26 October 2007

Learning to See, and asking for feedback

The past couple of weeks have been really busy in my personal and professional life, and consequently most of the writing I've been doing has been to pay the bills (so I can buy more bulbs, obviously!) I'm also taking a photography course from the owner of our local camera shop, who is not only a good business owner and marvelous photographer but an excellent teacher. I'm of the school of my-camera-is-smarter-than-I-am because I've never really mastered the art of dealing with exposure, shutter speed, etc; I set things on auto in most cases and hope for the best, which is kind of a waste of an SLR camera's abilities. So it was time, and I'm learning lots.

What I really love about using this camera--especially when I take the time to use the tripod so that there won't be too much shake--is how I'm learning to see differently. The camera sees more than we do, I think, because it simply records what's in front of it--and we don't notice all the nuances of what's in front of our eyes until we see the photo, be it on a screen or on an actual print.

Sometimes, of course, we can't help but see. Behold the breathtaking beauty of the Japanese Royal Azalea, Rhododendron schlippenbachii, at my friends Sharon Bryson and Bill Wilgenhof's home, The Willow Garden in Antigonish. This plant stopped me dead in my tracks and incited instant plant lust...its flowers are lovely enough, but this fall colour made me exquisitely happy. Isn't it marvelous how it just leaps out from around its relatives and says, "here I am, worship me!"?

Although it's still early to tell how much damage we had, last night brought a touch of frost to our yard. Happily, I had spent some time yesterday afternoon repotting and tidying up the houseplants and bringing them indoors. Like others, I may possibly have too many houseplants for the space I have, but like others, I simply can't resist them. Especially flowering plants, which help me get through the dreariness of winter with their brilliant colours and forms. I love the electric colours and graceful blooms of cyclamen, which I tend to plant outdoors for the summer and fall months and then purchase new each fall.

But I also am soothed by the meticulous geometry of succulents such as this dramatic black aeonium, which has delighted me for several years now. The succulents prefer a lot of light to grow well, and that's sometimes a challenge in the house here, although currently everything is in my office where it will get south and east light.

If you had to pick only a couple of plants to grace your home, what would you have? An exquisite orchid? The dramatic and unusual Staghorn fern? A dish garden of cacti and succulents?
I have other questions too, as I'm preparing research for some upcoming stories, and who better to ask than other gardeners? These questions will be going out to my newsletter subscribers too, so if you're one of those you have a heads-up on the next edition.

This summer has been, in some ways, the summer of my gardening discontent--not because of weather or plants or soil or anything like that but because of health issues that have seriously limited my ability to work in my beloved garden. It's been frustrating, but it's also sensitized me to the challenges faced by other gardeners, whether they are older than me (I'm forty-something) or have illnesses or physical limitations. And because I've had one or two other gardeners ask about how to make their gardens less labour intensive so they can putter but still enjoy, without being overwhelmed by weeding, dividing, moving, pruning, composting, weeding, fertilizing, etc etc--chores they may love but find harder to do--I'm throwing the discussion out to others.

What CAN we do to simplify our garden labours? Again, I'm stressing that this is mostly for reducing heavy labour for those who can't work for hours in their yards--but it could also be applicable to families where both parents are working, or young parents with not a lot of time, but who still want the joys of a garden.

What are your thoughts, fellow gardeners?


  1. Jodi: That R. schlippenbacii is a fabulous color. I have a few and they are very slow growers. They are not easy to find in the garden centers as they are tough to grow in a container or so I have been told. I love that we are on the same schedule but no heavy frost here yet. Very unusual for this time of year. As for making the garden less labor intensive, that is a tough one for those of us who love to garden. Mixed shrub borders and more naturalistic plantings may be the key.

  2. Congratulations on having your blog featured by blogger! Discovering you this way, I'm very pleased by what I see, and I'll be adding your blog to my favourites. (I'm gardening, blogging, knitting, teaching, among other things, over on the other coast.)Now I'm off to ponder the questions you've raised. . .

  3. Randomly looking at Blogs of note...I came across yours. Having grown in homes where we had beautiful gardens (We were always shifting due to Dad's postings!) it's been a delight going over your blog. The pictures of the flowers/plants are gorgeous. I too love horses and did a bit of riding when I was young. The cat pictures too are wonderful!

