For years it has been my nature to devote fair energy in maintaining an uncommon number of tropical plants on my grounds that would not, on their own, manage to quite stay alive in our not-really-tropical climate.
This can be kind of a pain, but if I didn’t think I was gaining more from the pleasure of growing and enjoying these plants than I was losing in the efforts of rescuing them from extreme weather, well, I wouldn’t keep doing it.
So it was that I found myself yesterday, driving 90 miles each way to the Polka Farm to save four plants from an unseasonable cold front. You might not think a mere four plants would be worth the trouble, not to mention the gasoline, but these are special plants. Two of them are heritage plants, harkening back to ancestors on my wife’s side of the family. Historical plants, you could say, and that’s a pretty cool thing all by itself. Those are roots you can literally trace.
The other two started out as cuttings from my original Pink Dwarf Singapore plumeria, a semi-rare variety that cost me more than I was used to paying, six years ago or so when I bought it from now-defunct Teas Nursery in Houston. Here’s the thing about plumeria: They are trees, and in most parts of the U.S., you have to keep them cooped up inside of pots, because they usually die in weather even approaching freezing. Still, they can grow very large, as in 12, 13 feet or so, even stuffed into a pot. But a dwarf plumeria stays at a more manageable size. It almost resembles a bonsai plant, very slow-growing but still easy to flower and just all-around cute.
So it was worth three hours of driving and some gas, to me, to save these plants. While I was at it I looked in on several dozen full-sized plumeria that I’d already put into storage in the barn, tucked them in for winter by taking away their water and light. But you still have to maintain their dormancy at above freezing, or they’ll die or be damaged.
So I had to apply some heat – I have a heater in the barn that turns itself off at intervals after heating a room to pretty much whatever temperature you like – and I only applied a very little. Tucked the plants back into their barn bed and came on home to repeat much the same procedure with the tropicals here.
During the drive I listened to several taped lectures I found kicking around on the Internet, by a philosophy professor whose books I’d read maybe 45 years ago. You know you’re an old fart when you would rather listen to philosophy lectures on CD than commercial-free satellite-driven rock or jazz music, to say nothing (nothing at all) of hip-hop. I haven’t told the kids about this, as I’m afraid they might become horrified.
After Thanksgiving the days are expected to warm back up to the mid-60s, with correspondingly warmer nights, and I’ll probably drag some of the non-dormant plants back out into the sunshine to give me something urgent to do ahead of the next cold snap.
But if I keep up my part burning as much fossil fuel as possible, I can help drag us into USDA Climate Zone 10, at which point I can just leave these tropical plants around wherever I like, thanks to that climate change everybody else is so afraid of.