August 6, 2008

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Liza Dalby reports that Japanese wisteria species twine clockwise, while Chinese species grow counterclockwise. (Photo by William Scheick)

The garden reader:
The spring and the fall of the leaf

By William Scheick
University of Texas at Austin

Liza Dalby. East Wind Melts the Ice: A Memoir through the Seasons. University of California Press, 2007. $24.95. 318 pp.

We routinely gain new expressions and lose old ones. For instance, our use of the word "deadheading" to refer to pinching off spent blooms is relatively recent.

The much older "the fall of the leaf" is still in use, often shorted to the handy seasonal phrase "the Fall." But we no longer say "the spring of the leaf," the original phrasing of our current seasonal term "Spring."

At this point, with our gardens in the grip of early August's punishing sun and heat, "the spring of the leaf" seems long gone, at least for now. Midsummer in Texas is like midwinter in Maine — a time for dreaming about new garden projects.

It can also be a good time for cultivating deeper thoughts about nature in general and gardening in particular. During our two main growing seasons, it's easy to be so busy tending the garden that we barely find time to think beyond the practical demands of each day's work there.

Gardening blogs could meet this larger need, but generally don't. Many gardening blogs usefully emphasize practical matters which potentially benefit other gardeners. At their worst, blogs can be repetitive and underwhelming to the point of banality.

Liza Dalby's East Wind Melts the Ice: A Memoir through the Seasons reads like a blog, but with a distinctive difference. Its seemingly casual, yet informed observations are inspired by the 72 periods of the Chinese calendar, which begins on the second new moon after the winter solstice in early February.

Ms. Dalby's 72 chapters combine the features of a gardening journal, a nature meditation and a personal narrative — all undergirded by insights into the traditional Japanese appreciation of nature's cycles. An expert on Japanese culture, Ms. Dalby is the author of the fictional Tale of Murasaki and also served as a consultant for the film Memoirs of a Geisha.

East Wind Melts the Ice is a leisurely-paced book that requires a leisurely state of mind to appreciate it. It meanders the way a conversation between two people roams randomly during a relaxing walk together outdoors. So its chapters can be perused in any order, depending on the reader's whim.

Each chapter is a brief excursion into a byway of the author's awareness of the seasons. Even as Ms. Dalby suspects that "there must be more shades of green than any other color on earth," she finds many more introspective byways than she imagined at the outset of her project.

As a result, East Wind Melts the Ice is full of little surprises.

Consider, for instance, her report about kudzu. This aggressive pea-vine, so dreaded in the American South, doesn't bother Japanese gardeners, Ms. Dalby observes. They grind its fat roots into a powder used as a cooking thickener. And Japanese gardeners wonder why we don't control the plant by eating it, too.

When she turns her attention to a kudzu relative, Ms. Dalby reports that Japanese wisterias twine clockwise, while Chinese wisterias grow counterclockwise. She notices that most of her garden vines — including morning glory, sweet pea, runner bean, akebia and jasmine — curl counterclockwise. So, she humorously concludes, "the Japanese wisteria is the perverse one."

Often Ms. Dalby ponders the language we use in relation to plants. Here's a typical example:

"Depending on context, the name of a plant in Japanese can mean the tree, the flower, or the fruit. This is true in English as well, although we give more weight to the fruit. When we say 'plum,' our first thought is of the sweet drupe. In Japanese, usually the blossom takes precedence, so color names deriving from various plants in the genus Prunus — plum, cherry, and peach — refer to the color of the flower, not, as in English, the fruit."

This is a small observation. Even so, it potentially alters our understanding of various ordinary expressions — just as learning about the lost phrase "the spring of the leaf" might change how we perceive the word "Spring."

The magic in East Wind Melts the Ice lies precisely in the unfolding of small insights about matters close to a gardener's heart.


Cool-season vegetable gardening can cultivate more green in your pocket

Early August may sound like the wrong time to start or extend a home vegetable garden. However, for Americans concerned about rising food and fuel prices, product safety and environmental issues, planting a fall or cool-season vegetable garden in the heat of summer makes a lot of sense.

