Monday, August 15, 2011

A river runs through it, sort of

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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. 

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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?


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