Last weekend I visited my friend Barry Parker, the man with the best backyard garden in Toronto. Barry recently returned from a botanical tour of South Africa (he is starting to post pictures on his blog) and we were treated to a slideshow of photos he took on the trip. So of course, I have added the Quiver Tree Forest to an ever-growing list of places I would like to visit someday.
Back to Barry’s garden. Unfortunately, I was lazy and did not bring a proper camera. As a result all of these photos were taken with my phone. Still, they may not be the best photos I have taken, but there are some wonderful things happening at Barry’s that I know you would like to see.
Colourful flowers that sway and jitter on wiry stems, Fame flower (Talinum calcycinum) is another example of a rough and tumble, easy-grow plant that is disguised as delicate and fragile. Rather, it is a hardy (zones 4ish-9) succulent that is native to the North American prairies. Related to the common edible weed purslane (Portulaca oleracea), fame flower likes it dry, so if you do not have sandy or gritty soil, consider keeping it in a pot as my friend Barry has with the specimen pictured here.
Barry’s cyclamen have begun their yearly emergence from dormancy and his small, cold greenhouse is alive with them. My own few pots of Cylamen coum (gifts from Barry, of course) have also begun to emerge, although I have noticed that they are behind his.
What you see in this photo isn’t even half of Barry’s collection — there has got to be at least a hundred — pots upon pots upon more pots that he raised from seed seven years ago. He has transplanted some outside into the garden where they have propagated into a million different leaf patterns, colours, and forms. It’s fun to pull back the leaf mulch and observe these tiny new creatures. What new designs will we find? Barry keeps his favourites in pots in the glasshouse where he can enjoy them more closely.
No matter the season, there is always something of interest (many, many things of interest) going on in Barry’s garden and even though I know not to show up without a proper camera, I can’t deny that sometimes (most times) I am lazy and the camera stays at home. Of course, I always regret it later as I did when I visited his place on Friday to see what was new.
And what was new was everything. It was the day of the epic thaw. One day our city gardens are buried in snow, the likes of which we haven’t seen in ages, and the next the sun is shinning, the birds are getting busy, and some guy is traipsing down the street in a T-shirt and flip-flops like it’s August, except that it isn’t August it’s January, and it may be unseasonably warm, but it’s nowhere near Spring Break in Cancun 2013 (Spring Break! Woooo!). That dude is going to regret it next week when he’s stuck in the bathroom suffering the symptoms of the NoroVirus, I tell you what.
I love these first big thaws. First of all, they are a desperately needed reminder that the winter isn’t forever. Spring will come again. They also reveal that life has not ceased underneath the snow. Plants are alive. Some of them are green and fresh. Take this lush and very alive hellebore (above) in Barry’s garden. Before meeting Barry, I had never paid hellebores much mind. Now I can appreciate their merits, the main one being that they stay green year-round!
Some of them, like this Helleborus niger ‘Praecox’ bloom in December and January when most plants are months away from breaking dormancy, let alone making flowers. Let me repeat: I took this photo just a few days ago. In January. In Toronto. What a plant!
Before I introduce this week’s plants, I just want to say how much I am enjoying this project. I have walked through the garden these last few Wed mornings with an eye to what I will add to the box and I can’t tell you how much joy I find in artfully assembling the collection. This task taps into a part of my child brain that needs stimulation. It’s fun to see the images compile in a folder on my computer and I look forward to months from now when there are weeks of boxes within boxes within boxes all together.
Again there is so much going on in the garden right now it was hard to narrow it down to 9 plants that represent the garden as it is. I tried to chose plants that are at their peak or blooms that may not be around for next week’s collection. Still, there are a few like the Chocolate Cosmos that I know will be around for some time yet, but I was simply too excited to leave them out.