In fact, Barbara D. May, president of the not-for-profit national Garden Clubs Inc., which is the largest volunteer organization of its type in the world, said that the surge in home vegetable, herb and fruit gardening that emerged across the U.S. this spring and early summer shows no signs of abating.

"As noted in many news reports, American seed companies and garden centers have experienced a banner year for selling vegetable, fruit and herb seeds and started plants," May said. "People are widely concerned about combating rising food costs, avoiding contaminated produce and reducing their 'carbon footprints' by eating locally grown food that eliminates fuel consumption associated with shipping. In this environment, interest in home vegetable gardening has really ignited and should continue to grow."

May noted that novice vegetable gardeners may not realize how easily the home growing season can be extended several months by using the proper techniques and planning for local soil and climate conditions. To help gardeners attain success in growing their own produce, the National Garden Clubs offered these tips:

Start small. If you're just getting started as a gardener, remember that your vegetable garden patch should be small enough to plant and maintain easily.

Think outside the pot. Vegetable and herb gardens come in all shapes and sizes, from raised beds to containers of all varieties. Herbs can be grown in small portable containers and brought inside during the winter. Tomatoes can be grown in containers, traditional beds or even bales of hay dotted with soil-filled holes. Urban gardeners can plant on rooftops or window boxes. Home gardeners are often adaptable, creative folks who are only too happy to swap ideas with fellow growers.

Take advantage of online resources. Information on growing vegetables and cool-weather crops in various regions and zones is available through university extension programs and a variety of online gardening sites and blogs.

Don't go it alone. With some 209,000 members and 6,300 member and affiliated clubs, National Gardening Clubs. Inc. offers support and resources, including local gardening courses that are open to the public for minimal fees. To locate a garden club in your area or to check course listings, visit the NGC Web site at www.gardenclub.org.


Gardening tips

"When you empty a 1-gallon juice or milk jug, you can drill a 1/8-inch hole in the bottom edge, opposite the handle, to water plants that are isolated from the rest of your garden," writes James Henry. "I call it 'trickle watering.'"

Have a favorite gardening tip you'd like to share? Texas Gardener's Seeds is seeking brief gardening tips from Texas gardeners to use in future issues. If we publish your tip in Seeds, we will send you a free Texas Gardener T-shirt. Here's a chance to get published and be a garden stylist as well! Please send your tips of 50 words or less to the editor at: Gardening Tips.


Did You Know...

One way or another all plants respond to weather conditions. It may be as simple a response as growing best in shade or full sun. Or, it can be more complicated, such as the chilling requirements of many fruit trees or the ability of a plant to survive extreme cold or drought.


Upcoming garden events

Schertz: Guadalupe County Master Gardeners will hold their next Master Gardener training class from August 6 to December 3. Classes are on Wednesdays from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Schertz Civic Center, 1400 Schertz Parkway, Schertz. Registration is $170 with a 10% discount if received with payment by July 10. Speakers include Malcolm Beck, Flo Oxley from the LBJ Wildflower Center, Bob Webster, Patty Leander and more. For more information, an application and a list of speakers, e-mail jlbruno@gvec.net or call (210) 363-8380.

Victoria: Victoria AgriLife Master Gardeners host a free seminar each month called "Lunch and Learn with the Masters." Each one-hour seminar is conducted by Master Gardeners, is open to the public, and is worth one CEU for Master Gardeners. The August 11 meeting, held from noon to 1 p.m. at The Pattie Dodson Health Center, 2805 N. Navarro, Victoria, will feature "Tips To Enhance Your Landscape." Bring your lunch. For additional information, call (361) 575-4581.

