Yellow-flowering orchids or cactus
Gift plants for the Year of the Snake
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Gung Hay Fat Choy – Happy New Year!
The Chinese Year of the Snake arrives on 10th February. People so herpetologically blessed are said to possess the ability to distinguish different herbs. A suitable floral gift on this auspicious date might be red- or light yellow-flowering orchids or cactus. Both the plants and colours are considered lucky. But give at least two, or perhaps six or nine, which are lucky numbers – one and seven are unlucky as are white, gold and brown. Persons born in the Year of the Snake are believed to be among many attributes powerful and ambitious, intense and passionate, and capable of divination – but they are also full of malevolence, cattiness and mystery. For some reason, Florida has seen fit to launch a competition to hunt down Burmese pythons invading the state during the lead up to this date. It is predicted that pretty soon the snakes will be left without a pit to hiss in. Hissterical.
Diversion No. 1
U.S. plane maker Boeing used an unusual substitute for passengers to test its in-flight wi-fi system: potatoes. Passenger seats on a decommissioned plane were loaded with huge sacks of the tubers for several days as signal strengths were checked, reported BBC News. The company’s researchers say that potatoes “interact” with electronic signals in a similar way to humans. The technology also took advantage of the fact that spuds – unlike people – never get bored.
It used to be claimed that the winter was so cold it took forty-five minutes to get the girlfriend started. No longer. You can look forward over the next three decades to wetter winters with less snow and more rain. A study by University of Massachusetts Amherst climate scientists, published recently in the Journal of Geophysical Research, suggests rising temperatures in over season over the next 30 years for the Northeast United States. Presumably this will include the adjacent parts of Canadian provinces.
What this will do to the furry climatologists Wiarton Willie in Ontario, Nova Scotia’s Shubencadie Sam or their American counterpart Punxsutawney Phil in Pennsylvania remains to be seen on 2nd February. But right or wrong, they present less strain on the taxpayer than does Environment Canada and are considerably more amusing.
Diversion No. 2
Here’s the latest poop on calendars: Month by month, the scantily clad Ladies of Manure pose in and around piles of poop to highlight the ways of composting in a calendar being sold to benefit the Florida-based Fertile Earth Foundation. For $25 online you can own a calendar that features the semi-naked manure babes. A clear case of non compost mentis.
A short drive northeast of Toronto, a kilometre from the village of Goodwood, can be found the seed and plant nirvana of Richters. Famed for their extensive herbal offerings, both plant and seeds, they also offer a tempting smorgasbord of traditional and unusual vegetable seeds. Conrad Richter has searched the world for rare and endangered food plants. The result is a fascinating listing he calls SeedZoo. Two introductions from Armenia will intrigue intrepid gardeners: the Yerevan Lima Ben and Haghartsin squash, while from West Africa there is the Avakli Bean and, further south, the Cranberry Hibiscus. And don’t miss out on the salad melon from southern Italy resounding in the name of Carosello Mezzo Lungo de Polignano. Allow plenty of time to browse this and Richters’ main website while wishing that you had a larger garden, say a hectare or so.
Diversion No. 3
The magnificent titan arum has been captured in bloom at the Djuanda Botanical Garden in Bandung, West Java reports the Brit-based Daily Mail. The plant is also known as Amorphophallus titanum. This roughly translated from ancient Greek is ‘misshapen giant phallus, the paper helpfully adds. It has the largest unbranched cluster of flowers, or inflorescence, in the world and is one flower you definitely won’t want to smell: the ‘corpse flower’ that has the odour of rotten flesh.
Why nut trees, queries Grimo Nut Nursery of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario? Nut trees are among the best multi-purpose trees, suggests their 2013 catalog. They not only make fine shade and ornamental trees, but also provide timber and a valuable crop of nuts. All so true, although the mention of ‘timber’ might cause a momentary shudder to the gardener. Grimo suggests careful thought should be given in choosing between grafted and seedling trees. Grafted trees, it is pointed out, are duplicates of the selections that have the best flavour, production, cracking quality and filling of the kernel. Grafted trees also come into bearing at and early age, often in two or three years. Note also that usually required for cross-pollination and, hence, a crop. And don’t plant near a driveway, sidewalk, patio or deck lest nuts fall on the noggin or nearby vehicles.
Diversion No. 4
Neuroscientists Greg Gage and Tim Marzullo have developed a $100 RoboRoach kit that includes all the tech required for insect microsurgery, writes Amanda Schupak in Popular Science magazine. But you can follow her steps to assemble a similar kit – and command your own troop of six-legged cyborgs – on the cheap, she suggests. An interesting way to pass a cold winter’s evening – and get your own back.
If going nuts lacks appeal, consider the hardy exotic fruit trees that the Grimo Nut Nursery also offers. The fruit of the native pawpaw, Asimina triloba, is attracting the attention the nattering class without their realizing that these attractive blossoming small trees are hardy even in zone 5. Mulberries are delicious fresh, in pies or made into jelly although black fruit stain everything they drop onto, as do the droppings from feasting birds. You pay plenty for persimmons for the orient but the native species, Diospyros virginiana, is hardy with some protection into zone 6. Quince used to a feature of almost every garden in days gone by. The fruit have recently reappeared in some grocery stores and farmers’ markets although again they are hardy in a protected spot in zone 6 gardens. The adventurous gardener will delight in any or all of these compact trees while neighbours will come begging for samples of the fruit.