middle earth gardening


What do Athens, Melbourne, and Oakland have in common? What is dry half the year, wet the other, and is nowhere near the Mediterranean Sea? That would be 1) latitude 37, and 2) the Mediterranean climate zone. Trying to figure out what climate type me and my garden live in has been a frustrating and generally fruitless effort. I see the seminars advertised at the annual flower show or read the list of lectures offered at Strybing Arboretum: Mediterranean Climate Gardening, Gardening Under Mediterranean Skies (transitioning to mediterraneanism)… “…ideals will form that eschew pretence and artifice and accept that our gardens must be gardens of the sun.” (from Gardens of the Sun, by Trevor Nottle)
Ok. But half the time in my little corner of Mediterrania it’s Gardens of the Fog, or Gardens of the Mist, or Gardens of the Monsoon. What do we do with THAT part? It’s all very well to pick a nice sounding name and declare ourselves members of some idyllic climate club but try to actually garden on that basis and one begins to suspect they’ve been duped by the experts.
At the moment my little garden is putting on a spectacular imitation of a northern New England autumn with electrying reds and honey golden tones amid the evergreens and tropicals. This stunning palette is dominated by the scarlet oak, a Japanese maple and something locally known as Roger’s Red (a California wild grape). At the same time that old french dowager, Madam Alfred Carriere, is sporting blooms of silky blush, and the reticent Ferdinand Pichard has offered up a lone beauty in pink and scarlet stripes. The rain has made the roses think its spring.
My east-facing hillside has chosen it’s own climate zone–and it appears to be somewhere in the melancholy shadows of the Emerald Isle.
april in oakland.jpg

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