The weather here in Toronto these past few days has been unreasonably beautiful prompting a flurry of gardening activity on my part. My gardens never seem large enough until I have to clean them up. I have spent the last few days rediscovering all over again that, yes, gardening is a physical activity, working muscle groups that have been ignored over the long winter.
On Thursday afternoon, I detoured over to a couple of seasonal garden centres to check out where they are at with spring stock and was delighted to discover pansies and violas in new and beautiful colourways. The one that excited me most was ‘Gem Antique Shades’ a viola mix in subtle gold, lavender, and pinkish tones with some deep reds thrown in (see photo above).
I’m almost embarrassed to admit it, but stocking up on these old-fashioned flowers is one of my favourite spring-time activities. While they have a reputation for being old-school cheesy I find they are the best and cheapest way to insert instant colour into a bland early spring garden. Besides the very earliest bulbs and perennials, pansies and violas are one of the very first flowers to go in the soil when the weather is still chilly at night and prone to unpredictable, random acts of snow.
And they’re edible too! I start pansies alongside other early edibles like greens and radishes, throwing them all into a bowl for the first homegrown salads of the year. While the bubblegum flavoured pansy is not your best choice in a salad, most varieties tend to have a slightly sweet, hint-o’violet flavour.
I was forced to limit my purchases to one small box since I was walking and still had to make a stop at the farmers market for produce. However, I’ve already been strategizing ways to get back for another box or two before they sell out. The box I purchased was just enough for the roof but both my community garden plot and the street garden could use a colour splash.
I thought I had certain areas of the city thoroughly mapped out based on the flowers that live there and when they bloom, but yesterday I discovered a huge field of blooming violets that I had not been aware existed. Colour has returned to my city.
If you look closely you can see a little flying insect in the foreground. The world is alive again. I am soaking it all up, not taking anything for granted.
I’m going to be on the Metro Morning show tomorrow morning at 6:30 am talking about urban gardening. The decision to do this was made under what can only be described as influenced by a fleeting moment of temporary insanity. I am very much NOT a morning person preferring to sleep in past 5 am thank-you-very-much.
Anyways I only have to stay awake and be marginally articulate for about 10 minutes so if you’re one of those crazy morning people you can catch me between 6:30 and 6:40 am. I can not guarantee what will come out of my mouth at that hour. I can not guarantee that there will not be 10 minutes of total radio silence.
When: Friday, April 18, 2008 6:30 am.
Where: CBC Radio Metro Morning 99.1 FM in Southern Ontario.
UPDATE: Unfortunately the person who booked me did not put me in the book so-to-speak and I went there only to be sent home. And now I will attempt to go back to sleep.
This is what it’s looking like around here these days. Although, in all honesty, I took this photo in April 2004 so technically this is what it was looking like at this time four years ago. Which looks very much like right now.
FYI: This is what passes for an impatiens in San Francisco. If you live in a warmer climate you will be unimpressed by my discovery. If you are from my neck of the woods your mind will have been blown wide open! In case you didn’t get the memo, San Francisco is a Utopian paradise where plants grow larger than life. Everything is bigger and better there, and I’m not just talking about the marijuana cigarettes. Our Northern version of an impatiens is a dull flowering annual commonly tossed into a monochromatic ring underneath small trees and accompanied by a border of decorative plastic edging. They rarely grow taller than 10 inches before they are dug up and tossed out at the end of the growing season.
It reaches as high as the bottle brush!
As you can guess from my unflattering description, I’ve never been a fan of these lackluster flowers. Really the only thing that makes them even marginally interesting is the fact that they are edible, and even that is nothing to write home about. But I think I can respect the impatiens I saw in San Francisco even if that respect is born out of the fear that a plant that can grow with that kind of vigor from out of a sidewalk crack could probably eat me for breakfast.