  4. Hi Jodi,I have been thinking about that very same concern for the future.
    Planning becomes more important.
    Ultimate size and fit to the space in which a plant will grow.
    If you live in zone five plants that are hardy to zones 4 and even 3 hedge your bet rather than that zone 6 that makes it when the winter is mild if it is close to the house.
    If your soil is alkaline or acidic then plant what likes it that way instead of trying to change the soil, a practice that is doubtful anytime but will surely add to your labors.
    In deep dry shade use a mulch and a bird bath or art instead of planting.
    Keep the garden within your limitations. Don't add another bed if you are have trouble getting to what you have. Pull all the perennials out of a distant bed and add shrubs with plenty of mulch.Keep the stuff you love near where you spend the most time, a porch,deck or window near the kitchen (or computer).
    Know your limits and simplfy or if feasible hire out some of the work.

    Or...help raise a few grandchildren interested in making a few bucks and spending time with you.

  5. the photo of the purple flowers is amazing.


  6. The past couple of years has given me an insight to gardening with disabilities due to injury and surgeries.

    My gardening pleasures have turned more to bushes and trees. Thinking of perrennials more as the cherry on top of the sundae rather than the full meal deal.

    Mulch has become my new best friend. I have always used mulch but now I put it on thicker.

    Another thing I have learned is that if I get out there for just 15min per day the weeds can be kept within reason. Meaning I can stand to look into the garden without cringing.

  7. Hi Jodi...I'm new to your blog and I must say that your photos are amazingly beautiful. I was also intrigued by your cats since we are also "owned" by two cats who run the family as well. I'm new to blogging and am also starting a children's lit writing program so I'm trying to spread my writing branches by seeing what others have to say. Please feel free to check out my blog anytime; I know I'll be back to see your pictures very soon!

  8. Jodi, how can we sign up for your newsletter? (I couldn't find info about it on your sidebar, but then maybe I'm just not looking in the right place.)

    As far as plants for indoors goes, right now I really want one of your black aeonium... :)

    But really, if I had to choose just two or three I'd pick a brightly colored coleus, an undemanding snake plant, and an aloe. I tend to kill aloe, unfortunately (although am so far okay with other succulents?) but my grandma, Mom, and lots of other women in my family have always kept them around in kitchen windowsills for burns and cuts. So it's a sentimental thing.

  9. I agree with what others have said about lifting garden labour. Grow more shurbs and tress. Also getting natives they are easier to care for. Maybe do xeriscaping and drought tolerance plants so watering isn't a issue. Mulching to reduce weeds. Don't have grass so no mowing or weeding, have a natural ground cover like clover instead. Do a minimalist garden have more of one plant instead of several different.

  10. Hi Jodi (and everyone else!)-
    I stumbled on this site this morning and love love it. I'm looking for advice: I live in Northern California and have a HUGE problem with deer. I'd love some suggestions on bulbs that the dear deer won't eat. I already have lots of daffodils (learned my lesson on tulips) and would appreciate other ideas.

    Thanks so much, lovely day to all-

  11. Hi Jodi-
    I found you through today's Blog of Note--congratulations. Your photos are lovely, espcially like the purple cyclamen.

    I am a novice vegetable gardener and embrace raised container beds. I fully concur that it's important to limit the size and scope of gardening and to put the garden somewhere you'll see it often (out of sight, out of mind).

    As an aside, my family comes from Stewiacke, Nova Scotia (1880s), but I live on the opposite coast and in the U.S. We (the U.S.) could learn so much from our northern neighbors if only we'd listen!
    Gambits from Gail

  12. Hi Jodi,
    To simplify your garden labours? Isn't that an oxymoron? ;-)

    Plant perennials indigenous to your area because they tend to be resistant to local pests and already grow well in your type of soil with your annual amount of rainfall.

    Mulch, But I know you already do that.

  13. Re: house plants. As I have only 3 (I tend to kill them), it is easy for me to narrow it down. I have 2 cacti (they were gifts) that spend most of Spring, all Summer & most of Fall outside, & a spiderplant hanging over the kitchen sink year-round. (I've kept it alive for over a year, woohoo!)
    Re: reducing garden maintenence, for gardeners in the Midwest I recommend a prairie planting that needs to be burned or mowed only 1x/year. Minimal weeding once plant community is established. Lots of bulbs interplanted in a shrub border is another way to go.
    Congrats on being a "Blog of Note."

