Grandma’s Birthday and Discovering Garden Magic

Today is my paternal Grandma’s 106th birthday. She passed away 20 years ago at the age of 86. As I work all the numbers in my head, I realize I am the same age right now that she was the year I was born. How can that be? It seems like just last week I was a little kid, excited to be staying at her farmhouse for the weekend.

The first time I noticed the magic of gardening was on one of those weekend stays. Grandma and I had got up at the crack of dawn to wash windows. She was up on the ladder and it was my job to hand up the cloths and the glass cleaner in turn. We worked our way around the house until we ended up on the south side in the middle of her flower bed. Just as she reached down for a cloth a peony burst into bloom between us. One second it was a tightly packed bud ball and the next it was massive multi-petal blossom. It opened up like a spring loaded action toy. I will never forget the startled delight in Grandma’s voice as she cried, “Oh!” and how I was uncharacteristically speechless.

close up of white peony flower

The shared witnessing of that blossom opening became our story. The one we never got tired of telling or talking to each other about. Or at least I never did. “Remember the time that big flower opened up in your garden?” I would ask, and of course she would remember and we would tell each other the details all over again.

Moments like that are why I got interested in gardening. They are why I still love gardening. Your mind can be off worrying about your kids, or money or what to make for supper and then bam! A blossom springs open and you forget everything. You come back, fully present. It’s the best kind of therapy.

As my gardens expanded to hold several peonies, I always told myself I would take the time to witness a blossom open. I would get up at the crack of dawn, pull up a chair, sip my coffee and watch until it happened. I would have the best intentions, but there was always so much to be done. Soon I was distracted by a robust dandelion growing up inside of a rose and off I went weeding, thinning, pruning…one task after another until winter covered the whole thing in a white blanket once again and it was too late. Next year, I would tell myself. Next year I will make time for watching a peony blossom open. Then it occurred to me that on the day Grandma and I saw the peony bud open we were busy washing windows, so there you go.

When you think about it, gardening is always one big magic. It can’t help itself. Dropping a microscopic seed into the soil and having it morph into a petunia that fills and spills over the side of a barrel-sized pot is pretty mind blowing. If you showed someone who knew nothing about gardening a teeny tiny carrot seed the size of a punctuation mark and tried to tell them it held everything it needed to grow into a snowman’s nose, they wouldn’t believe you. But it does. Discovering the perennial you planted three years ago and thought had died, but here it is in full bloom…that’s magic too.

And getting to see a peony open just once in a lifetime, and sharing that magical moment with a person you love, well that’s more than anyone can ask for.

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This is my Grandma a few seconds into 1976. My sisters and I always stayed with our grandparents on New Year’s Eve while our Mom and Dad went to the dance at the Bessborough Hall. We would always say “See you next year!” when they dropped us off and think we were wildly original and funny.

At midnight we would bang pots, pans, lids etc. (Grandma has a tin pie plate in this picture) with spoons. We would march around the house banging away and then fling open the front door and smack our spoons for all we were worth, shouting “Happy New Year!” into the frosty, star-filled, quiet, country dark.

The peony bush was under the curtain covered window to the left. Grandma (Isabelle Weselak to the world) came to the Peace Country in 1931 and made her way to their homestead in Bessborough, 20 miles or so northwest of Dawson Creek, BC, in a horse drawn wagon with a toddler (Aunt Doreen) and a baby (our Dad).

She had a small flower bed, a gigantic vegetable garden and an optimistic zest for life, as you can see by this picture.

We miss her.

10 of 10 Gardens on the 2013 Dawson Creek Garden Tour! :)

The last stop for us on the 2013 tour was the home, garden and business of Dale and Doris Brocke. Last but certainly not least! Doris and Dale run Rhubarb to Roses Garden Centre, a first rate nursery that supplies Peace Country gardeners with all kinds of shrubs, perennials and yes, rhubarb and roses! Their yard is a treat to tour and an added bonus to any plant shopping experience. Plus Dale whips up the most delectable rhubarb based desserts for the tea room, making this garden centre a great place to book for a lunch date with a group of friends, even if you don’t need any more plants. What am I saying? Everyone needs more plants 🙂

And again…sorry about the date imprint.

