It's recycling day and the street is strewn
with Christmas trees waiting for the recycling
truck to collect them. Half the trees have the
tinsel still on them. It's such a depressing
sight. One moment they are bringing joy to the
season, the next they are being tossed into
the roadway. I'm going to collect a few and
drag them back to my place. I figure if I jam
them into the flowerbed beside the driveway it
will give my micro-acreage the look of a vast
country estate with a tree-lined approach
instead of what it is: a plot that's only big
enough to support a pair of anorexic goats.
I feel I m in need of some kind of winter
distraction, so today I'm planning to buy
more seeds. However, before I go to the
store, I must prepare carefully and make up
a list of all the plants I've been lusting
after. I also have to settle on a fixed
amount to spend, although I know from
experience it will be only a small
percentage of what I actually spend.
I go through this every year and, as usual,
when I get to the store the seeds I want
aren't on the shelf, and instead I come home
laden with stuff that will germinate
prolifically and put a strain on my plant
room s resources.
And of course, I will discover an
overpriced packet of something rare and
exotic that I can't resist buying, a packet
that contains just one viable seed in a
thousand that I ll have to pamper like the
last emperor until the end of summer. That
happened last year, and on the day when it
finally bloomed the neighbour s cat showed
up to anoint it.
As the tattered remnants of three seasons
are calmed by the first snowfall, stillness
comes to the garden. No shocks of colour
craving attention, no heroic blossoms
competing for glory. The battle is over. The
veil of green is now a shroud of white as
shrubs and trees are gently sculpted into
ghostly memories. Peace falls silently as
the garden rests.
And the mad gardener rests too, at least
until the snowplough returns. It s snowed so
much that all I can see in the backyard is
the top of the rusty swing-set and the big
hump of the compost pile. I hope Shirl calls
Freezing rain is in the forecast for today.
Freezing rain, if it isn't excessive, is my
favourite winter garden effect; too much and
it's a disaster. It can bring down power
lines, destroy whole forests, and put half
the posties in town in hospital.
But just a little coating on trees and
shrubs, magic. I can stare at it for hours.
I actually did that one morning when I went
out to take a closer look at a tree after
waking to a particularly impressive display.
I set one foot on the sidewalk, then with a
whoosh and an aaaaaaaaarrrg, I made it down
the front yard to my tree in .003 seconds.
There I lay, gazing up at the glorious
effect created by the ice that clung to the
twigs and branches above me.
I was still lying there when I heard
another whoosh and another aaaaaaarg and the
postie joined me. See that one small branch
on the left, I said. It looks like an angel
Yes, she replied, it s lovely, but you
really should spread a little sand on your
sidewalk, you know here's your mail.
I ve begun planting
seeds and I'm having trouble deciphering the
hieroglyphics that catalogues use to
indicate plant requirements: They're those
obscure little icons that indicate soil
type, height, exposure, and which washroom
to use (I seem to be having more and more
trouble with that one).
There's a legend
buried somewhere in the pages of my seed
catalogue, but I can't seem to find it,
and I swear they've changed some of the
symbols since last year. I think I have
most of them figured out the watering can
is obvious but I m not sure if the happy
face with the big nose means the plant is
or it causes hay
The weather has finally warmed up and the
snow is disappearing fast. I can see parts
of my garden again, and it's surprisingly
colourful. I spent an hour last night
picking up garbage from the front yard: the
detritus of winter candy wrappers, bits of
old newspaper, and the worst offende,
I swear the Popsicle-sucking kid that
delivers them stands at the windward end of
the street and dumps the whole pile. I think
he does it to spite me because of the big
sign I have on my mailbox that says, Thank
you for not delivering junk mail.
Of course, he ignored it until I added the
fine print on the bottom, which
is a little more specific as to what he
should do with the stuff.
My beans are up and running, and so am I. I
should be wearing running shoes instead of
garden boots because it really is like a
race. This has been an amazing spring so
far. The early bloomers are flowering so
fast I barely have time to admire them
before they re done and drooping. All day
long, I'm pushing plants in with one hand
and pulling weeds out with the other. It's
plant, plant, plant, and weed, weed,
26 I knew it! I knew
it, I knew it, I knew it. I m three-quarters
finished planting (first phase) and they're
forecasting a low of three for tonight,
which is too close to frost for my liking. I
can either cover things up or risk disaster.
I go through this every year and it is so
tedious. It always happens after I've
planted so much stuff that I don t have
enough pots and pails to protect everything,
so I have to use what I can find tarps,
burlap, sheets, and blankets.
Of course, then the diblets complain
because they're cold in bed. It is such a
hassle, especially since I don t recall a
late May frost ever being severe enough to
cause much harm.
