Monthly Archives: June 2015

More on Dastardly Weeds

Couple of house finches having a snack at my bird feeder

Couple of house finches having a snack at my bird feeder

A quick update on my last post. The weed I was worried about is probably (98% sure) not Japanese knotweed, according to a friend of mine who had it in her previous garden. She looked at the pictures and assures me it isn’t it. I’m waiting until she sees it IRL (in real life) before I breathe a sigh of relief, however. Still, I feel a bit better. The plant in question looks a lot like bee balm, as I mentioned, and has actually turned up in my bee balm patch, so maybe it’s a relative come over to visit. Not sure.  I will keep you informed.

I’m suddenly noticing sawfly larvae eating a couple of my rose bushes.  Little green caterpillar-like things.  They’re on their way to completely defoliating my poor roses.  I read up on them and it looks like I’ve got to start picking them off with a vengeance, or I’ll end up with skeleton rose shrubs.  I took a few off yesterday, but more have to go tomorrow!

Today was rainy, so I took a break from gardening and tried to sort out some extra belongings.  I now have a garbage bag full of stuff that is going to Renaissance, mostly easy stuff like purses and shoes.  It is a start, but I hardly made a dent in the long list of things that belong to us that we don’t need and never use.  I’m not sure how other people deal with this, but I find that the hard part is knowing how to divest myself of these things.  Old computers, old tax records, old pictures of family members, some you never met, these are the hardest things to deal with.  I’m afraid to throw out (give away? dispose of?) computers because of the leaking of important info that can (apparently) happen.  The old tax records just have to be taken to the shredder.  Like that will ever happen.  Old pictures and documents from your ancestry are the hardest, because there’s a feeling that you’re throwing out a precious record of yourself and your parents, grandparents, etc. ; but what do you do with them?  At a certain point, is anybody interested in what your great-grandma looked like?  At what point does it stop being relevant?  What did people do before you could scan pictures to computers? People just ended up throwing them in the garbage; someone, somewhere made that decision.  A hard one, maybe, or maybe not for some.

So that was my rainy day conundrum.  I am one iota closer to a more Zen home.  One iota’s worth of stuff is at the door ready to go.

Believe it When I See It, by Ron Sexsmith.  If you can get past his rather underwhelming vocals, he’s one of the best song writers around.   He’s got his own sweet, nerdy charm, too.

 

 

Resuming Ordinary Life

A favourite rose of mine, name lost in the mists of time

A favourite rose of mine, name lost in the mists of time

I’m back in Montreal, getting into the groove of life.  Cleaning up the house, laundry, the usual.  Part of it is assessing what needs to be done in the garden of course.  After 11 days, there’s much to do.  When I was walking around James’s garden, which he and Jeremy christened Fiachre’s Glebe (look up Fiachre, he’s interesting!) , on Gambier Island (I talked about it in my last post), he bemoaned the irony that we gardeners spend the first month or two of spring madly planting and transplanting, and the rest of the summer madly cutting back what we’ve planted in other years.  I’m sure that holds true times two in BC, but even here the overgrowth and weed situation is alarming and a little dispiriting.  I wanted to get right into digging the new bed for my rose(s) but got side tracked by things like the new ground cover in the front yard in the form of a million maple seedlings. My dear friend and neighbour, Maureen, helped me clear them out in pretty quick time, though.  I also noticed a few newcomers to the Tranquil Garden I don’t recognize.  Did I plant them?  Did they self-sow?  Move in by underground tentacles?  Here’s a picture of one.

Unknown plant

Unknown plant

As you can see, the leaves are quite large, and they’re similar to bee balm in the way they sprout the leaves from the stem, which is hexagonal instead of round.  Maybe I’ll figure it out, but in the meantime, anyone recognize it? I heard an item on CBC about a particularly obnoxious invasive weed called “Japanese knotweed“.  I’m keeping my eye out for it, because it’s supposed to be impossible to get rid of.  Now that I’m looking at the photos, I’m wondering whether it might be what I have! Yikes, I hope not!  It’s no relation to goutweed, one of my least favourite plants in the world, and also invasive and hard to clear.

Close up of unknown plant

Close up of unknown plant

On a brighter note, I’m pleased to see the roses starting to bloom and the last few peonies have held on for me. They will keep me happy while I mow the lawn and clean the edges to the garden beds. Tons of garden chores to do,  so tomorrow I’ve got my work cut out for me!

To keep my mind off the knotweed problem, here’s some music!   The wonderful Tom Jobim and Elis Regina with “Aguas de Março”.

