A few random thoughts, swirled around by the nor’easter screeching in off the Bay.
Spent Friday night in the company of a diverse and talented group of people; members of the Canadian Nursery Landscape Association from across Canada, gathered together in Halifax for their national awards gala. There were both nursery operators and professional landscapers, sponsors and lifetime achievement award recipients, all of whom are dedicated to making the world we live in a lovelier place.
I’m the first to say I don’t know a whole lot about landscaping as such—I distinguish it from gardening intentionally, although one is part of the other. I tend to think of landscaping as designed and installed by professionals, or at least people with way more talent in design than I have. I’m a gardener—I understand plants, and usually know where they ought to go in my own yard for the best effect. But like this blog entry, our gardens are a hodgepodge, gradually developing some design and form, but not formal like many properties are. A landscape professional could come here, talk to us, look around our land and existing structures and beds, and design an entire yardscape that could include paths, walls, pergolas, water features, and so on—and then, if I had the money, they could create my dream yard for me. I don’t, however, so whatever happens in this yard will be done by my long suffering spouse and me as we can afford it. That doesn’t mean I can’t talk to and learn from landscape professionals around the region, however.
One thing I do know—there’s a significant difference between those professionals, who are trained and certified and understand all aspects of creating a beautiful living space in a yard from soil and slope and drainage and plant needs and positioning…and those happyjack types with a battered half ton truck, a ride on lawnmower and a rake and shovel. Those aren’t landscapers—they’re jobsters who can mow a lawn, throw some seed or fertilizer around, stick a few tired annuals in the ground, and charge someone an arm and a leg for their ‘landscaping skills.’ They cast a bad light on the true professionals, who are passionate about their trade and skilled and will stand behind their work. I’ve committed myself to learning and writing more about professional landscapers, who are also willing to share their knowledge with people like me and with property owners who just want to do a few little projects themselves. It will be interesting learning about something new!
Only a couple of more days now until a very exciting event takes place in Wolfville. No, not Valentine’s Day—that most guilt-laden of Hallmark Holidays—but the launch of Ami McKay’s brilliant new novel, The Birth House. Published by Knopf Canada, and the only title in this tenth year of Knopf’s New Face of Fiction program, The Birth House follows young Dora Rare of Scot’s Bay as she learns the ways of caring for women from the community midwife, Marie Babineau, during the years around the First World War. When Dora takes up the post of midwife following Miss B.’s death, she finds herself in conflict with a know-it-all young doctor who feels his scientific medical procedures are better for women than a natural birth. I’m not going to go any further in describing this novel right now—my review of it is in today’s Halifax Herald, available online for a week—other than to say that in Dora Rare, we have a powerfully drawn female character as memorable as Morag Gunn of The Diviners, (Lawrence) Offred of The Handmaid’s Tale, (Atwood) Mrs. Noyes of Not Wanted on the Voyage, (Findley) or Deanna Wolfe of Prodigal Summer (Kingsolver).
Ami is a wonderful storyteller, and I hope this is the first of many such works we see from this talented young writer. Yes, she’s a friend too, but it is a rule of mine that I do not review books or products that I am not pleased with. And I’m mighty pleased with the book, and proud of Ami.
Right now I’m working on a few gardening articles to get done ahead of time, as all too often, deadlines collide and arrive all at the same time. One of the stories is about keeping a garden journal, and I’m very grateful to gardeners around the province who have shared their tales of garden journaling with me. I’ve got a beautiful new 10 year journal from Lee Valley here, a marvelous thing, although I wish it had pockets or sleeves, like a scrapbook or photo album, so that I could do like one gardener does, and tuck the tags of plants into the book for a permanent record of what I’ve planted (and where!). Getting the journal isn’t the hard thing—remembering to keep it up is. I’ve parked mine right beside my computers so I can write in it daily, or mostly daily.
Gave a talk the other night to the Ladies Auxiliary of the Pereaux Baptist Church, on the gentle art of forcing twigs of shrubs and trees into bloom at this time of year. Now I have the house full of twigs of bittersweet, forsythia, red osier dogwood, spirea…in a couple of weeks there should be some signs of flowers and leaves emerging, to help chase away the gloom of winter. I love watching coaxed twigs (that sounds so much more peaceful than ‘forced’) erupting into bloom like living fireworks. It’s so easy to do, too, providing you follow a few simple rules. Those will have to wait til next time, however.