Monday, March 10, 2008

Joyful Confession of an Acquisitive Gardener

On a more cheerful note, I have a confession to make. Last week, at the Philadelphia Flower Show I only bought one plant, the Joy Magnolia; it was not a native. I paid over fifty dollars for a Magnolia, or Michelia, champaca. In the last row of vendors, when I had given up hope of finding anything to covet (and I am an avaricious gardener), there it was. Actually there were two of them and the booth staff was in the process of trying to sell one to an interested woman in a buying mode. I am pretty sure my incredulously gasped, "I don't believe they have this plant" had something to do with her deciding to go ahead and snatch one up. I was a bit more decisive though, and for an extra five dollars got seventeen leaves instead of 12 and a small branch!

This tropical Asian magnolia is the source of the fragrance of the perfume Joy, which either is or was at one time the most expensive perfume in the world. The flowers are generally acknowledged to be in the top ten most fragrant in the world. Thats important. The tree can grow to well over 10m and is used for timber as well as perfume. It is an evergreen with typical Michelia leaves. It ought to be hardy in our Florida garden. Since we are going to be there, for a week in early April it may get in the ground this year. I am thinking though that I may pot it up in order to put a somewhat larger plant in the ground; after all we go away for four months at a time and it will be on its own.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Daylight Savings Time and Other Things That Make Me Sad

We have already, in my lifetime, lost the night sky to light pollution. According to The International Dark Sky Association, two-thirds of the population of the United States can no longer see the Milky Way. I remember the star-filled sky that I knew as a boy, and it seems to me that the we have not only lost something wonderful and awe-inspiring, but also a link with our past. For as long as people have been on this earth we have known a night sky alive with stars, planets, meteor showers, comets; a sky that inspired poets, musicians, philosophers, artists, even scientists. We have lost this basic commonality of experience with our forebears. To see that sky regularly confirmed the presence of a vast boundless (sic) universe full of potential. It was humbling but in a good way. That sky exists only in memories for me; it will never be a part of my children's experience. That is too bad.

By adding a month to daylight savings time, which now starts on the second Sunday in March and ends on the first Sunday of November, a legislative act has taken away our spring mornings in the garden. Yesterday the sun rose at 6:30, today, at 7:28. If you leave for work, or school, or daycare before 6:30, it will be the second half of April before you see your garden in the morning during the week. Maybe I am quibbling, but it seems to me that losing the chance to watch the daily progress of spring bulbs, flowers, azaleas, and to hear the swelling dawnsong of newly arrived songbirds is another thing, like the night sky, that I don't want to lose.