I recently traveled to El Paso in Texas where my cousin runs a landscaping business. He does things like lawn care, tree care, installing sprinkler systems, etc. He even installs pools, patios and various other outdoor landscaping type of features, including rock gardens, desert gardens and so on.
While I was in El Paso, I had a lot of time to kill, so I joined my cousin on a couple of his landscaping gigs. It was quite interesting, especially one of them. It was a giant house with a huge backyard, and in that yard, they had actually installed a landscaped tea garden.
Obviously this was hugely interesting to me as a tea enthusiast. You can probably guess what surprised me the most. How does tea grow in El Paso? Tea needs a humid climate with a lot of rain. El Paso does not have that. It is much too dry for tea, isn’t it?
It is. But these people had installed a great irrigation system that watered the tea plants constantly and kept them wet. El Paso isn’t as humid as a lot of places were tea grows naturally, but it seems to work just fine. The plants all looked quite healthy. Along with the irrigation system that brings the correct amount of water, the other important nutrient for any plant is the right natural light. And you get a ton of sunlight in El Paso.
Actually, tea usually grows well in places that don’t get all that much sunlight. These are places with a lot of cloud cover, like the high mountains in China or Taiwan or Darjeeling, India. It was very interesting to me to see tea do so well in southern Texas.
I’ve written previously about growing indoors under grow lights. That also got me to research a bit whether grow lights could help tea that is growing outdoors. I thought maybe if tea got more light, it would grow better.
Like I said, it grows in areas with less natural sunlight, because those areas have a ton of cloud cover or they get a ton of rain. But what if you could provide more light by supplementing the sunlight with outdoor grow lights? Would that have an effect on the tea? Would it make the tea grow faster?
In a way I got my answer in El Paso. No, they weren’t supplementing the natural sunlight with any type of grow light, but the tea here was getting much more natural sunlight. And it seemed to grow very well. It looked healthy and the bushes were quite large.
That said, it was hard to tell, because they had been landscaped so severely. They had been shaped into interesting shapes and such. They looked really cool and I guess it was functional. I mean if you’ve ever seen a tea garden from Japan, they are also landscaped so that they resemble long mounds, kind of like rivets. It looks really cool. And this garden looked really cool too.
My cousin said he actually suggested using tea plants in their backyard instead of the standard rock garden features that you see in El Paso. He thought it would make a cool landscaping feature, since the owners are huge tea enthusiasts.
They loved the idea and are apparently very happy with it. He still gets a lot of work for them, as he cares for their lawn and their backyard regularly. In a way he, and they, have me to thank for that. It was my love for tea that got him to think about planting tea plants in these people’s backyard.
I think it’s pretty cool that I, in my small way, contributed to the spread of tea to an area where it has never been grown before. So my landscaping El Paso cousin is the guy actually responsible for it. I’m the one who put the idea in his head, so I’m obviously going to take all the credit. You’re welcome, world!