Tamarind, Cypress, Eucalyptus – Trees Dearly Departed

Not my tamarind tree - this one is in India where it belongs.

Not my tamarind tree – this one is in India where it belongs.

I did the unthinkable this morning. I gave away three of my three remaining trees -bequeathed into the professional, loving hands of Debbie at Earth Landscaping.

“Why!?” I hear you scream. Oh, wait… That was me.

Trees don’t just grow on trees, y’know

I could get philosophical… “Success stands upon the backs of a thousand failures.”

I could get mad… “Why won’t my house hold 100-foot-tall trees and 150-foot-deep root systems?! It’s not FAIR! *wahh*”

The fact is it wouldn’t do any good for me to get mad or philosophical about the way that plants grow or don’t grow. Emotion has little to do with survival of trees that need to be outdoors – near the equator – in a monsoon, and are forced to be indoors – in a 12-inch pot – in the shade – in the middle of a desert.

Grow Where You’re Planted, Mr. Trees!

We humans can “grow where we’re planted.” Not many trees can pull that off.

I like Earth Landscaping. They’ll come out when I forget how to turn the outdoor water system on and off (it’s a switch – duh), or need a convoluted left-behind-by-previous-owner water system figured out (it’s more than a switch – duh).

I was so glad they agreed to accept my last three foundling arboreal pets before I managed to slaughter them by overwatering, underwatering, or not moving to India.

This doesn’t mean I won’t try again. I look out across the valley floor and I see lots of trees down there.
And if they can do it…

Plant Relativity: Some stuff grows faster than other stuff

Both trees at 11 months old, planted the same week.

Both trees at 11 months old, planted the same week. Tamarind (left) outdoes lime(?) (right).

Plant Relativity, Not Einstein’s

Even a six year old knows that stuff grows at different rates. One garden patch makes flowers faster. Weeds (just plants unlucky enough to grow in the wrong place at the wrong time) grow faster than the shrub they’re next to. Errant grasses in driveways grow faster than tenderly pampered lawns.

It’s the same with trees. Take a look at the photo.

In May last year, the tamarind sprouted -unnamed, as the blue label on a stick had fallen out of its nest. We figured it out, after much head-scratching. Its kid sister sprouted a few days later.

The lime —and I use that term loosely— showed up later that same week, a little leaf barely breaking the soil.

The blue thing next to the lime is a 15" ruler.

The blue thing next to the lime is a 15″ ruler, which means this year+ old tree is about five inches tall.

Plant, Yes – Label, Absolutely

At the risk of stating the obvious, plants will not label themselves. Ask me how I know this.

I use the term “lime” loosely, because honestly I don’t know for sure what it is. There are a few options. One of the seedling peat pots held a sliver of lime and a couple of seeds that I dumped in on a whim instead of tossing them into the garbage disposal. Another had some lemon seeds due to a similar whim. A third peat pot had some chia seeds that got swept off the counter after lunch. I’ve seen chia in action, so I’m ruling out that. Besides, I think those seeds were toasted.

Meanwhile, the tamarind took off like wildfire. Its kid sister is doing well, but is probably a quarter of its big brother’s size.

In a burst of me-too’ism, the lime sprouted a second leaf, the very same month! Then it took a few weeks off to recover from the stress.

Every few months, the lime hesitantly offers another leaf. It grows another quarter of an inch. We hear tiny cheers from the former dining room. It does this whether it lives in full sun, partial sun, partial shade, full shade, or in complete darkness like a ‘shroom. Whether it gets an ice cube each day or no water for a week.

No, it’s not silk or plastic. I checked. Twice.

Tall tamarind takes command of the room, photobombed by its little sister.

Tall tamarind takes command of the room, photobombed by its little sister.

Plants Grow and Grow and Grow and —

The taller of the two tamarinds can almost touch the lower side of the vaulted ceiling. Here’s a beauty shot, with Tall Tamarind being photobombed by its kid sister, Short Tamarind, in the foreground. “Take a picture of me, too!” Short Tamarind would be taller, but it spends much more time growing -out- and annoying the other plants on the bench by sucking up all their sunlight.

[DISCLAIMER: I don’t know which tamarind, if either, is a boy or a girl. One is growing like a weed, tall and gangly, doesn’t like to be hugged, tries to topple over its container, and eats like it has a hollow leg. The other is shorter, dainty, wants to hug all the time, enjoys it when I hang dragonfly pendants on its lower branches, and wants posters of Justin Bieber on the wall.]

Do You Have a Plant Point, Ms. Garden Lass?

Yes. Yes, I do —and I’ve said it before, and it bears repeating here:

Label Your Plant Containers When You Plant Stuff.

