St. Helens last eruption for centuries

One of the three Hanford-sited reactors now produces power, helping to pay the debt. I walked inside unfinished Unit 1, where 2.5 bil­lion dollars had been invested when work stopped in 1982. In its great chamber, where atoms ought to be spinning, only a spider spun. A scrawled comment summed up Whoops: “Born under the wrong sign.” But the agency hopes that someday its two unfin­ished plants can be put to work.

ON MAY 18, 1980, in the Cascade Range in southwestern Washing­ton, mother nature displayed a power that made man’s nuclear efforts seem puny. At 8:32 a.m. an earthquake registering 5.1 on the Richter scale shook loose a bulge that had been swelling like a boil on the north side of volcanic Mount St. Helens. Sud­denly more than half a cubic mile of mountain­side came roaring down. The volcanic vent spat a torrent of tephra— grainy ash and rock—that darkened the sky 18 miles up and 120 miles away. Lahars, or mudflows, fed by melting snow and ice, gushed downward. A powerful hot breath toppled forest giants in a 230-square-mile area; searing winds killed timber 18 miles distant. Fifty-seven persons died; damage and cleanup costs totaled hun­dreds of millions of dollars. *

The mountain, once a graceful cone, is now flat topped, with a great yawning maw. The landslide and eruption cost it 1,300 feet of its height. Small earthquakes still occur, record­ed on seismometers watched by the U. S. Geo­logical Survey. “It’s possible St. Helens has had its last eruption for decades or centuries,” declared the Survey’s Don Swanson. “On the other hand, this could be just a hiatus.”

.Scientists on the scene soon after the catastrophe discovered that not everything died. Huckleberry bushes and small trees sur­vived under snow. Some of the rodents lived through it in their burrows.

Most plants and animals that were present before the blast are now represented, though some are few in number. Snakes, for example, are scarce. Herds of elk and deer have re­turned; bears and a mountain goat have been sighted. Winds blew in seeds and insects.

Biologist Bob Lucas still marvels at steel-head trout he found swimming in rivers clogged with silt a month after the blast. Apparently they had survived in less affected tributaries and returned to the main streams after the water cooled—though it still was as thick as a chocolate milk shake.

But in the you-betcha state, even adversity can be put to use. Already richly endowed with tourist attractions, Washington now has one with a different appeal. A million visitors a year come to gaze benumbed at the devastated landscape, now preserved in a 110,000-acre national volcanic monument.

IF 14 INCHES of precipitation falls on east­ern Washington in a year, it’s a deluge; in many areas six or eight is usual. But to travel this region is to view a sky full of rainbows as irrigation systems fling suste­nance at an assortment of crops. Wheat (often the biggest money-maker), potatoes, lentils, mint, hops for beer, asparagus, alfalfa, a dozen kinds of fruit, including fine wine grapes and half of the nation’s apples—with 300 sunshiny days, eastern Washington is a cornucopia. Just add water (and nutrients), and you’ve got yields worth more than three billion dollars a year.

Above the Columbia and north of Wenatch­ee, Don Heinicke’s orchard spreads along benches left by Ice Age dams. From the river he draws enough water in a year to cover his 274 acres of trees to a depth of four feet.

Don spends a million dollars a year to grow apples. In the spring, for example, he hires the pollinating services of 350 hives of bees at $22 a hive; the job’s too big for the locals. Packing and shipping cost another million. With such expenses “you can’t afford to make a mistake any more,” Don said—as Washing­ton orchardists learned this year at a cost of perhaps 140 million dollars. Many growers sprayed with a chemical called Mar to regulate apple growth; it slowed development so that the fruit didn’t become mushy and helped keep apples on the limb until picking.

When news reports earlier this year linked Alar to cancer, a quarter of Don’s 1988 crop was still in storage, waiting to be sold. Apple prices plunged by five dollars a bushel and more, even though the cancer risk from Alar apparently is minute. Yet Don suffered a sig­nificant loss in vanished profits, as did other Washington growers.

