Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Göteborg - Desert Life Part II

The theme here is TRÄD-GOURDS

Squash Vine Göteborg Botaniska Trädgård
Believe it or not, part of the desert theme was typical vegetable gardening done down in the deserts of the southwest and elsewhere. Gourds (a here play on the Swedish word Gård which is essentially pronounced identically but differing meaning) were a central theme in the vegetable gardening area of the Bontanical Garden Desert Life here in Göteborg. For me and my experience, plants such as squashes, pumpkins, mellons and yes - Gourds are vining plants that need a long hot growing season. I've seen seeds sold in the Trädgård (garden) centers like Hornback & Bauhaus here but never attempted to purchase any seeds because I've never had the ideal sunny location in my personal backyard setting for such success. The summers to me here have always been less than ideal for even growing tomatoes, let alone plants in the squash family.

Southwestern Vegetable Garden Display- These are Gourds

Typical Bottle Gourd
The idea behind this year's theme and even the very colour green incorporated in the title of this years 'Ökenliv' (Desert Life) theme on the local billboards was indeed to celebrate that the deserts around the global are rich and abundant in life despite many of the negative attitudes associated with imagined desert environs by those out of touch with the reality of true Desert Life. But clearly there is much much more as this display revealed.  

Like many northern European residents, Swedes are out of touch with the reality of the rest of the world when it comes to water. It's taken for granted here as it is clean and abundant almost everywhere. They turn on the tap and out comes crystal clear sweet water. There basically are no gardens here that have an outside water spigot with garden hose for the average garden (trädgård) and there are no irrigation systems to speak of. It rains all the time.  It would be exactly the reverse opposite if a native Arizonan did not truly appreciate the sun and taking advantage of Solar Energy solutions and countless other sunshine benefits. Not that such a thing happens in Arizona of course - *cough - cough*

Water Purifying Alum
I recently watched a small video documentary from friends who are Missionaries in the African Country of Tanzania next to Kenya. They showed us video where this village goes through a daily ritual of carrying numerous 5 gallon buckets of water from a filthy dirty pond infested with all manner of froggys, bugs and bacteria. They run it through a sieve to strain off the large debris, take a mineral rock made of Alum which is used as a chemical flocculant and used to clarify water by neutralizing the electrical double layer surrounding very fine suspended particles, allowing them to floccuate (stick together). After flocculation, the particles are suspended in the water and will be large enough to settle or float and can be removed after leaving it over night. The water miraculously turns fairly clear over night without any agitation. Siphoning off the clear water and putting a type of chlorine purification tablets is necessary after that and then putting it in clear plastic bottles to allow UV rays to kill any micro-organisms left. Deserts are definitely a challenge for many but possible if you have knowledge for surviving it.
photo: Mine
This trellis was created into a sort of hooped arbor and the gourd vines trained so as to grow up and over to the other side. I hope they make it before Autumn comes quickly here. Often in September. Notice other varieties of gourds hanging from the trellis ?
Interior of Trellis was loaded with several types of gourds

photo: Mine
Another see thru view with the flowers and gourds on the walls and ceiling of the Trellis
Another abundant feature of the gardens this year were the countless insects which massed all over the flower beds. Up above those cactus mosaics I referenced in my Part 1 of this blog on the hillside above the pond and to the left was another flower garden with the same bright colour theme, but incorporated with more sage varieties and other insect attracting plants. Some of the flowers looked like variety of coneflower as in Mexican Hat which is native to New Mexico and other areas of southwest. First time I ever saw Mexican Hat it in great abundance in woods around Ruidosa NM in among the Gambel Oaks. Other plants were Sages which attracted quite a bit of Bumble Bees. I actually see far more of them in Sweden than I do the common European Honey Bee.

Only thing missing in the flower beds were Hummingbirds

photo: Mine

Native BumbleBee
There are a great variety my wife and I saw that gave us some terrific ideas for doing more in an otherwise shallow soil of our backyard which is mostly composed of granite bedrock. One of the plants at the Botanical Garden that does quite well was Lavender. This plant I would never have guessed would do well here when I first came to live. It's so Mediterranean looking. But look here below at the south facing wall of our house.

photo: Mine
The light greenish looking plants at both ends of the row of Lavender are believe it or not Sedum 'Autum Joy' which dies back to the ground every winter and grows back with a vengeance every Spring/Summer with absolutely not care other than trimming the dead stems in the winter.

This is up towards the Cafe area of the gardens.

photo: Mine
I've really got to get this plant here sometime this year or next in my garden. I see it everywhere. The plant is called Crocosmia 'Lucifer' and is technically native to South Africa but amazingly does well here in this climate. I truly dislike the name given it. Why not call it something like Scarlet Sword or some other non-offensive title other than Lucifer.
They can be either evergreen or deciduous perennials that grow from basal underground corms as referenced here to the right in the photo. You'll notice the younger corms at the top and older towards the bottom. Some can be a challenge as they can become invasive in certain climates by easily breaking off forming newer plants. Perfect looking hummingbird plant though. I didn't really notice any insects going for these at the Gardens here. Clearly the tubular flowers favour a Hummer somewhere.

I love Boulders
Part three tomorrow should be interesting. It'll look a lot like parts of Sedona Arizona created in a Boreal Forest backyard.  Lots of great ideas for substitutes with this years visit to Göteborg Bontanical Garden. First focus will be on rock and boulder placement and not going cheezy on some things. If you're gonna do it, do it right!!!


  1. Hello there!! I have been in lecture and meeting after meeting for the past several days....and I've been meaning to sit down and read your posts:) So while this is random I will be visiting tomorrow for awhile to catch up:) Chris

    1. yes well it's taken me a long while to get back to posting again. I've had 10 or 11 hour working days and I'm shot when I get home. Also I was sick terribly with fever for a week and a half and couldn't even find the strength to open and read email let alone posting anything.

  2. The gourds are neat, I have seen them used as birdhouses. I like all the different shapes and colors. Great post.

    1. Gourds are definitely kool. I also love the Bird House creation that many have accomplished, they actually look to mimic many of those birdnests done by Weaver Birds of Africa or even nests of Hooded Orioles in your neck of the woods.

  3. These are fun posts:) I want to throw you some desert fun. The best I can do is take pics. I know what it's like. That withdrawal from the desert, once you've had a taste, lingers in your mind for the rest of your life. Now I have to say....you may not have hummingbirds, but you do have butterflies....and all those plants/wildflowers mentioned above make wonderful attractions for the bees and flutters:) And agreed. We waste solar energy like some people waste water. Arizona is getting better and I'm seeing more and more of those solar panels:) And gourds are amazing. They love sun and to climb:)

    1. I love all desert pics. But as far as cities it's got to be the older imperfect neighbourhoods with the traditional native gardens. I spent alot of time yesterday at the gardens again photographing bees, flies and butterflies in the flower beds. Amazing how the differing species prefered certain flowers over what others wanted.


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