Austin: The 16th Annual Texas Bamboo Festival will be held on Saturday and Sunday, August 23-24, at Zilker Botanical Garden, Austin. The festival will include a live plant auction on Saturday afternoon and two full days of bamboo activities and lectures with bamboo plants and crafts for sale and show. Guest speaker Robin McBride Scott will conduct a workshop on Weaving Cane Mat, using native American Bamboo that she has personally harvested, prepared and dyed. She will also do a presentation about her work with basketry and native American bamboo. The 16th Annual Texas Bamboo Festival is sponsored by the Texas Bamboo Society. For more information, call (512) 929-9565, e-mail bamboo@bamboocentral.net, or visit http://www.bamboocentral.net.

Austin: Travis Country Master Gardeners Association, a volunteer arm of the Texas A&M and Travis County AgriLife Extension Service, will present "Using Water Wisely," a seminar that concentrates on capturing rainwater and landscaping with plants requiring little water10 a.m. until noon, Saturday, September 6, at the West Rural Community Center, 8656 Hwy. 71 W, Build. A, Austin. Gain the knowledge necessary to build a rainwater harvesting system. All the basics are covered to build a non potable water harvesting system. A demonstration will show how to make a simple, inexpensive rain barrel collection system. Lower your water usage by utilizing native and adapted landscape plants that look great and need a minimal amount of water to thrive. This method of gardening is called Xeriscaping. If desired, a green, lush looking landscape can be achieved. Vendors representing tanks, pumps and guttering will be available to answer specific questions. This seminar is free. No reservations will be taken. For more information, call (512) 854-9600 and ask for the Master Gardeners desk or visit http://www.tcmastergardeners.org.

Rockport: The 20th Annual Hummer/Bird Celebration will be held September 11-14, 2008 at the Rockport-Fulton High School. Four days of programs, exhibits and field trips about hummingbirds, other birds, butterflies, and habitat gardening by renowned speakers and a visit to Hummer Homes to see Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds during their migration south for the winter. For more information, visit www.rockporthummingbird.com.

Houston: The Native Plant Society of Texas-Houston (NPSOT-H) presents its 11th Annual Wildscapes Workshop & Plant Sale, "Landscaping with Native Plants to Attract Wildlife," on Saturday, September 13, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the University of Houston's Main Campus (I-45 & Cullen Blvd.), Cullen College of Engineering, Building 1. The workshop will feature the following speakers: Chris LaChance and Angela Chandler on "Rain Gardens and Introduction to Rainwater Harvesting," Jason McKenzie on "Great Plants for a Wildscapes Landscape," Farrar Stockton on "Local Butterflies, Moths & Flight of the Monarch," and Diana Foss on "Designing with Natives." The Native Plant Sale, which opens at 11:30 a.m. for workshop attendees, will feature many hard-to-find natives. From 12:30 p.m. until 3 p.m. the plant sale will be free and open to the public as well as attendees. Visit the book sale, exhibits, and booths. In addition, there will be raffles, door prizes, refreshments, and lunch. Fee: $30 per person ($25 for NPSOT members). Preregistration on or before September 1, 2008 is required. Registration form, flyer, and more information can be found at http://www.npsot.org/Houston/Wildscapesflyer2008.pdf. Sponsored by NPSOT-H, Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, and the University of Houston, the proceeds of this NPSOT-H fundraiser will be used for school habitats, grants, and education.

Houston: The Harris County Master Gardeners at Precinct 2 are accepting applications for Master Gardener Certification Training Classes. Classes will be held at The Precinct 2 Road Camp, 1202 Genoa Red Bluff, Houston, from 8:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays beginning September 16 and continuing through October 28. For additional information, visit http://hcmgap2.tamu.edu.

Sugar Land: On Tuesday, September 16, the Sugar Land Garden Club will host Heidi Sheesley, owner of TreeSearch Farms, presenting "A Palette of Color for Fall Gardening," a program on plants that are well suited to our local climate and soils. All of the plants covered in the program will be available at the sale on September 20th (see below). Anyone with an interest in gardening and horticulture is invited to attend the program. Refreshments start at 9:30 a.m. and the program begins at 10 a.m. at the Sugar Land Community Center, 226 Matlage Way, Sugar Land.

