Excited to Death

I just read about a pilot project called the Urban Death Project that is a game changer for the funeral industry. You only have to look at the acres dedicated to cemeteries while population grows and housing costs soar, to see the way we honor our dead needs serious tweaking. We can’t keep giving land to the dead at the expense of the living.

And it’s not just the land use, but the chemicals and caskets we are putting into it. Embalming fluid used to preserve bodies contain formaldehyde, glutaraldehyde, methanol and other solvents, none of which are doing the earth any good.

Cremation has its own issues. It seems environmentally friendly but its fiery nature means all kinds of greenhouse gas, mercury, dioxins and furans are released into the air with every firing.

The Urban Death Project plans to change all that in a way that all people-but especially gardeners-can embrace.

Touted as “Part public park, part funeral home and part memorial grounds” the plan is to build what equates to a fancy composting system for humans. Loved ones are wrapped in a shroud, carried to the top of a building that houses the recomposition system where they are gently laid to rest and covered in wood chips. After that nature does its thing until the result is a rich compost harvested from the bottom of the recomposition system and used on the flower beds in the park-like surroundings. You can come and visit the park and reflect on your loved one as they nourish the flowers.

If all goes to plan the first funeral should take place by 2023 in the first test facility that hopes to be built on the grounds of Washington State University.

This is definitely how I want to be buried. For a gardener to return to the earth, truly part of the circle of life…well, I can’t think of a bigger honor than that.

If I die before human composting makes its way to Canada, I guess my loved ones can simply find a large compost pile and stuff me in. But that’s probably illegal. Okay, that’s definitely illegal. And…well, there would be lots of issues that are best not discussed here. Let’s just hope the technology (which seems a generous term for something as natural and ancient as composting) gets here soon.

If you’re curious about the project you can watch a video and read up on all the facts here.

Spring flowers in park

Frog Prevention Month

I phoned a company this morning and was put on hold as wait times were longer than anticipated. Anticipated by whom? I wondered. Twelve minutes later I had answered the first question (longer than anticipated by me that’s whom) and raised another.

I was using my time on hold to clear clutter on my desk and thinking about that commercial where an ecstatic dancing lady is twirling about her kitchen eating crackers and cream cheese while on hold. She is having so much fun eating the product that when the company she has called finally answers she asks if she can have another couple minutes. I wondered if we had any crackers and cream cheese.

And then the ongoing on-hold monologue that I had pushed to the background said something that caught my attention.

“Did you know that March is Frog Prevention Month?”

Frog prevention month!

I did not know this. I did not know it at all. Moreover I had questions. Lots of them. Why would this company want to eradicate frogs? What were frogs doing that was so horrible it required an entire month set aside to launch an awareness campaign? Had frogs gone rogue? Were they spreading disease? Infesting houses? Poisoning children?

I was so outraged and caught up in my thoughts that I missed the spiel that followed. The recording looped itself around and once again I was asked if I knew March was Frog Prevention Month. Once again, I did not. The voice went on to inform me that we needed to prevent frogs because it was important to keep safe online and prevent identity theft. Ask us how!


Then I realized he was saying fraud, not frogs.

And my day has just got started.

Blonde princess kissing the frog at night




What Was Tulip Mania?

While debates continue to rage about the precise details and magnitude of what became dubbed Tulip Mania, the term refers to the astronomic rise and collapse of tulip prices between 1633 and 1637 in the Netherlands.

Starting around the mid 1500’s botanical finds were the equivalent of today’s latest gadgetry. Instead of lining up all night outside a box store for the new smart phone or what-have-you, buyers lined the docks waiting for a glimpse of an incoming ship loaded down with flora wonders from afar.

As tulips gained popularity investors became interested and prices sky rocketed. Forty tulip bulbs were recorded as selling for 100,000 guilders at a time when skilled craftsmen were earning around 300 guilders a year. In other words forty tulip bulbs sold for the equivalent of over 333 years of wages and this at a time when living into your late forties was a remarkable feat, especially given that between 1635-37 there was an outbreak of the bubonic plague in Holland.

And it wasn’t just the people who were battling disease. So were the tulip bulbs. Ironically, unbeknownst at the time, it was a virus that caused certain tulips to develop the unusual two-toned streaky patterns that were so coveted by growers and buyers alike.

Just before the collapse, one tulip bulb Semper Augustus featured red and white streaked petals and carried a price tag of 10,000 guilders for a single bulb!

As is the way of things, it was likely greed that became Tulip Mania’s undoing. When buyers refused to show up at the annual bulb auction, panic ensued and prices plummeted. Though it should be said that it is not known if buyers were turned off by the inflated prices or if they were simply staying away out of fear of catching the bubonic plague. Whatever the reason, tulip mania came to a crashing halt.

