Note: If you live in a very hot summer climate, skip Part A and proceed to Part B.
Part A. Perfect for Ambulant Consumption
Part A. It’s about time that gooseberries got some respect. The plants are easy to grow, they tolerate shade, are usually ignored by deer and birds, except my ducks, and they can have excellent flavor. They don’t do very well or yield the tastiest fruits in hot summer climates, hence “Skip to Part B,” although the coolness of shade can somewhat overcome that deficiency.
Gooseberry flavor is what eludes most people. And with good reason; relatively few of you have tasted gooseberries, let alone good-tasting varieties. The reason is that gooseberries belong to the Ribes genus, many plants of which are susceptible to a disease called white pine blister rust. This disease, also attacking white pines, need both white pines and susceptible Ribes plants to complete its life cycle.
Apples a Bust, Pears a Success, Gooseberries a Bust, etc.
Early autumn is a good time for me to find a sunny spot on the terrace with a comfortable chair, pluck a bunch of grapes from the arbor overhead, and ponder the fruits of this year’s labors. And I mean “fruits,” literally: what were my successes, what were my failures, and what do future seasons hold?
In good years, my apples are very, very good; Hudson’s Golden Gem here.
To many people, to too many people, “fruit” means apples, the equivalence having deep roots since pomum is Latin for both apple and fruit. My apple crop this year, whether measured in pounds or number of fruits, is zero. Among my excuses are the wrong rootstock for the site, trees still recovering from last year’s onslaught of 17-year cicada egg-laying, apples’ pest problems making them among the most difficult fruits to …
Good gardening is not religion. Balancing and rebalancing is what’s needed, not the constraints of dogma. You want to garden naturally? Dogma would dictate doing nothing, in which case you wouldn’t have a garden. You want to grow only native plants? Then forget about tomatoes, apples, and tulips. And are the plants you want to grow truly native on your “back forty,” or down the road where the soil is slightly wetter in summer?
Gooseberries and chickens are what turned my thoughts to the need for balance today. I grow over a dozen varieties of gooseberries, dessert gooseberries with flavors akin to those of grape, plum, and apricot. I also “grow” seven Bantam chickens; they provide decoration, insect control, eggs, and some degree of entertainment.
On the downside, chickens’ scratching in my garden beds in search of insects and seeds messes up what could be a very neat and orderly space.
To paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, defense secretary under W, there are the known knowns, the known unknowns, and the unknown unknowns. Donald, you forgot about the unknown knowns. Lets talk about gardening, not war, and the knowns that need to be better known.
Visitors to my garden (actually workshop attendees) were oohing and ahing over some 18-inch-high stalks each capped with a crown of leaves beneath which dangled a circle of red blossoms. Aptly named crown imperial, Fritillaria imperialis, deserves to be more widely known. No one seemed put off by the skunky aroma that suffuses the air even feet away from the plant; I like it.
Perhaps crown imperial would be better known if the bulbs didn’t go for more than 10 dollars each. My gardens’ profusion of crown imperial stalks is more an indication of my green thumb than …