  14. Hi,

    I just pass by to say that i love your cat's, they are amazing!

    Best regards from Portugal

  15. Hi all and welcome to bloomingwriter--special welcome to those who tumbled here via blogger. That was a surprise!

    Layanee, good to know about the azalea; the people I'm going to get one from will dig it for me when I go see them. And yes, I'm with you on shrubs and naturalistic plantings.

    materfamilias, welcome, and I'll visit your blog and add it asap.

    Mirandian, welcome, I hope we'll hear more about your gardens in your blog.

    Gloria, good advice and thoughtful comments. It's sometimes hard to stop building, isn't it? It will be a few years--more than a few years, I hope--before there are grandchildren around here to help...

    Orchid lush, welcome, purple flowers are one of my favourites!

    Lisa, Thanks for your wisdom. you're right about even a few minutes being effective. I'm a fan of shrubs and trees too; just need to put more of them in.

    Corstory7, welcome, and I'll be over to visit your glob sometime this weekend. Isn't it fun to be owned by cats?

    Kim, I don't know how to set up a web signup for my newsletter yet. To date it's mostly been for Atlantic Canadians, but I am planning to change it slightly, make it more practical generally. If you want to sign up just send me an email, and I'll add you that way.

    Vanillalotus, mulch is my friend--happily, we live where there is fog, and the only thing I ever water is containers and newly planted shrubs/trees, the first year--after that, they're on their own. and I'm sure with you on getting rid of grass--except in the pasture, of course.

    Nancy, thanks for the recommendation--I actually HAVE that book somewhere, after having interviewed Freeman Patterson and seen a presentation by him...now I just have to find it!
    The good thing about cats is that they don't tend to chew things that are toxic--just plants they like the taste of! (and no worries, make all the comments you want!)

    Christine welcome, come again anytime.

    Steffny, deer are such a pain, but there are bulb choices for you that are deer-resistant bulbs include the fritillaria and grape hyacinths, scilla, snowdrops, and the short, dwarf iris. Hope this is some help to you, and come visit again anytime.

    Gail, hi and welcome. Raised beds are an excellent option once they're created and filled--I'm thinking about doing some veggie garden that way myself, (I have no veggie garden at all but some tomatoes in the greenhouse. )
    Interesting geographic connections--my sister, her husband and my mother all live in Stewiake--talk about six degrees of separation.

    Dirty Knees, good advice--I'm a fan of natives/naturalized plants myself, and will be writing about them over the coming months. and yes, life is all about mulch.

    Office worker, welcome and thanks for the comment. Come back again anytime.

    Mr. McGregor's Daughter, I love the idea of a prairie planting--that passionate posting you made about tallgrass prairie on Blog Action Day was marvelous!

    Sergio, welcome, yes, our feline family are pretty remarkable. Naughty sometimes, definitely spoiled, but very lovable--and loving.

  16. Jodi,

    Sorry to hear about your health troubles but I'm glad you're getting some enjoyment from garden and houseplants.

    What plants could I not live without? That's tough I love them all about the same. But I would have to say that I'm partial to my "weird" looking plants like my staghorn fern, Adeniums and Euphorbias, "living stones" and plants along those lines.

    But my Amaryllids are a close second because not only do they bloom during the winter but they're fun to propagate.

  17. Thanks, Jodi! By the way, I forgot to mention how much I'm drooling over that royal azalea... and also how lovely I think it is that you're "learning to see" via learning more about photography. Makes me want to pick up a few books and see what I can train my own eye to do...

  18. Hey jodi, it was fantastic peeping at ur blog. Really, u seem 2 hav a divine place, coz its filled up wid cats. Luvd those pics!!!!! I'll very appreciate if u visit my blog sometimes. Even I hav a beautiful he-cat at my place, n he is adorable. It was gud finding ur blog-book. Keep posting. Take care. BYE.

  19. Hi Jodi,

    After MrBrownThumb posted about not a single garden blogger listed for Blog Action Day I dropped Graham a line leaving him my thoughts on this omission.

    I'm pleased to see that they've including you on their Blogs of Note.

  20. Jodi... I don't have any great ideas to lessen the garden labors, other than keep records of what you do, and then if you can't do it anymore, either hire it out or simplify somehow. (Brilliant, huh?!)

