Need a Shade Loving Climber? Meet Willy.

I want to create a pocket garden in our backyard. A small oasis I can slip inside of like a green envelope. I want to walk through a narrow opening and enter a space where I can sit in a chair or lay on the grass and cloud gaze, while being completely hidden from view.

The area I have chosen is against the north side of the house, so I am attempting to grow tall things that love shade, grow fast and are hardy to zone 3. I know. It’s going to take a minute.

Last year I started a border on the east side of this future pocket garden. So far I have a goatsbeard (potential to reach 6 feet), a rodgersia (4 foot potential), a bleeding heart (3 feet) and an astilbe (3 feet). Of course none of them will reach anywhere near that height for awhile. These things take time.

On the other side of the future pocket garden are some Hostas and several Lily of the Valley which look (and smell) really nice but, at knee height, do little to screen the garden. There are some hostas, such as Empress Wu that grow to dizzying heights, but the ones I have top out at around two feet.

So to make my pocket garden work, I set up a trellis and went shopping for a shade loving climber.

Imagine my delight when I found a Willy Clematis at Dunvegan Gardens with the following tag around his neck…

Not part sun, not part shade but FULL SHADE. Or full sun. What an adaptable clematis! I rushed home and planted Willy straight away.

Here is Willy on his new trellis. As you can see things are far from private right now, but I have vision. Unfortunately, so do the neighbours.

Please ignore the dandelions. This obviously isn’t a magazine garden. Check out What are Dandelions Good For? Absolutely Everything! if you too sometimes feel a need to apologize for the yellow beauties dotting your lawn.

I have high hopes for Willy, but I am starting to wonder if some mislabelling occurred. None of my online searches for Willy Clematis have backed up the “full shade” claim. All the info I found recommend full sun. Oh well, he’s in the ground now, so we will just have to wait and see.

Grow Willy Grow! I’m rooting for you.

Turning up the Heat

Summer truly arrived yesterday. I knew this for sure when I was driving home from the grocery store and trying to figure out what was wrong with the car. The heater wasn’t on, the seat warmer wasn’t on, but it was strangely warm. I looked down at the outside temperature gauge and was shocked to read 19 Celsius!

I had to laugh. It’s been almost eight months since I have even thought the words air conditioner. I was out of practice in assuming a warm car could actually mean it was warm outside. I didn’t turn the ac on though. I just rolled down the window and smiled.

Later, I zipped down to Canadian Tire to pick up some garden supplies. I walked out back and summer had arrived there as well. Just a couple days ago all they had in their outdoor garden centre were pallets of soil and mulch. Today it was full of trees and plants. It was like stepping into a slice of heaven.

The potted fruit trees were in full blossom and loaded with bumble bees. I wondered if they came with the trees or if they had simply lucked out and spotted them below as they flew through the city. I suspect the latter, since they were in such a happy frenzy. They looked like I felt.

Nature is so miraculous and gardeners get a front row seat. How lucky are we?

The Rhubarb

Yesterday was the day! The snow has been gone from the front yard for awhile now, but in the back, stubbornly hunkered against the north side of the house, was a huge persistent chunk of snow that resembled an iceberg. Its melt rate has been painfully slow. Finally only a few shards remained and yesterday morning they were gone.

Insert happy spring dance here.

Oodles of crocuses have been blooming and daffodils are spearing their way skyward as well. Several perennials have even leafed out, including The Rhubarb.

I bought The Rhubarb the first spring we were in our new apartment. Strangely enough, of all the plants I had left behind in our country garden, it was the rhubarb unfurling in the spring that I missed most of all. I felt bad putting such an earthy plant into a pot, but it didn’t seem to mind. I thought maybe if I tucked it into a sheltered corner on the balcony come winter and surrounded it with other pots, the rhubarb might survive and I could look forward to its annual unfurling once again.

Instead there were some issues with my balcony garden and the strata complained, I overreacted, and banished the lot to our yard at the store. Come fall the pots were emptied and put away, but the pot with the rhubarb was tucked in a corner along the fence and forgotten.

We were well into the next spring, when Darcy discovered the rhubarb in full leaf. By this time I had rented four beds at the Community Garden, so I took the rhubarb there where it hung out in its pot, at the end of one of my beds. I left it there come winter, and the next spring up it came in its pot once again. The following spring we moved into our house and the rhubarb was brought from the community garden to our backyard, released from its pot and for the first time in its rhubarb life, allowed to discover what it was like to wiggle its roots deep into the earth.

And now, here it is, coming up once again, but this time sans pot.

The really weird thing about all of this? I don’t even like rhubarb. As a kid my mom would send me outside with a bowl of sugar and I would pull up a rhubarb stalk, laze out in a lawn chair and basically use the rhubarb to spoon up the sugar.

