Tuesday, June 27, 2006



In Texas, all the world’s a greenhouse – becoming hotter each year. You hardly need to build a large structure with glass walls to concentrate the sun’s energy, and allow you to grow tomatoes, jalapenos or green peppers. Neither can we, when the heat becomes unbearable, open the flaps at the top to let some of the heat escape.

While waiting for our transfer to Aberdeen, I dreamed of greenhouses, such as where I grew up at Old Scone Nursery – not the toy kind you buy prefabricated. They’re set against a solid wall, at least twenty feet high, built of wood that needs to be painted every second year to keep from rotting. (Imagine trying to reach the top panes). The picture shows the Old Scone greenhouse --- well it hadn’t been painted for twenty years. On hot days you have to open the ventilators to keep your plants from wilting. Winter, you need to keep the frost out. We had six inch pipes with circulating hot water fed by a coal boiler. Yes, and guess who had to stoke the fire at ten in the evening?

In the North Country a greenhouse changes your entire gardening style. It’s where your seedlings start until the early-morning frosts are over – sometimes as late as June. The temperature now barely reaches into the 60s F. Also it’s where tomatoes, grapes and all those fruit you take for granted in Texas will grow. And a great place to hang out with a book, among fragrant tomatoes, or work sheltered from the bite of the North Wind.

Walking out of our apartment yesterday we climbed the hill and soon found ourselves among spreading sycamore trees with expansive lawns, trimmed extra short, where kids were playing football. A place where you didn’t hear city traffic, and it was quiet enough to think. At the edge stood two large greenhouses. I tried the door, slightly rotten, and found it open. Mindful of Texas trespassing laws, Amber hung back a moment. Aren’t we trespassing? “They don’t shoot Scotsmen for trespassing,” I said and walked in. The air was several degrees warmer, with a fresh green scent. In the middle hung the long lever to open the ventilator panes. A panorama of unfamiliar landscaping plants that preferred warmer climates grew there. Many succulents such as you see in California. The second greenhouse lay fallow. Whoever gardened had their energies elsewhere.

People here take gardening seriously, no matter how small the plot that needs to be worked, and this usually means more than mowing the lawn. It’s where you connect with the land and its unpredictable climate. If you’re vegetarian, you’d better have your homegrown source of tasty veggies. Eating store veggies with closed eyes, you wouldn’t know if you were eating a tomato or an apple. And several small sprigs of parsley cost you about $3.

Standing in the greenhouse I could see something of what might be. It's fun to dream and even more exciting to make the dream real.

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