The walls of the clerestory of the “basilica” style Monreale cathedral are covered with mosaic. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
A few days ago, I complained about the rain. Mysteriously, the rain left and a heat wave descended on our area of the US. A few miles further north, New York City is having a worse time with scorching days, being a larger megalopolis than DC and its asphalt environs.
I hauled water from the rain barrels to several plants yesterday, only the second time I had watered these plants since I put them out in April. Undoubtedly, I will not do as good a job as Mother Nature, even though I am using rain water. My biggest problem is overwatering. I literally love them to death. When plants need less I give them more. Like everything else in gardening, keeping plants in pots is a learning experience.
For those impressed with my container plant skills, let me share a little secret. I put out annuals most years, plants such as petunias, caladiums, and begonias, fresh from green houses where they were lovingly cared for by skillful horticultural experts. They mostly don’t survive a second year, although I have carried the odd begonia in the house in fall and kept it alive until the following spring.
(below annual porch plants)
Generally, plants that last from year to year sit neglected all winter in pots I was unable to empty at the end of the growing season. They come back to life each spring, no thanks to me, and include stalwarts like lavender, rosemary, and other herbs. A little pomegranate shrub and a miniature lilac I have seldom touched since planted several years ago are the two hardy plants I have kept alive. The only thing I do with these small shrubs is trim dead wood, or in the case of the pomegranate excise stems in a way reminiscent of ancient bonsai. Otherwise they live outside all year long.
My grandma Nana, who yearned for her own grapefruit tree all those winters she lived in Michigan, grew miniature orange and lemon trees in pots, until widowed, she moved to Florida in her 70s and grew her own citrus trees.
Nana was Dutch descent from a farm family in Groningen in the NW part of the Netherlands, and had many fine plants in her gardens in the various places she lived, including flags grown from tubers her mother carried in her skirt when she came through Ellis Island. Nana had no formal education (she was an autodidact), and to my knowledge she knew no Japanese horticulturists, but I remember her little ‘bonzai’ plants, lining the bay window in her home. And I remember her removing the plants from their pots, pinching their roots and repotting them.
I’ve been afraid to repot my little pomegranate, but eventually I must as it will become root bound. When I do, I will trim the roots, replace the soil, and think of Nana.
Neighbor Cathy suggested that if David and I were going to visit the National Cathedral this month, we might want to have tea in the Clerestory. So I ordered two tickets for tea and tour on August 31, our anniversary. If we can make the climb to this level, a ‘real’ English tea should be fun and fattening too. Oh why don’t they have elevators in cathedrals?