Monday, August 15, 2011

A river runs through it, sort of

dipnet 031

Let it never be said that this garden blogger is unresponsive.  One reader in Olympia wrote (and I paraphrase) “enough with the dipnetting…why haven’t you written lately?” So I hereby promise not to write about odd Alaskan pastimes for at least two weeks.

You’ll be pleased to know the house paint is on, the gutters are up, and the dirt work is done(ish).  I am now in the market for a dry streambed, slightly more exciting and quite a bit more attractive than a mud chute, which is the current incarnation. 

I know the neighbors are pleased.  We have large windows in the living room that I like to spy from, and cars have slowed to almost a complete stop.  I witnessed one neighbor enter a vehicle in her driveway and proceed to drive by slowly to snoop.  Then she turned around and drove back home.  She lives approximately 20 paces down the road, so a special trip just to see our progress put a smile on my face.  (Actually, more of a guffaw, but that’s not polite now, is it?)

Lucky for me the latest issue of Fine Gardening (October 2011, if you must know) had four whole pages on how to construct a natural looking dry streambed, imaginatively entitled “How to build a dry streambed” by Jeff Snyder.  We read that Mr. Snyder has actual experience with rocks.  What a strange and quaint notion. 

dipnet 032

Actual experience doesn’t seem to be an impediment to writing articles and giving lectures in the gardening realm.  Why we Alaskans are being treated to a special lecture by a plantsman of worldwide repute (so says the back of his book jacket) on plants that do well in Alaska.  This man is not from Alaska, nor has even a seasonal residence in Alaska, more’s the pity.  So just how is he supposed to get up and preach new plants for the Last Frontier? (I suppose next on his itinerary are “Plants that do well in Iceland” followed by “Plants that do well in Cuba” after which he’ll finish up with “Plants that do well in either Australia or Antarctica, take your pick.”)

He is in fact from the gardening Shangri-La of the United States, the Pacific Northwest.  Those lucky gardeners down there are loving that zone 5-8 and growing every plant imaginable.  (Phormiums in ground for some.  Have I mentioned how much I spend to winter over my wretched purple Phormium at the nursery down the road every winter?)  There is just no comparison in climate at all other than it rains, snows, and is sunny or cloudy in both places.  The proportions and severity are so different I wonder that this lecturer can really recommend his “finds” with a straight face. 

So here is my latest garden lecture fantasy: as the “will work in Alaska” plants are enumerated by the out-of-state gardener, I raise my hand and inquire: where in his experience has the plant been grown?  Then he will say at his place, and then I will say, you mean the one about 2000 miles away in Garden Wonderland? 

An absurd equivalent, to illustrate my point: I show up at some lecture in Portland and give a hoity toity presentation on what grows for me outside my igloo, therefore will grow for you in Oregon.  Puh-leaze!  The people would either 1. exit quickly muttering under their breath, or 2. stay for laughs.  There is always option number 3. they invite me back.  This seems de rigueur for certain speakers on the A-list.  You are an expert on X, therefore qualified to speak on Y and Z.  I’m not buying it.

Now you all know I would never cause a scene (during a garden presentation, at least…unless I was the speaker).  But I am a little disappointed with the clubs/organizations that want a “big name” and expect a very regional/local experience (growing certain plants in zone 7) to be everything to everyone (aka we zone 2-4 polar bears in Alaska).  Why not bring someone up from Minnesota/Wisconsin/the Dakotas or somewhere with a smidgeon of similarity in climate severity to Alaska to speak on what may also grow here.

It’s nice when the experts are experts.  Or in other words, it’s nice when the experienced have experience.

Sat through any lectures that you secretly wanted to interrupt?  Any favorite garden speakers?

18 comments:

Mo said...

I am working on a dry river bed for my backyard currently too though I doubt it will bear much resemblance to your Alaskan one! :) I look forward to comparing notes.

College Gardener said...

Glad to read that the new garden is beginning to shape up. I saw that article on dry stream beds; not something I had ever really considered but I think it is going to be really cool.

As for the "local" gardening expertise of some "experts," I already often feel like no one is really addressing my local conditions while doing most of my outdoor gardening in comparatively balmy Zone 6 southeastern Michigan, since so much of the literature out there seems to be produced only for the Pacific Northwest or the South. I can barely imagine how annoying it must get while gardening in Alaska.

Christine B. said...

@MoWell, there will probably be rocks involved, no? If you are placing any largish boulders, let me know your trick for moving them sans backhoe.... The planting part (along the periphery) should be fun though.

CB

Christine B. said...

