In the Garden:
Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
May, 2012
Regional Report

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Japanese maple (Acer japonica) is just one of the plants that thrive in moist, warm climates.

Vive La Difference!

Home again, home again, jiggity jig!

I am just home from visiting with my mum in North Carolina. I try to make the trip twice a year, since neither of us are getting any younger. Leaving California and stepping off the plane in Asheville is always both a culture as well as a climate shock. The hills and fields of California are brown now, while NC is a verdant green.

Gardeners there planted their vegetable gardens at least eight weeks ago and the beans, eggplant, and tomatoes are already blooming and beginning to set fruit. Here in sunny California we are just putting our warm season crops into the earth.

My mom has a dear friend who volunteers at the botanical garden in Asheville in his spare time. James is an avid gardener and is originally from San Francisco, so he and I speak the same language, so far as gardening is concerned. His home in the mountains of North Carolina is bursting with gorgeous plants that we can never cultivate here, at least with any amount of success. Vigorous peonies that are bursting with gigantic blossoms, clematis flowers the size of dinner plates, and graceful Japanese maples all thrive in the moist, warm air.

I would say that I am envious except that I don't like humid, hot summers. Since the temperature doesn't drop at night James is able to grow incredibly flavorful Beefsteak tomatoes -- that's the secret for growing that particular variety, you know. We grow an alternative here in California that was an All-American Selections winner a few years ago called 'Big Beef', but it still doesn't compare to the real thing. There is nothing that can compare to the flavor of a tomato that has been grown where the nights are warm and humid.

Just FYI: Did you know that plants that are considered and judged as All-America Selection winners are tested in gardens all over the United States? If a particular plant doesn't thrive in any one of the designated All-America test gardens it is not eligible to be labeled as an All-America.

In addition to his beautiful ornamental garden at his home, James keeps a vegetable garden in town. His home garden is shaded and in the woods, while his vegetable garden lies in full sun, is closer to town, and near a creek so the soil is rich and sandy. I asked how he irrigates since there didn't appear to be any water supply on the property. He told me that the summer rains keep everything going and additional irrigation is rarely necessary. If they do have a dry spell he carries water in five-gallon buckets from his home.

I can't imagine gardening any other way than what I have learned here in California over the many years I have had my hands in the soil, but obviously it is not the only way. While there are basics of gardening that apply no matter where you cultivate the soil, there are also many regional tricks and techniques that gardeners have perfected over time to give the best results in their local conditions. It's what keeps gardening endlessly fresh and interesting!

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