Extreme Experience

79

Oh, the wonders of fall. The cool weather, cozy outfits, and the urge to step on every crunchy leaf lining the sidewalk. These days it is more of a wonder, where is fall? My sweaters sit perfectly folded on their shelf, short sleeves have been required for tolerable work conditions, and worst of all, I have yet to experience a crunchy leaf. 

Admittedly, the issue of crunchy leaves may be of my own doing as I have no crunchy leaf trees in my yard, just one tall, strong, bothersome palm tree that refuses to be removed. It is torture to sit and write about my favorite season as we hit another record-high fall temperature shaded by the one remaining tree I was dead set on removing from my landscape that simply personifies summer, a whole load of hocus pocus if you ask me.

Even in my grouchy state, I sit soaking up the last rays of sunshine like the straw fishing for that last sip stuck at the bottom of your old-fashioned milkshake glass. I, along with my half-empty glass, am now predicting an equally record-breaking winter. I hope I am wrong, as the mere thought alone chills me.

I am not just talking about being outside in the weather. I am in a great position to experience all the skies have to offer – extreme heat and extreme cold alike – as I am here, taking care of plants (and complaining). Extreme situations expand my plant knowledge, and my experiences arm me with techniques to face different scenarios in the garden. A single mid-February ice storm could set back summer baskets weeks behind schedule. Or an unseasonably late hail scatter bruises all of your spring produce crops.

Similarly, a series of heat waves could fry normally dependable varieties to a crisp, no matter how much you watered the week before. Still, all of the above could happen, and your annoying palm tree could still be standing proudly, peeking from above your house, with you through it all. All these situations provide so much to learn, and even more to remember to share. 

Overall, this gardening knowledge is usually very helpful. Every day I am inundated with great gardening questions. How big does this get? Will this do okay in the afternoon sun? I have a spot in my yard where I lost [insert your favorite rare plant here] with the heatwave/ice storm and want to replace it. Can you help me? 

Thanks to the extra learning brought on by these recent extremes, I can answer all of these questions with a decently high level of certainty. If there is any time that I cannot answer a question, it is easy to defer to someone with slightly more experience. 

One question has become trickier to answer with the ever-present extremes: how long will this last? 

Sometimes, I answer with a quip about how, technically, most plants can last longer than you or I. My favorite response is just a general, “it depends on how long you plan on keeping it alive.” 

The answer tends to throw some people off, or maybe I am just not funny. Yes, I can tell you if a plant is traditionally seasonal. When I answer with just the facts, I always get a feeling that people are asking a very different question. Since it is a frequently repeated question, I wanted to expand my knowledge. I did ask someone with more experience, my father, and he answered.

In his experience, the question people are asking is not “how long will this last,” but rather, “do you think I can do this? Do you think I can successfully garden this way?” While I may not have all the answers, the answer is almost always “YES.” I believe in all of our beginning gardeners. My father believes in all of his rebel gardeners. Our staff believes in every questioning customer. No green thumb is needed here. If you are still unsure after all of that, go ahead and ask us a few more questions until you are confident. We are with you all the way, through every extreme, just like a hardy palm tree I know.