I’m thinking about landscapes this week as I prepare to go on a roadtrip through two — possibly three (we’ll see how far we get) North American deserts. I’ve always been drawn to the desert. When I think of this landscape I think of big skies, stars that touch the ground, magic, and grit. Perhaps it has something to do with how vastly different it is from the landscape around my home. The grass is always greener, or errr… dryer. It’s so contrary to our wetlands and forests that I can’t help but approach it with a strong feeling of respect, awe, and intense curiosity.
Speaking of which… there is also something to be said about the landscapes of our memory. For example, I spent the bulk of my childhood living next to a fallow brownfield located behind a derelict suburban shopping plaza. As a result, I have an enduring soft spot for fallow fields and overgrown parking lots where nature is in a wild clash with human “progress.” Even now I can see where aspects of this wildness has crept into the way I approach my own gardens and the plants weeds) that volunteer themselves each year.
The following is part 2 in a series on a trip I took up north to Ontario, Canada’s Bruce Peninsula to see carnivorous plants growing in the wild.
We left the beach area, and doubled back to the Oliphant Fen, which we had passed on the way in (see map here). Note that there is no real parking area for the fen, just a little divot in the road alongside with space for 2 cars. If you’re looking for a public bathroom, there is a porta-potty at the beach. That’s about it for amenities so I suggest packing water and a picnic lunch and/or snacks.
Left to Right: Lamb’s Quarter (Chenopodium album) and Garden Orach (Atriplex hortensis).
It was overcast and warm this morning, so I took advantage of the mild conditions to harvest and wash greens for salad. A combination of rain and warmth has the greens going gangbusters over the last few days and I am starting to really reap the benefits of several, generous sowings that I did early in the season.
In among the greens that I harvested were two nutritious greens that I did not need to sow. The first (shown on the left in the above photo), lamb’s quarter aka goosefoot (Chenopodium album) is a common North American and European “weed.” It comes up abundantly in my garden regardless of how diligently I weed. Chances are good that you’ve got it growing in your garden, too.
This journey began with a mystery. More than a decade ago, on a long weekend cottage trip with friends, I was told that there was a place, somewhere north of our destination on the Lake Huron shoreline — no one seemed to know where it was for sure — where there were carnivorous plants growing wild. The thought of seeing some of my favourite plants growing wild sparked a desperate need to find this elusive place. It stayed on my mind for quite some time until, on another visit to the area, I asked Davin’s dad about it. A few hours later I was standing on a boardwalk looking out across the fen, a peat-based wetland ecosystem, at northern pitcher plants (Sarracenia purpurea) and slender-leaved sundew (Drosera linearis).
This is what passes for a flower bouquet at my house.
As a small space gardener I can’t grow the volume required to create large and frothy bouquets. I need to work with what I’ve got since we’re not growing cut flowers in Oprah quantities around here (I followed her Instagram account for a few weeks and could not believe the buckets upon buckets of roses that are harvested from her gardens). There wouldn’t be a whole lot left to enjoy in the garden were I to pilfer from it regularly. Instead, I harvest little bits of this and that and display them in tiny vases comprised of old perfume and medicine bottles, bud vases, and tiny bowls. I found a small stack of the tiny bowl (front right) at a market in Chaing Mai, Thailand. My favourite is in the right back, a rock with a hole carved in the centre. Can you believe I got that one free from a local junk shop? “Oh, you can just have it,” the proprietor replied when we inquired about the price.
Colourful bits of plant matter from my garden and an oddball assortment of free and practically free vessels = priceless (literally).