Austin: The Travis County Master Gardeners Association, a volunteer arm of the Travis County AgriLife Extension Service, will present Vegetables for Cooler Times, a free seasonal seminar that will cover multiple topics pertinent to fall gardening activities from 7:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m., Wednesday, September 17, Zilker Botanical Garden, 2220 Barton Springs Road, Austin. In spite of the heat, it is time to be in the vegetable garden. "Fall Vegetable Gardening" by Patty Leander, a regular contributor to Texas Gardener, will include the basics of vegetable gardening with the emphasis on plants and varieties that flourish in the fall and winter months. Leaves, leaves everywhere! Don’t rake, bag and send it to the landfill. Learn how to convert leaves and other material into plant food. It is called compost. Plants adore it. Learn how to make this magic act happen. Thought only Yankees could grow rhubarb? Wrong! With a little thinking outside the box, you can grow rhubarb and strawberries, too, right in your own backyard. Learn how these two favorites can be successfully in Central Texas. A Plant Clinic will be held during the entire seminar. Bring your diseased/bug eaten plant, roots and all, in a plastic bag. Gain knowledge from expert Master Gardeners on action you can take to remedy the situation. The seminar is free. No reservations will be taken. For more information, call (512) 854-9600 and ask for the Master Gardeners desk or visit http://www.tcmastergardeners.org.

Sugar Land: The Sugar Land Garden Club will host the 10th annual Garden Art and Plant Sale on Saturday, September 20 from 8:30 a.m. until 1 p.m.at the Sugar Lakes Clubhouse, 930 Sugar Lakes Drive, Sugar Land. The sale will feature a number of new varieties of perennials and Texas Native plants (as well as many old favorites) from TreeSearch Farms. In addition, there will be seeds from member’s gardens, metal work, and a selection of garden art by talented local artists. Visit www.sugarlandgardenclub.org to preview some of the items that will be available at the sale. Proceeds from this and other Sugar Land Garden Club fundraisers are used within the community for the club’s scholarship grants and other programs.

Edna: The Jackson County Master Gardeners will have a Fall Plant Sale on Saturday, September 20, beginning at 8 a.m. in the Jackson County Services Building Auditorium, 411 N. Wells, Edna. Admission is free and open to the public. A variety of shrubs, flowering trees, vines and garden accessories will be on sale.

Rockport: The Aransas/San Patricio Master Gardener Association will hold a "Fall Plant Sale" Saturday, September 27, from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. at Green Acres, 611 East Mimosa Street at Pearl Street, Rockport. Purchase those much-wanted plants that you have been wanting to buy and can't find anywhere. Be sure to take the time to wander through the demonstration gardens at Green Acres which are continuously being updated and maintained by the Aransas/San Patricio Master Gardener Association. This event is open to the public. For additional information, contact The Texas AgriLife Extension Service at (361) 790-0103.

Bryan: The Brazos County Master Gardener Association will hold a Fall Pant Sale at the Brazos County Extension Office, 2619 Highway 21 West, Bryan from 9 a.m. until noon on Saturday, September 27.The sale will include a wide selection of unusual and unique plants guaranteed to grow in Brazos County. Choice Heirloom and Pass-along plants from the gardens of local Master Gardeners will also be available for purchase. For additional information, call (979) 823-0129 or e-mail brazosmg@ag.tamu.edu.

Fredericksburg: Texas Gourd Society will present the 13th annual "Lone Star Gourd Festival" at the Gillespie County Fairgrounds October 18 and 19. There will be door prizes, raffles, classes, demonstrations and an opportunity to meet Bill Decker, 2008 TGS Artist of the Year, and Bonnie Gibson, nationally-known author and artist. The show is open from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Saturday and from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is $5 and free to children under 12. For additional information, call (806) 523-9092 or visit www.texasgourdsociety.org.

