Archive for the ‘garden’ Category

I know I’m a garden geek, but I can’t help myself. My garden is finally looking really nice, and I am getting all kinds of positive comments from neighbours. Of the rest of the houses on my street, most now have squares of brown, dormant grass, thanks to the heat. The few that are green are absolute water hogs. My garden is green and lush and beautiful, and I don’t water it at all. Yeah for perennial gardens!

This is what my Shasta Daisies looked like as I was leaving for vacation, with all the buds just about out:


This is what it looked like when I got home:


Pretty little pansies:


My African Daisies, after finishing their blooming from when I first bought them, suddenly stopped budding at all. I was resigned to nice green plants until I came home to discover the plants had grown significantly and were producing dozens of new buds. This is the first one to bloom:






Real lily:


My flax has stopped blooming, which is weird because it is supposed to bloom all summer, but it isn’t so bad, because of the hundreds of seed pods:


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We dragged ourselves reluctantly back from the cottage because, after two weeks of crappy weather (well, one week of okay weather and one week of really crappy weather), it has finally become sunny and hot, and leaving the beach for my air conditionless house was painful.

The kids are delighted to be home, back to their TV with 50 channels and computer with modem fast enough to play webkinz. I didn’t want to come home, as I liked having J around all the time, and the easiness of the small house, and the beach, and letting Jasper just run around the property when he needed to go out, and all the visitors. And leaving the sunshine just killed me.

But here’s the silver lining – the part of my house I love best, my garden, loved all that rain. My Shasta Daisies are still in bloom, two weeks later, my lilies and daylilies are blooming, but my Asiatic lilies have kindly waited for my return. The African daisies, which had mysteriously stopped blooming before I left both have tons of new buds coming up. Flax, perennial geraniums, echinacea, poppies, mallow, pansies, roses – all going nuts. And in the back, the raspberries have started ripening like mad. It is simply lovely. I’ll take pictures and post soon, I swear.

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As I mentioned previously, I was inspired by Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barabara Kingsolver, to expand my tiny veggie garden. I didn’t just plant my standard tomatoes, but peas, carrots and broccoli instead. Oh, and asperagus, but I’m not expecting much from that for a while.

Jasper pulled one bunch of asperegus from the ground – I guess he likes them even when they are tiny. I’ve been watching the rest sprout and watering faithfully. Then, when we returned home from the long weekend, I did my garden tour and discovered when I got to my veggie bed – nothing! Oh, I still have those old stand-bys, the tomatoes. But every other shoot has been eaten to the ground. Wait, I exaggerate; one pea plant has survived. That’ll be quite the bounty.

So, like Yogamum, I’ve failed for this year. It is too late to replant, so I’ll have to wait until next year.

At least the raspberry plant we put in a couple years ago is going nuts and has tons of berries. I just hope most of them hold off on ripening until we return.


I like going on vacation, I really am, but despite the veggie disaster, I wish I could bring my garden with me. It kills me that I am going to miss things flowering, particularly my Shasta daisies. They have been budding now for about a month and I have been anticipating the huge mass of flowers. As this week progressed, I could see that they were aiming to open up just about the day after I leave.

I’ll probably miss the Asiatic lillies too, and I cringe to think of how the weeds are going to take over.


It would help if the sun would shine for longer than an hour between the rain. At least J’s brother left two of his kids here to amuse mine. Five kids is a lot to feed – none of these kids are picky eaters – but they run off in a pack and there’s always someone to play with. And Jasper loves swimming at the beach, no matter what the weather.

Boo is begging for the laptop to watch something. I think I’ll go play poker with the other kids.

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We got lots:


After Doug commented on my Thursday Thirteen on gardening, I surfed on over to his web site, where I saw a link to this, instructions on how to find four-leaf clovers.

Up until yesterday, I had seen one four-leaf clover in my life. J found it and and gave it to me. I have it pressed in a journal. Occasionally, the kids and I poke through the clover in our back yard (which we have lots of, instead of grass), but give up quickly, thinking it hopeless.

But the clover-finding site suggests there are more of them out there than most people realize, so when we went to dinner at friends who also have a clover back yard, I decided to go look, inspired by not only the site but their huge clover. I figured bigger would make it easier to find.

This is how it went: I walked outside, looked down at the clover and the very first plant I focused on – I swear it – had four leaves.


I showed the kids, who were wildly impressed, and the four of us spent the next half an hour clover-hunting. We found 9 four-leaf clovers and 2 five-leaf ones. We feel very lucky.

Then, this morning, I walked out into my own yard, looked down, and immediately found another one. So thus far, I’d have to say that the four-leaf clover has mostly brought me the luck to find more four-leaf clover. Which is better than nothing.

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I missed this last week, since we were up at the cottage celebrating Maya’s birthday. I’m back on the wagon, though. Here are Thirteen Things I love about gardening and my garden. I’ll add pictures in an attempt to make this less boring for you non-gardening types.1. Gardening is the opposite of instant gratification. It is a long-term process and is also good therapy for control freaks. You can plant something, but it might get eaten or die, or start spreading in directions you never imagined. You can work with your garden, but you cannot control it.2. It is beautiful and smells great after the rain. No other front yard in this burb smells the same.


