Monday, March 7, 2011

Where The Majority Of The World’s Pests Don’t Live

A few years ago, as I was checking out some items at Wal-Mart, the cashier smiled as she placed a flowering plant that I was purchasing inside a plastic bag. So I smiled back. This must’ve been an invitation to chat because she immediately said to me: “You know, back in my old country, we grow these plants outdoors year round.”


“Yes. In gardens, along sidewalks, in parks...everywhere.”

“Well, it must be warm there.”

“Oh yes, it is very warm.”

“Where are you from?” I asked.

“The Philippines.”

“Oh, that’s nice.”

My first thought was: The tropical Philippines? What in the world is she doing in the cold north?

My second thought was: What in the world am I doing in the cold north?

(Incidentally, for those of you who are wondering, the plant she was referring to is the beautiful hibiscus that was also probably wondering what the heck it was doing in the cold north. Because although these plants may grow wild in the Philippines, they drop like flies here if left outdoors in the winter.)


So later that night, I thought about what the lady at Wal-Mart had told me – about the Hibiscus growing outside, month after month, year after year, probably along with many other plants that we are limited to growing indoors in our harsh weather. And I tried to imagine myself living in such a place; a place that offered many more outdoor gardening opportunities with its warmer weather. What would it be like?

Hmmm...let’s see now...

To start, I pictured myself growing some of my favourite plants in my ‘year round’ outdoor garden. Maybe I’d create a flower-related theme that included some hibiscus plants, a few (gazillion) lilies and oodles of orchids. Or maybe I’d concentrate on really funky plants such as the Beaucarnea becurvata, Pachypodium lamerei and Cycas revoluta that would become huge outdoors, putting my pipsqueak indoor versions to shame. Throw in a couple of Yuccas and an Adenium obesum or two and we’re in business.


Perhaps I’d create a tropical haven full of an assortment of glorious Aroids such as Aglaonema, Alocasia, Anthurium, Caladium, Dieffenbachia, Philodendron and Spathiphyllum. Sure, why not. Oh, but wait! How about those gorgeous, absolutely irresistible, could-never-live-without- them Bromeliads? Woohoo! Now we’re talking. In addition, my botanical paradise would not be complete without a few cool add-ons like a nice rock garden beside a pond full of Goldfish or Koi. Heck, why not throw in an inground pool while I’m at it? Yeah, that’s good.

So there I’d be, caring for my garden, feeding the fish in my pond, throwing a ball to my dog (because there has to be a dog in this imaginary life), taking a dip in the pool or just lounging around outside reading a good book - in November, or January, or whenever I damn well pleased; never needing to don a winter coat or shovel out a car after a snowstorm.

And all was well with this tropical world.

Then, out of the blue, my imagination went off track and things got ugly. Really ugly. Without harsh winters, evil flourished. All year round, the garden crawled with a variety of oversized, perpetually-breeding pests (mosquitoes, earwigs, spiders, snakes, snails, mice, rats, cockroaches, termites, scorpions, slugs, grasshoppers) that were multiplying by the gazillion as they chomped their way through the plants, trees, lawn, patio furniture – even the dog. Eventually they overtook the outdoors and I took refuge inside my home, securing doors and windows in an effort to protect myself against these hostile demons. But there was no safe place. Since there was no brutal cold in my warm region to kill them or force them to hibernate or migrate, they invaded the indoors too - flying, crawling and marching their way in. The house – every room, every closet - was swarming with moths, pill bugs, silverfish, flies, ants and sow bugs.

Then they came, the worst evil of all, slithering their way in through the cracks by the dozens. The bloodcurdling millipedes... And I ran out of my home screaming. But. There. Was. No. Place. To. Hide. I was trapped in a tropical bug-harboring nightmare!

And then I woke up...

Well, that dream pretty much clarifies what I’m doing in the cold north where the majority of the world’s pests don’t live. And why I prefer growing hibiscus plants in containers, indoors, in the cold north...where the majority of the world’s pests don’t live. The long, cold winters keep the bugs away, and that’s okay with me.

(This week’s ‘Friday’s Flower Pot’ post will be – you guessed it – about the care requirements of a hibiscus.)

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