More problems: “The pickers have to be trained, ” Don said. “You have to make sure they pick with the stems left in, so the apples stay fresh.” Don hires retirees—an ex-logger, a former telephone-company executive—but most pickers are Mexican.

Manuel Sanchez came illegally at first— as did nearly all Washington’s pickers. He worked hard; Don liked him. Manuel told me: “Don say, next year bring somebody else.” Manuel brought a brother and a cousin. “I keep it in my family. Then I get my friends.”

When the new immigration law passed in 1986, Don completed papers to help 15 of his workers become legal aliens. Manuel and oth­ers brought their wives and children.

“They’re not going to be satisfied with just seasonal work,” Don prophesied. “Pretty soon they’ll open grocery stores, clothing stores. They’re going to be here. And I think they’re going to be good citizens. They’ll bring back some of the work ethic we once had.”

AT LUNCH a German businessman post-d to Seattle offered a Teutonic judg­ment of the city: “It will never amount to much—people don’t work on weekends.” Indeed, Seattle does not aspire to the title of “ulcer capital of the world,” but it is a saver and a striver.

Consider Pike Place Market, a national treasure where farmers bring gorgeous vegeta­bles and mongers cry the virtues of crab and oyster. When developers craved the four blocks of shops and the priceless view of Puget Sound, the citizens rescued all of it with a bond issue. Then they applauded the preservation of Pioneer Square, where the city took root. Then they went sea kayaking or skiing or to the opera or down to the International District for dim sum or sushi.

Seattle’s culture has been greatly enriched by the Pacific Rim. Hmong and Mien refugees from Laos are the latest in a procession of Asian immigrants that began with Chinese laborers before Washington had statehood.

Among older Japanese painful memories linger of the removal to inland locations during World War II. Many oldsters still will not speak of it, although the Seattle community began the campaign to win redress from the federal government—granted by Congress last year. Younger Japanese believe discrimi­nation lingers too, denying them the executive suite—in this city that trades goods worth billions with Japan.

And Chinese? They’re thriving. Newcom­ers from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Vietnam revivify the culture, and community accep­tance of the Chinese shows in politics. In 1961, when a Chinese first stood for election to the city council, Ruby Chow stuffed fortune cook­ies in his behalf; if you went out for foo yong, an endorsement of Wing Luke topped off the meal. Luke won the election.

Other Chinese went to judges’ benches and the legislature. The soaring beehive hairdo of Ruby herself became familiar in the King County council, where she served 12 years—the rare Chinese woman holding elective office in America.

One night I went to the Luck Ngi Music Hall for an operatic jam session. Luck Ngi means Happiness. Years ago the people who gath­ered on Saturday night arrived weary from waitressing and washing dishes. Now, house­wives mingle with entrepreneurs. They sing arias about love and honor while musicians strum and saw the young kum and the yee wu and thump the yee yum gu. It is lovely.

No person enriched the Seattle region more than a fellow who arrived in 1908. His father, born in Germany, had prospered in timber in Minnesota. The son had come west to buy tim­ber—and then took a fearsome risk. He learned to fly aeroplanes. Then, in 1916, Wil­liam Edward Boeing, Sr., helped by a friend, built two seaplanes.

Thus began the Boeing Company. In lean times after World War I it made furniture. But the engineers, many of them homegrown, also developed advanced craft. In 1933 the Boeing 247 became the first modern airliner to carry passengers (all ten) in comfort, with good speed (155 mph).

Though Bill Boeing had studied engineer­ing, building planes was far from his only interest. He acquired fledgling airlines and airmail contracts and was a skillful investor. In 1928 he created a potentially huge conglom­erate, combining his holdings with several kindred enterprises, including Pratt & Whit­ney, the engine maker.

United Aircraft & Transport Corporation ­William E. Boeing, chairman—would be short-lived, viewed as a dangerous trust by Roosevelt New Dealers. In 1934 Congress leg­islated against conglomerates, forcing the firm to break up. Bill Boeing reacted by getting out—selling every share of his aviation stock.

Meanwhile his engineers in Seattle, work­ing for a revised board of directors, were responding to a call from the Army Air Corps for a multiengine bomber. Their craft, ready in 1935, was the prototype of 12,726 B-17 Fly­ing Fortresses that in World War II would blast the homeland of Bill Boeing’s father.