It’ll save you from those embarrassing moments when your mom visits from out of town, turns the corner into the “dining room” and gasps —at the ceiling-scraping leafy monstrosity in the corner— “OMG What is THAT?!”

And you can say, in your most authoritative voice, “Why, Mother, I’m so glad you asked.

“That’s Tamarindus indica, a tropical evergreen native to the Asian and African continents, which will grow to an estimated 75 feet tall at maturity, and bears an acidic fruit popularly used as a cooling drink.”

Better believe Tall Tamarind is going to get kicked out of the house well before it reaches its 75-foot tall self.

To your garden success!
Casey – the Garden Lass

How to Putter in the Garden for Maximum Results

putter in the garden outfit

Proper putter prep: the outfit must be particular

Dictionary.com defines “putter” as: 

  1. to busy or occupy oneself in a leisurely, casual, or ineffective manner: to putter in the garden.
  2. to move or go in a specified manner with ineffective action or little energy or purpose: to putter about the houseon a rainy day.
  3. to move or go slowly or aimlessly; loiter.

Some of us don’t have time to putter in the complete sense of the word – too much to do! In order to get all our puttering done in time to get to work, we have to charge at the task with all the energy of a 4AM call from a drill sergeant.

A typical morning putter goes something like this:

  • 6:45 AM – grab gear and first water source, a gallon milk jug with fertilizer
  • 6:45 AM – grab coffee cup; juggle cane, jug, coffee cup, set down coffee cup and immediately forget where
  • 6:46 AM – open patio door soundlessly so as not to wake husband or cats (who would escape) (cats, not husband)
  • 6:46 AM – water topsy turvy tomato; look for tomatoes (hah!); glare at bunny bait soon to be compost
  • 6:47 AM – close patio doors quietly; water starting mason jar potatoes and garlics; spray tops and sumac
Roma tomato plant

More tomatoes on the label than on the plant – still

  • 6:48 AM – grab second water source, one quart juice bottles, make mental note to throw out bottle with broken handle
  • 6:48 AM – water bonsai in kitchen, bonsai on nook table, last remaining indoor tomato seedlings now bigger than cat
  • 6:50 AM – grab third water source, one quart juice bottle with Miracle Gro
  • 6:51 AM – check water in fireplace room plants; water sparingly
Ginger root has sprouted in the dark dank garage humidity

Ginger root has several sprouts and what might be a spider

  • 6:52 AM – open small garage door; wince at high pitched squeal
  • 6:52 AM – water starter pot of ginger plant; kick spiders out door while not screaming. Oh wait, that’s a beetle.
  • 6:53 AM – grab fourth water source, two big DeliCat cat food jugs
  • 6:54 AM – check on lone stray squash plant in Bunny Buffet Field; water if it still has more than two leaves
  • 6:55 AM – water tomato, tomato, cauliflower, potato on front porch
Echeveria shaviana about to bloom

Puttering past Cousin Bob; wave happily

  • 6:55 AM – wave ‘hi’ to Echevieria Shaviana and Cousin Bob
  • 6:56 AM – refill DeliCat jugs in garage sink; drench left leg, swear under breath
  • 6:57 AM – walk down and water two rose bushes; consider inventing thornless rose or thorn-proof housecoat
  • 6:58 AM – refill DeliCat jugs and place on front porch; make mental note to throw out leaky DeliCat jug and invest in -decent- watering cans
  • 7:00 AM – grab fifth and final water source(s), three juice jugs and spray bottle

(the following steps are performed under the careful supervision of two cats)

  • 7:01 AM – water yellow squash – one full quart. It will have drunk all the water from last night and produced two more leaves the size of your old VW bug.
  • 7:03 AM – stare at cardboard palm peat pots; wonder yet again why they haven’t sprouted
  • 7:03 AM – water tamarind #1, water tamarind #2
  • 7:04 AM – water spinach, spinach, jalapeno and green onions, putter around for 30 seconds while wondering where the other green onion pot is
yellow squash

every morning yellow squash is out of water

  • 7:06 AM – consider watering orange mint if you could see the pot but with all that mint, who knows where it is
  • 7:08 AM – carefully remove wilted squash blossoms, broken leaves; swear at nearest cat (who is blameless)
  • 7:10 AM – try to find coffee cup

And that, dear reader, is how you putter in the garden at break-neck speed for maximum results.

Just think how relaxing it’ll be when we finally add on the space to the north of the shed at the bottom of the hill…

Vote The Tree: The Results Show

“Mystery tree” and little brother: Tamarind!

First, thank you for voting and Facebooking and commenting and helping with the process of identifying the little guy since he sprouted on May 1o.

