Sunday, February 14, 2010

Heart's Ease Greenhouse

Lately I have become thoroughly spooked by the accuracy of my own predictions. Specifically, I noticed a while back that trees have begun to exhibit two bizarre traits. One is the prevalence for peculiar, twisted, tumor-like protrusions. The other is splitting, falling bark. Now, both of these conditions are multiplying rampantly, everywhere I look.
It's bewildering how sudden and ubiquitous these alarming attributes have become.
I feel like I do not recognize the landscape around my home, and it is just incomprehensible, and frightening. Yesterday I decided to go to a greenhouse that I have patronized for the last 30 years, because this is the season when the orchids are blooming.
I once had a greenhouse where I started seedlings for the garden, and raised orchids. It was wonderful to be there in the winter, when snow was piled against the panes of glass, while inside it was hot in the bright sun, and flowers bloomed while oranges ripened on a little tree.
Instead now I visit a commercial greenhouse.
I had such fun taking pictures of all the different sorts.
Colors and shapes are in endless variety.
Some are just beautiful but have no scent.
Others have scent but look relatively plain.
Some have everything.
The greenhouse also has early spring bloomers for sale,
along with hothouse exotics.
This is a good way to forget for a little while about melting glaciers and ice caps, rising sea levels, and spreading desertification.
What a profusion of blossoms!
I once knew a woman who had been abused as a child. Among many other extreme phobias, she had an intense aversion to flowers.
Their scent made her feel physically ill.
And she couldn't bear to look at them.
Because of course, they are basically the sex organs of plants, designed to attract pollinators,
which is probably why a gift of flowers is considered romantic.
I quite like the spidery ones.
The leaves of begonias have marvelous colors and dramatic markings as well.

The greenhouse even sounds cheery, with a cage big enough to walk into, full of chirping finches.
And there is a nice pond with lots of koi.
However, while I was looking at the fish I realized that many of the leaves of plants that live inside year-round have the same damage that marred outdoor leaves last summer and fall.
There is the same discoloration.
Veins are prominent, and a there is evidence of a loss of chlorophyll.
When ozone levels are high, people with respiratory ailments are advised to stay indoors. So I did not expect to see foliage with symptoms of damaged stomata in the greenhouse. But here it is, just sayin'!

Outside the greenhouse, the nursery beds are bordered by trees that are indubitably dying.
The birch that fell over is covered in opportunistic fungus.
This tree has fungus too, and many holes, which is now commonplace to find in tree trunks and branches.
This hole is seeping, and the bark is breaking apart. The needles of the pines, of course, aren't the deep green they should be, but are turning yellow.

I am still wondering about the role of nitrogen, and here is a report on that topic from Mongabay. We are definitely doing a lot of very stupid things on a large scale that is wreaking havoc in the environment.

I know I'm not completely alone - an anonymous librarian from Pittsburgh wrote this on the Archdruid Report in response to my comment:

i grieve for Gail's trees--you deserve the kindest blessings for your witness to them. i've been worrying for our local trees every late winter for a few years now as they look more and more like victims of some Orc attack--i still have this childish notion that if someone only notices and cares, that will help them come back to bud and leaf every spring, the poor beautiful massive beings, so i walk through sometimes, touching the trunks and saying hello.

last, as usual, your post this week performs wonderfully as an ink-blot upon which to see a nice selection of current feelings/hopes/fears projected. i can empathize with most of them. i offer a very old poem, in keeping with my comment on Lord Soil:

Keep walking, though there is no place to get to.

Don't try to see through the distances.
That's not for human beings.

Move within, but don't move the way fear
makes you move.

Today, like every other day, we wake up empty
and frightened.

Don't open the door to the study
and begin reading.
Take down a musical instrument.

Let the beauty we love be what we do.

Let the beauty we love
be what we do.

There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

(Rumi, 13th Century Persia. Coleman Barks trans. 1990ish


  1. Hi Gail

    Pointing you towards this article, although you've probably read it, or at least much else very much like it:


  2. Thank you John, I am familiar with Charles Little's book. But the link you sent is a useful reminder, in one of the articles, that it is possible that the ozone hole in the stratosphere is allowing more UV radiation through which is harming foliage. What was starting to see recently is that when the heavy snow bent branches of conifers and evergreens like boxwood, it was amazing that the inside needles and leaves were a healthy, vibrant green!

    I have no idea if that is because the tips of branches die off first, or if the atmospheric contamination is greater on the more exposed layers, or if it is because the outer layers receive more intense UV radiation from the sun.

    But it's an interesting question, for sure!

  3. oh sorry, meant to say what was STARTLING recently.


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