One garden, one world

By Pam Roy | Dec 21, 2011


Photo courtesy of Pam Roy

Peaks of the HIgh Himalayas, Everest Region.

What does Mukilteo at sea level, have in common with Dingboche, Nepal, a small village at 14,800 feet elevation in the Mt. Everest Region of the Himalayas?

Potatoes, potatoes, potatoes! Gardens and gardens of potatoes.

Nepal is home to many of the highest mountains in the world with tourism a big business – climbers, trekkers, sightseers and the occasional gardener.

 I recently returned from a trip starting in Kathmandu and culminating at a high point of 18,500 feet in elevation where we could look down on Everest Base Camp.  

On each segment of the trip, I was struck by how gardens of various shapes and forms were an important part of the landscape.  

From my hotel in Kathmandu, I looked out over a mixed jumble of buildings stacked into the smog filled sky.  Each level had a small balcony with containers of marigolds, dahlias, edible greens and an occasional flock of chickens.  

In Lukla at 9,100 feet, I watched our lodge’s cook walking back from a neighboring field smiling as he carried the biggest cabbage I’d ever seen – which became a delicious mainstay to our dinner.  

The trek passed through many small villages, each with fields of potatoes, cabbage, bok choy and kale, all staples of the local diet.  Eating local takes on a whole new meaning when everything is carried in on someone’s back or by mule or yak.  

It was harvest season and women in brightly colored skirts where out swinging small hoes, digging up hundreds of potatoes from the rich fertile soil.  Despite the hard work, each of them had a twinkle in their eye and a friendly smile.  

The hillsides were terraced to maximize useable land.  At Dingboche, 14,800 feet elevation, the men were digging 6 feet deep holes in the ground, to store potatoes, heaping mounds of soil over them for insulation.  

We enjoyed fresh potatoes cooked a variety of ways with almost every meal.

Just before I left town, I’d answered a knock on my door to find my neighbor had dropped off a bag of potatoes harvested from the garden we share.  Such a small thing as a potato became a symbol of the connectedness of the Sherpa people living halfway around the world with my own neighborhood.  

In viewing their gardens, I was reminded of some of the strategies we can use to develop sustainable landscapes that support us, whether in growing edibles, native plants or gardens of retreat and refuge.

They started with good soil and plenty of organic fertilizer (dung).  In selecting plants, pick what grows well in your area. In small spaces, good planning allows for intensive gardening to maximize crop yield.  

Creative watering can be both ornamental and functional by use of containers, flues, swales and directing flow of water.  The Sherpa people also had a deep appreciation for all life.

During this holiday season, my hope is for all of us to celebrate the good in our lives and the common bond we all share.

Pam Roy, owner of Planscapes, has been a landscape designer and horticulturist for 30 years in the Northwest. Contact her at 425-252-9469 or view  HYPERLINK ""
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