3. Blue flax, pictured above. I haven’t seen this in anyone else’s garden (and believe me, I look at gardens). I found it at a farmer’s market, clearly having just been hacked out of the ground. They were asking an outrageous $30 for it, but I was captivated and could not resist. It turned out to be the best deal. These lovely flowers last only a single day each, but every single day a whole mass of new flowers blooms, all summer long. You don’t have to dead-head the old flowers (on many perennials, to keep them blooming, you have to cut off the old flowers). Each flower produces a pod of 10 seeds, which I’ve collected in the past two years and spread around my garden. I now have flax popping up everywhere. (Anyone want any seeds? I have tons.)

4. It has given me a new appreciation of rain. No longer is it just a nuisance. Now when it rains, I’m happy my plants are getting a thorough soaking and I don’t need to bother watering my seedlings.

5. There really is no taste like that of veggies you have grown yourself, picked straight from the garden.

6. African daisies. I tend to avoid annuals – they take a lot of water and dead-heading and then they just die, but I was struck by these as I passed by at the garden center. In the sun, the centers seem to sparkle. It is raining right now, so I can’t get a photo of mine, but this is what they look like:


7. Lee Valley Tools. I’m so sorry for all you Americans that you don’t have this store. It was started by a guy with remarkable ethics and has customer service that has to be seen to be believed. They test every product they carry. Not only will they take back anything you aren’t satisfied with, but they’ll bend over backwards to figure out how to fix your problem. When they stopped carrying my favourite pruner, which I found out when the blade broke, the person helping me figured out where the final few replacement blades were stored, dug them out, replaced the blade for me (and cleaned the pruner) and gave me the rest, since they no longer needed them. Once, they got a price reduction on some item and sent out rebate cheques to everyone who had already bought one. And they have the coolest things, like this:


It allows you to catch any bug from a distance and then free it without ever getting close. So cool.

8.Surprises! In a garden the size of mine, which I’ve been slowly building over the years, there are always plants I forget I’ve planted. Then they start peeking up in April or May and I get to watch and see what develops. Sometimes I have absolutely no memory of planting them, which is kind of scary, but it is also a little like getting an unexpected gift.

9. Stargazer lillies. I love my lillies, but this one in particular smells like spicy cinnamon. It is the most remarkable smell from a flower.


8. Visiting gardening centres. They are so filled with possibilities and even when I swear I’m not buying anything this time, I always find something I have never seen before.

10. Thyme, creeping Jenny, clover and periwinkle; in other words, not grass. These are all lovely ground covers that seem to do a much better job of choking out unwanted weeds and they flower as a bonus. I have them all coming from different directions in my garden, so it will be interesting to see what happens when they meet in the middle – who will win?

11. It’s forgiving. If you plant something in the wrong spot, you can move it. I’ve just decided to dedicate the back to veggies, so I’m moving all my lillies and daylillies to the front. Nothing is set in stone in a garden (except the stones).

12. It’s surprisingly good exercise, all that digging and hauling.

13. It feels like an actual accomplishment. When you do laundry, it just gets dirty again, but if you plant a plant, it stays planted (unless a bunny gets it, of course). It is much, much more satisfying.

Links to other Thursday Thirteens:

1. Pass the Chocolate

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

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Did you know that if a dog eats lots of asparagus, he too will experience asparagus pee? J swears so, and he was the one who walked Jasper the morning after that rotten dog ate three-quarters of the plate of asparagus I had prepared for dinner. I was smart enough to place the hamburgers I’d just BBQed (all by myself, yay me) on top of the fridge, but I underestimated the appeal the veggie would have on the dog. Stupid me.

When I walked into the kitchen to see the almost-naked plate of asparagus, I was about to blame J, until I realized that even he would not suck back that many before dinner. And the children were still outside. Sad thing was, no one trusted him to have avoided slobbering on the rest, so Jasper got those for breakfast.

I made up for it today by buying way better asparagus and not giving the dog any (well, he expressed great interest in the raw, snapped off bottom bits, so I did feed him those, but he got none of the good parts). I’ve been reading Barbara Kingsolver’s new book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and have her to thank for the superior asparagus, although despite the delicious veggies, I’m not sure if reading that book has been a positive force in my life right now.

Don’t get me wrong – I loved it. It was a fascinating read, but I really didn’t know what I was getting into when I just picked it up on a whim because I love Kingsolver and the book was way cheap at Costco. I read the cover – how charming, she and her family decide to live off only what they produce themselves for a year and chronicle the adventure. Well, it was charming. It was hard not to drool as she describes the meals they had. But she sneakily slipped in all kinds of information about how we are going to hell in a hand-basket one more way.

The veggies we buy aren’t just full of pesticides, but bred only for their ability to last until they make the long trip from far away to here. They are mere shadows of the real thing with regards to flavour and have far fewer nutrients than their organic counterparts. The variety of food is disappearing and the best isn’t winning. Oh, she goes on and on and on.

