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.


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.

2013-07-28 15.48.15


2013-07-28 15.49.00

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.

2013-07-28 15.52.37-1

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

2013-07-28 15.51.47-2

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

2013-07-28 15.51.17-2

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


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

2013-07-28 15.58.27

Grapes ripening on the vine against the walled garden.

2013-07-28 16.21.32-2

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.

2013-07-28 16.10.46

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

2013-07-28 16.08.12

A robust patch of rhubarb

2013-07-28 16.06.43

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

2013-07-28 15.49.36

Island beds of shrubs and perennials including roses of course

2013-07-28 16.10.56

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

2013-07-28 16.14.07

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.

2013-07-28 15.56.34-2

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.

2013-07-28 15.50.00

Another bird house against a blue backdrop of delphiniums.


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

2013-07-28 15.57.04

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

2013-07-28 15.49.16

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…

2013-07-28 15.44.56

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

2013-07-28 15.35.04

 A postcard perfect guest house with its own personal garden!

2013-07-28 15.37.17

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

2013-07-28 15.44.37

 This dog statue looked so real it made us jump!

2013-07-28 15.36.10

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

2013-07-28 15.36.25

Gorgeous wagon wheel bench and an endless view beyond it

2013-07-28 15.42.52

The pathways and beds around the house were immaculate

2013-07-28 15.43.01

A pond! So many gorgeous rocks…

2013-07-28 15.40.17

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

2013-07-28 15.42.20-2

2013-07-28 15.41.49

One of the nicest garden bridges I have ever seen…

2013-07-28 15.39.49-2

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

2013-07-28 15.35.30-2

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

2013-07-28 15.37.39

A very creative and humorous bird house!

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.

2013-07-28 12.42.11.jpg

Beautifully crafted archway leading into the garden

2013-07-28 12.42.33.jpg

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.

2013-07-28 12.41.06-2.jpg

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

2013-07-28 12.44.01.jpg

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.

2013-07-28 12.41.52.jpg

An angelic gathering beneath the potted plants!

2013-07-28 12.45.18-2

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.

2013-07-28 12.30.03

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

2013-07-28 12.41.40

2013-07-28 12.43.15

Every bed was filled with so many delightful surprises!

2013-07-28 12.47.26.jpg

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!)


2013-07-28 12.17.51

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.

2013-07-28 12.19.05-2

A closer look at the beautiful pond feature.

2013-07-28 12.18.25-2

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

2013-07-28 12.29.35

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!

2013-07-28 12.28.50


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

2013-07-28 12.28.16-2

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

2013-07-28 12.24.32

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

2013-07-28 12.25.48

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!

2013-07-28 12.27.45-2

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

2013-07-28 12.23.46-2

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.

2013-07-28 12.20.18-1

Another view of the greenhouse behind the vegetable bed.

2013-07-28 12.22.50-2

Small stone markers that look so much nicer than plastic stakes

2013-07-28 12.21.46-2

2013 Dawson Creek Garden Tour

2013-07-28 12.46.51-1

The whole purpose of this blog was to showcase amazing gardens grown in the Peace Country and to share tips with cold climate gardeners wherever you may be.

There are several garden tours in the North and South Peace every year and before The Big Move, I attended as many as I could and posted pictures of them here.

With all the kafuffle over the last two years I didn’t make it to either the 2014 or the 2015 garden tours. I have to confess that leaving my garden behind and moving into an apartment made attending the tours somewhat akin to an alcoholic being invited to a wine tasting. Looking back, I do wish I had stopped feeling sorry for myself and went, because I know I missed some spectacular gardens.

Even worse, all the changes started to happen as I was still posting pictures from the 2013 tour. Instead of finishing them up, things got so crazy I abandoned this blog altogether. So in case you’ve been wondering why the Dawson Creek Garden Tour abruptly stops with #6 out of 10 gardens, now you know.

But better late than never! Over the next bit I will finally showcase those last four gardens. Trust me, they’re worth the wait…


Peace Country Signs of Spring

Up here in the gorgeous Peace Country you sometimes have to look hard for signs of spring in January, but rest assured they’re out there.

Today I had two successful sightings.

This one at the dollar store…



And another auspicious sign at Ernie’s…



In case you didn’t catch the winning detail here is a closer look…



That’s right…END OF SEASON!!!!!!!!!!!  Yes!!!!!!!!! A certain sign of spring wouldn’t you say? Right? Right?

But even if they’re off by a smidge at least you can get yourself a real warm coat at a good price to wear while you wait. Or for going on spring scouting expeditions. I like the blue one.

Snow Nitrogen

Flat weather icon set of 16


Snow is one of the richest sources of natural nitrogen. Rain contains nitrogen as well, but usually runs off before any measureable amount has a chance to soak in.

When I was a kid growing up on a farm we would (rarely) get a three day gentle steady rain. This was dubbed by all the locals as “a million dollar rain” not only for the slow sinking in of moisture but for all the nutrients it contained. Slow and steady wins the race, while fast and pounding only fills the ditches. Or something like that.

As I said, these rains were rare. Snow, on the other hand, was not. Because it soaks into the soil slower than rain, more nitrogen is absorbed from snow. The time it spends on the soil’s surface allow key chemical reactions to take place, while protecting soil’s micronutrients and bacteria.

While waking up to a frosting of snow out of season can cause much groaning and moaning, there is a silver lining in those snow laden clouds. Late spring or early fall are the best times for snow to deliver its cargo of nitrogen to the soil since it can easily soak in. The snow that falls during winter tends to sit on the surface of frozen ground and all too often is lost in the quick runoff come spring.

If given a chance to soak in, snow can deliver five to ten pounds of nitrogen per acre.

Late spring or early fall snowfalls are often called “poor man’s fertilizer” for the free dump of nitrogen they deliver.


Survival Tip…Getting Houseplants Home Alive in the Winter

A close up of a cluster of red berries on a tree branch covered in ice during the winter season.

Living in the frozen north makes getting houseplants home alive a bit of a challenge for several months of the year. Carrying a tropical rain forest plant across a parking lot when it’s -20 C with a serious wind chill happening is enough to make the poor plant curl up its toes, stick out its tongue and fall over dead.

Most stores will put the plant inside a plastic bag, hopefully trapping enough warm air to get you from the store to your warm car and then to your home, depending on how fast you move and how cold it is. However, there are no guarantees your plant will make it out alive.

blue lunch pack carrier on a white background


A great option is to take a cooler with you when you go to make your plant purchase. If it is really cold, pop a hot water bottle inside (or a couple plastic bottles filled with hot water), close the lid tightly and your new plant should travel home snug as a bug in a rug. The soft sided coolers that grocery stores sell work great.


For larger plants you might have to break out the monster beach cooler on wheels…or wait for a chinook to blow in!


Growing Plants for Oxygen


barattolo di vetro ecologico


If you find yourself trapped in an enclosed space with no access to oxygen how many plants would you need to provide oxygen for you?


To breathe easy each person would require approximately 10,000 leaves – or the equivalent to 300 – 500 plants.