28 February 2011

The Very Historic Gardens...A Nova Scotia Must-see

While western and southerly parts of North America are beginning to relax into their anticipation of spring's arrival, SOME of us are still getting bludgeoned with winter weather. As we shoulder yet another winter storm of snow-rain-sleet-snail-whatever out of the sky, I thought we could use an escape from it all. So let's go to one of the most beautiful places in Nova Scotia: Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens.

The Gardens were established 30 years ago on a 17 acre parcel of land overlooking the tidal Annapolis River, adjoining an area first settled in 1605 by the French explorer Sieur de Mons and cartographer Samuel de Champlain. The community originally named Port Royal was variously occupied by the French and the British for over a century until the latter finally took it for the last time and renamed the settlement Annapolis Royal in honour of then-monarch Queen Anne. 

22 February 2011

The official "I wrote a book and it's in stores now" post

As many people who hang around with me on Facebook, Twitter, or in real life know, last year one of my projects was to write a book for Nimbus Publishing of Halifax. That book, Plants for Atlantic Gardens, is in stores now throughout the region, including independent local stores like The Box of Delights in Wolfville, on Amazon.ca, and will be in the US in a couple of months time. Hopefully, it will inspire you enough that you'll want to buy it. But you could also win a book...keep reading for the details.

20 February 2011

Green flowers give me hope for spring...eventually.

Arghhhhhhhh!  As this winter of unending snow continues to bring still MORE snow to us beleaguered Nova Scotians, we cope in different ways, don't we? Some flee to warmer climates for a few days or weeks of sunlight, beaches, but I'm not wired that way. I need sunlight and green, yes, but not traffic and travel headaches.
I was in the city the other day to pick up a couple boxes of my new book to sell at various locales, and took a copy in to my friend, florist par excellence Neville MacKay of My Mother's Bloomers. He, in return, had made up a bouquet for me to celebrate this new arrival. Of green flowers, which are one of my favourite delights, indoors and out.

17 February 2011

Private and Public Sanctuaries of the Heart : A book review and giveaway of Sanctuary

Sanctuary: The Story of Naturalist Mary Majka by Deborah Carr. Goose Lane, 19.95 pb.

Author Deborah Carr had known Mary Majka for 15 years when she embarked on a series of interviews with the naturalist in 2003, having been endlessly fascinated and entertained by the older woman’s energy, dedication to nature, and tales of her past. “I felt compelled to write her biography,” she says, and although daunted by the task, the first-time author but seasoned freelancer worried that if someone didn’t begin catching Mary’s life story, it would disappear like the migrating shorebirds around their homes in Albert County, New Brunswick.

From afternoon chats and much research comes the tenderly written and hugely inspiring Sanctuary: The Story of Naturalist Mary Majka, a biographical jaunt that takes readers on a journey spanning decades, continents, wars and resettlement.

Majka, daughter of Polish nobility and long-ago immigrant to Canada, has in her 87 years lived a life that reads like a fairy tale, complete with handsome princes and monsters. In her case, the handsome prince was her husband Mike, to whom she was married for over 50 years; the monster was the specter of World War II, which saw her separated from her surviving family members and imprisoned in a work camp while still a teenager.

14 February 2011

Chocolate and Wine and Romance for Valentine's Day

Well, it's Valentine's Day once again, and I'm here to offer a gardener's point of view on what makes for a happy sweetheart. In a word (or three): chocolate, wine, and plants= romance for a gardener! 

I'm a big fan of good quality dark chocolate (Hershey's waxy crap need not apply) but I'm also very fond of chocolate flowers and foliage in the garden, so for your viewing pleasure I offer some delightful, and very low-calorie, chocolate plants. 

Among my favourite perennials are foxgloves, and Digitalis parviflora 'Milk Chocolate' is a definite star. The flower spikes and individual florets are nowhere near the size of the standard species, but they're such a lovely unique colour. Last year, my plants began seeding themselves a little bit, and I've promised one plant to my friend Alice, so as to share the love around.

12 February 2011

A Little Midwinter Miscellany

Most of the time, I don't mind winter. I really don't. It's an important part of life in much of North America, and it's crucial for both the garden and the gardener. It's a time for plants to rest, and gardeners to look back at what we have done in the past, and look ahead at what we plan for the future. It's a good season for catching up on our reading.
However...the past two weeks have been a bit much, and this week in particular has been so over the top as to be absurd. We are not just blanketed in snow: we are quilted, duveted, down-comfortered and Arctic-sleepingbagged with the stuff. It's not just a few inches deep--it's a few FEET deep. As in this drift, which is well over four feet tall and extends across the back of the garden.

09 February 2011

06 February 2011

Oh, Deer. The Curse of Many Gardeners.

There are several questions that garden writers get over and over again, and try to answer with varying degrees of success. “How do I keep deer from eating my…?” is the most often, and most plaintively-asked question. You can fill in the blanks as to what they’re eating, depending on the season: rhododendrons, holly, thuja and yew in winter; tulips and crocus in spring; daylilies, hosta, roses, daylilies vegetables, tree and berry fruits, and a host of other tasty options in summer. They’re voracious. And they’re not going away any time soon.

02 February 2011

Winterless-post: favourite perennials

As we stagger through the seemingly interminable ordeal that is winter in Nova Scotia, it’s sometimes hard to remember what our yards looked like when it was sweet summer. While this seems to have been a particularly long and gruesome winter, we’ll make it through to spring again soon. I keep telling myself the pulmonaria will be blooming before we know it,

This is the time of year when plant breeders begin ramping up the excitement by unleashing scores of new cultivars on a gardening public eager to try different plants. I’m as keen to experiment as anyone, but I also have plants that are such proven performers in our garden, I’d never think about casting them out in favour of some sweet new thing with a fancy plant patent and complex name. Many of us love to push the zone by trying plants that aren’t reliably hardy, but we also like to grow plants that come back reliably, year after year, like dear friends. That doesn’t mean they won’t, occasionally fail to thrive or even expire, but no plant is foolproof unless it’s plastic.

Submitted for your approval, some of my favourite perennials.

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