Garden Muse

This year I've had more than my share of worries in the garden. First there's the passionflower vine that doesn't bloom. Not that it isn't vigorous. Its rambling roots pushed through the container's drainage holes and rooted down in a crack between some patio pavers. New stems scrambled up and over the tops of all my other potted plants - shading them like a gigantic canopy.

There's not one flower, not even a bud, just foliage, foliage, foliage. Is it a late bloomer? If I wait a little longer will it burst into spectacular bloom? Or is it just a nuisance that will smother the potted camellias trying to grow upright?

I worry about the sex of my idesia trees. Years ago, on a cold winter day, I saw a gorgeous grove of idesias bearing chains of brilliant orange berries. I had to have some for my own garden. I begged for seeds and started plants, growing them in pots for years before planting seven young trees in the ground.

You need boys and girls to produce fruit, but no one knows exactly how to tell the boys from the girls until they flower.

Naturally, mine haven't bloomed yet. A friend in Seattle with established trees says that males have branches that reach upward at an angle, while females have layers of horizontally outstretching branches, with big spaces between the layers. Her girls are also taller than her boys.

When I planted mine, I selected several shorter trees with angled branches, and some taller trees with layered branches. I squinted a lot to see the shapes of these saplings, and hoped for the best. Two years later they still haven't bloomed, and of course there's no fruit yet. Will this be like the passionflower, with nothing but leaves? I worry about this.

Then there are the cracks that appear in the ground every summer, as the clay-based soil dries out and shrinks. Every year this happens, and every year the rains eventually arrive and as the ground swells, the cracks fill. But still I worry.

It was hotter and drier this summer than ever before. More cracks formed at the edges of beds and in the rough lawn at the far end of the garden. I filled them with wood chips. Will this be the year when the cracks turn into sinkholes? At night I dream the backyard has collapsed into a large pond with streams flowing through the beds. I wake up worried.

Then there's my 'Fuju' persimmon tree. This year it's formed loads of fruit, but here it is late September, and they're still green. Will there be enough warm, sunny days for the fruit to turn orange and become sweet and crisp? Will they ripen before cold weather hits?

At a recent meeting of the St. Paul Garden Club, Jim Gilbert of One Green World showed slides of unusual fruit to grow in our gardens. In one frame, a gorgeous persimmon tree was covered with ripe fruit. Photographed last November, after the leaves had fallen, orange persimmons studded the bare branches like dozens of Christmas ornaments. I want my tree to look just like this.

But I worry that it won't, that the fruit will still be green and unripe, like they were last year.

And what about my hardy dwarf banana? Should I plant it in the ground now, in hopes it will live through the winter, or stuff it into the greenhouse with all the other tender plants?

Worried about how much I worry, I turn to 'The Gardener's Year' by Karel Capek for consolation.

'We gardeners live somehow for the future; if roses are in flower, we think that next year they will flower better,' he writes.

All this worry is just my way of making sure that next year the garden will be even more beautiful. And it will.

Garden events

• Recycled Garden Plant Sale, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, most plants $3 per gallon, 6995 N.W. Cornelius Pass Road, Hillsboro. For information, call 503-626-4070, ext. 3, or visit

• Portland Classical Chinese Garden ( offers free admission 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday in conjunction with Under the Autumn Moon, a festival held from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday on Northwest Davis and Flanders streets between Third and Fourth avenues in Old Town. For information, go to

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