Darcy is even more ambivalent about rhubarb than I am. Even sugared up rhubarb pies or cobblers fail to impress him much. Our sons were a different story. Not only did they love rhubarb, they ate it raw without any sugar at all, causing us to worry they were deficient in some kind of vitamin or mineral or something.

I will always grow rhubarb simply for its early rise in the spring, its majestic leaves, its gorgeous ruby stalks and the plumes of cream that froth its tops later in the season (though if growing for production you usually snap the stalks off before they flower). If left to bloom, it is a worthy stand in for other ornamentals such as rodgersia. My whole goal for the front yard is to create a space that is equally edible and pretty. Another bonus for using rhubarb out front is that deer leave it alone.

A rhubarb in bloom against that big Peace Country sky!

The Rhubarb, however, was planted in the backyard. Of course it was. I feel guilty to be moving the poor thing once again after it has been so brave, for so long, but hopefully this move will be its last. And not because the move kills it. Given its years of tenacity I am sure it will make the move without mishap. It would be pretty ironic if this is what ends up doing it in though.

And who knows? Maybe our tastes have changed. Once The Rhubarb is established, I think I will try out a few rhubarb recipes again just to find out. That’s a wonderful thing about life. Things are always changing and you just never know.

Spring Temptations

Spring is being generous with our town this year. She showed up soft and slow, giving the city some time to sort out the sewer drains before hitting double digits this week.

I went for a walk along one of our many paved trails. The snow had melted into a small river running alongside the walkway, the sun shone warm and the pavement beneath my feet was bare and dry for the first time in months. I turned my face up to the sun, closed my eyes for a second and was suddenly struck with an overwhelming urge to lay down on the warm pathway and soak up the heat like a cat.

Only two things stopped me.

One, the pathway is frequented by dogs who make generous daily deposits. While there was no actual evidence of this in the stretch of pathway in front of me, I knew the residue was there.

Two, at my age, laying down on a public walkway would end in chaos and ambulances. Well, I suppose at any age it would cause a bit of eyebrow raising, but with me the assumption would be stroke or heart attack related for sure. How to explain I was just experiencing a bout of spring madness?

And so I carried on walking, keeping my reckless ideas safely in my head and up off the pavement for the sake of all things sanity and sanitary. But oh how warm that pavement looked after weeks of crazy cold.

People have already started shovelling the snow off their lawns and into the streets. Last year, our first spring in a house in town, I was bemused by the practice. I figured it was just a case of some home owners being anxious for spring and desperate to start mowing their lawns.

Why bother I thought to myself. Another couple weeks and everyone would have a bare lawn one way or the other. Plus all that snow could have been soaking in and watering their front yard instead of the street. It seemed a terrible waste of both time and moisture.

This year I know better.

It’s the gravel on top of the snow, tossed there during the necessity of winter maintenance, that makes returning the snow to the street such a savvy move. It is much easier to shovel snow, gravel and all, back to the street for the sweeper to reclaim than it is to rake it out of your lawn when the snow is gone.

Right now the big bank of snow along our curb is still a few feet tall, but lowering fast. I am eyeing the shrinkage and waiting for the opportune moment to start shovelling.

Things are moving faster closer to the house. Look at this!

I call it the great receding snow line. There is no sweeter sight than a flower bed emerging from the snow. This is my first spring in five years that I can step into a garden and see what has returned from all the mad planting I did the year before.

Am I excited? You bet. I could just roll around on the ground kind of excited. But I won’t. At least I am pretty sure I won’t.

I’m a Christmas Tree Genius! Than Again, Maybe Not.

This morning I realized the house we bought in April and have been madly in love with ever since, was, in fact, a terrible mistake.

Simply put, there is no room for the Christmas tree.

Back in April all I could think of was the garden. Where the Christmas tree would go was the furthest thing from my mind.

But now, standing in the living room in late November, with the partially assembled tree swelling up like an inflatable elephant in a mouse house, it was clear there was only one viable solution.

Put the house back on the market and find another place to live. Preferably within a week, so as not to lose too much decorating time.

And breathe.

I sat down to consider other options, trying to ignore the fact that when I pulled the leg rest out on the couch, my toes were in the tree.

There was only one spot the tree could go and it simply didn’t fit.

I then landed on a second solution.

We would close in the deck, knock out the wall of the living room and voila! There would now be space for the tree in all its glory.

Again, we would have to build this new addition within a week so as not to slow down my decorating schedule.

If only the tree were half as wide, it would have fit perfectly.

And then I had a third idea, only this time it was a really good one.

I would simply leave off the branches on one half of the tree and smoosh it against the wall.

