Summer is fading & autumn is almost here. We’re on the tail end of one of the sunniest summers on record and now I sit here typing to the sound of raindrops and puddle drips. The seasonal change seems to have happened almost overnight.
A couple weeks ago I embarked on a roadtrip to California with my kid brother in the hopes of expanding his world and seeing some fresh highways. We drove south on the 101 from Port Angeles, took the coast through San Fran and down to L.A to see the Huntington Gardens. From there a quick drive east and then north again on the 395 to visit Big Pine & Bishop in search of the oldest living trees on the planet, the Bristle Cone Pines.
Some Canadians seems intimidated by the idea of driving through the U.S.A but it’s surely one of my most favorite places to road-trip. Their roads are always long and straight and built for speed, well maintained and placed in some of the most scenic passageways I’ve ever seen. From coastal cliffside to deep forests, mountains and deserts; one can see a lot of different ecosystems in a very short amount of time. Driving north from L.A to reach the starting point of the ancient bristle cone pine forest was a new trip for me and I’m very glad I made the trek.
Upon reaching Big Pine California you take a quick right on the 168 and drive into the mountains to reach this world renowned sanctuary. You start out in an almost tundra-like climate devoid of plant life. Making your way up the narrow mountain road you are transported to a time long before man; the vision is almost mars like in it’s sheer vastness and desolate nature. Quickly gaining altitude a pine tree forest emerges and in a short amount of time you find yourself at the starting point of the hike, The Schulman Memorial Grove & Bristle Cone Research Center. A well priced excursion, make sure you have $3.00 on hand for the parking pass and away you go.
There are a couple hikes to choose from depending on your time and fitness. Having drove nearly 3200km to see this forest we opted for the longer excursion and went on exploring the 4mile hike in and around the Methuselah grove. We arrived at 5:00pm and only had a couple of hours of light left so we made sure we kept some haste in our step. Still the hike was easily achieved in less than two hours; given 4 hours you could take your time quite nicely.
These trees are believed to be some of the oldest living beings on earth, the most notable inhabitant being the “Methuselah” dated at over at 4,700 years of age. The trees grow in a harsh arid climate, the oldest being found at the highest elevations at over 10,000-11,000 ft in altitude. With few nutrients in the soil and little moisture to speak of; the hillside has very little botanical diversity at all. Bristle Cone Pine’s (Pinus longaeva) true strength lie in their ability to grow where little else can. Perhaps it is in this fact that they have lived as long as they have. These trees show no signs of senescence and it seems they can grow indefinitely given they don’t die from disaster or the hands of man.
These trees have been of great scientific debate over the years and give scientists a unique look into the past. The tree’s rings tell great tales of drought and flood and do a remarkable job of recording the weather patterns over the millennia.
Much like visiting the cathedrals in Europe I was filled with an unsurpassed awe. The air was still and absolute in it’s silence. This land was indeed sacred and walking amongst the gnarled and twisted limbs I felt something bigger than myself, then any of us for that matter. Due to the arid conditions the trees stand indefinitely even after death. Carved wood and twisted grains, it was more of a living and breathing art museum then any other forest I’d ever walked before. To think these trees lived long before the birth of Christ, the pyramids and most civilized society today. I found myself contemplating my existence in a much different light, these elders stood here all along.
… Until next time plant people .
Growing plants from other parts of the world is an exciting game of patience. Many plants grown from seed take a while to mature before setting bud.
I first read about Isoplexis canariensis a couple years back. Stories of an illusive Canary Island Foxglove always intrigued me. Luckily we live the modern era where one doesn’t necessarily have to travel to the location of the plant to commence one’s plant science. I eagerly placed an order on http://www.rareplants.de and shortly after received a package in the mail. I sowed the seeds in June of 2012 and have been rewarded with vibrant blooms a mere 14 months later. The whole crop started to flower mid July of this year, I suppose you could call this project a complete success. Unfortunately what does one do with 25 flowering exotic plants that no one really knows exist. These strange plants have flowered for weeks and are still creating buds. Their hardiness probably lies a great deal warmer than Victoria will offer, only time will tell.
Isoplexis growing in Victoria.
A quick peak into my dry cactus bed today.
Noid cactus (gymnocalycium?)
Sometimes a plant just stands out.
Today’s favorite plant, Macleaya cordata; otherwise known as the Plume Poppy. Slender stems feature snowflake inspired leafs cast in a blue hued green. I bought this plant in mid spring, potted it up into a larger container and it’s done nothing but impress ever since. It’s vigorous growth and generous blooming time is always well received. It maintains a presence in a late season garden full of countless eligible rivals. After the blooms fade the seed heads are equally as pleasing. Rumor has it once established seedlings will appear and you’ll have more to share with friends. Another wierd plant that is easy to grow, in sun/partial shade, with regular watering.
Alas it’s been a while yet since I’ve found moments to muse stories on this botanical blog of mine. For those of you who still stop by, thank you for having faith in my return. A lot of big things are happening right now and sometimes creative projects take the brunt of it.
This spring and summer has been a fury of activity. Operating a small hobby greenhouse in the valley has turned out to be a bigger endeavor than one would imagine. Whether you have irrigation or not, the plants need to be regularly checked on. We had a record breaking sunny June & July and the days were hot. While this makes for excellent margarita weather it also inspires extra thirsty gardens.
Growing exotics in the north is not without it’s challenges. Reading some of my favorite plant blogs located in the U.K, Portland & California I would have thought there would be a bigger appetite for strange plants up here. Still I ended up having a few more echiums, sonchus & isoplexsis than I really knew what to do with. Starting strange plants from parts unknown is a great adventure in science. These plants are from the other side of the planet and here they are, flowering in my greenhouse looking quite at home. Propagating is addictive and it can lead to a bit of a messiah complex if you’re not careful. It’s a bizarre feeling being the caretaker of this many plants, it’s very satisfying but a huge responsibility.
Most people crazy enough to have a blog dedicated to plants can relate; this past-time can quickly grow out of hand. If you have the growing space, it will be filled. Even if you don’t you’ll make something work. Although my life is undoubtedly more fulfilling with these plants one can’t underestimate the commitment it takes to have even a modest sized collection. It’s not good enough to have everything survive, we strive for perfection don’t we?
Anyhow onto the topic on hand. The plants.
While some might find success growing tree ferns outside, mine lives in the greenhouse where it really thrives.
A noid species of phytolacca bloomed earlier this spring and is now creating it’s strange pillar of berries.
I just love plants with a story. Dendroseris litoralis otherwise known as the cabbage tree is endemic the Juan Fernandez Islands west of Chile and was nearly brought to extinction in the 80′s due to over grazing. It took me a couple years track down some seeds but once acquired they were relatively easy to get going. This is one of two left in my collection, it’s vigorous growth is fun to watch and I’m thrilled to see it’s progress.
Solanum pyracanthum features velvet stems and golden spikes. Stranger so this plant is a distant relative to the tomato and after flowering creates a similar fruit. I’m uneasy of trying it’s delictable flavor, I’ll leave this one up to admiring.
More plant tales to come. thanks for stopping by.