The Looking-Glass Garden
So you know Eucalyptus and Aloe, and probably Scaevola and Agapanthus--all great plants that hail from the southern hemisphere. But as gardeners seek out more plants to use in hot, drought-tolerant conditions, it seems natural to look into our mirror image south of the equator. In The Looking-Glass Garden: Plants and Gardens of the Southern Hemisphere by Peter Thompson (Timber Press, 2001; $40), Thompson writes about 1,500 plants native to New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, and Chile, among other countries. This isn't just an encyclopedia of plant listings. Thompson's reports come from visits to 350 sites, but his descriptions of the geography never overwhelm the plant stories. It's an easy read and an excellent overview of the plants we already know, and the ones we should.
After the flooding from that nasty tropical storm "Allison," I talked with several water gardeners who are still trying to recover. Nearly two feet of water fell in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and algae is flourishing in many ponds and water gardens. It will take weeks to skim off the algae and recreate a natural balance, especially in biofiltered ponds.
One good result of this situation is the use of skimmed algae in compost. By layering the algae into the compost heap, temperatures of 140oF can be reached in a couple of days. With 1 to 2 turns of the pile per week, these piles will be gardeners' gold in about 1 month.