02 May 2006

Home for a rest...and to garden

For those of you who didn’t get a chance to attend the second annual Saltscapes East Coast Expo….well, you really missed out on a great event. Last year was great, but this year was outstanding, with terrific booths of vendors, demonstrators, tourism activities, crafts and artisans, amazing food…now, to be honest I was so busy as part of the show team, that I didn’t truly get to visit all the booths and meet all the exhibitors, but that’s okay, there’s always next year. I had a great time giving my talks even though my voice was still not completely healed, and I learned some wonderful new ideas from other gardeners too. Of course, there were times I needed to be in three places at once, a trick I haven't yet mastered, and I didn't get to meet all the people who wanted to talk with me, either. So although we’re just recuperating now, I’m already looking forward to next year.

The show planners put all the garden-related exhibitors fairly close together, near the Yamaha Do-It-Yourself stage where presentations were happening. Along with four of my favourite places to leave grocery money—whoops, that was supposed to read disposable income—Baldwin Nurseries, Blomidon Nurseries, Bunchberry Nurseries and Springvale Nurseries, Lee Valley was there with a great selection of their gardening items, Cora Mae Morse was there with her ‘Flora by Cora’ outdoor furniture and accessories, the Langilles were there with their Yardbirds, and I was delighted to see Eric and Dianne Schurman made it over from PEI with their Malpeque Fine iron. I first met the Schurmans last summer at their shop, and went down to their house to see Dianne’s gardens, which are delightful and won a rural beautification award several years ago. Eric does beautiful ironwork, both for inside the home and for the garden, with my favourites being his folk art pieces. Last summer, a dandy metal spider came home with me; at the show, one of their new pieces, a folk art cat I’ve nicknamed “Spike”, had to come and live with me, as did a terrific trellis. I would have bought more but I was in theory working the show to earn money, not to totally boost the region’s economy. Here’s Spike hanging out with the hellebores til I decide where everything is going to go.

I DO so love good garden art in my garden. I tend towards a mixture of whimsy and beauty, fun and functionality in our beds. We have a blue gazing ball that is actually placed in such a way as to be useful as it was designed; so that workers in the garden could see other people approaching, particularly handy if you were staff goofing off or saw someone approaching you didn’t want to talk to. Here we don’t worry about such things but merely let the bright blue catch sunlight and reflect the colours of the plants around the ball. We have some wonderful stained glass and cement pieces done by a local garden artist, including a large welcome stone, a birdbath, and a memorial stone for my late beloved cat Nermal, whose ashes are in the garden under some rosebushes. We have handmade wind chimes, an assortment of trellises and arbours, and one of the most recent items is a fabulous birdhouse on a post from Nacho Average Crafts. I don’t have it mounted yet but did take it to the Saltscapes Expo to display at the window box competition, and gave away all the cards that I had from the artisans who made it.

Because it had been raining recently and was too wet for my darling other half to work in the woods, he was lurking around home when I needed to work. So I asked him to make me some birdhouses, mostly for decorative purposes, but they may serve as nesting boxes too. Who knows? I had been smitten with a copper roofed birdhouse donated to the competition as a prize, so I got some copper and some weathered lumber and turned my sweetie loose to be creative. He did just fine, although now I suppose the county will be along wanting to charge more property taxes because of new edifices on our homestead…

Now is the time of year that my darling and I most enjoy. Weather permitting, we usually take a walk around the garden twice a day, to see what’s coming up, what’s in bloom, how many weeds are sticking up through the ground, where I can add more plants…this is most definitely an early spring, however. I’m estimating we’re about three weeks ahead of where we’ve been other years in terms of perennial growth and shrub leafing. This weekend while I was away, things really took off everywhere in the Valley. Forsythias are looking like explosions of yellow fireworks, there are daffodils and some early tulips, scilla and squill, adding bursts of colour all around, shrubs and trees are leafing out like crazy…it’s a very happy-making time of year. Normally, the first perennial to flower in our garden is the liverwort, Hepatica nobilis, but it’s just opening now: we’ve had lungwort or Bethlehem sage, Pulmonaria of various species, in flower for two weeks in some spots.

And oh goodie! There are two strong looking clumps of blue poppies up and putting on growth, and the other two are slowly emerging as well. Depending on how many crowns are on those clumps, I hope to let them flower again this year, and maybe there will be seedlings since there are no ducks—other than the wild ones in the pond, who won’t be parading through the garden beds any time soon.

The most happy-making sight in the gardens, other than the Meconopsis? The clump of red trillium that we rescued from a clear-cut a few years back has REALLY taken hold. Where there were only three stems for a few years, this year there are eighteen. Granted, not all of them will be flowering this year, but since we get jubilant every time we see a red trillium, whether in the garden or in the wild, we’re really happy to see they’ve settled in so well. Another new clump transplanted last year has started popping up, and there are two other clumps in shadier spots that we expect to see shortly as well.

I spent a good bit of time this weekend encouraging people to support their local garden centres, including the four that were at the Expo from the Valley. Of these four, only one currently has its website up and going, but all three of the others are working on theirs and expect to have them up soon. I’m especially excited that Bunchberry Nurseries is opening to the public this season, every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 9-5. Bunchberry has been growing amazing plants for wholesale purposes for over ten years, and now is entering the retail world too. Jill and her team are kicking off their foray into the retail market this weekend, May 5th, 6th and 7th at the nursery in Upper Clements (2779 Hwy 1, not far from Upper Clements Park). If you’re in the area, drop in and visit; they’ll have opening specials, rare plants, door prizes and of course their display gardens, featuring conifers, ericaceous plants, grasses, alpines and more, are an inspiration to any gardener. It’s because of Jill and Bunchberry Nurseries that I have ventured into grasses and into trying out heaths and heathers in my garden. I plan to visit on Saturday, weather permitting, and who knows how many plants will fling themselves into my car for the trip back home?

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