Austin: Plant and Insect Photography for Beginners class will be taught by Sam Myers, a Master Gardener and experienced photographer, from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m., Wednesday, October 22 at Zilker Botanical Garden, 2220 Barton Springs Road, Austin. The class will concentrate on developing the ability to take sharp, colorful photos with impact. There will be an overview of cameras, both film and digital. Discussion will include how lighting, focal length and aperture interact in composing photographs and how to use your camera's programs (landscape, portrait, etc.) effectively. Guidelines of composition will be covered along with "posing" plants and insects for best visual presentation. Prerequisite: study the owner's manual on your camera. Bring your camera for some practical exercises. Class size is limited. Reservation required: gisathccs@aol.com or (512) 804-2257. The class is sponsored by the Travis County Master Gardener Association in partnership with the AgriLife Extension, Travis County. For more information call (512) 854-9600 and ask for the Master Gardener's desk. http://www.tcmastergardeners.org.

MONTHLY MEETINGS

Kilgore: Northeast Texas Organic Gardeners meets at 10 a.m. on the first Wednesday of each month at Wildwood Eco-Farm in Kilgore. For more information, call Carole Ramke at (903) 986-9475.

Allen: The Allen Garden Club meets on the first Thursday of each month at 7:30 p.m. at the little blue-gray house located at 102 N. Allen Dr., Allen. For more information, visit www.allengardenclub.org.

Austin: Austin Organic Gardeners meet at 7 p.m. on the second Monday of each month at the Zilker Botanical Gardens in Austin. For more information, visit www.main.org/aog.

Friendswood: The second Tuesday of each month the Harris County Precinct 2 Master Gardeners hold a free evening educational program for the public, called the Green Thumb Series, at Southeast Church of Christ, 2400 W Bay Area Blvd., Friendswood, about 1 mile west of I-45 and Baybrook Mall. For more information visit http://hcmgap2.tamu.edu or call (281) 991-8437.

Rockport: The Rockport Herb & Rose Study Group, founded in March 2003, meets the second Wednesday of each month, with the exceptions of June and July, to discuss all aspects of using and growing herbs, including historical uses and tips for successful propagation and cultivation, meets at 619 N. Live Oak Street, Room 14, Rockport at 10 a.m. Sometimes they take field trips and have cooking demonstrations in different locations. For more information, contact Linda (361) 729-6037, Ruth (361) 729-8923 or Cindy (979) 562-2153 or visit www.rockportherbs.com.

San Antonio: The San Antonio Herb Society meets at 7 p.m. on the second Thursday of each month at the San Antonio Garden Center, 3310 N. New Braunfels (corner of Funston & N. New Braunfels). For more information on programs, visit www.sanantonioherbs.org.

Dallas: The Rainbow Garden Club of North Texas meets the second Sunday of each month at 2 p.m. Everyone is welcome. Meetings are held at member's homes and garden centers around the area. For more information, visit www.RainbowGardenClub.com.

Sugar Land: The Sugar Land Garden Club meets on the third Tuesday of each month, September through November and January through April at 10 a.m. at the Sugar Land Community Center, 226 Matlage Way, Sugar Land. The club hosts a different speaker each month. For more information, visit www.sugarlandgardenclub.org.

Denton: The Denton Organic Society, a group devoted to sharing information and educating the public regarding organic principles, meets the third Wednesday of each month (except July, August and December) at the Denton Senior Center, 509 N. Bell Avenue. Meetings are free and open to the public. Meetings begin at 7 p.m. and are preceded by a social at 6:30. For more information, call (940) 382-8551.

Houston: The Native Plant Society of Texas — Houston (NPSOT-H) meets at 7 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month except for October (4th Thursday) and December (2nd Thursday). Location varies. For locations, for more information on programs, and for information about native plants for Houston, visit http://www.npsot.org/Houston.

Rosenberg: The Fort Bend Master Gardeners meet at 7:15 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month except December at the Bud O'Shieles Community Center located at 1330 Band Road, Rosenberg. For more information, call (281) 341-7068 or visit www.fbmg.com.