Not only did this solution work, it looks fabulous. You would never guess the entire tree wasn’t there. Only the bottom four rows needed to be halved. Once I got to the top I was able to fit the branches all the way around. This configuration also made the tree far easier to string the lights and garland on.

I figured I had landed on a solution of genius proportions. Well, maybe not genius exactly, but moderately inventive and game changing.

A quick google proved otherwise. Turns out “my” idea has been done plenty of times before. What is that old saying? Necessity is the mother of all inventions. In fact, you can even buy trees already halved.

While I’m a little disappointed my idea wasn’t unique, I am beyond relieved that we don’t have to move or build an addition. So is Darcy.

 

 

 

24 Scented Flowers for Spring, Summer and Fall

Lily of the Valley

SPRING

  1. Apple Blossoms (tree)
  2. Daphne odora (perennial)
  3. Grape Hyacinth Muscari armeniacum (perennial bulb)
  4. Lilac (shrub)
  5. Lily of the Valley (perennial)
  6. Primrose (choose white or yellow as blues and reds have little to no scent) (perennial)
  7. Wallflowers (short-lived perennials often grown as annuals)
  8. Violets Sweet Violet Viola odorata (perennial)

 

Sweet William offers up a wonderful clove-like scent

SUMMER

  1. Honeysuckle (vine)
  2. Jasmine (vine)
  3. Lilies (perennial)
  4. Lavender (perennial in warmer climates; annual in colder gardens)
  5. Mock Orange (shrub)
  6. Nicotiana (annual)
  7. Roses (perennial)
  8. Stocks Evening Scented (annual)
  9. Sweet Alyssum (annual)
  10. Sweet Peas (traditionally an annual though a few perennial varieties do exist)
  11. Sweet William (biannual)
  12. Valerian (perennial and can be somewhat invasive)

 

Chrysanthemums

FALL

  1. Chrysanthemum (perennial)
  2. Hymalayan Balsam (annual)
  3. Katsura (tree) Cercidiphyllum japonicum
  4. Phlox (annuals and perennials)

Always check tags and packages to ensure you are choosing a fragrant variety. Many formerly dependable scented flowers, such as Sweet Peas (annual) and roses (perennial) have been bred up for eye appeal, losing much in the way of scent. A quick check of the label should tell you if you are, indeed, choosing a scented variety.

While we have included in brackets whether the plant is an annual, perennial, biannual, shrub or tree always check the garden zone to be sure how the plant will perform in your particular growing area.

 

Margaret Falls

A couple of years ago we found ourselves traversing a canyon trail that promised to take us to a place called Margaret Falls.

“Found ourselves” sort of makes it sound like we were abducted and dropped off against our will, or perhaps that we slept walked to the falls, which would be quite a feat considering our bed is located over a thousand kilometers away.

Rest assured that we ended up on the trail-about 15 kilometers west of Salmon Arm, BC-quite deliberately, but nothing prepared us for the insane beauty of the place. From the moment we set foot on the paved path until we reached the falls itself, we felt like we had entered a sacred place.

Or perhaps a theme park or movie set.

It was confusing. And breathtaking.

Here are some pictures of the walk through the canyon, but they really don’t do the place justice.

The paved path, with its knee-high boundary fence to remind people not to trample the unique and fragile ecosystem, made it feel surreal. The waterfall fed creek flowed past moss-covered rocks while perfectly placed trees-both alive and those giving themselves back to the forest floor-made it easy to imagine the scene was birthed by Walt Disney rather than Nature…which is kind of tragic when you think about it.

One tree angled itself onto the pathway and had been clamored on by children until its trunk was polished smooth as resin.

On we went, over bridges and through the shady canyon and then…there it was! It was no Niagara, but it was perfectly proportioned and so worth the hike.

Well, the “hike” was a five-minute stroll along a paved path so pretty much anything would be worth it, but still. It was beautiful. There was a cave right in the waterfall. Apparently locals often climb through the falls and inside the cave, though this is highly discouraged and illegal.

I always imagine what tourist attractions were like before they were attractions. Before the necessary rules and the ropes. What it must have been like for the first humans who stumbled across it. During the hot summers this shady oasis would no doubt have been a popular gathering place for indigenous people and later homesteaders. If only the canyon walls could talk.

In a world where things are always changing there is a comfort in a waterfall’s never ceasing flow. I like to think about how the waterfall I am looking at now, is the very same waterfall someone else stood in front of and admired a hundred years ago…or more. It is hard to fathom so much water always falling year after year after year. And of course what a terrible thing it would be if it were to ever stop.

There is so much beauty in our world and I am so grateful for the snippets I have been able to see first hand. Margaret Falls is definitely one of them. It’s a good slice.