Archive for the ‘my garden’ Category

Expect the unexpected in the garden

Posted by: Heidi

April 25th, 2011 >> my garden, Photos

As the garden tells and retells the well-known story of the changing seasons, there are many things about gardening that are predictable. However, there are still some surprises along the way, some things that can’t be predicted or controlled.

One sunny afternoon near the end of March, the temperature warmed a little and I decided that it might be warm enough to plant a few seeds in my vegetable patch. Just over a week later, I was excited to see the first tiny seedlings starting to poke through the ground, and I felt quite pleased with my early start on growing vegetables. The following week, a surprise hail storm blanketed the ground with a thick coating of ice and my tender little seedlings froze. The next day, after the ice had melted, I found none of them had survived. Fortunately, there are many seeds in a seed package so it was easy to plant more and try again.

The weather influences the garden more than anything else and it is something that we have no control over. This spring, the weather has been even more unpredictable than usual, changing frequently from warm sunshine to cold winds and heavy rain and then back again. Despite the less than hospitable conditions though, some of my favourite spring flowers have started to bloom at last and my second planting of vegetable seeds have started to sprout too.

Each spring is a little different and I never know quite what to expect. Every year at the first sign of warmer weather, I plant a few seeds in hope of an early spring. There’s always a chance that my first planting will be too early, but maybe, if I’m lucky, it might be the year that I have early homegrown vegetables instead.

Whether early or late, I am always grateful to see new growth, and the many colours of spring.

“this is the garden:colours come and go,
frail azures fluttering from night’s outer wing
strong silent greens silently lingering,
absolute lights like baths of golden snow.
This is the garden:pursed lips do blow
upon cool flutes within wide glooms,
and sing 
(of harps celestial to the quivering string)
invisible faces hauntingly and slow.”
~ E. E. Cummings

Patience in the garden

Posted by: Heidi

March 20th, 2011 >> my garden, Photos

Spring usually comes early where I live, but not this year. Until recently, colder than usual temperatures kept the ground cold and the soil too hard to work even when sunny days beckoned me out into the garden. From inside the house it sometimes looked like a perfect day to work in the garden but outside the wind was cold and the ground was still frozen hard. When warmer temperatures finally arrived, so did the rain and so I continued to wait for more favorable gardening conditions.

Not just at this time of year but all year long the garden teaches me patience. Throughout the winter I watch and wait patiently for signs of spring, taking heart at the slightest swelling of a leaf bud or the smallest tip of a sprout breaking through the ground. During wet weather I wait for breaks in the rain to get out in the garden to weed, transplant, prune and plant seeds. Then I wait for seeds to sprout, stems to grow, buds to open, flowers to bloom, fruit and vegetables to ripen, and then seed pods to dry and leaves to fall. Like so many things in life, you can’t rush the garden, everything grows at its own pace. And we appreciate its many rewards even more because we have to wait for them.

“It is cold
It is cold
I’ve had the feeling
At the heart and in the core
The roots of all things
But there’s a bud there’s a bulb
It will be blooming
To greet every new day that may come
Like the first of spring”

~Tracy Chapman

Wabi-sabi in the garden

Posted by: Heidi

February 20th, 2011 >> my garden, Photos

For many gardeners it’s the time of year for planning this year’s garden but I don’t actually do a lot of planning. For me it is more a time of anticipation than planning as I wait to see what will happen in my garden this year. Aside from my small vegetable patch, most of my garden is filled with shrubs and perennials that seem to make their own plans. So I’m just watching and waiting to see what has survived through the winter, what will bloom earlier or grow bigger this year, and what may have been lost.

As my garden grows and changes I see many examples of wabi-sabi, a Japanese world view that is centered on the acceptance of transience and celebrates the poetic beauty of imperfection, impermanence and incompleteness. A true sense of wabi-sabi is about simplicity, the effects of time and acceptance of things as they truly are. The simple beauty that aging and natural wear brings to plants and objects in the garden over time is wabi-sabi. Moss-covered objects, old weathered ornaments, an aging, gnarled tree or over-grown perennial patches each tell a story and provide a sense of history and the passage of time.