The twenty-fourth is supposed to be my
frost-free date, yet the last three years
have seen frost warnings in June. Does this
mean I should wait until July to be safe? I
m beginning to wonder if my calendar is off
because fall seems to arrive later too. It's
as though all the seasons are sliding
forward, except for Christmas, which is
sliding backwards into Halloween.
I think this all started when people began
putting up their Christmas lights in August.
They've messed up the sequence, and now
Mother Nature is looking at her watch and
giving it a good shake. I just hope she
doesn't shake it too hard.
My peonies are about to pop their buds, and
if everything follows the usual course of
events, it will pour with rain the moment
they open and turn the blooms into big blobs
of melting ice cream (raspberry).
It is so disappointing, but then my peonies
have always disappointed me. I only have two
a pink one and a pink one that was supposed
to be a white one. I planted the pink one
that was supposed to be a white one in my
white bed two years ago.
It flowered beautifully, except it wasn t
white; not that it made much difference.
Everything in my white bed is supposed to be
white, but so far every white plant I ve put
in there has decided to be any colour it
feels like. I have white campion (rose),
white lupines (yellow), white geraniums
(pink), white balloon flower (blue), white
phlox (pinkish), and white yucca, which is
guaranteed to be white, but it hasn t
flowered yet. I do have a lovely white
delphinium, but I planted it on the other
side of the yard.
So many times I ve ended up with such a
completely different coloured plant from
what I thought I'd planted that I'm
beginning to wonder if someone walks ahead
of me at the garden centre, changing all the
tags. Still, I'm not going to change the
white bed because, surprisingly, this is the
first time in my life I've managed to create
something that looks perfect until the rain
bashes down the peony.
Brrr! Frost last night, which is appropriate
as the first day of fall arrives tomorrow. I
was hoping we d get a good one since
everything is dying of thirst anyhow put
things out of their misery, kind of.
Fall has that effect on me; it's been a
long summer and I'm ready for a change.
Besides, I m tired of eating tomatoes. Hard
to believe that only a few months ago I
couldn t wait for the first one to ripen.
Now, even though the leaves are drying up
and falling off, the fruit are hanging on,
mocking me. The plants look like pathetic
little Christmas trees, something I don t
want to think about, at least until the
pumpkins are piled on the compost
This is the time every year when I wish I
had a shredder to mulch all the garden
waste. I've tried to build my own in the
past, so far without much success. Maybe
I'll pull out the plans and try again.
Brrrr. Ice on the pond yesterday morning. It
s not that I didn't know it was coming, or
that it happens every year around the same
time'sometimes sooner, and I know there are
colder places, but it's the shock, the
sudden harshness of the stark reality that
this is IT.
All life in the garden has been snuffed
out, including the nasturtium, which truly
redeemed itself by clinging on to the bitter
end. Apart from a couple of roses and my one
aster, it was the only thing left in the
garden with a bloom on it. Now it hangs
limply from the pergola, the pallor of death
in its foliage.
After all the horrible things I said about
it during the summer, I feel its loss most
poignantly. Today, I shall tenderly unfurl
its winding stems, and gently unearth its
roots, before carrying it reverently to the
end of the yard, where I shall lay it to
rest on the compost heap. Yup, summer is
Before I totally close
things up for winter I must do a quick
inventory of all the objet trouve and
random bits of junk that I've picked up
over the years. This is the stuff that
makes my garden my garden. I keep most of
it on display, although some things are
placed in such a manner as to appear
unobtrusive. There are one or two items I
should throw out but I haven t the heart,
so they get shoved out of the way behind a
shrub for me to discover serendipitously
when I'm crawling about weeding.
This is only a
- Two plastic
bunnies purchased as gifts by two small
- A huge chunk of
root from an ancient cedar tree, a
remnant of the giants that once grew
- Three nifty
glass insulators from an old telephone
post on my late Grandfather-in-law's
farm. I thought they might be useful in
case he tries to reach us.
- A collection of
old galvanized pails that I found in the
bush and use as planters. Someone said
they were maple syrup pails.
- One concrete
garden gnome that stands beneath the
crab apple, a gift from someone special
who believes no garden is complete
- A handful of
railroad nails with dates on the heads.
I found them along a stretch of disused
track where I used to walk a dog I knew,
many years ago.
- A chunk of rock
that reveals a face when viewed from a
certain angle. I call him
- Albert, the
garden guide, after my old dad.
- And Boris of
about it. Oh, there are lots of other bits
and pieces, but these are the ones that
bring back memories, and always will.
There is much we should never forget . . .
In Flanders fields the poppies blow . . .
Are you a mad
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