34.7º N 92.2º W. Little Rock, in Central Arkansas, in the United States
4/23/17 – 4/27/17
The Royal “Paulina” Tree
A block from my house is a flowering tree 60 feet tall of great beauty. I was alert for it to bloom this year, which it did and has just finished. Here are its blossoms. Photo credit: By Famartin – Own work, CC BY-SA3.0,https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33009600
Despite its size and beauty I only noticed it last year when it was in bloom, and I began asking about it. I’ve lived here all my life and have never seen one like it that I remember. I learned that we commonfolk here in Enchanted Habitat call it variously. Princess Tree, Royal Princess Tree, Empress, Royal Empress, Paulina, Royal Paulina, Empress Paulina, and so on. Mix and match, take your pick. Wikipedia names it Paulownia tomentosa.
Also according to Wiki, the Paulownia is native to China, and probably got to the U.S. in the late 1800s when its seeds were used as packing for goods shipped here. It likes the eastern third of the U.S. It can’t grow in the shade of other trees, but where it does grow it tries to take over and make a grove, multiplying by seeds and also sprouts on limbs and roots. Supposedly even fire and surface mowing can’t eliminate it unless repeated several times. If that’s true I wonder why we don’t have more of them.
The leaves are huge and are said to make good fodder for cows. The seed pods are pretty. The wood of this tree was and maybe still is used by Asian musical instrument makers. This fact reminds me of our own people of an older generation who used the beautiful dogwood tree for making fiddles and mandolins.
People who are against invasive non-native species don’t like the Paulownia; people who are into showy trees for ornamental landscape gardening, do. Chinese legend says the phoenix will land only in this tree, and then only if the current ruler is a good one. On both counts: I wish. When the time comes for her to land, I’ll be watching down the street.
The Hauling Garden
The moral of a story is more important than the story, right? So I’m giving you the bottom line first: If you want to grow vegetables that taste like anything, don’t grow them in potting soil.
Now the story.
My back yard has no place for a vegetable garden. It’s big, but shady. There are sunny spots but they only last half a day at most. Two years ago it came to me to create a moveable garden, a container garden on wheels, “So that the plants could follow the sun” would be the euphemism. Or in the vernacular, so that I could haul them around. I bought the biggest wagon I thought I could pull. It was black. It had deep sides. I bored holes in it for water to drain out. Here is how I envisioned the setup.
The wagon perfectly held the six huge plastic pots I bought. The pots held enough potting soil to exceed the remainder of the $budget, but oh well. Then I put in the seedlings. I thought, “And because the wagon’s sides are so deep, I can jury rig the supports these tomato plants will need.”
Of course tomatoes.
Vegetable=Tomato. Summer=Homegrown Tomato. Same as so many others in Enchanted Habitat and elsewhere: give me home-grown tomatoes first, last, and most of all. After I prioritized the list of tomato varieties I wanted, there wasn’t room for frills like beans or peppers. I rigged the supports. Store-bought tomato cages would not do for my tomatoes. I was sure they would be big. Scaffolding was what they would need.
And lo and behold, for once it looked like my actuality was turning out kind of like my plan. A little tweaking here and there as we went along, but after awhile there it was: prolific robust tomato plants eight feet tall, flowering and fruiting.
When I hauled them, it was one careful step at a time. The rig was heavy, and top heavy. The neighbors watched from their windows. But I didn’t care. The stink bugs loved them too, and I won that battle. Those tomatoes were beautiful.
But every one, of every variety, tasted like cardboard.
I stopped making myself eat them after they convinced me they were all only for show. Seeing them lined up on the kitchen counter looking like prize winners until they began to sag got to be more than I could bear, so I stopped harvesting them.
Denouement: For the last two growing seasons my source of home-grown tomatoes has been the Real farmer’s market across the river. So I have not been deprived of them, only the deep pleasure of growing them. And slowly I’ve been healing from my disappointment. By next year I might be ready to try the whole thing again with real dirt.
From The Creatures Gazette
Dog Rejects Insect
Anopheles, Aedes Return
Who Who Whooooo Left This On The Front Porch Last Night?
I believe it was an Eastern Screech Owl. It’s not a big feather, and they are the smallest of the four kinds of owls who are permanent residents of Enchanted Habitat. I found some nice information about our owls on this website. http://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2013/jan/27/whooo-what-when-where-and-why-some-our-most/
The permanent owls in Arkansas are: Barn, Eastern Screech, Great Horned, and Barred. All except the Screech are big birds, 16″ to 22″ long. The Eastern Screech is only 8-1/2″, about the size of a quail. I’ve had only one opportunity ever to get a good look at a Screech Owl, and they are truly magical-looking little creatures. The one I saw came one night to sit on a wooden fence near the back patio of the house where I lived then. The night was dark, but there were yard lights, and the owl was sitting only about twelve feet from me. It stayed there for about fifteen minutes, apparently regarding me. It seemed very calm. If it was looking at, or watching for, something else, I was unable to discover what that might be. I was the only living thing out there that I know of. After a long time I decided to find out how close I could come to it. Moving slowly, I got to three feet away before if kind of shook itself and flew off. The next day I learned that something profound had happened to someone in my family.
Copyright 2017 Ruth Byrn