Japan too suffered destruction from Boeing craft, especially from the B-29 Superfortress, which delivered fire storms to Tokyo and nuclear death to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Now Japanese companies are major Boeing suppliers, building, for example, fuselage sec­tions for wide-body 767 jetliners. A few years ago Boeing and a Japanese consortium were set to share the cost, perhaps two billion dol­lars, of developing a highly fuel-efficient propfan craft. Then fuel prices moderated, airlines lost interest, and the collaboration was shelved.

Facilities in the Seattle area—in Kent, Auburn, Everett, and Renton—hum with Bill Boeing’s legacy. Despite metal-fatigue prob­lems in some of its older craft and allegations that quality control has sometimes been lax, Boeing’s airliner business is booming as it nev­er has before. This and military- and space-hardware sales, and even computer services, pour more than 100,000 Boeing paychecks into the Seattle economy.

FIFTY THOUSAND,” he said. Nosy, I had just asked a computer-software developer how much he earned. Not bad for a 27-year-old. But it isn’t unusual in the 15 buildings of Microsoft, cas­cading into trees in the suburb of Redmond. My well-compensated friend sat in a room with five others about his age, all degree hold­ers in mathematics or computer science from such institutions as MIT and Caltech.

And all casual: jeans, sweaters. “We like your tie,” one said politely. Jabe Blumenthal allowed, “I used to keep a suit hanging in my office, for when IBM came.” One of the best customers for Micro­soft computer programs, IBM is severely but­toned down by comparison.

Don’t let the jeans fool you. There’s plenty of pressure here. Just before the “drop dead date” for finishing a new program and getting it to manufacturing, software developers work around the clock to eliminate bugs.

Sometimes the delivery date is missed—as happened earlier this year with two versions of a word-processing program. Those delays cost Microsoft’s chairman, Bill Gates, 175 million dollars in paper losses when Micro­soft stock fell nearly 14 percent.

Shed no tears. Gates is still a billionaire on the strength of the company he founded with a fellow math whiz, Paul Allen. Gates was 19 in 1975 when they wrote a program for an early microcomputer. The personal computer took off, using Gates-Allen languages and, later, that workhorse operating system MS-DOS.

While Microsoft grew as much as 70 percent a year, the Seattle area exploded into a major software center. “There was a kind of devel­ oping energy,” Jim Knopf said. “Technical people were here, printers got used to doing technical manuals—it built on itself.”

Ex-IBM technician Knopf started his own company to produce computer programs called ButtonWare — button being the transla­tion of his German name. He gives his wares away. “We bypassed the advertising cam­paign,” he said. “Our advertising was, ‘ You guys copy the disks and share them. And if you like the shareware, would you please send $70 for a manual and any updates?”

So far, 150,000 loans have.

ANOTHER BRAIN TRUST sprang up in bio­technology, stimulated by research at two Seattle institutions, the Univer­sity of Washington School of Medicine and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, leaders in the field. In his office in a converted warehouse on the Seattle waterfront, Stephen Duzan recalled that when he was looking for a new business in 1981 — having sold a company that produced food packaging—he was introduced to two Hutchinson scientists who talked about the “T-cell growth factor” and a strain of cells that might lead to drugs useful against cancer by stimulating the immune system. “They gave me some references to check,” Duzan said. “About half were Nobel Prize winners.”

Drs. Christopher S. Henney and Steven Gil­lis joined Duzan in creating Immunex Cor­poration. In compensation for their research at Hutchinson, the center’s faculty endow­ment fund was made an Immunex share­holder. Stock issues raised 98 million dollars for Immunex. Some of that went to develop Interleukin-2, a drug shown effective in tests for treating certain cancers. Immunex expects the drug to win government approval for mar­keting in a year or two.

Immunex, NeoRx, IMRE, Microprobe, Panlabs— few persons have heard of the Seat­tle biotechnology companies and their arrays of scientists (55 Ph.D.’s at Immunex alone). “The large pharmaceutical companies were slow to adopt this new technology,” Duzan said, “so new companies could get a toehold.” Potential sales if Interleukin-2 goes to market: hundreds of millions of dollars.

