America is in many ways a fantastic country. Having just returned to Europe again from one of the many journeys I have made there, I am filled with new impressions of people, gardens, roses and other plants and new ideas.
One thing I really like about being in America is the greater sun intensity. The sun intensity is so much stronger than here in Northern Europe. In fact even the Northern US states are on latitudes low enough to give them the same sun intensity as we experience in Mediterranian areas of Europe. Chicago e.g. is on the same lattitude as Rome in Italy, and the city I live in is on the same lattitude as the Canadian Manitoba province. For gardeners there are so many climate zones and different climate conditions that present many challenges to gardeners. Also over here the climate conditions are very different. Most of the UK gets 3 times as much rain as we gets here in Denmark, and with their mild winters they can grow plants that are hardy to USDA zone 8 or even 9 in southern parts of the country. Even tropical plants that would never have fighting chance here, where winters are so much colder.
The Greater sun intensity makes most plant grow to sizes I can only dream about over here. Roses are no exceptions! Most roses are at least twice as big as roses growing here. It is not unusual to see Hybrid Teas becoming 5-6 feet tall and 4-5 feet wide in USDA zones 6. Many Austin roses become climbers - I saw a huge specimen of Abraham Darby 10 feet tall and 10 feet wide in Salt Lake City. Because of the greater sunintensity it is important to water more than we have to do over here, otherwise the plants are just going to die. Roses need water, fertilizer and love - as gardeners we can only give too much of the first 2 needs.
I always notice how different the soil are in different places of the USA. Many places have very poor soil that need plenty of ammendments with compost in order for anything to grow well. Unlike the rich black clayish soil we have in many parts of Denmark. Alkaline soil also seems common many places, where the soil over here are mostly acidic and needs addition of limestone flour every 2. or 3 year to raise the PH levels to optimal levels.
People and living conditions are also interesting to study. There is an abyss between different social classes, those who are well educated and those living on very low minimum wages. Everything seems to be regulated and in order to do many kinds of work workers need to be licensed, unlike here. We have almost free access to college education and free health care and great social welfare programs ensuring that all are treated equal, giving our society greater stabilty and greater coherence. We seem to have other priorities over here and the tax system is so different. We e.g. pay 11 dollars for a gallon of gas while most Americans I know moan and groan over the astronomical price of 3.75 dollars for a gallon of gas. Since most people in America are more religious than people over here (40 percent of Americans are regular church goers while only 2 percent go here in Denmark) - I sometimes hear "that the second coming must be near when people gas up their cars".
Religous issues have a great influence on politics in America. Many Americans considers us Europeans "Flaming Liberals" while we are appaled by American social conservatives and their special interest groups preventing America to be anyting but "land of the free and home of the brave". While we see leaders of Mega Churches declaring gays an abomination, while they visit male prostitutes and snort meth when not preaching fire and brimstone and the sanctity of marriage. The most conservative politicians tapping their feet too much in restrooms in airports ... Oh well who am I to say that people on either side of the political spectrum are better than others?
When I was in Iowa in December and January the Iowa Caucus where on, and opening the TV while I was there now would drive every one crazy watching the political frenzy and mudslinging between Obama and Mcain. Here Election campains run 2-3 weeks and we vote and move on. I also watched the financial meltdown on wallstreet. It did not take much financial insight to see this coming: In March I asked on the Hot Topics on GW forums: Is the American Economy Collapsing? In hindsight I hate to be right on the money. I have great sympathy for my American friends and what they must endure the next few weeks, while the election campaign turn really nasty. At least we gardeners are able to escape the insanity and find peace for a while in our gardens. Planting the spring flowering bulbs and new roses soon to arriwe show that we still have faith and hope for the future.
During the next weeks I will post pictures of some of the great gardens and roses I saw In Salt Lake City. It´s good to be back!