Seguin: The Guadalupe County Master Gardeners meets the third Thursday of each month at the Texas AgriLife Extension Bldg. at 210 E. Live Oak at 7 p.m. For more information, phone (830) 379-1972 or visit www.guadalupecountymastergardeners.org.

Longview: The Northeast Texas chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas meets the third Thursday of each month at St. Mary's Parish Hall in Longview. For more information, call Logan Damewood at (903) 295-1984.

Edna: The Jackson County Master Gardeners present their "Come Grown With Us" seminars on the fourth Tuesday of each month, January through October, beginning at 7 p.m. at 411 N. Wells, Edna. The seminars are free, open to the public and offer 2 CEU hours to Master Gardeners or others requiring them. For additional information, contact the Jackson County Extension Office at (361) 782-3312.

Fort Worth: The Organic Garden Club of Forth Worth meets at 7 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of each month except July and December at the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens main building. Refreshments are served. For more information, call (817) 274-8460.

Seabrook: The Harris County Precinct 2 Master Gardeners hold an educational program at 10 a.m. on the fourth Wednesday of each month at The Meeting Room (on the Lakeside) at Clear Lake Park, 5001 NASA Road 1, Seabrook. The programs are free and open to the public. For more information, visit http://hcmgap2.tamu.edu.

Dallas: The Dallas Organic Garden Club meets at 6:45 p.m. on the fourth Thursday of each month at the Fretz Park Recreation Center, located at the corner of Hillcrest and Beltline Road in Dallas. For more information, call (214) 824-2448 or visit www.dogc.org.

Arlington: The Arlington Organic Garden Club meets from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m. on the last Thursday of each month (except November and December) at the Bob Duncan Center, 2800 S. Center Street, Arlington. For more information, contact David at (817) 483-7746.

If you would like your organization's events included in "Upcoming Garden Events," please contact us at Garden Events. To ensure inclusion in this column, please provide complete details at least three weeks prior to the event.


Handmade all-occasion greeting cards — the cards that grow on you!

Cards are made of "plantable paper" (paper embedded with wildflower seeds). Plant in a pot or garden spot and watch it grow! The perfect gift for youngsters of all ages. Set includes six cards and envelopes.

$22.50 includes tax and shipping

Order by calling 1-800-727-9020.

(Discover, MasterCard and Visa accepted.)


Wish you'd saved them?

Are you missing an important issue of Texas Gardener? Or, perhaps, just tired of thumbing through stacks of back issues looking for the tips and techniques you need to make your garden grow? Three new CDs provide easy access to all six issues of volume 24 (November/December 2004 through September/October 2005), volume 25 (November/December 2005 through September/October 2006) and volume 26 (November/December 2006 through September/October 2007)*.

$16.99 per CD includes tax and shipping

Order by calling 1-800-727-9020.

(Discover, MasterCard and Visa accepted.)

*Other volumes will be available soon.


  Doug Welsh's Texas Garden Almanac

Doug Welsh's Texas Garden Almanac is a giant monthly calendar for the entire state — a practical, information-packed, month-by-month guide for gardeners and "yardeners." This book provides everything you need to know about flowers and garden design; trees, shrubs, and vines; lawns; vegetable, herb, and fruit gardening; and soil, mulch, water, pests, and plant care. It will help you to create beautiful, productive, healthy gardens and have fun doing it.

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*Mention Texas Gardener's Seeds when ordering by phone during the month of July and we'll waive shipping charges. (Discover, MasterCard and Visa accepted.)


Fiber row cover valuable year-round

Grow-Web encourages plant growth and development, and also provides protection from insects, birds, diseases and frosts. It is also air and water permeable and allows for ventilation. Grow-Web provides excellent protection to seedlings when applied directly to the seedbed.

$30.64 per 12.3' x 32.8' roll (includes shipping!)

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(Discover, MasterCard and Visa accepted.)



Texas Gardener's Seeds
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