Dear Margaret: Those two words are how each “letter” in this new series will begin, whenever I write here to my friend Margaret Roach of A Way to Garden. Installments will include a letter from each of us, unplanned and posted simultaneously to our websites. It will be interesting to see how our correspondence develops and what similarities and differences occur between our two gardens: one urban and the other rural.
The first instalment coincides with the launch of Margaret’s new book — giveaway details can be found at the end of this post.
Margaret’s corresponding “Dear Gayla” letter for this week can be seen here.
Attached to my home is a south-facing, unheated porch that I use as a cold greenhouse of sorts. In the winter I store many potted half-hardy plants there with the most tender of the bunch huddled together against the brick of the house where they can benefit from a bit of passive heat. I long to line the windows along the east side in bubble wrap for added insulation, but the porch faces the street and there are already so many off-kilter things about us that sully our reputation locally as-is. Covering the windows in packaging materials may be one step too far. When it comes to the neighborhood sensibility, I generally try to keep my outward appearance on the side of eccentric, avoiding the line that crosses into street weirdo. Our previous neighborhood was full of freaks and weirdoes so we blended in easily.
The other morning I stepped into the greenhouse (I need to find another name for this space as it is not a “real” greenhouse) to check up on my plants and was horrified to discover that winter had well and truly arrived. It was my own fault; I have a bad tendency to push things further than they should go. I’d been half-bragging for months about how well even the most tender Pelargoniums (scented geraniums) were doing out there in the cold. They were flourishing and some were even blooming. I got cocky. Truth be told, we haven’t had a proper, true north winter in years and I was starting to believe that those days were over. I’d become too bold. I didn’t protect things as I should have, telling myself it wasn’t worth the bother. And then I woke up one day to find dozens of potted plants frozen.
As previously mentioned, I decided to stop posting weekly from my ongoing Herbaria project. However, I am still assembling the boxes and taking the photos each week and hope to make this into something bigger once the full year is up in May. Until then they will make an appearance now and again rather than weekly.
When I took this photo we had just experienced a big thaw and I thought it would be interesting to assemble the opuntias to see how they have been fairing up underneath snow. For eight of the nine plants this is their first winter in the ground, outdoors. I checked up on them today (another big thaw) and they are holding up nicely.
I am yet to write extensively about my experiments with hardy cactus in Toronto, Canada, but I promise there is more to come. What you see here represent the sum total that I have growing outdoors to date, but I hope to add many more this spring. The desire to fill up all available space with these ferocious beauties is strong — the trick is in finding them.
If you’d like to learn more about growing hardy cacti, I highly suggest “Cacti and Succulents for Cold Climates” by Leo J. Chance. It’s a fantastic book full of useful information. I’ve gone back to explore its pages and drool over the photos many times since I purchased it.
The winners of the five-pack of Italian heirloom seed varieties have been randomly chosen. They are:
From the site: Comment #96 Ashley
From the newsletter: Member #81 Colleen
If you visited early, I have also written about the five varieties that were chosen.
I plan to do more giveaways to members of the email newsletter (sometimes exclusively) over the coming season. You can sign up for it over here.
I bought these bright and colourful botanical-themed embroidered panels in a little textiles shop near(ish) to the hotel we were put up in in Chiang Mai, Thailand. This shop was full of embroidered textiles, but I honed straight in on the old pieces in various stages of disrepair and ignored the new.
This one is practically neon! Look at the fantastical bird.
Clockwise from Top Left: 1. My garden today, January 28, 2013. 2. October 2012. 3. April 2012. 4. June 16 2012.
This morning I took a photo of the garden as it was after a fresh snowfall. Shortly afterward, I dug into my phone’s photo archives and found an image taken from the same perspective approximately 3 months ago, back in October. What a difference!