Reflecting on 2010

Year Start

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!

Year End

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 Post of the Year: The Requirement to Garden. I am proudest of this one. I also like: On Daffodils, Whimsy Must Live, Stealing Plants? You Suck, and What Makes a Good Gardener?.

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.

Spade lotus sculpture at Merlin’s Hollow

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.

Photo by Gayla Trail  All Rights Reserved

More Highlights of 2010:

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.

The coming year brings a new gardening space and what has already turned into an epic battle with the Legion of tomcats. They are shitting AND SPRAYING!

What are your reflections for 2010?

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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9 thoughts on “Reflecting on 2010

  1. 2010 was full of stress, but even fuller of random awesomeness. It started off with a new job in a new city, followed by seven months of near-weekly plane commutes, then in August buying our first house and permanently shifting away from our ‘hometown’ of the last few years.

    My garden highlights of the year include finding a house with a huge backyard and an already-built (if empty) massive raised bed (great to avoid the thick clay); being able to plant my first in-ground vege patch since I was a little kid; discovering that the plum trees at the bottom of the garden produce really sweet, delicious pink fruits; doing my first seed-raising experiments ever, and mostly succeeding; figuring out what that super invasive and impossible to destroy weed was (a very pretty – if evil – white morning glory); getting a bagful of sunflower seeds from my new neighbour, ‘to get me started’ in the new garden; and the ongoing thrill of learning how things grow here and planning how to do things next year.

    Garden heartache to end the year: losing my entire pea crop to powdery mildew last week – too wet and too windy for too many days to be able to do anything to stop the spread.

    Garden plan for 2011: taking advantage of the mild winters in this new climate and experimenting with winter crops. I want purple brussel sprouts!

    Your blog is a constant inspiration and motivation, even more so that I am not limited to a few pots on a shady concrete patio. Thanks for a great year!

  2. Happy New Year Gayla – thanks for being such an awesome inspiration!

    My gardening highlight this year was finally conquering my ‘tomato demon’ & having a super harvest from the mosters in the greenhouse. Am already planning 2011′s selection & hope to mix it up with new varieties of basil (which did very well in the cool greenhouse).

    My gardening challenge(s) this year were the return of deer to our community & in greater numbers than last year. They managed to munch down every single shrub cutting I stabbed into the ground & spend hours watering all summer long in the hopes they’d survive the winter & take care of themselves next year. The veggie gardens were not successful either & not due to deer grazing. I have much to learn in reading my ‘soil health’.

    Garden plan for 2011: deer proofing the berry bushes & the raised beds with stakes & lots of mesh or chicken wire. I’m willing to share & sacrifice certain things to Mother Nature & her children, but I need to eat my own produce next winter – this having to purchase produce from grocery stores kinda sucks…

    I’m also taking the leap & starting my own ‘garden therapy’ business this new year, where I help people get their flower beds & veggie beds back under control & going in the direction that they want, plus a whole lotta education & coaching to encourage my community to have fun & enjoy the process.

    Good luck with your ‘cat challenge’ & hope your plans for your own gardens are successful!

  3. Wow. Happy New Year, Gayla! Thanks for sharing this with us.

    2010 went by fast. I lost most of my raised bed veggies after a particularly nasty thunderstorm (damn flood! Still shake my fist at that creek whenever I pass it). I traveled, made peace with some people and really strove to find the positive in this city we cannot stand.

    2011 is being planned already (at least the vegetables). I predict a good one.


  4. Gayla I am so glad that you wrote this reflective post because I can use it as a jumping point to get caught up with everything you did and grew this year. I can only imagine the heartache that accompanied the dismantling of your rooftop garden. Aren’t you glad that you have documented it so well? I am.

    I hope you and Davin have a happy and healthy and prosperous 2011 and I look forward to seeing how you manage those damn cats! Hope to see you soon, friend.

  5. Thanks for your thoughts Gayla. I have a backyard that looks to be about the same size as yours (from the photos that you’ve previously posted). Looking forward to seeing what you do with your garden this year!

  6. You have a full year with so many accomplishments, congratulations!

    You deserve your success and your new home to decorate and settle into (I’m enjoying “watching” you settle in on twitter). I wish you luck on getting rid of those invasive tom cats.

    Happy New Year!

  7. Happy New Year, Gayla! I’m also hibernating bigtime, but I’ve started planning a few things and setting goals.

    2010 was an extremely successful year in the garden..sometimes too successful for me to keep up with. Duane built 3 additional smaller raised beds around the 2 eggplant beds in the back of the garden. These were used for early crops like brassicas, leeks, and lettuces. I was so thrilled at how great the beds worked that I delayed starting my flowers on time. Keeping up with the harvests of the Asian greens and kales proved challenging. EVERYONE got kale from me in 2010. I used the FoodSaver we got last year for Christmas extensively to freeze garden produce and made a ton of Portuguese Caldo Verde soup with the kales.

    Big Garden Experiment of 2010: I put one variety of zucchini, Bianca di Trieste, on the other side of the garden next to the bean trellis. I wanted to see if the amount of sunlight in that section would make a difference. The original spot got some dappled sunlight from a small plum tree. The result was an incredible difference, so much so that the zucchini totally took over that part of the garden and had to be staked on several occasions. I made a lot of succotash in 2010 and a lot of zucchini bread. Those plants didn’t succumb to powdery mildew until American Thanksgiving in November!

    Preliminary Plans for 2011: Cut down on the number of brassicas. I sowed seed too heavily and it became difficult to find homes for all of my seedlings. I have a culling problem and have great angst at throwing healthy seedlings into the compost. Start flowers on time so I have plenty of time with the beautiful nasturtiums I can’t do without. Plan ahead for vining flowers and put netting or trellising in place before planting. Repeat the 2010 tomato planting scheme with 4 rows of large red pastes and 2 rows of colourful pastes. Paste tomatoes are my machine for all of my canning and it makes sense to grow more of these than any others. Cut down on the number of cherry tomatoes. We love to snack on these, but it can get out of hand and it absolutely did in 2010. Build cold frames and row covers to get an earlier start and extend the season. Duane to get time off in May and October to help with prep and cleanup. I got tendonitis while helping our tenant move a mattress right at the garden cleanup time and I was forced to let go of the normal level of tidy that I require of myself. Looking at the garden now, it’s a constant reminder to me that I didn’t quite finish it. Finally, keep up with turning the compost to minimize volunteer surprises.

    2010 Favourite plant: Purple Magesty Millet F1 (Thompson and Morgan). Expensive seed and a hybrid, but an OUTSTANDING tall bedding plant and gorgeous purple almost black colour.

    2011 Most Excited New Thing: So far, it’s Molten Fire Amaranth. I’ll be planting this one like the millet, out front along our neighbour’s driveway and putting smaller contrasting plants with it.

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