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Rhubarb to Roses Garden Centre is located 3 miles west of Dawson Creek, BC at 10865 225 Road. Head west on 108th Avenue, cross the Dangerous Goods Road and take the Old Hart Highway towards Arras.  You will see a big red & white sign on the left.

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Inside the walled garden of a former log homestead. Note the rhubarb leaf stepping stones.

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Entrance to the walled garden. Can’t you just imagine sitting back in that chair with a tall frosty glass of lemonade?

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Healthy well-established delphiniums and roses flank the entrance to the walled garden.

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There were hummingbirds everywhere diving into the delphiniums…they must taste as good as they look. The delphiniums, not the hummingbirds.

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Grapes ripening on the vine against the walled garden.

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Rhubarb, roses, grapes and apples too! This is definitely the place to go if you want to buy some hardy fruit trees that will produce in our zone 2b or not 2b climate.

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All this beauty, a bountiful vegetable garden AND a billion dollar Peace Country view. This is located right next to the garden centre.

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A robust patch of rhubarb

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A poppy patch. I love poppies as much for the beautiful seed pods as I do the blooms.

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Island beds of shrubs and perennials including roses of course

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Garden Centre and Tea Room…and a lovely border of blooms including lots of herbs and lilies

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Dale creates and sells beautiful, original bird houses as well as stain glass art and windows. The centre also offers the works of many other local artists.

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Loved this birdhouse artfully positioned in a piece of driftwood. The red blooms are from the perennial Maltese Cross. A reliable staple of Peace Country gardens dating back to the gardens of the pioneers.

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Another bird house against a blue backdrop of delphiniums.

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Doris is also an author. She wrote this wonderful book titled The ABC Musical Garden about flowers playing music. It is a tongue twisting, lyrical, linguistic romp through the alphabet (and garden) aimed at children but adults will enjoy it too.

ABC Musical Garden

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Where the magic begins! A compost bin made out of untreated pallets.

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A flourishing perennial bed.

And that’s all the gardens from the 2013 tour. I do apologize for the wait.

Seeing what all these gardeners have done is always so inspiring. As we make our way into February it is time to make up our seed and plant wish lists and check them twice. There are many online nurseries to choose from and some carry those rare plants that we are desperate to have. However, the local nurseries often stock the same plants or are happy (if given enough notice) to see if they can bring an item in. With the cost of shipping, shopping local just makes sense. And cents. For a full list of local nurseries click on the tab at the top. If you know of a nursery that I haven’t listed please let me know so I can add it to the list.

I hope 2016 is your best gardening year ever!

9 of 10 Gardens on the 2013 Dawson Creek Garden Tour :)

Paul and Fay Geist have a huge property outside of town that they have worked wonders with. The pond complete with a bridge was incredible.

Once again, apologies for the annoying date stamp…

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A huge expanse of lawn with lots of beautiful shrubs, trees, perennials and ridiculously healthy petunias!

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 A postcard perfect guest house with its own personal garden!

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And an equally exquisite cottage for the birds! Well, actually it’s a bird feeder…

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 This dog statue looked so real it made us jump!

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Now that’s a swing set.  And just look at that Peace Country sky waiting for you to kick your heels into it!

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Gorgeous wagon wheel bench and an endless view beyond it

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The pathways and beds around the house were immaculate

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A pond! So many gorgeous rocks…

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A closer look at these colorful stones…each one a thing of beauty

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One of the nicest garden bridges I have ever seen…

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Deep pink lavatera…a must have annual for every garden!

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This pot of strawberries was so outstanding Gardens West used this picture in its magazine!

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A very creative and humorous bird house!

The Truth About Tree Roots

Contrary to popular belief most trees send the majority of their roots out to the sides not deep into the ground. We simply assume when we look at a towering oak that its roots must run hundreds of meters into the ground, but this isn’t true. The majority of its roots are only 46 cm (18 inches) below the surface, keeping them close to the nutritious top soil and where they can take advantage of the slightest moisture.

Uprooted trees. Fallen pine tree in the forest. Forest landscape. Uprooted trees. Fallen pine tree in the forest. Forest landscape.

If you have ever seen a tree that has uprooted and fallen over in the forest you will have noticed how shallow its root system actually is. You can appreciate how important it is to think about the area that surrounds the tree and not just what is directly below the trunk.