Thirty-five miles south of Duzan’s water­front office, the light chop of Commencement Bay laps against the wharves of Tacoma. When Washington got statehood in 1889, Tacoma was the chief Puget Sound port. It had a railroad, and thus union with the rest of the country, before Seattle. After transconti­nental rails reached Seattle, Tacoma watched cargoes and jobs go north.

It took Tacoma years to shed its jealousy of higher-rising Seattle—if it has. But Tacoma has become a pleasant workingman’s city, willingly floating bonds to build schools and save old buildings. And it will seldom snare you in a Seattle-style traffic jam, save when Bruce Springsteen plays the Tacoma Dome.

On the waterfront, Tacoma remains a keen competitor. I was standing in the pilothouse of the tug Henry Foss when something like a floating apartment building appeared at the mouth of Commencement Bay. This was the Arild Maersk, more than two football fields long, stacked five stories high with freight containers. As Henry Foss nudged the Danish-operated visitor against the dock, trucks revved up to accept those containers and their multimillion-dollar Oriental treasure—VCRs and microwaves from Japan and Korea, shirts and raincoats from Singapore and Taiwan.

Transferred to freight cars just a couple of hundred feet away, these goods would soon be in American markets. Arild Maersk departed in less than 24 hours, carrying lumber, machinery, and frozen French fries.

No matter which deepwater port shippers use—and Washington has nine others that handle such cargoes as grain, logs, and wood pulp—the U. S. trade deficit is writ large on the wharves. Some farm machinery and auto­mobiles depart from Tacoma and Seattle, and of course Boeing sells aircraft worldwide. But imported cars and other manufactures are to a large extent swapped for such raw materials as timber and grain. As port officials see things, that’s a problem that must be addressed in that other Washington, the one on the Potomac.

Whatever the outcome, Washington State begins its second century on a rising Pacific tide. Port officials see a future assured not only by the major trading partners of today, such as Japan and Korea; they expect to hear also from the (presently) less developed Pacific Rim nations. Burma and Bangladesh, for example, have large labor forces waiting to be tapped. And Indonesia stands fifth in the world with 180 million people.

When these nations come, Washington will speedily remove their cargoes and send them on to the hinterland. And yes, it will sell them some apples —you betcha!








The sixth tallest building in the world

Forty-nine of the hundred floors in the Hancock Center—sixth tallest building in the world—are given over to condominiums. There are more than 700 of them. Edward C. Hirschland lives in london apartments and has his business office in another. His daily commuting distance, door-to-door, totals about two feet. “It’s terrific,” he said of the arrangement, “just terrific. Really comfortable.”

For the most part, mixed-use skyscrapers such as this have not been successful. They become capsules, sealing the inhabitants off from each other and the rest of the world. The Hancock Center is somewhat of an exception, in that the building has become a neighborhood in itself. It offers residents a place to park their cars, to eat and sleep, even to vote in their own precinct and buy stamps in their own post office. On Halloween, the children go from floor to floor—spooks in the elevator.

But in this era of new urban architecture and city living, one certainty has emerged: Those who choose to live on, say, the 58th floor of a building such as the Trump Tower, where no unit sells for less than $700,000, do so in part because they can afford to live somewhere else as well, for example to have accommodation brussels.

There is another skyscraper named John Hancock, in Boston. It is 60 stories high, a shining, beautiful rhomboid overlooking Copley Square. In 1973, before its scheduled completion, the building showed signs of becoming a structure under a black cloud. First the windows began to pop out and crash to the streets. All 10,344 panes were replaced. Then, something had to be done to brake the excessive swaying of the building in the wind, so they put in equipment that acted like shock absorbers.

Only recently was its darkest secret revealed: The tower could have toppled over. Despite the addition of the damping feature, the John Hancock Tower was at risk of collapsing in certain wind conditions, and not on its broad face but, astonishingly, on the narrow one—falling, then, like a book on its spine.