It isn’t like I don’t already know most of what she said. Not only have I read books like Fast Food Nation, but my parents tended a huge veggie patch when I was a kid. They didn’t do it to lessen their footprint on the earth or for organic food. They did it because it was cheaper and tastier. I didn’t appreciate some of their choices. I hated the beets and chard and I think I didn’t like the green beans back then either. But I loved the peas, both snow and snap. And the carrots were probably my favourite. We’d pull them from the ground, give them a good wipe on our shorts and eat them without even washing. No wait, maybe the tomatoes were my favourite. There is nothing like the taste of a fresh, lightly-salted tomato sliced on toast for breakfast. And lunch. And a snack.

As soon as I had a spot of land to call my own, I began growing tomatoes. In my first house, I went for a whole wee garden, which was colossal flop. It was a great deal of hard work for about 4 carrots, thanks to the rainiest summer on record and a back yard that just did not have enough sun to pull it off.

When I moved to my current house, I was very pregnant with Boo and had been a bit scared off by my previous failures. I decided to concentrate on the flower garden, which is much easier. But I couldn’t completely let it go. I’ve always grown tomatoes and my kids love to keep watch for the first cherry tomatoes of the season. The first year, I over-estimated how many we needed and we were awash with the things. I couldn’t pay the kids to eat them by the end. But they still get excited when it comes time to plant the tomatoes in spring.

I also have container herbs and made an unsuccessful attempt at cucumbers. I don’t need to repeat the cucumber experiment because our next-door neighbour always over does it on those and passes them on. He’s an old, very over-weight, heavy smoker with a deep gravelly voice, with wild hair and permanent stubble. It is funny to see him beckon my children with a smokey, “Hey kids. Come ‘ere. I got something for you.” And he starts handing out cucumbers of all sorts. Not what you’d expect.

My mother’s good for zucchini – lots of it.

My point, as long-winded as it is, is that my kids and I know the difference between the anemic flavourless tomatoes, cucumbers and apples you can by at the grocery store. But I’d kind of put it out of my head that all that other stuff – the asparagus, the lettuce, the broccoli – is also a pale imitation, only I don’t know what the real thing is supposed to taste like.

Kingsolver tells of a friend who had no idea that a potato is the root of a plant, her point being that urban North Americans are so divorced from the source of their food that they have no idea what it is before it hits the supermarket shelves. My kids aren’t that bad. They know what it is like to put a tiny seed in the ground and harvest a big pumpkin 4 months later (I forgot to mention we do also grow a pumpkin plant each year.) We also are lucky enough to have friends with a small farm, so they’ve gotten to go potato hunting (it’s exciting, like a treasure hunt) and pull their lunch from the ground, bring it inside and prepare it.

But on a regular basis, we eat shit. I’m busy and tired and usually don’t make the effort to shop beyond the supermarket. But Kingsolver and her stupid book gave me a little kick in the head and now I can’t do that any more. I’m not going to go nuts, but we are planting carrots as well as the tomatoes this year (and I’ve put in the asparagus, but that’ll still take a few years before we can eat it). And I’m mulling over where to move some of my flowers to start a decent little veggie garden for next year. This time I do have the sunshine I need. I just have to figure out how to keep Jasper out or we won’t get to eat a thing.

And I found out where the closest farmer’s market is. It isn’t very far. Still feeling like crap, I dragged myself out in the drizzle to see what they had. I brought Maya, who was very impressed. She wanted it all. There weren’t a lot of veggies yet, but I got local greenhouse tomatoes that were better than anything in a grocery store and the asparagus Jasper didn’t get to eat. Plus some lovely homemade bread and local honey. Maya bought fudge, of course.

My life has just gotten more complicated thanks to Kingsolver. But it was the best asparagus I’ve tasted in years.

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It is a warm, sunny May long weekend, which is when us south-eastern Canadian go gardening nuts. So far today I have planted my tomato plants, chives, asparagus, a new hunk of decorative grass and some woolly thyme. I have also moved a big hunk of not-so-decorative decorative grass from a primo garden spot to the garden equivalent table right by the bathrooms to make room for some pretty stuff like echinecea.

It sounds impressive, if you ignore the fact that it was only 3 tiny tomato plants and the chives and asparagus are about 2 inches high. The truth is, it is a pathetic showing for a gardener with a lovely day. My fibromyalgia is flaring. I am utterly fatigued. All The Time. Every muscle feels weak and overused and a 70-year-old man would beat me in a foot-race right now. I sit on the ground and plant for a bit, getting my kids to bring me soil and plants, then I go inside to lie down for a bit, then back out to the garden for a bit.

It’s pissing me off, I have to say, but I’m trying to be positive about it. At least it is a lovely day. At least the children like to help. At least no one is suggesting that I should be washing dishes or doing laundry instead of being outside on such a beautiful day (or, at least, no one in this house). At least I can still get out and garden a bit.

Okay, back to the dirt.

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