Oaks Avenue Charleston SC plantation Live Oak trees forest

Oaks Avenue Charleston SC plantation Live Oak trees forest landscape in ACE Basin South Carolina lowcountry

The aforementioned oak will send its tap root 1.2 meters (four feet) into the ground and then spin out lateral roots to widths of 27 meters (90 feet)!

Tree and rock, Namibia

A shepherds tree (Boscia albitrunca) against a rock, Spitzkoppe, Namibia, southern Africa

In nature there are always exceptions and when it comes to trees with deep roots that exception is the Boscia albitrunca or African shepherds tree. A specimen measured in Kalahari in 1974 had sent a root 68 meters (223 feet) into the ground!

Tree With The Deepest Roots

 

African shepherd's tree (Boscia albitrunca)

African shepherds tree (Boscia albitrunca) South Africa

The tree that holds the record for having the deepest roots is the Boscia albitrunca more commonly known as shepherds tree. It is a protected species native to South Africa. A measurement taken from a shepherd’s tree in Kalahari in 1974 measured in at 68 meters (223 feet)! You would never guess by looking a the tree that it was capable of such a penetrating root system.

Tree and rock, Namibia

A shepherds tree (Boscia albitrunca) against a rock, Spitzkoppe, Namibia, southern Africa

The shepherds tree is capable of growing as high as 10 meters (33 feet) but that is considered exceptional. The average growth is much shorter.

 

8 of 10 Gardens on the 2013 Dawson Creek Garden Tour :)

Bob and Marg Lowther’s garden was a child magnet with all of its thoughtfully placed gnomes, lighthouses and other fabulous statuary additions. The double lot offered all kinds of running room and shade from mature evergreens for those hot summer afternoons.

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Beautifully crafted archway leading into the garden

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Using the cavities in the cement edging for the beds to grow succulents in is such a great idea! It makes use of otherwise wasted space and the cement traps heat that the succulents crave.

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A whole family of gnomes hanging out under (and even in) the trees!

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A stone burro with a pannier of plants and a family of friendly bears in the background. I have always wanted to try making one of these paths. This one was beautifully done.

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An angelic gathering beneath the potted plants!

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An inuksuk, a bird house and a gorgeous silver piece of driftwood stand before a bed of ferns and bergenia

2013-07-28 12.46.23-2These blue petunias look so pretty paired with the pink blooms of the bergenia

2013-07-28 12.40.00-2A pinterest worthy birdhouse…bird condo? Really, really, really liked this. Really.

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A great example of filling in spaces in the perennial beds with pots of annuals both in the bed and suspended above!

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Every bed was filled with so many delightful surprises!

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Water fountain, another fabulous bird condo and butter colored petunias paired with pink that matched the bird condo roof beautifully.

7 of 10 Gardens on the 2013 Dawson Creek Garden Tour : )

Next up is the garden of Bryan and Carmen Dynna.  This place is amazing. Check it out…

(Sorry about the date stamp on some of the photos. It was a new camera and I am always a bit of a technically challenged photographer!)

 

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Pink cosmos, vibrant orange marigolds and healthy bunches of purple delphiniums.

The front yard was a real oasis with a border of mixed annuals and perennials  and gorgeous shrubs complete with a pond feature.

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A closer look at the beautiful pond feature.

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Vibrant yellow chairs and a table against a lush green lawn and hedge

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The front gate leading you into the yard. Everything is so neat, tidy and organized. You just can feel all the stresses of the day melting away when you walk in!

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And then there is the backyard…oh my! Beautiful melding of the flowers into a vegetable garden worthy of a self sufficient homestead.

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Garden of my dreams! Just packed with vegetables of every kind.

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A greenhouse and a beautiful garden shed that also could be a guest house.

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Inside the garden shed was a dehydrator…making this a harvest shed too. I dried onions in our dehydrator once and almost killed Darcy and I with the fumes.

Having an outdoor shed to dry them in would have been a far better idea!

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Deck of the garden shed and a stunning rain chain. Beautiful pot of marigolds too!

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A stock trough painted to look much more appealing than just leaving them silver. Notice the pond plants floating in it.

And those delphiniums! Just spectacular.

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Another view of the greenhouse behind the vegetable bed.

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Small stone markers that look so much nicer than plastic stakes

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