The Beautiful Union of Nature and Technology

Okay, that’s a pretty grandiose title for what I’m sure is a pretty middle-of-the-road post, but here we go anyway.

I enjoy the plants I grow in my yard, but gardening has been a learning process to be sure. Adding basic irrigation to our landscaping with a DIY kit was a real game changer. It turns out plants do much better when they are watered regularly. Who knew?

When we installed the mist sprinklers and drip lines, Kalen did some research and found a programmable timer that allowed us to schedule the watering, since actually going out and watering by hand was really where I had failed in the process before.

Kalen is always on the lookout for nifty techno gadgets, though, so we’re upgrading again, replacing the old timers with smart ones that we can control from our phones and which access local weather information combined with environmental factors that we supply about the soil, variety of plants, and style of sprinklers to water in the most efficient manner possible. The app seems to be finicky and we’re still working out some anomalies, but troubleshooting is Kalen’s favorite kind of problem solving (and as an engineer, problem solving is one of his favorite hobbies) so it’s a win-win.

Even with all this advancement, I still take only calculated risks when it comes to getting new plants because I don’t trust the greenness of my thumb. I’ll buy one or two each summer that I don’t know much about, and the rest are old faithful friends that I know are hard for me to kill.

I have been successful with hostas under the shade of the enormous oak tree in my neighbor’s yard, and I love the wide variety available. I’ve so far managed not to kill the roses that came with the house. By some miracle that I still don’t understand, I’ve done well with different types of elephant ears, which I’ve heard are a little more finicky.

And of course, I know our finances and my attention span are both best served by purchasing perennials that will come back year after year, but I’m always tempted by at least a few showy annuals.

Among my favorite annuals are New Guinea impatiens, partly because they are really just pretty, with long, serrated leaves and vibrant flowers that don’t require deadheading to keep blooming all summer long and often into the autumn. But the best part about these (and their non-New Guinea relatives) is how communicative they are. If they get too hot or dry, they quickly and dramatically wilt, like a salad kit forgotten in the back of the fridge. You find them and gasp, “Oh no! I’ve killed them!” and then you water them in a panic and apologize profusely, and within an hour they perk back up like nothing ever happened.

In fact, they revive themselves so quickly, you can almost watch it happen with the naked eye if you have a little time and a little more patience. My attention span isn’t quite that great, but when I walked outside this morning to find the one basket looking positively forlorn, I took the opportunity to set up my phone to take a time lapse of its recovery.

The actual recording time of that 21 second video was about an hour and twenty minutes, which really isn’t very long when you think about how much that plant moved. I’m sure such stresses don’t leave the plant entirely untraumatized, so I obviously try to avoid letting them get to that state, but it does make one feel powerful to so completely revive something that looked so dead.

Not that I have or particularly want necromancy powers (although it seems like a far less messy business if you apply it to reviving dead plants rather than people). If I do have any strange powers when it comes to gardening, it might be related to the squirrels, but that needs some fine tuning to say the least.

I’ve written before about my struggles with the small army of squirrels (and possibly squirrel-like cryptids) that live in the tree that shadows most of my yard. They’re preparing for winter now, feasting on the giant acorns in the tree and pelting us with whatever they don’t eat. They’re causing other problems too. I have a second basket of New Guinea impatiens like in the video above. The two baskets matched and were equally full and gorgeous until about two weeks ago when the squirrels started stripping the leaves and breaking stalks off the plants in the basket.

So if these powers allow control of the squirrels, I have a lot of practice to do, but the part where the squirrels bring me presents is nice. The surprise alocasia that they left me a couple months ago is doing splendidly. I’ve figured out which pot I’m going to transplant it to for the winter to try and keep it going inside.

And even more surprising, a couple nights ago I was outside trying to convince Pippin to do a final pee before we all went to bed and I noticed another surprise alocasia in a different pot. This one seems much more intentionally planted (the bulb is deeper in the pot), but I know I didn’t plant it in with my chives and rosemary which have both been neglected and gotten rather scraggly. And yet there it is, happy and shiny.

It seems that I can’t stop the squirrels from destroying things (yet?) but they’ve now twice brought me lovely little apology gifts, so I guess I’ll think twice before I try and throw acorn shells back at them next time I see them gorging themselves on the bird feeders.

8 responses to “The Beautiful Union of Nature and Technology”

  1. Wow! That video is incredible! And why is it our squirrels never leave me wonderful gifts? They just tear up things here. They have this gigantic yard and yet they come up on the deck and leave their dinner mess all over the place. I am sure it cannot be more than one or two squirrels doing this, but it looks like there has been a frat house food fight when they are finished. Can I send you some of my squirrels so your squirrels can teach mine how to be contributing members of a backyard habitat? They may qualify for the remedial course!
    I may need to check into a watering system. If only this rain barrel I have could turn itself on and off again!

    1. Maybe your nice squirrels tried to go to the store to get you a present but it was so far that they couldn’t make it, and all the ingrate squirrels are left 😂

      1. Yes, let’s go with that!

  2. Yes, let’s go with that.

  3. It is remarkable, isn’t it, how inpatiens do that recovery thing?

    1. Fascinating!

  4. Loved the video and your writing! It must be fun having such a techno-genius in the house!

    1. Thank you! He’s very helpful 😊

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