@College GardenerYou're kind to say it's a garden! I'm referring to it as " that random bunch of containers and half acre of back-breaking mowing chores."

I'd like to be calling it a "garden" without any rude epithets or unflattering adjectives by next year.

CB

Elephant's Eye said...

moving rocks? Ask Wiseacre.

Grace said...

You know what, Christine? I don't think I'd even go to a lecture such as this one that borders [or maybe more] on insulting your intelligence. Or if you go you should ask him about a really rare, Alaska native plant and see if he has any experience with it--just to furtively make your point. :) [You might not want to publish this.]

Please post more often. Been missing you. You've got nothing better to do than make me happy, right? :)

Christine B. said...

@Elephant's EyeWill do, EE. Thanks for the tip! I hope to be merely directing the moving of the large rocks, but that's probably not realistic.

CB

Christine B. said...

@Graceit took a moment to reply, I had to dry my eyes first. I miss all my garden blogger friends, too (stupid house projects!). And I bet your garden looks dynamite, lady!

As for the speaker, he should run for office. I've noticed politicians tend to pontificate about things they know very little about.

CB

gardenwalkgardentalk.com said...

Glad you are posting again, I was looking for you too. Your stories are always so entertaining and funny. Glad the lady told you to stop dipnetting. Ha ha. I would go to Karen at Quarry Garden Stained Glass. They do more rock moving than the company I work with. Well, just kidding, but they do it as good as the professionals. Wiseacre moved his rock with his pickup, now that was scary.

Christine B. said...

@gardenwalkgardentalk.comOh, good tip. We have a pickup available to use...I should probably film it for youtube, though in anticipation of something bad happening to the truck and the impending curses, maybe not.

Santa needs to bring me a front end loader.

CB

Anonymous said...

I just built a huge retaining wall in my (Anchorage) backyard--with "two man" and "one man" rocks from an Eagle River quarry. Had a landscaper drop off the rocks and bring them to the back by the wall. Then my husband and I bought a dolly and hand dollied each one to the wall. The wall is 3feet high, about 20 feet long, and two tiers high--to get to the second tier we constructed a ramp from 2x6s. We also bought a big pry bar, which helped us wedge each big rock into perfect place. It was a big job, but do-able. I planted low growing sedums in the nooks and crannies...I'm hoping they come back happily next year. Hope this LOCAL experience helps! :)

Indoor Fountains said...

The so called "expert" lacked experience in the arena that he was preaching about... shocking. Sounds like a certain Alaskan governor...

Christine B. said...

@AnonymousOK, so that's dolly (check) and prybar (check). The hubby was just muttering about one of our boulders this morning, so now I have a plan. Thanks for the local lowdown!

CB

Christine B. said...

@Indoor FountainsYou mean Gov. Hammond, I suppose?

But, really, if I were to name names in this instance, I might pick up a few blog trolls. Plus the list would include 90% of the politicians in the world. Hmmm, maybe that number is to conservative....

CB

Kate/High Altitude Gardening said...

Ha! Loved this! Same thing happened to me with a high country garden guru. I won't name names but it was twice as disappointing because I had previously thought he was a smart cookie.

Janet (CottageKat) said...

I think a dry stream bed is a great idea, they make a wonderful landscape feature out of areas of your garden that need a good drainage system in place during periods of heavy rain or flooding. I'm almost afraid to admit I live in the green, green Pacific Northwest,where lots of things grow well...but I will tell you that to me it is still a somewhat harsh growing climate, since I grew up in a coastal area of So. Calif. and didn't move here until my late 40's. I quickly discovered I can't grow palms trees and lemons or any of the tropical plants I am was use to. I was at a total loss as a gardener here at first. Everything is relative, I had to learn how to garden all over again.

Christine B. said...

@Kate/High Altitude GardeningGlad to hear I'm not the only one grumping about lack of locally experienced speakers. This sort of feeling compelled me to put together a slideshow on ornamental grasses for Alaska. I think my next slideshow will be on how to set up a garden blog. There are so few here in my state and they are a great way to share local info. Are there quite a few in the high country?

CB

Christine B. said...

@Janet (CottageKat)Hey there, Miss Janet. I wasn't intending any slight to the gardeners in the northwest. I'd love to garden there myself.

Props for learning to garden in a wholly different climate than where you used to live. Every place has it's challenges, to be sure, but I can't help feeling a little sorry for myself when my brother tells me about the fresh squeezed orange juice he enjoys from trees in his yard. Of course, he has to endure triple digits outside....

CB

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails