Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Kiwi fruit

Feel unbelievably better. What a contrast with yesterday. I don't mind being ill for just 2 days, but sometimes it goes on for a month. Managed to do some work this afternoon, and then some gardening, which injected the will to live back into me. I should surely die if there were nothing but man-made objects in the world. God save the planet from people who worship scientific study as the absolute substitute for understanding Life.

The hailstorm did a fascinating thing. It damaged nothing in the garden but the Kiwi vine, actinidia chinensis, the very producer of the kiwi fruit which is now so common in supermarkets that everyone sneers at them. The beautiful,soft,large, erect,leaves of this vine were shot through as though by a machine gun. This plant is slightly frost hardy, but clearly not hail-hardy. It is another example of how although exotic species can live in this country, they are not designed to compete in the wild with native species. Plants, animals and humans. Kiwi fruit used to be the height of chicness in a restaurant, but now their cultivation in Spain makes them so common that they are discarded there for lack of a market.

I used to favour exotic plants in a garden, but I have in recent years begun to deplore them. They are interesting to study but their performance is often disappointing, and their lack of permanence (I'm talking decades, not years) seems pointless. The number of garden designers who strive so hard to be different and clever. They have done little to help the masses understand plant life, or the indigenous animal life that depends on indigenous plants. Diarmuid Gavin is perhaps my arch example of a gardening idiot. I hope he ends up barefoot in a bog one day.

How many people are planting Yuccas and Chusan palms in the front of their houses? What do they know of bird life, ladybirds, spiders, hedgehogs, and red squirrels? Or earthworms, mushrooms and soil organisms?

The kiwi vine is an odd climber, because although it is of the twining sort, it seems very picky about what it will wrap itself around. I suspect it might even seek out living trunks and branches, in favour of dead wood. This wouldn't be surprising, for a climbing vine that wrapped itself around living support would be infinitely advantaged over one that collapsed under its own weight on some deadwood it was hanging onto.