Articles written by Darryl McCullough (unless otherwise noted)

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Good Neighbors

Good neighbors may not be the best thing one can have in life, but the list of better ones is mighty short. We are fortunate to live among a mix of good citizens who welcomed us, despite our kicking up dust with noisy house construction for what seemed an interminable time.

The folks directly across our unpaved road are super neighbors, always ready with a friendly wave or a helping hand. And they are plant people, whose yard is a peaceful refuge of beautiful ornamentals. Their bougainvillea lights up the neighborhood on this Christmas Day.

Sunday, December 18, 2016


I love stories of wandering and struggle, that end with finding a home. I'm not sure why, since I was born lucky, in a stable home, and pretty much just had to follow the rules for everything to work out fine for me.

Maybe it goes back to the days even before agriculture, when the clan foraged for a while until a change of season or a stronger clan required a change of scenery, and everyone's lifelong fantasy was permanent residence in a land of plenty. Whatever the reason, tales of a harrowing journey to find a home have always been a favorite, around campfires or Smart TV's, and always will be.

The latest Odysseus in my groves was a pineapple pup. I'd decided to try growing some pineapples in pots, investing some time, effort, and potting mix in return for the ability to move them to safety on the porch when the fruit gets to the raccoon-ready stage. I pulled some pups from my in-ground plants and set them in 1-gallon pots, to be moved to their final 3-gallon homes once they had rooted out.

After setting up eight of his more fortunate cousins, I'd reached the point when the rest were going on the compost pile. For me that pile is just a big open pit surrounded by my papaya plants. Forest gods do come and feast, but I figure better there than in my fruit trees, and like as not they will leave the King of the Outdoors a blessing of natural fertilizer in return.

Little Ody was unceremoniously left for dead in the rotting pile, some time in the fall. Of course I couldn't see his intense struggle to root faster than he would die of thirst in the Florida sun. That is, not until a few weeks ago, when I noticed him showing a bit of verticality. As the days went by, he fought the rest of the way up and opened his leathery bromeliad leaves to the sky.

Of course after that I had to pot him up, in a mix with some really tasty organic amendments. After a few days in the shade to recover from the ascension to paradise, he's joined his eight had-it-easy mates. Someday he will reward my change of heart with a tasty fruit.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

L. G.

Last week I wrote about how I connected with L. G. Allen, because he brought back lychee seeds from China and grew one for twenty years before it fruited, and it was delicious and he named it Sweet Song after his lady friend in China, and how Wayne propagated it and many years later gave me three of them, and how I loved the story and the name so much that I called my hobby business SweetSong Groves after L. G.'s lychee variety.

Arriving in Florida a dozen years after L. G.'s passing, I missed the opportunity to meet him. But Wayne was kind enough to share some remembrances that L. G.'s descendants wrote in tribute to him.

L. G.'s early life taught him to be a survivor. Growing up, he worked at various jobs, including in his father's brickyard in Montrose, Colorado, but found time to develop a lifelong interest in the outdoors and the natural world. In his teen years, his mother and brother were killed in a car accident. That, and the onset of the Great Depression when he was 17, forced him to grow up in a hurry, and to develop the knack of picking up new skills very quickly.

He married in 1936 and had one daughter. To support his family, he worked very long hours at Dupont, first in the payroll department and later with the newfangled IBM machines. He developed many other interests, including a lifelong fascination in working with clay and ceramics. It was that passion that would later take him to China to study Chinese art and rare porcelains, and would someday put three lychee sisters in my grove.

The tributes to L. G. paint a picture of a loving father and grandfather, a hardworking man who never tired of learning. He continued to grow in knowledge and wisdom throughout his life--- and accepted what life gave him with wit and humor. Two of his sayings became instant favorites of mine: “It's easier to get into than to get out of,” and “A chore done good beats two done ragged.” How very true.

Everything is connected to everything else, and each of us leaves a wake that spreads out and touches the lives of many others. L. G.'s put three Sweet Song sisters in mine.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Past Is Present

“The past is not dead. It's not even past.”
---William Faulkner

I'm a member of four fruit tree clubs, and each has a different feel. With the possible exception of the Tampa Bay Rare Fruit Council, which I rarely attend due to the long trip required, it is the MRFC where I sense the greatest presence of history.

When I joined almost five years ago, there were many members who dated from the club's founding in the mid-80's, or joined in the early years. There are still quite a few, and I've really enjoyed knowing and learning from them. But there's also a perceptible presence of members who did much, but departed, one way or another, before my arrival.

I did come to know Pete Ray for the just last year or so of his life. Perhaps hoping that my loves for language and fruit trees could balance out my beginner's ignorance, he encouraged me to take on the blogger role. But I never met L. G. Allen.

Through fortunate circumstances, I recently felt L. G.'s presence.

Master frutier Wayne Clifton has a fine lychee variety called Sweet Song. As Larry Schokman says, every tree should have a story, and the Sweet Song has a good one. Long-time MRFC members know that L. G. was quite an expert on lychees, among many other subjects, and quite a traveler. During an extended sojourn to China, he ran across some wonderful lychee fruit, and managed to save and bring back some of its seeds. From them, he grew a seedling that took a couple of decades to fruit. I've not yet tasted it, but word is that it was worth the long wait.

L. G. named the new variety Sweet Song, after a Chinese lady friend he had spent time with during his journey.

Wayne propagated L. G.'s tree in the 1990's. The copy grew into this beautiful tree at Wayne's house, but not until now did he produce more Sweet Songs from it. I obtained three of the first airlayers. They are growing happily, and already have names--- Sweet Sister #1, #2, and #3.

I love the name Sweet Song and its story, so when I recently decided to form an LLC for selling some of my fresh tropical fruit, the name SweetSong Groves was as irresistible as, perhaps, its original inspiration.

When L. G. passed away, his children wrote beautiful tributes to him. Wayne has copies that he generously shared with me, and next week we'll see a bit about L. G.'s interesting life.