Monday, August 15, 2011

A Few Words On Plant Fever and How I Ended Up With a Tree of My Own

One of the main reasons there are too few hours in a day is that there are so many plants to see! It doesn't help that I now have hundreds more plants under my care, having recently taken on a new job at a nursery. I love my new occupation, but I've dearly missed blogging about plant life! The season is marching on in my patio garden, at the farm, in my community plots and in the local greenspaces. If the zoom lens on my camera was strong enough, I'd show you the renegade leaves at the top of the maple tree across the street that are already turning red. As strange as they are, they send me a strong message, and I know I have a lot of catching up to do.

So I pass time at the nursery and the plants do their part in keeping me sane. But once in a while, it's the plants that also drive me to insanity. I'm talking specifically about my recent acquisition of an Asian pear tree here.  There were no outside forces at work that resulted in it now residing on my patio- only me and the tree. In the moment before I brought it home, I was entranced by it. (My husband, and possibly my neighbours, who I dragged into the garden to admire the tree the moment I got it home, and maybe even some folks out there on Facebook, may argue that the trance lasted all night.) Am I crazy, or did this tree speak to me?

At six feet tall, the tree towers five inches above me. (Yeah, I measured it, but only after I got it home and set about writing this post.) Here are a few more relative measurements:

distance between the nursery and my garden= 15 miles/ 24 km
cargo volume in my car= 65.3 cu ft/ 1.85 cu metres
total area of my garden= 150 square feet/ 15 metres square

The numbers were an afterthought, and I conjure them up for your benefit, only to show you that it was mathematically possible for me to have this tree.  When the tree and I were talking, or rather, when that dialogue occurred in my head, it was strictly horticultural. Maybe a bit culinary too. And, yes, I recall a small dose of vanity maybe, just a milligram. During that dialogue, here's what I found out. . .

Asian pear trees (Pyrus pyrifolia) have existed for an estimated 3000 years in their native Asian regions, working their way into sayings and parables, and eventually becoming a well-known symbol of spring. They were introduced to North America in the 1800's by Chinese agricultural immigrants who landed in California. 

They are less common than European pears here mainly due to their occasional vulnerability to fire blight, the high water content of their fruit (which makes them less versatile in cooking), and their limited winter-hardiness. I also found out that fruit trees can be grown in containers, but it may produce slightly less yield and require steadfast attention to watering. It's best to cross-pollinate them with another pear tree.

Owing to my advanced stage of plant fever, I found it easy to form an appropriate retort to all this information. The fact is, diseases like fire blight only heighten my interest in IPM (Integrated Pest Management), and my keenness to practice it. I get a similar kick out of growing plants on the edge of their hardiness zone. (Yes, I'm still a fan of native plants and will extoll their virtues at the drop of a hat, but can't I have a little fun too?) 

Growing plants in containers is also my bag. Where else am I supposed to grow them now that I've filled all the space I have in the ground? My plant fever also tells me that urban agriculture trends are leaning, somewhat like a young fruit tree, toward growing just about anything in containers. 

As for the aptness of certain fruits in my kitchen, I prefer to leave that up to the taste buds. Asian pears aren't usually used in pies, but they are touted for adding flavor to savory things like beef marinades. Wikipedia says that they "tend to be served to guests or given as gifts, or eaten together in a family setting." Now who couldn't approve of  that? 

The distance from the nursery to my house, the cargo space in my car, and the few feet of space I have left in my garden worked in my favour the day I took my first tree home. I found a sizeable, sturdy glazed pot and furnished it with compost. As I stare at the fruit through my rainy window today, I can imagine the branches maybe eventually reaching the upstairs balcony so that the neighbours could reach out and pick a pear, or peeking up over the fence to evoke some curiosity from passers-by.

It's true, pollinating the pears is most successful when there is more than one tree. But to me, seeking out pollen from another fruit tree owner, just as spring is coming around the corner each year, seems like a pleasant quandry. After all, what is gardening about, if not sharing germs of plant fever that may one day bear fruit in your own garden?

This sculpture in my garden reminds me that anything is possible!


  1. If a tree speaks to you, it would be rude not to answer, right? Besides, you never know whether something will work until you try it, and if it does work, it will be absolutely glorious. And really, a container tree only takes up about two feet in diameter, if that. That's less than most perennials! Most of the growth happens up high, where you have plenty of space. (Ahem.)

    Enjoy your tree.

  2. I am a sucker (no pun intended) for fruit trees, I only have a small garden but have 4 apples and 4 plums. Trouble is I have far more fruit than I am able to eat.

  3. Amusing post. Amazing the powers of rationalization when we fall in love :)


If there's one thing better than visiting gardens, it's talking about them. . .thanks for joining the conversation!