Colourful fall leaves collected from the 7 small Japanese maple trees I am growing in my garden.
The colder days and nights of fall have really brought the city’s Japanese maples (Acer) trees into full form. Lately, as I walk through Toronto neighbourhoods, I am blown away again and again by the vibrant reds, oranges, and yellows on display. This is their season.
Japanese maples are the perfect urban tree: they grow slowly, are fairly hands-off, have beautiful form, and they bring a pop of colour to a small space that shifts and transforms through the seasons. You can also eat them (battered and fried) or use them to dye threads, yarn, and fabric. While a mature tree can be quite expensive to buy, a small seedling of some of the more interesting types can run about $20-35. And if you’re lucky (as I have been), you may know someone who has seedlings popping up in their garden that they’re willing to part with freely or cheaply.
UPDATE: Marilyn is the chosen-at-random winner of this giveaway. Please feel free to keep adding your words in the comments.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about this short passage, an exchange between writer Alice Walker and her mother that appears in her memoir, The Same River Twice.
“…”You(‘re) a little mess, ain’t you.” Meaning someone selfish enough to fully express her being.”
The concept of messiness is a theme that has made repeat appearances in my life, most especially within the last year. I like this positive interpretation of a psychological and physical state of being that is typically negative and often associated with becoming unhinged, unglued, or downright filthy. Messy is an ugly crying jag in public and wearing your bra on the outside of your clothing. It’s lashing out on social media, putting your foot in your mouth in a professional meeting, and dirty dishes that have been sitting in the sink, around the sink, and possibly on the floor beneath the sink for days.
Dear Margaret: Those two words are how each “letter” in this series of letters to my friend Margaret Roach of A Way to Garden begins. This is letter number four. The entire archive of my letters so far can be read here. Margaret’s most recent letter to me is here.
It was the day of our 20th anniversary, but I COULD NOT miss the annual Ontario Rock Garden and Hardy Plant Society sale at the Toronto Botanical Garden (a different account of this story appears over here). Davin entertained my desire to go — an anniversary gift of sorts and one that he has been generously giving over and over through the years. So we rented an expensive, pay-by-the-minute Smart Car and made our way well across town. We took a different route than usual and got lost. I swear, I can’t imagine how I would have learned to drive 20 some years ago without the aid of technologies such as GPS maps and smart phones. When we arrived the place was packed. We drove around in circles endlessly, mentally watching the rental fee rise before a plan was hatched that I would run inside and try to buy my plants as quickly as possible while Davin continued playing musical chairs in the parking lot.
I have a “stick them wherever they’ll fit” attitude towards onions, shallots, garlic, and leeks. While most edible alliums grow to be their biggest and best when the soil is rich and the sun is bright, I often start the season with more allium seedlings and sets than ideal space in which to plant them. Rather than tossing the surplus away into the compost bin, I tuck them into any little space I can find, regardless of the growing conditions. The end of the season is like a treasure hunt as I gather these little treats from their hiding spaces underneath bushes, alongside taller crops that grew and shaded them out, and even stuck into pots.
Back in late July I told you about a two-for-one squash from Argentina called ‘Pilar’ aka ‘Zapallito Redondo de Tronco’ that can be harvested young as a zucchini, or left to ripen and enjoyed later in the year as a winter squash. Well, three months have passed and I have begun harvesting and eating the fruit that were left to ripen into much larger winter squashes.