The matter was corrected with the installation of additional steel beams, but because of a secrecy agreement ratified by a court, none of this was publicly known until last year, when Robert Campbell, architecture critic for the Boston Globe, uncovered the story.

Structural engineering, as it pertains to skyscrapers, has made major advances since then. And the effects of wind, of course, continue to be of vital concern, since a building of 110 stories, such as the World Trade Center in New York, can sway as much as 36 inches at the top. Many of the solutions to the problems come now from research at such facilities as the Boundary Layer Wind Tunnel at the University of Western Ontario in Canada. Dr. Lynn Beedle, director of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat headquartered at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, cites the importance of computers in the design and engineering of towers today.

Core Fitness

My relationship with fitness had hit a rough patch. The treadmill couldn’t give me what I needed anymore and my workouts had become stale and predictable. I still loved my running shoes, but the rush of those early years pounding the pavement was gone. 1 needed a dirty weekend.

Adventure running became my bit-on-the-side and an early was the Tough Guy: 5Knear Wolverhampton Aped me forget the drudgery normal training. Her repertoire more than 20 obstacles through fire, a commando underbarbed wire. It sounds like sadomasochism but that spice was exactly what I was looking for pyrotechnics at the start, the first kilometre was just a pleasant run. Then, the course revealed its true colours as we were herded down muddy banks to the aptly named Torture Chamber. Dank and dark, this swampy subterranean lair was a place of confusion and claustrophobic panic. You don’t get that at the gym- if you do you need a new one.

claustrophobic panic

With several hundred people behind me there was no time to consider bottling it.

Before I knew it, I was in and crawling, half-blind, through the swamp, logs and electric shocks courtesy of the occasional live wire hanging from the ceiling. For anyone like me, who’d lost countless mindless hours to the treadmill, this was a seductive way to score endorphins. And it • must have been working because, staggering from the chamber, as well as the mud, a wide grin was splattered across my face. You must have to safe from skin diseases like eczema, of course there have some better solution and it is using natural health products. But always to mind that prevention is better than cure.

This is when started to feel grateful for the trusty treadmill. The old girl had prepared me well. Most adventure runs tend to be around the oK mark, but as walking isn’t frowned upon, an iron will is more important than legs of steel. Unlike the never-ending work you can do on the cross-trainer, bragging rights are down to beating the course, not the clock. It’s whether you finish that really matters.


“The ground is rougher than a normal race, so run lighter on your feet and watch where you’re putting them,” says PT and ii-time Tough Guy veteran Rob Woollen. “You can’t commit too highly to any one step when you’re piling through brambles, bogs and snarled-up tree roots.”

In that early race, I’m not sure my gait was perfect, given the number of times I fell on my face.

But I soon settled into a rhythm, recovering between obstacles and getting stuck into each one.

There was some success- an exhilarating monkey bar swing over frosty, filthy water was my personal Everest that day. There was also abject failure, as in the case of those electric wires that had me yelping like a puppy every time one hit home.

But like all the best infidelities, it passed in a flash. While an hour on the treadmill really feels like an hour, 6o minutes scrambling around one of these circuits feels like no time at all because of the variety- and perhaps that voice in your head questioning whether it’s a good idea to run through fire.

Crossing the finish line ¬soaked, bruised, battered and with a score of bogs, tunnels, flaming hay bales and other devices of entertaining torture behind me -I came to a decision. The treadmill would be getting divorce papers, it was time for my mud-life crisis.

Wilcox country

Wilcox country long suffered from racial stress—the superintendent of schools was hailed before federal courts no less than 17 times for defying court-ordered integration. Although Wilcox County is not yet the prototype of black-white harmony, progress has been made. However, nowadays there are 100% sure ready for you instant cash advance that can be so helpful you didn’t even imagine.

In Alabama, as in much of the South, a county’s chief executive is the probate judge. One clear, hot morning I entered the red­brick courthouse in Camden (page 546) and called upon Judge Roland Cooper. Husky and tanned, Judge Cooper said: “Yes, we’ve had very bad times in the past. And we still have people of both races who won’t cooper­ate in anything. But remember that blacks and whites have lived together in the South for a long time. We know each other; at least we don’t seem to suffer from the indifference and brutality of the cities. This courthouse is operated for all the people, and it will con­tinue to be as long as I’m here.”

