Happy New Year!
I wrote my first year-end wrap-up post in 2010 and continued with it in 2011. As I sit here at my desk the end of 2012 [note that I began compiling this post just before the New Year], the garden buried underneath a blanket of snow, I feel compelled to continue the exercise, in part, because I can hardly remember what I ate for lunch yesterday, never mind what I did over the last year! I have a tendency to be onto the next thing the second the last thing is done. Exercises like this are a good memory jog and a way to slow down, look back, and remind myself of the things I accomplished in the recent past.
2012 began with a tranquil week in the desert or more specifically, coastal Baja California desert chaparral. Oh, how wonderful it smelled. There was rosemary in bloom and sunshine on my face. There was an organic farm with a head gardener who could match me in his enthusiasm for seeds and interesting edibles. We plunged our hands into warm soil and pulled out fresh carrots. We spent our nights cozying up to a fragrant wood fire and toasted our escape from the frozen, scentless world at home. I loved every minute of it.
I’m on a staycation of sorts. The last month and a half was overbooked and I’m exhausted. Burned out. Frazzled. Fried. I am trying to relearn that there is nothing noble or brag-worthy about working yourself to the bone at the expense of your health and wellbeing.
There is much gardening and preserving to do. My poor garden has suffered. It is an overgrown jungle. It is a bit of a mess and needs to be refreshed. I had visitors yesterday and spent the entire time apologizing for the state of the garden. Feelings of embarrassment and even shame lingered long after they had left. You could say that I too am a bit of a mess and in need of refreshment.
Clockwise from Top Left: 1. The first thing I did after friends left yesterday was pull out a giant cosmos that had seeded itself at the edge of a pathway. This photo does nothing to show scale. The thing was a multi-tennacled beast. I have a tendency sometimes to hold onto plants that demonstrate resiliency and determination, even when they are a total pain in the ass and need to go. There I go again, always rooting for the underdog. 2. So far I have spent the first morning of Operation Get My Brain Back taking photos of tomatoes and seeds that I am saving. Sounds like work (it is technically), but it is enjoyable, pleasurable, creative work and so I’m allowing it as a way to ease into a week of slowing down that I hope will eventually end in doing nothing. The tomatoes is in this photo are ‘Mennonite Orange.’ 3. A still life portrait of my kitchen this morning. The yellow enamel container in front holds radish seedpods; the basket contains tomatoes that need to be preserved or photographed; that’s edible chrysanthemum in the vase at the back. It too had grown into an unruly mess. I put the cuttings in a Mason jar vase to keep it fresh until I get a chance to cook it. 4. I bought a bunch of plants yesterday at the fall Ontario Rock Garden Society sale at the Toronto Botanical Garden. I purchased several plants gleaned from members’ gardens; however, those in this photo were all purchased from one vendor, Wrightman Alpines. I am planning to expand my Dry Bed this fall by removing a bunch of irises that are taking up space at the edge. I am so excited to have found two hardy agave to try out there this winter!
Assorted and Sundry
- Hey Toronto! I’ll be signing books at Word on the Street this Sunday, September 23 from 4-4:45pm at Queen’s Park Circle in the Toronto Botanical Garden booth. If you’ve never been, Word on the Street is a national magazine and book festival that celebrates reading, literature, and Canadian authors. It is a yearly must for people who love to read. Hope to see you there!
- My final article for HGTV Gardens was published on Friday. It is a quick and dirty seed-saving how-to. My previous article was on easy care yet cool houseplants for college students.
This soft and creamy version of the typically orange California native poppies are just starting to bloom in my Dry Garden Bed. Despite my love of orange I went with the cream flowers because there are too many other colours in that bed and it would have been chaos. I also love the unusual.
At least a decade has passed since I first discovered and started growing cold hardy opuntia and yet it still comes as a surprise that they exist, like some mythical unicorn come to life. And there are so many of them! Some have thick paddles like the big opuntia that produce edible pears in southern climates. Others have thin leaves and stand tall — a lot taller than you’d think possible in freezing climates.
I used to grow winter hardy cactus in pots on the old roof garden, and I had small success (and mostly failure) growing them in the barren earth next to the building; however, moving to a place with a yard was an opportunity to give them a permanent place of importance and experiment with a dry garden bed, albeit on a small scale.