    If I had to choose just a couple of plants for indoors? I'd choose a couple of orchids, a clivia, my night-bloomer, some African violets, swedish ivy, aloe... wait, that's more than a couple. I clearly can not choose. Don't make me!

    Congrats on the blogger of note!

    (And if you do decide to broaden your newsletter's focus, I'd love to be added as a subscriber... I think you have my email address already).

    Carol at May Dreams Gardens

  21. really man you are the one who has lot to say about pets

  22. The pics are extremely pretty..... i have not gone thru the reading part of it, but still ur blog is extremely attractive with this lotta fotos....

  23. The pictures are beautiful...hydrageas would be my pick for the must have in my garden!


  24. The pictures are beautiful. Especially the bulbs. Pls feel free to submit any articles to my website.

  25. Great photos!
    What kind of camara are you using?

  26. jodi,
    As an arthritis sufferer, I have learned to divide and conquer my garden. I never do more than one section a day, and don't fret about the rest. A combination kneeler and seat helps me do work close to the ground.

    I bring in enough herbs to get me through the winter, and always have lots of blooming things in the house.

  27. I like the side Barcats. Your Header is partially obscurred by a mismatch of colours on the text x flowers juxtaposition. I live at http://www.howlatphysics.blogspot.com

  28. Hmmm, uf nice flowers...
    In Croatia to...
    For exam; Its called LAVANDA

    In Island Hvar

  29. This is my first time in your Blog and I liked it very much. I think your job are exciting, very interesting and pleasant. The pictures are beautiful. I loved it so much.
    I am an engenneer and I am starting my blog seriosly right now. One of them is a personal blog and other is about aviation, expecialy in Brazil. I think bloging is a good way to pay attention in importants and interesting things around us.

    Sorry for my english.


    Gilson Silva - Belo Horizonte, MG-BRASIL

  30. Hiya Jodi

    Your cats and recent photos are fabulous. Keep writing, keep photographing!

    I was also interested to read about the hunting which doesn't require any real foxes or boars to be hunted -- way to go!

    Autumnal greetings from Berne, Switzerland!


  31. Hi Jodi
    Your wish is my command... ;) -- have just added a link to your blog on my blog, i.e. MPJ's Blog, a web photo diary from Switzerland:

    Thanks for returning the favour and for visiting!

    PS Oh, and congratulations, too, of course, on being features as a blog of note!

  32. Illicium floridanum would be my first choice, though I do have to cut it back quite a bit when first put out for the Summer, so as to fit it into the house for the Winter months...the fragrance of the leaves when brushed give off the sweet smell of anise, the stems, while somewhat brittle, are forgiving if the new kitten overreaches his jumps to the pot, and accidently breaks one, and it doesn't seem to mind that all my 'good' light is actually northern exposure! I grew this 7 foot child from a small cutting, and it now resides in a five gallon pot, with soil renewed each year, and fed with fish emulsion water during warm months.
    My second would be the simple, and most common, impatiens- because they flower happily all Winter long in the North light, and the cool of my home!
    I so enjoyed your blog, and photos, and will return all the cold months, to see what you have brought forth to share!
    Aryd'ell in the mountains of NC, USA

  33. Dear jodi,

    My response to your photographs is an emphatic WOW and thank you! I love flowers for their intense color and variety of form.

    Thank you sincerely! Recently here in Tennessee, due to abnormal heat and a season of drought, my gardening has been frustrated and curtailed. Many of my perennials have succumbed to the harsh season. Your flowers have been as a gentle rain of inspiration to my eyes. It was somewhat surprising to learn that in your climate such gardens are possible.

    My wife has great success with indoor violets, but this year even these have been "repressed" and less than spectacular.

    May I say from the perspective of an artist (and also fellow writer) without reservation you definitely have an artist's eye for color and light. Thank you for sharing.

    A world without flowers and birdsong is one in which I could not thrive. I can almost hear birds singing behind your camera. One gets a glimmer from your choices both in planting and in photography that yours is a corresponding and probably greater sensibility.

    Wishing you continued success,

    Hike Mallicote

  34. The gardens and flowers are delightful, as I am not a good one to grow anything.

    I live in Colorado, north of Denver about 55 miles, near the foot of the foothills, smaller mountians.

    What a tremendous talent you have and I shall visit this site again. I am sort of knew to bloggings.

  35. Wow, awesome gardens. Where can i get some?

    Would love to see them in my backyard while daytrading.


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