I spent the first week of 2010 out right, visiting friends on an organic food farm in the Soufriere area of St. Lucia. Our friend David lived there at the time, growing food for the ultra luxurious Jade Mountain Resort.
The property, called Emerald House, was an old chocolate plantation at one time. A small section of cacao trees remain, many of which have vanilla vines (a second crop) growing up the trunks. Unfortunately, it wasn’t vanilla season, but the cacao pods were fantastic and it was exciting to see so many familiar tropical houseplants growing like ground cover underneath the trees.
To be honest, after weeks of walking hot roads in Barbados and hiking up and down brutal mountain hills in Dominica, we spent most of our time in St. Lucia loafing around (I hardly took any photos), but we did help with some of the farm harvest.
The most memorable was cutting red and pink ginger flowers (Alpinia purpurata) for floral arrangements. Ginger plants are very tall and they were colonized by two types of ants: one with a bite that stung, and one with a bite that stung like HELLFIRE. Walking among the tall plants and harvesting flower stems without being bit was a challenge. I go bit once, but fortunately it was from the lesser ant. Our friend John was bit on the inner thigh by one of the nasty ants, the consequence of which was momentary concern about the future of his reproductive organs!
Unfortunately, I am not ending 2010, nor beginning 2011 in a warm and sunny place. It is cold and snowy here. We picked the wrong year to stay home. However, I do have a new garden to plan this winter, a south-facing, unheated porch that functions as a cold greenhouse (although some plants froze. But that is another story, for another day), and a basement (hooray!) where I have been able to set up a 4 foot wide, D.I.Y grow light unit that houses the plants that can’t fit into my sunny office window. I currently have 2 shelves filled, and a third will function as my new seed starting station in the coming months.
In my former home, the plants were cramped into a ramshackle unit that I cobbled together using whatever I could fit into a tiny corner of my office. Needless to say, this new system is a whole lot better.
Most Surreal Experience of 2010: It’s a toss-up between being profiled in Oprah magazine and gardening chit-chat via email with Bryan Adams. “Cuts Like a Knife” came on the radio the other day while I was in a cafe and my head kind of exploded for a minute. The song used to prompt memories of trips to the beach as a kid or taping videos on our first VCR via shows like Video Hits and Good Rockin’ Tonite. Now it makes me think of courgettes.
Favourite Plant of the Year: Choosing a favourite is always difficult, especially when I see so many new plants every year. My favourite plant is usually the one in front of me in any given moment. That said, for purely sentimental reasons, I have to choose my very first Japanese Maple.
Favourite Garden Visited: I visited a lot of gorgeous gardens last year. It was a very good year in that respect. Unfortunately, the only one I posted about was Brian Bixley’s garden, Lilac Tree Farm. In 2011 I resolve to post more photos of the beautiful Edens I am fortunate enough to visit!
Favourite Picture Posted in 2010: Bromeliads in the Valley of Desolation. I took it in late December 2009, but it took forever to get the film processed and scanned. I still have film from October 2009 that hasn’t been developed! It’s not the best photo I have taken in the past year, but it is my favourite because it reminds me of hiking through the most amazing landscape I have ever experienced. I hope to see it again someday.
More Highlights of 2010:
- My second book, Grow Great Grub: Organic Food from Small Spaces was released into the world!
- The Blue Tomato!!!! p.s. Forget what I wrote about the taste. Subsequent harvests turned out a very nice little tomato that became a favourite for salads.
- The variegated arugula.
- Morelle de Balbis
- My Life Wish List: I managed to cross off a few of the smaller items in 2010.
- The one where I could not get it right.
- Coral Bells
- A Truly Black Viola
- Claytonia nevadensis: I loved this little beauty. It just kept blooming and blooming.
The hardest gardening-related thing I did in 2010 was disassembling my Roof Garden. I took it apart by myself, mostly in the dark (and the cold), and all in a matter of hours. That was all the time I had to do it in. The whole experience sucked ass. For over a decade it was my personal sanctuary and a place of so much learning. Goodbye old friend.
What are your reflections for 2010?