ve learned through years of trial and error. Because we live in such a friendly climate I tend to jump right in with what appeals to me and often don’t seriously consider there might be setbacks along the way.
One of my most unusual “experiments” was ten years ago following a trip to the Huntington Botanical Gardens where I saw cotton growing in a small garden plot. I was determined to grow some cotton in my home garden.
The first obstacle was simply getting seed. The California Department of Food and Agriculture heavily regulates cotton seed, and to protect the unique crop and the industry as a whole, the seed isn’t available for the home gardener. I had many a nurseryman or woman chuckle at the thought that I’d have any chance of making this happen. But my determination paid off and several months later when I stumbled upon a program for teachers to acquire a limited number of cotton seeds for classroom use–I was in business!
Up popped these pretty green plants with delightful soft yellow flowers eventually turning a shade of pale pink. I watched the dozen or so plants go through many stages of growth, all the while completely unsure of what to look for. To my disappointment, the dozen or so plants turned brown and I assumed they were dead.
Until one day I looked out my kitchen window amazed to see those same “dead” plants covered with little white puff balls! While I wasn’t looking the brown twiggy part of the plant had formed a cotton boll, and poof! I had cotton!
My cotton initiative was over. I still make decisions that sometimes aren’t the most practical…like this year, giving over entirely too much space to growing pumpkins so that Sophia and Karina can see them in all stages. Not the most practical use of space and water, but fun.
Now we are leaving town for a week at the beach! And although we have house-sitters occupying our place and caring for the animals, I’m a little concerned that my garden and all the potted plants are going to miss me! It’s going to be hot! hot! hot! and Jay and I “fuss” over the plants. We have sprinkling systems, but often don’t use them, instead choosing to first talk to the plants and ask if they are actually thirsty. I don’t expect anyone else to take the kind of time we do.
And then there are the animals. Kramer, the cockatiel, has to have socialization. She sulks at the bottom of her cage if she gets lonely. And Pinky really doesn’t stop eating…ever! I have made pre-packaged large Ziploc bags of food labeled for each day. Will anyone else think to add bottles of frozen water to her enclosure if it gets too hot? She likes to curl up to her personal air conditioners.
Now Darwin won’t even care that we’ve gone! He can amuse himself all day and he’ll be free to roam! While we were setting up our watering system today he got a little unexpected bath and I took this picture of his beautiful shell. He really IS beautiful, isn’t he?
So off we go! We’ll be back in a week. I hope to take some wonderful photos of the beautiful Pacific Ocean and the crazy activity of Newport Beach, but I don’t yet know if I’ll even have Internet access. I may be playing major catch-up in a week, but I have never had anything but a wonderful time when we are at the beach.
Today’s headlines from Aurora, Colorado were simply horrifying. I can’t fathom the heartache! I must admit I am looking forward to a week away from headlines and a mini-break from real world pressures and realities. We are taking our children and grandchildren with us, and for one full week I will be able to sit on the evening sand and watch a sunset. The half hour before the sun disappears into the ocean is my favorite time of day when everything just seems to come together and I can simply be grateful!
I promise to take photos and to save a little salt air for you, but don’t move too quickly without me, okay?
About to breathe a whole lot lighter…Debra