I am sure those left holding the bag of bulbs in the aftermath felt cheated, but at least they had the bulbs. When the stock market crashes you are left with a pile of worthless paper, or these days, mere marks on a screen. When the tulip market crashed the bulbs could still be buried in the ground like treasure and reward the grower with a stunning springtime show year after year.

As those who love a garden know, there is no greater wealth than that.

Spring flowers in park

Seeds Springing Up

It’s -20 C, white skies and snow is swirling about the rooftops as I look out our apartment window, but spring is coming nonetheless. Seeds have started springing up all over town and even in some unlikely places.

Yesterday I was at the Homesteader Health Food Store in Fort St John and came across this rack of seeds from a seed company in Barrhead, Alberta called Harmonic Herbs that I had never heard of before.



It is always nice to see dedicated non GMO, open pollinated and heirloom seeds being offered, wherever you find them. To have seeds designed for the prairies-which our region mimics in so many ways-is an added bonus. And to have it offered at a local source is even better. I think most people want to shop local, but we don’t always know what’s out there and sometimes it just gets easier to go online.

It’s interesting just how much people are buying online these days. Back in the day the Milk Man delivered dairy goods, the Bread Man dropped off baking and people showed up at your door hawking everything from encyclopedias to vacuum cleaners. Then came mall mania and everyone went out to source their own goods and home delivery for many things became a relic of the past.

Now we have come full circle-sort of. People are getting pretty much everything delivered right to their door. Some things come from local sources; I have heard of bakeries in Toronto that now deliver door to door. However, a lot of stuff comes from places like Amazon or from companies far away.

As I said, I think people want to buy local, they just don’t always have the time or energy to track things down. That’s why whenever I spot something local and garden related, I like to post it here just in case anyone doesn’t know or is interested. Please feel free to do the same.

So far I have only bought a miserly pack of Golden Detroit beets (at Canadian Tire) for my community garden beds. As much as I love regular beets, I love the golden version even more. They look beautiful roasted, tossed in a salad or just as a pretty vegetable side dish. Best of all they don’t bleed all over your hands when you’re cutting them up.

As much as I love golden beets, I won’t be filling all four beds with them. It is time to look over my plans and figure out what other seeds I need to buy.

Wow. You know you’re a complete garden geek when just typing those words gives you a case of the giddys.

mature woman chooses  seeds at store

Oak Trees Go Nuts in Their Fifties

For the first twenty years of an oak tree’s life they don’t produce a single acorn. Many oaks wait until they are around 50 before producing their first large crop.

White oaks will produce mature acorns in a single season, but black and red oaks produce acorns that take two full years to mature.

A 100-year old oak will produce over 2,000 acorns per season, but only one acorn in 10,000 will become a tree, which means it takes all the acorns from five massive oak trees to produce a single offspring.

What happens to the other 9,999 acorns?

Squirrels, birds, deer, bears, mice, raccoons, chipmunks and opossums are just a few of the more than 100 vertebrate species in North America that depend on acorns as part of their seasonal diet. In urban areas the acorns are often collected and tossed into compost bins or even landfills. Acorns that aren’t consumed or tossed don’t always receive the right conditions to germinate and end up simply rotting their way back into the earth. But when the right conditions occur, voila! Another magnificent oak tree is born.

Sprout of oak from an acorn.

The life expectancy of an oak tree varies hugely depending on conditions and species. They can live as little as 80 years or stick around for centuries. An ancient oak on the Pechange Reservation in California is estimated to be between 850 – 1,500 years old. The normal lifespan is usually falls somewhere between 200 – 400 years of age.

Do Petunias Need Fertilizer? The Answer May Surprise You!

Adding a few scoops of slow release fertilizer to our petunia pots and baskets is a necessary rite of spring planting…right? Wrong!

I always thought having a mass of blooms meant adding copious amounts of fertilizer. Many nurseries-and purveyors of fertilizer-will suggest you add both a slow release granule fertilizer as well as a liquid feed with every other watering.

All that changed when I met a local gentleman who is famous for his ridiculously healthy petunia baskets. How much fertilizer does he use? None. Notta. Goose egg. Zilch. Zero. As in no fertilizer at all!

He simply pots the petunias up in potting soil (he uses Sunshine Mix) and makes sure they receive adequate watering. That’s it!

The results speak for themselves…

2012 Progress Garden Tour 167.JPG

Terry Fraser with one of his many hanging baskets of wave petunias


This isn’t to say fertilizer will hurt your petunias…just that it isn’t necessary.

With the money saved you can buy more petunias!


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