14 February 2007

Hearts, roses, snowstorms and lilies

"Good morrow, Benedick. Why, what's the matter;
That you have such a February face,
So full of frost, of storm and cloudiness"

(Shakespeare, from Much Ado About Nothing)

I’ve poached that quote rather shamelessly from the Old Farmer’s Almanac newsletter , because if there’s a more perfect description for a bad mood than a February face, I don’t know what it would be. Mind you, this day is full of frost, but also sunlight and crystal clear skies, which is why I’m contentedly sitting in my office watching the birds stuff themselves at the feeders. How long the nice weather will last is anyone’s guess, as the weather networks and Environment Canada and just about any prognosticator you can think of are screaming about a winter storm headed this way. A few centimeters of snow, some ice and then rain is what we’re supposed to get, which is nothing to get excited about. Those poor people in parts of the US are the ones I feel sorry for. 140 INCHES of snow in some places, or more? And still coming? I won’t growl about a few inches here. Although I don’t think the weather forecasters saw ‘White Juan’ coming back in February of 2004, so we’ll just sit and wait to see what happens here. It’ll be another excuse for those poor overworked teachers to have school cancelled, no doubt. (whoops, that was a bit of a rant, wasn’t it?)

Today is the Great Day of Guilt, Valentine’s Day, when millions of roses and other flowers will give their lives in an effort for spouses to tell their mates how much they love them. I don’t get roses on Valentine’s Day, by choice; I’d much rather prefer that my longsuffering spouse give me roses when he feels like it, rather than on some hallmark holiday.

Still, I like thinking about roses—the type that grow in my garden, not the pampered pets of florists. We have some wonderful roses bred right here in Canada, the Explorer and the Parkland series, and I tend to recommend these to people who want to have roses in their gardens but don’t want to have to fuss with them excessively. My favourites from these two are Henry Hudson, a white rugosa type, John Cabot, a red climber, Mordon Sunrise, a gloriously yellow-orange-coral blend, Quadra, a deep rich red, quartered double bloomer, and J.P. Connell, a lovely soft yellow. But my absolute favourite roses are Schneekopf (Snow Pavement), a rose described by author Barbara Wilde in her wonderful book Growing Roses Organically as being the colour of whipped cream with a few drops of blackberry juice added. It’s almost lavender. And its fragrance is divine.

Speaking of fragrance, I’ve also got lilies on my mind right now. No, I’m not thinking about Easter, though I do love the ghostly white and fragrant white lilies associated with that holy day. I’m thinking more about floods of lilies in the garden, fragrant Orientals, showy Asiatics, exciting crossbreds, and how much I enjoy them. Well, a young woman I know has developed a business here in the Annapolis Valley, selling aftermarket lilies—these are lilies that were used once for cut flowers; they are still perfectly good bulbs, and will flower the first year they’re planted, and then in subsequent years produce even more blooms. Tracey’s business is called—wait for it—Lilies FROM the Valley, which I think is totally delightful, and I’ve been drooling over her website, dreaming about which lilies we need to add to our garden. Hey, at 8.00 or 10.00 for a DOZEN bulbs—or more accurately, tubers—I guess we’ll have quite a few different colours. Of course, I’ll lean towards the fragrant Orientals and Oriental crosses like the Stargazer in this photo, but I like Asiatics too for their brilliant colours.



If I do have a bit of a mood going on today, it's because I'm feeling deeply saddened for a dear friend of mine, who lost her mother to a long battle with cancer just a couple of weeks back. I haven't yet decided what I'll plant in my memory garden for this incredibly brave and loving woman, but it'll be a shrub or tree that echoes her strength and wisdom. Probably a hardy
azalea, preferably one of the Lights series, and one of the fragrant ones, so that it both brightens the spot where it is and casts its sweet scent around the garden. It won't bring this lovely woman back, but perhaps, just perhaps, it'll give my friend and her family some little comfort.

09 February 2007

From the land of the frozen chosen....


This is getting interesting. It’s been about three weeks now since winter rolled in, and it’s stayed cold; and with snow cover, at least up here on the mountain. We’ve been treated to several sessions of our famous Fundy ‘Flurries where winds blow on shore’ which have accumulated nicely in some locales. Great for cross country skiing, apparently, according to those who still pursue the sport (I don’t). It’s been bitterly cold up here and that tends to put me into recluse mode, so that I’m not going outdoors much except to do errands and chores.

This, of course means it’s a perfect time to catch up a bit on my reading about gardening, and to explore lots of new-to-me gardening websites, thanks to the joys of highspeed Internet. I’ve spent a fair bit of time poring over nursery and seed catalogue websites, seeing what’s new—even though I don’t expect to see some of these newer plants in this area for a while, either because of hardiness issues or supply availability. This is an ongoing problem that some of our nurseries face; they aren’t large enough to order massive amounts of plants, so some of the propagating nurseries and plant suppliers leave them low down the list of customers, and they can’t always get the new exciting plants. Some of them fight this by joining together and making joint orders, which apparently helps them get what they want. This to my mind is all the more reason to support our local nurseries, who DO go that extra mile for us customers. Take that, bigbox bullies!