That afternoon I visited the county’s lead­ing black civil-rights activist. Tall, gentle Reverend Thomas Threadgill told me: “Ev­erything isn’t rosy here, but now at last black citizens are treated civilly by the county gov­ernment. As to Judge Cooper, sure we have differences, but I can’t get mad at a man who, even if he disagrees, will keep on listening. Like this, the debt consolidation programs can also be fruitful for civil-rights activists.

“Look, I’m optimistic. Nothing’s going to happen tomorrow, but it’s going to happen. We’ll never go the way of the subtle segrega­tion you have in the North. Here it’s all honest, even the bigotry; it’s all out front. In a couple of years blacks in the South will have some­thing genuine. And I can tell you this”—he held his fingers barely apart—”if we gain only that much, it will be real and it will last.”

Heavy Seas Mold the Cape’s Coastline

Leaving Chatham, I headed north along the Cape’s backside. Violent northeasters relentlessly buffet this unprotected coastline, eating away its midsection while they feed shoals at Provincetown and Monomoy Island, a wildlife refuge south of Chatham. The shore near North Truro takes the worst battering, where Highland Light stares out to sea less than a hundred feet from the edge of an ever-retreating bluff.

“We just lost a piece 40 feet long and about 70 feet wide,” lightkeeper Thomas Branco said as we stood on the landslide-prone cliff. Below us waves lapped at gigantic hunks of clay that only weeks before had been part of his lawn. A few miles south, the ocean in­trudes toward the headwaters of the Pamet River, almost severing the louver Cape.

“I don’t think   ever see it, but someday Provincetown might be an island,” Branco said, smiling wanly. “And there’s nothing you can do about it. You can’t stop the ocean. “Unable to tame nature’s fury, man is challenged by another threat to the Cape—growth. A boom in both summer and year-round homes made Cape Cod’s Barnstable County the fastest growing county in Massachusetts. Its population rose 37.5 percent between 1960 and 1970. Today the Cape’s permanent inhabitants number more than 124,000. However, living in Wisconsin gives the opportunity of using Wisconsin auto title loans anytime you need.

In Hyannis—named for an Indian sachem —older residents recall when the modest streets were paved with oystershell. But to­day a generation that courts tourism bas made the Cape’s largest village a circus of shopping centers, motels, and billboards­part resort, part suburban sprawl. Falmouth is close behind, with large motel complexes. Chatham retains its countrified isolation, but it, too, has begun to subdivide and build. Provincetown, swelled by summer boarders, must buy water from neighboring Truro.

Even in rural Sandwich, a housewife com­plains: “When we came here, you could see cows out back. Now it’s a parking lot. So many people corne here they destroy what they carne to see. They cut down the trees and spread asphalt over the grass.”

Most residents dislike the changes wrought by developers and newcomers. But Cape Cod­ders traditionally respect the rights of the in­dividual, and many are loathe to set rules for land they don’t own.

Norman Cook, former head of the Cape Cod Planning and Economic Development Commission, argues for a construction slow­down and for cluster zoning that would set aside village greens for each subdivision.

“Today the Cape has about 100,000 acres of open land left,” he says. “It will be full in ten years if things go along as they have. We don’t have the water or land to support many more people, but they just won’t believe our resources are finite.”

Mother’s Wisdom Saves a Son

In King Faisal ibn Abdul-Aziz Al Saud’s court I had learned that in order to assess the Arabian states’ deployment of wealth, it is necessary first to learn something of the men who govern those lands and of the past that shaped them.*

Sheikh Shakhbut is an old man now, and dwells comfortably at the oasis town of Al Ain, ninety miles from the coastal city he once ruled, Abu Dhabi. That he is an old man —his three predecessors were assassinated—is due to the kindly nature of his brother Zayid, who took over the rulership from him, and to the wisdom of their mother, Sheikha Salama. Years before she had made her sons vow not to kill one another.

