Central Virginia Organic Gardener

"And 'tis my faith that every flower enjoys the air it breathes." - William Wordsworth, 1798

Saturday, February 6, 2010

My Poor Eucalyptus

My poor eucalyptus

As other residents of the mid-Atlantic and upper south states know, we recently got whomped with snow. OK, not SNOW by Minnesota standards, but enough- 10 to12 inches here in Central VA (and for the second time this winter) and 32 inches in Northern VA and DC. The photo of my poor eucalyptus above is a lesson on why you should not grow plants that are not suitable for your area. This is the most hardy variety of eucalyptus I could find, but I have grown and lost one before. Eucalyptus will get winter die back every 4-5 years or so here and will die completely every 7-8 years or so, usually from cold and ice. The last one I had was weakened by an ice storm one winter and taken out by a hurricane the next summer. I do not know if these three (yes there are three trees in that photo, one tipped and mostly under the snow) will survive the snow, ice and cold. There are other reasons than climate to not grow non-native plants, including the fact that they usually cannot act as food for native creatures (but that is also precisely why we often want to grow them, because they are not bothered by pests or critters). In addition, they may have specific soil requirements that you cannot match- and, believe me, trying to change your soil to a very different type is a gargantuan, and perhaps impossible, task.

So why did I plant eucalyptus a second time? Why did I chose this exotic non-native? Am I a slow learner? Maybe, but I think eucalyptus is beautiful and fragrant and I can make lovely wreathes and arrangements using cuttings from it. I know I “should not” grow it, but I have a weakness for it. I try to plant plenty of native plants and ones that help local critters, but I will probably persist in planting eucalyptus (just like I try to grow beets every year and pretty much fail). I will treat eucalyptus like a semi-hardy perennial, let it grow when it can and take it out when it cannot. What is that key sign of insanity? Repeating the same act over and over in the face of contrary evidence?

All for now…stay warm and happy gardening!

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