Paradise on Gambier

image

The wood shed 

I’m back on Gambier Island for the second time in two years. I’m visiting my nephew, Ryan and his wife, Emily and their two kids, Eloise and Lawrence. Gambier is a magical place in B.C. that has somehow remained largely unspoiled, despite much logging in the past. Some is still going on, but the forests have bounced back and it’s hard to believe that it was ever logged. In fact, I’m not sure what parts have been logged and what haven’t. It all looks like old growth to me.

We took a walk today to visit neighbours, who, Emily assured me, have an amazing garden. The word amazing is so abused and overused these days that it really has no impact (sorry, Em!), so I thought, oh cool, sure I’ll go look at a garden, not really expecting much. What I saw was one of the most beautiful gardens I’ve ever seen. Certainly, as private gardens go, it might have top spot.

The garden is situated, as is Ryan and Emily’s, in the middle of the primordial forest, so imagine first that you’re walking through gates that lead you right into a slice of the old growth sculpted into a paradise of paths, flowering plants, trees, garden “rooms”, brooks, and even a little bonsai display and a labyrinth!

The property is on a gradual incline from the road all the way up past the house and up to the fence that keeps the forest and deer at bay. It’s an acre and a half of land where every inch has been considered, planned for and cultivated in beauty and love. The main pathway (which had been the driveway, so it’s wide) snakes as you climb up the incline and on either side are little rooms, each with their own atmosphere, that you find at the end of short paths.  James, the main brains and brawn behind the garden, told me that he planned the pathways to resemble the up-curving branches of a tree  deliberately to give the garden an organic feeling.

The labyrinth

The labyrinth

One of the many “rooms” lies under heavy overhangs of trees with a stream, benches and a place for a hammock to contemplate in at the end of the day.  Perhaps the most impressive  single feature of the garden though, is the labyrinth, eventually to be surrounded by tall trees and shrubs (presently the growth is about 5-8 feet high) to increase the contemplative nature of the space.  It took two years for James to build, as he had to clear and level the area, move a boulder  into the centre, which he had previously dug up, and find the appropriate four-inch stones to place for the lines.  I enjoyed walking the labyrinth, but I enjoyed viewing it from the path above even more. What a pleasure for the eye!

Bench and bird bath

Bench and bird bath

James believes that everyone looks for something different in a garden so he wanted to appeal to as many souls as possible, which is why the paths lead you into and through so many small spaces (there are no dead ends) with their own emphasis. Focal points, such as a glass bird bath held up by repurposed tree branches and a sun dial made from a grinding wheel with smooth stones serving as the points of the dial dot the property and mark entrances and paths.

There is a laurel “hedge” in one corner of the property next to the road that, when James and Jeremy first bought the property had grown well into the yard and had to be severely cut back.  The size of these trees is impressive and they grow quickly in a gnarly way that must be a challenge to control.  Every branch they (mostly James, from what I could gather) removed was carefully cut into fire wood and piled in the woodshed, so nothing was wasted.  The laurel wood burns hot and long, so it’s perfect for keeping the house warm in winter.

I loved James’s vision and his commitment to organic gardening (he never even uses fertilizer, other than compost or manure),  as well as his respect for the environment in which he created his garden.  He tries to remove non-indigenous invasive plants, such as holly, for instance, and he has transplanted hundreds of ferns from the forests into his garden, to keep the feeling of it being still part of the surrounding woods.  The wild and the tamed seem to live at peace here.  Although the beds are beautifully maintained (an amazing feat for someone who is a weekend gardener!), there’s no feeling of constraint when you walk the paths, only a sense of freedom and joy. Considering that the owners have only been there for five years, I’m completely gobsmacked at what James has accomplished.  Jeremy admits that his role in the garden has been mostly as cheerleader, admirer and an extra pair of hands from time to time.  He also feeds James regularly, which I’m sure is appreciated after a long day in the garden!

I could go on and on, but what I mainly want to convey is the way the place made me feel. Walking through there had a peaceful, slow-growth greening, nurturing effect on me and filled me with exhilaration. The work, which was and is obviously a labour of love, has been monumental, and all for the sole purpose of creating something beautiful. I felt the hand of the artist there as I’ve felt it as I looked at Starry Night, or the Sistine Chapel; combined with the reminder that the paint is the lush greenery that surrounds you, a living participant in the art.

I was inspired as I walked through it, to think of what can be done, given the inclination, the space and the ideas; to say nothing of the energy and enthusiasm. I suddenly regret the projects I’ve considered and tossed aside as being “too much work”. I’ll definitely think about James and Jeremy and their piece of paradise next time that thought crosses my mind.

P.S. The pictures I’ve posted here don’t do the garden justice, but, being away from home and my computer, it’s the best I can do.  James, if you’re reading this, I hope you’ll contact me (my email address is on this page somewhere!) because I’d love to add a whole page of photos to my site to honour your beautiful garden!  Thank you!