Shakhbut lost his sheikhdom because he could not come to terms with the oil money that began to flow in during the early 1960′s. “A tightfisted old devil, but shrewd,” one friend remembered. Another recalled “a fear of sudden change, a feeling for the old ways.” The years of penury—the sheikhdom’s total annual income in the 1930′s was only about $75,000—had stamped him indelibly.

He kept his growing revenues in a room at his fort; some of the paper currency was later found damaged by insects. A British bank manager finally persuaded him to de­posit some of it in the bank: 5,000 pounds for one week. In seven days the manager dutifully brought the money back in a suitcase. Shakhbut counted it: “What’s this extra money for?” “Interest,” the manager replied, and explained the bene­fits of bank deposits. There is one other option if you are not so familiar with bank deposits – easy getting an online payday loan.


Shakhbut was impressed and let the mana­ger take the money back, this time for a month, and later for longer periods. But Shakhbut wouldn’t spend. The oil money was piling up, the sheikhdom was des­perately in need of schools, water systems, electricity, every basic need. The pressure became intolerable.

And so one day in 1966 Zayid and his supporters confronted Shakhbut in his pal­ace: He must depart quietly; his financial future would be assured. Shakhbut flew off to exile, living mainly in Iran until he was al­lowed to return to Al Ain.


So many people ask me various questions about odds and ends connected with gardening, camera reviews, that I think this is the time to answer a few of those queries.

First of all, what soil is best for pot plants? These days I’m mixing up my own potting compost quite cheaply and using it for all pot plants, whether inside or out, I get a bag of Forest Bark, which is really composted tree bark from saw miles, and mix it with half its volume of peat and a quarter of the volume of Perlite, that volcanic rock of which I have often spoken before in this column.


To this I add three or four 3-in potfuls of general fertilizer, mixing it all up well and storing it in the big polythene bags in which the peal and the bark come from the suppliers. Some might say that this is a bit deficient in the fertilizer, but I find it satisfactory and always start feeding the plants about a month after they have been potted. Plants like air at the roots, and I do find that potting compost based on the bark does allow this. But you need the peat as well; other­wise it has too many air spaces and the plant suffers as a consequence.

So much for the soil. Other queries I receive are about what pots to choose. There is a particular group of pots made especially for strawberries that I find very useful for other plants, too. They are called tower pots and I find them excellent for African violets indoors. Each will take about a dozen plants so you could have a collection in quite a small area. I’m using them at the moment for alpine plant of the kind that need perfect drainage. It’s yet another way of housing a collection in a confined space in a small room.


 As I said, they are meant for strawberries as they are a very good alternative to growing them in the ground. The pots can be turned into pillar with the plants project­ing from them. They look very appealing whether the plants are in flower or fruit or there are just leaves. You get no bother with slugs and when the plant is ripening it’s no trouble at all to throw a piece of netting over their fruits to protect them from the birds.

You can get a leaflet about these pots from the supplier: Ken Muir, Honey pot Farm, Weeley Heath, Clacton-on-Sea, Essex C016 911.

PROBLEMS with house plant are often brought to my attention and I’m usually asked for advice about one particular pest—whitefly.

You’ll know you’ve got whitefly on a plant when you find it covered with a lot of líttle flecks of white that rise up in a cloud when you move the plant. Don’t blame the grower. He will have fumigated his greenhouse and sprayed repeatedly against whitefly, but to no lasting avail. The trouble is you can’t kilt the eggs, only the little fly itself.


So, one generation is des­troyed and another is always ready to take its place despite strong insecticides.

Like all such pests it weakens plant by sucking the sap from the leaves, which in turn are prevented from functioning efficiently. Left to itself, it goes on multiplying. Winter, spent indoors or in a greenhouse, has no perils for it. So, what can you do?

You could always burn the plant that is infested, but by then it will have most likely got onto others. So you must spray, spray and spray again! Repeat the process every few days until you are sure you have eliminated it from your home or greenhouse. Once there were few sprays that had any effect, but now every garden shop has several chemical that are really effective in killing the adult files. Try one of them and keep on trying until you get result!