Wabi-sabi acknowledges three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect. Not just in the garden, but in all aspects of our lives, wabi-sabi celebrates the basic, the unique, and the imperfect parts of our lives. We all are perfectly imperfect and wabi-sabi helps us to see the beauty in imperfection, and to discover that our unique flaws can also lead us to our greatest strengths. It reminds us to appreciate every moment, no matter how imperfect and to make the most of the moments that we have.

“There is a crack in everything
that’s how the light gets in.”
~ Leonard Cohen


Twilight on an early winter’s eve

Posted by: Heidi

December 30th, 2010 >> my garden, Photos

The year is coming to an end, winter has just begun and spring seems very far away. Dusk comes early and as I walk through my sleeping garden in the preceding twilight the signs that spring really will follow are hard to find. Hidden beneath this year’s remaining spent foliage are the beginnings of new growth though, barely poking through the ground, patiently waiting for the sun’s light and warmth to increase and give them the strength to grow.

Solstice has passed and the days are already getting longer again, a minute or two more of daylight each day. It’s not much, but the slumbering plants will slowly start to take notice and life will start to quicken within the soil. For now, the days are still cold and short. This is the time of rest for the garden, and for patience and contemplation for the gardener, while we wait for next year’s garden story to begin.

“I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape – the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter.  Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show.”

~ Andrew Wyeth

Making Spaces

Posted by: Heidi

November 29th, 2010 >> my garden

Fall is the time to make spaces in the garden. As I cut back the plants that are finished for the season the garden opens up and I see things that were hidden among the lush foliage earlier in the year. Without the spaces everything blends together, the structure is lost or hidden and many details are missed. The spaces allow us to see and appreciate each individual plant and these spaces are necessary for a healthy garden. They allow the air to circulate and give the plants room to grow. Overcrowd the garden and only the strongest and most aggressive plants will survive.

When I’m not in the garden I spend some of my time playing with paint and with music and spaces are important in these endeavors too. Space is a key element of composition for paintings and other forms of visual artwork. Empty space adds perspective, creates contrast and gives focus. In music, just as important as the notes are the rests, the intervals of silence between the notes. Without these spaces between the notes there is no melody.

Whether nurturing plants in a garden, creating a picture with paint or stringing notes together to make a melody, less gives us more, and including some emptiness leads to meaningfulness. I think that this is true in all aspects of our lives. If we fill up all of our time we end up being too busy to fully experience each moment and if we fill our lives with too much “stuff” everything is less meaningful, the clutter doesn’t allow us to appreciate what we have. Spaces allow us to breathe, they let us think about all we have experienced, they give us perspective and provide room to grow.

We can create and maintain spaces in our lives by being more thoughtful about the things we accumulate and about how we spend our time.

“I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion.”

~ Henry David Thoreau

Change is afoot

Posted by: Heidi

October 25th, 2010 >> my garden, Photos

The sun is staying lower in the sky now, the days are getting shorter and shorter and growth in the garden has slowed down or stopped. The garden is constantly changing throughout the year but in the fall the changes seem to be the most dramatic and a little bittersweet. These last brilliant colors signal the end of the season but also the time to start preparing for the next one.

Not just in the garden, but in all aspects of our lives, seasons come and go; we thrive, we languish, we grow, we carry on. A garden is a place to witness the effects of time and to learn to accept them. Compost from the plants that have died will nurture new growth in the spring, and so the cycle continues.

Joe Pye’s Weed

Posted by: Heidi

September 1st, 2010 >> my garden, Photos

When I was given a small Joe Pye Weed seedling a couple of years ago I wondered how such a pretty and delicate looking little plant could have the word “weed” in it’s name. I planted it in a new garden bed, watered it regularly and watched it anxiously, hoping that it would survive. This is how it looked when it bloomed the first year:

The following year I noticed in late spring that my delicate little Joe Pye had sent out runners and instead of one stem, I had multiple stems sprouting from the ground. As the summer progressed these stems grew taller and taller until they towered over the rest of the garden bed.

This year even more stems sprouted up from the ground and have all grown quite tall. The Joe Pye Weeds have reminded me that looks can sometimes be deceiving and what appears tender and delicate may have more strength than expected and an unseen ability to thrive. When given the right conditions even the smallest and most fragile looking of things can flourish.

