I wrote a reflections post for 2010, and thought it would be good to end this year in the same way, especially since it gives me the opportunity to revisit some experiences that I did not cover very thoroughly.
I started the year with a new D.I.Y grow-light system, more seedlings than I could handle, and a sloping bowling alley of scrubby grass and weeds that I hoped to transform into a garden. As a testament to my stubbornness and determination, I somehow managed (with a lot of help from Davin) to pull it off amidst finishing the editing, photography, and design of my third book, traveling to Thailand, working on a potential TV show, and other deadlines. I was so excited about the space I was out there any chance I could get, often until it go so dark that I couldn’t see anymore. I love having this new garden. It’s the best thing about 2011 and I can’t wait to get back out there in the spring to see what comes of the bulbs and perennial plantings, work on refining the overall layout, and discover a new year of wonders and experiments.
These last few months of the year have been trying and spiritually exhausting. I’m burned out and feel like a shell of my former self. It is for the first time that I find myself really relishing the idea of a year’s end and starting from a renewed and fresh perspective in January. More than ever I hope to walk into the new year feeling revitalized and ready to take on some of the ideas and adventures I’d like to work on in 2012. As you read this post, we are either on our way to or have arrived in the desert, where we will be enjoying some much-needed respite from the cold.
Friends, I’m going to touch, see, and be in the desert soon!!!!!! There aren’t enough exclamation points in the world to express my enthusiasm.
Most Surreal Experience of 2011: Thailand. Hands down. No contest. We went to Thailand on a 10-day garden tour/media familiarization trip in April, and I am STILL processing it. Someday I will dedicate a chapter in a book based on the story of my gardening life, and I know exactly what the title will be. In fact, I knew it at the end of our first day of the trip! I’d tell you now, but then I’d have to write the story out, and that could take hours, which I don’t happen to have right now as I am writing this when I should be packing for a trip. HA!
Everything in Thailand is big, sparkly, complex, and well… big. The temples are big and beautiful. The Grand Palace absolutely blew my mind with the intricate attention to detail and the hand-applied mosaics that beautified each building. The plants were big, too. I’d been on a few tropical trips prior to this one, but it was Thailand that finally broke down my resistance to growing big-leafed tropicals. Once that door was opened total chaos ensued. I acquired several alocasias and colocasias within one week. By the summer’s end, I had five ornamental banana trees growing in the yard. This is why I put limits on the kind of plants I allow myself to grow.
To paraphrase my friend Derek who was also on the trip, even the jet lag is epic. I went through weeks of hell, certain that I would never sleep again in my life, and wondering if I would be stuck in a perpetual state of infancy, never getting back on schedule and in-tune with the hour of the day. Melodramatic perhaps, but there were some moments there when I was truly frightened by my inability to sleep.
The runner up in surreal experiences goes to my four days speaking to enthusiastic garden crowds at Epcot, Disney World. Crazy and amazing!
Favourite Post of the Year: I was trembling furiously as I pressed “post” on this one.
Favourite Plant of the Year: Ask me this question tomorrow and you’ll get a different answer, but when I look back on the year, I can’t help but think of the monster Jerusalem artichoke that took over our garden. I have grown this plant in a container over on the roof garden, and it is because of that experience that I would NEVER, EVER, have planted it in the new garden. A few weeks ago, as I stood, bent over what remained of that monstrous patch, digging out tubers as big as potatoes, I found myself feeling thankful to the former residents of this house who were either naive or crazy enough to plant them. If it wasn’t for them I never would have had this experience or the amazing bounty that I have since turned into pickles. Sometimes the best plants are the ones we inherit.
Favourite Picture Posted in 2011: These aren’t especially good pictures. Actually, my favourite photos taken in 2011 are not posted on this site. One of them is in my new book. I’ll point it out when the book comes out in Feb. Still, these images of harvested tomatoes are a testament to the bounty of well over 100 lbs of tomatoes we cultivated in the new garden in 2011. People say that heirlooms aren’t good producers, that they are feeble, unreliable plants that often succumb to disease. Well, all of my plants were heirlooms and the only plants that underwhelmed were inadvertently planted in the shadow of the massive 2-story-tall Jerusalem artichoke. Yes, some heirlooms are as pathetic as described, but there are countless varieties out there, each unique in habit, size, colour, flavour, and productivity level. The trick is in finding the right varieties for your climate and growing conditions. And let’s not forget this year’s fabulous little tomato that could, Hahms Gelbe Topftomate!
More Highlights of the 2011 Year in Gardening:
- Victoria Amazonica aka That REALLY Big Water Lily: I finally got to see them up close and in person in Thailand, and then, to my surprise, I saw another in a pond at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. Twice in the same year. Not bad.
- The Biggest and Best Lemongrass I Have Ever Grown
- I Went Above the Tree-Line. Plus more alpine plants and flowers on Mount Evans, Colorado.
- Seeing my first hardy opuntia growing in Boulder, Colorado, and then a few days later in the high plains of Nebraska. I regret that I haven’t properly written about these experiences. Seeing how they grow in the wild was a thrill that I’ll never forget.
- The Tropical High Elevation House at the Atlanta Botanic Garden. I haven’t even posted some of the best photos I took there. That room was incredible.
Their carnivorous collection was also fantastic. I would go back just to see them again. Here are some photos I took of diminutive orchids in the same room.
- Office Tomato. I still owe you an update! Office tomato did indeed resurrect from a cut stem to deliver another round of fruit outdoors.
What are you reflecting on as 2011 comes to a close?