I mentioned receiving a catalogue from Renee’s Garden out in California. Renee’s seeds are now available in Canada, and I was attracted to them because of the gorgeous watercolour paintings that adore each package. Well, my order arrived yesterday, only a week after it was shipped—that’s pretty impressive, and kudos to the United States Postal Service for their prompt service, because I’m pretty durn sure it wasn’t Canada Post’s efforts that got that package here so promptly. AND, I noticed the cost of mailing this package was $1.15 US. I’m pretty durn sure it would have cost way more than that to have mailed a similar sized package to the US from Canada Post. We pay more for way inferior postal service, in my mind. Except of course for our own community’s post office in Canning, and our intrepid rural mail drivers—they’re heros.

So, what did I get from Renee to try? Given that this is the season of the plastic tomato, which alas I still end up buying (at least in hothouse-from-Ontario form) throughout the winter, I’ve already started craving real tomatoes. So I got a package called Summer Feast, a mixture of three heirloom types including my beloved Black Krim. Mmmmm. That’s all I got in the veggie department; other treasures included sweet peas, sunflowers (can’t wait to see ‘Chocolate Cherry’ in bloom!), Shirley poppies, butterfly scabiosa (should go well with the blue lace flower, shouldn’t they?) California poppies (Eschscholtzia californica, surely the most difficult genus name in botany), Little Ladybirds butterfly cosmos, and two types of Nigella; Persian Violet, in shades of blue and purple, and Mulberry Rose, because it’s been wayyyyyy too long since I had pink nigella in the garden. Nigella reseeds, but it’s been our experience that either they revert to blue after a few generations or else it’s only the blue that are real good at reseeding.

Watching the birds at the feeders outside my office window, as they hop from feeders to the definitely asleep rhododendron, I can’t help but think surely this time, this cold snap will help kill off some overwintering insect populations. So I’m not going to grumble too much about the cold. Yet, anyway. I’ll just sit, like the cats, watching bird television and dreaming of warmer, spring days. And digging in the dirt, planting new garden treasures.

02 February 2007

Of groundhogs and seed catalogues

I suppose it depends on where you live, whether the groundhog saw his shadow or not. Personally, I hope we have another six weeks of winter NOW, rather than in April!

Surprisingly, we’ve actually had two weeks of winter in a row, and today a mild spell; mild enough that my longsuffering spouse kindly got the barn cleaned out from where the iceberg of frozen horse poo was starting to look a bit bizarre in the back of the horse’s condo-stall. I’ve been more or less housebound the past couple of days, in part because of doing some computer housecleaning, and also because I cleverly got a wireless router in the house. Now LSS can look at boat-selling sites and storms on YourTube or whatever else he’s interested in on his computer upstairs, and I can work or goof off at my laptop wherever in the house I want. Maybe even outside a bit? Well, it’s far too cold to worry about THAT for a while, for sure.

But this week was a time for officially celebrating the kickoff of the gardening season. A modest seed order I made last week with Salt Spring Seeds Salt Spring Seeds, on the BC island of the same name, arrived 6 days after I made the order. Was I impressed! Am told by other gardeners that the seed quality is second to none, and certainly Dan has some interesting seed selections. I opted for a few different annuals that are sometimes hard to locate locally, even at Blomidon where they bring in Thompson and Morgan seeds as well as a host of Canadian and other English seeds.

So what did I get? Verbena bonariensis, of course, just in case mine didn’t self-seed like it does in some locales; the green-flowered Nicotiana langsdorfii; Phacelia, a simply gorgeous blue annual; Blue Lace flower too, Trachelium; yellow and orange Cosmos mix, blue woodruff, (a lovely, delicate flower), some mauve-flowered poppies…Of course now the trick will be restraining myself from planting them too early. I might see about seeding them at the Kingstec greenhouses in a few weeks, or might simply start them here in the living room. At any rate, I’m well pleased at the service and I expect the quality of the seed will also be terrific.

I also have a collection of seeds coming from Renee’s Garden Seeds sometime in the next couple of weeks. A press kit arrived last week from Renee’s, and I went through it with interest. Although she’s based out in California, her seeds are now available in Canada (except, curiously, in Montreal—must find out about that one!) Again, I’ve been told that her seeds are top quality and so I took her up on her invite to try a few types; mostly flowers, but one package of heritage tomatoes too, featuring the always-luscious Black Krim. So the seed bug is really getting at me. I’ve also been eying the catalogue from Richters Herbs, but I suspect what I’ll get from them is a selection of lavender plants to put out front, where I’ve decided I NEED more lavender. All in good time, however.

More to write, but not tonight; some work is calling me, plus some reading, plus there are all these new seed and plant catalogues to look at…never enough time to savour them all. And I do want to go to the Wolfville Farmer’s Market tomorrow morning; although, ironically, it’s FISH I want, from the local fishmonger, not so much produce, etc; which I mostly already get from local producers. More on that next time, though.

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