And now, in a most unscientific fashion, the tree in question can be identified as a tamarind, thanks to a Tamarindus indica tree seedling baby picture found on Wikipedia which looks EXACTLY like the first few days of our mystery tree’s sproutification.

To further demystify things, the second mystery pot to sprout came up with an almost identical seedling. Since two peat pots were seeded with tamarind and one with staghorn sumac, the answer seemed pretty clear. But that’s why we gave it a few days’ growth before saying for sure that the mystery is solved.

But solved it is, without having to wait 60 years for indisputable proof: Tamarind seeds!

The voting? Well, the trend was Staghorn Sumac, with double the votes that the Tamarind choice got. Nobody picked the “Something else” option – so next I will have to plant some “something else” just to see what happens!

Woohoo! The -um – Something Hatched!

This morning was joyous and just a wee bit unsettling. Something sprouted, but I have absolutely no idea what.

In the middle of last month, while gardening was still a curiosity and not yet a full-blown commitment, I stuck a few seeds into three peat pots, which I watered, lit, watered, waited, sunned, shaded and -finally- shoved into an out-of-the-way corner in disgust.

Hi, Who are you?

I figured my attempts at growing tamarind (or tamarisk) and sumac (aka “sumach”) were doomed to end in failure, after happening upon the instructions for how to plant these recalcitrant beasts – and the guidance that if I don’t boil the seeds first, I might as well watch concrete grow.

Ahoy, Voyage of Broken Dreams: This passenger is heading ashore at the next port. The … one of the seed sets has sprouted!

Aye, that’s the rub. One of them did. But there’s no way to know which one.

You see, I was ever so careful to mark the pots when I planted each one, with perfectly penned missives relaying

  • What was planted,
  • When it was planted,
  • How (deep) it was planted,
  • What it wanted for water,
  • What it wanted for sunshine –

in short, all the pertinent details that’d help each pot of seed grow to its full potential.

That was then. This is now, a week after having given up all hope of anything ever coming of it, removing the pots from the shelf, removing the label from the shelf – and the matching label from the pots (redundant, yes, I know, but safety in case the pot didn’t make it back to the exact location).

So now I know that (a) something has sprouted, (b) it is a sumac OR (c) it is a tamarind, and (d) it is not a lemon tree since I didn’t plant any of those.

The coin is a United States quarter, by the way. I wanted to show how big it is on its very first morning aboveground. I’ll let you know if any rabbits disappear.

I would like to think this lack of forethought on my part could have been prevented by a decent plant marker. As it is, I don’t think the best plant markers in the world could have saved me from myself, but it would have at least reminded me of what a good idea it is to mark my seedling pots.

[PS. Follow the progress of this little fellow in the Tree Chronicle, where I’ll post regular updates about his progress. Got an idea what he is? Ring in!]

Hope Springs Eternal about Tamarinds

Buoyed by my good fortune with the dense houseplants  acquired before my parents’ arrival, and thrilled with the apparent great behavior of the succulents Echeveria shaviana, and its cousin Bob, in their respective ceramic pots, I decided to get brave and attempt… SEEDS.

You might recall my dreams of having a field of pampas grass covering the south side of the house. Well, a few days ago (from this post), I ordered an ambitious trio of tree seeds from Amazon. Visions of pampas grass dance in my head, as well as towering sumac trees and tamarinds.

Now you’d think, avid fan of search engines and hours spent sifting through tons of data mined to research a project… I would take time to do some investigation for my own project. You’d be mistaken.

Fast forward to the first weekend of April. The seeds have arrived and are burning a hole in my pocket, just waiting to turn into towering sumac trees and elegant tamarinds. Keep in mind I have no idea what a tamarind looks like, but it sounds like it will be elegant. Two hundred pampas grass seeds await a careful scattering around my back yard.

Fast forward to the end of the first weekend of April. The seeds are still in their plastic baggies.

First, about that tamarind:

The tamarind, a slow-growing, long-lived, massive tree reaches, under favorable conditions, a height of 80 or even 100 ft (24-30 m), and may attain a spread of 40 ft (12 m) and a trunk circumference of 25 ft (7.5 m). … The tree bears abundantly up to an age of 50-60 years or sometimes longer, then productivity declines, though it may live another 150 years..  

Good grief. And I have ten of the dang seeds. I do some quick math in my head and determine that I will have to live to 120 years old in order to see even one of them completely mature. The good news is they may bear as early as four years (so I’ll be 64) but in some climates bear after 10-14 years (ok, so I’ll be only 74 or so – I can do that).

Then I read the fine print and my brain sorts it out. TAMARIND. I was thinking TAMARISK. Big difference…