Food from the garden

Posted by: Heidi

August 18th, 2010 >> my garden, Photos

The first time I tried growing vegetables I did it all wrong. I started with a large vegetable plot that must have been neglected for quite some time as it was completely overgrown with weeds. I weeded it once, by simply pulling out whatever I could see, planted a variety of vegetable seeds, watered it well, and then waited to see what would grow. Of course what grew was an abundance of weeds with a few straggly vegetables mixed in. I battled the weeds for a while and then gave up on vegetable gardening for several years, going back to just the apple trees, berry bushes and a few herbs and tomato plants for edibles in the garden.

This year I decided to try it again and I did everything differently. I started with a much smaller plot, put in all new soil and planted just a few different types of seeds (peas, lettuce, carrots, and zucchini) plus my usual tomato plants and a selection of herbs. It’s a small enough plot that it’s not a lot of work to take care of and the fresh vegetables I have harvested so far have tasted wonderful. In addition to tasting so much better and not having to worry about chemicals, growing your own vegetables is economical too. Here’s a link to the most profitable plants to grow in your garden:

Most of us are so disassociated from our food sources and growing some of my own food has made me think a little more about where all of my food comes from. In an effort to reduce my carbon footprint I’m trying to buy locally grown food as much as possible. Having my own vegetable patch is good for the environment since there’s no better way to eat local than to eat from my own garden! My little vegetable patch is just a small step, but I think it’s a step in the right direction.

Playing softly, walking softly

Posted by: Heidi

July 26th, 2010 >> my garden, Photos

Taking care of a garden has increased my awareness of the natural world. It’s not just our own little gardens that need to be nurtured and sustained, the whole earth is a garden and its resources are fading away at an increasing rate. I’m trying to play softly in the garden and walk softly on the earth.

In Patrick Lane’s book, “There is a Season”, he describes how he sees the wilderness as a garden and writes about how a gardener can learn many things from a patch of forest. When he wants to understand his garden better he goes out into the forests and meadows to observe how the plants live and where and why they grow.

I’m learning more about how to be kind to the earth and how to best nurture my garden. I’d like my garden to be sustainable, but I still have a lot to learn. I’ve been composting, but the compost is slow to come. I want my garden to be pesticide and chemical free, but I’ve discovered that not all products that are labeled “green” are actually good for the environment. As I add plants to the garden I am starting to look for more native plants but I am still not sure which plants are best suited for my garden.

I’d like my garden to not just be nice to look at but to be practical too. I’ve grown berries and herbs for a few years now and I’m hoping to grow more of my own food in the garden.

This year I’ve added a small vegetable plot and I’ll write more about the veggies next time.

Sharing my playground

Posted by: Heidi

July 7th, 2010 >> my garden, Photos

When I first started gardening I realized very quickly that a garden will never belong to just me. My garden belongs to the many plants that make it their home more than it belongs to me. I am just the caretaker. We also share it with many living creatures including birds, squirrels and numerous insects, some invited guests and some not. Each of the creatures in my garden have their own particular needs and objectives that are different from mine.

I try to be kind to the inhabitants of my garden and have accepted that my agenda may not necessarily be more important than theirs. The garden has taught me to more fully consider the impact of my actions. The overgrown branches of a tree may cast shade in a place where I would like to have sun, but what creature’s home might I destroy if I cut back the branches?

In addition to the wildlife that visits or resides in my garden I also share my garden with a dog who needs room to run and play. He loves to fetch and whoever is in the garden with him is usually happy to oblige when he implores them to throw a ball. While he knows to stay out of the garden beds, he can’t resist chasing a ball that bounces the wrong way. So, an occasional plant is lost due to ball-chasing casualties. While I am always a little sad to lose a plant, I usually feel that it is a small price to pay for the enjoyment that playing fetch in the garden brings. I don’t want a perfect looking garden that no one can enjoy spending time in.

When my son was younger he used to love to help me in the garden. He considered himself to be a ‘scientist’ from a young age and he liked to do ‘experiments’ in the garden:

This wasn’t part of my plan for the garden but I doubt that any other shasta daisy has caused more enjoyment than this one!