Saturday, May 18, 2024

Garden Musings


Gardening has this embracing quality in that it colours
the way you look at the world.
Penelope Lively - Life in the Garden

Most of the columbines in my garden are of the pale variety, but these dark violet ones popped up in a dark corner. I'll be saving the seeds to strew elsewhere in the autumn. Pink and white peonies have so many fat buds and I'm longing to see them open. Yesterday evening I watched a bumblebee going from one tight bud to another search for pollen. He didn't linger long and soon moved on to more likely fare, such as the chive blossoms.  

We planted a new fig tree last summer. The one we had was not suitable for our climate and produced few fruits on the first crop and many on the second which arrived too late to ripen. Our new tree is a Desert King which supposedly produces a large breba crop that will ripen. On the four spindly branches there are over a dozen figs fattening nicely. Figs are a fruit I've learned to like over the years. My first introduction to figs was via store-bought Fig Newton Cookies and I didn't like them at all. But a fresh fig with blue cheese, or roasted figs with honey - so delicious!

I've just finished reading Life in the Garden by Penelope Lively, featuring gardens as related to art, literature, and life in general. I especially enjoyed the section on gardens in literature in which she references Rebecca, The Secret Garden, Elizabeth and Her German Garden, among others. Lively also suggests that gardening is somewhat genetic - the desire to garden runs in families. 

I have to laugh at my attempts to grow a garden in the jungle of Ecuador. Early on, Tim found someone selling rose bushes and purchased two of them for me. I planted them in front of the covered porch of our house. They gave few blooms for whenever leaves grew, the leafcutter ants would march in and strip the bushes in a matter of hours. I soon gave up planting anything. Instead I enjoyed the wild and bright impatiens plants growing in massive heart-shape around a tree that overarched another home. How upset I would get when the hospital maintenance crew would regularly mow them down. Then I'd wait for a few weeks until the blooms reappeared. 

In my present garden in Canada, now over 20 years old, things constantly change. The yellow poppies appeared several years ago and show up faithfully every May, growing in profusion each year. The birch tree is filling out nicely, but the buddleia died over the winter, and I lost my large rosemary bush. This week I cleared part of one of my flower beds for a small asparagus patch, digging in compost and spreading out the corms with their long tendrils. It will be a couple of years before we harvest, but I can wait. Gardening is a hopeful activity, one that looks to the future. 

As Monty Don says, "A garden is not a place. It's a journey." On that note I'll end here for today, still thinking about gardens. Do you enjoy gardening? 

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Of Earth and Sky


Usually, 10 pm sees us heading off to bed. With the predicted solar storm in the news, we decided to have a little adventure and hopefully see the aurora borealis (Northern Lights). Island View Beach is about 15 minutes away from our home and we thought that the most accessible dark place. 

We had no idea of the number of people that had the same thought. A steady stream of cars aimed in the same direction. Parking spots were sparse, but we managed to find one. All along the beach people waited. At first we saw what looked like gauzy clouds shifting slightly in the night sky. Then pinks and greens appeared. 

Looking directly above us, the curtains of light emanated from a central spot in the sky. It was an awe-inspiring sight, making me think of the verse, "The heavens declare the glory of God." 

What made the event extra special was the singular focus of the people all around us. It wasn't crowded at all, but as the colours intensified, oohs and aahs rose in unison along the shore. We were all caught up together witnessing this beautiful phenomena. The joy felt by others contributed to deepening my own delight. If only we spent more time together as humans finding our common ground. 

Did you see the Northern (or Southern) Lights? A friend from Australia sent a photo of what she was seeing. Such an event!

Sunday afternoon saw us in a very different setting. Friends had purchased a new motorhome and were trying it out at a local campground. They invited to stop by and we all went for a walk. One single rail line runs up Vancouver Island, but it has not been used for a number of years. I rode the train just once and found it very rickety. Going over a curving high trestle bridge was nerve-wracking as the train slowed to a crawl to maintain stability. These days the rail line is good for walking on an afternoon filled with dappled light. 

Scotch Broom (cytisus scoparius) blooms just now, bright yellow against the green forest. The story goes that the plant was introduced to Vancouver Island by homesick Scots. Gardens were "sweetly reminiscent of home" according to Margaret Ormsby, a Canadian historian. Broom flourishes in disturbed ground such as the cleared land along the rail line. Now considered an invasive species, the plant crowds out native species and is taking root in more and more places. There are those who love the plant and those who despise it. The roadsides are pretty when the flowers bloom, but the plant itself is wiry and, to my mind, not particularly attractive. 

Leaving the rail line we followed a trail and descended 199 steps (I didn't count them, there was a sign) to a small river. Here a waterfall splashes down into a pool lined with fern-covered rocks, and ringed with tall cedar and hemlock trees. The water is clear green and very cold. Two people were swimming and someone joked that they must be Finns. On a hot summer day the pool would be a cooling spot. However, there are those steps one must climb to get back to the trail. 

I'm working hard to get my garden in these days. I planted out the tomatoes started under grow lights. Radishes and carrots are sprouting along with onions, lettuce, and spinach. A week of warm sunshine has heated the soil and everything is flourishing. 

Wishing you moments of delight and beauty. 

Tuesday, May 07, 2024

In the Evening Light


The light behind the waving trees I see through my window is pale yellow. The kitchen is tidy; my tasks for the day are complete. I love this time of day when I do just what I please - mostly reading.

Masses of pansies bloom on the front porch. I planted them last autumn and they puttered along through the winter, but now they are outdoing themselves with blossom after blossom. I love their sweet and friendly faces. My maternal grandmother loved purple pansies and I think of her when I see them. 

A small dragon sits on my kitchen windowsill, created by a granddaughter who spent the weekend with us while her parents celebrated their anniversary. He's a friendly fellow, I think. As she ran out the door with her parents on Sunday, Sadie called back, "There are six more dragons hidden upstairs!" We've found five of them and it took some searching. We'll ask for another hint for the sixth one. 

My days have fallen into an easy routine. I try to write for a couple of hours in the morning on the memoir of our family's years in Ecuador. I'm at 47,000 words on the second draft, just over half way. Some days it's harder to write as I deal with difficult times, and I find it emotionally draining.

Yesterday afternoon I spent outdoors working in the garden. What a tonic that was! There is always something to do and I am reluctant to return indoors. I did make pesto - I planted basil 6-8 weeks ago and it took off like a flash. The plants needed trimming, hence the pesto. It will stay nicely in the freezer. 

The flooring and stairs were completed several months ago, and I asked Tim to build a narrow cabinet for the hall. We looked in stores but couldn't find anything suitable. Shelves in the cabinet hold my scarves and baskets with gloves and hats. Most of my house is in cool tones, but I decided I wanted a bit of a punch in the entrance hall. This red makes me smile when I walk through, and picks up some of the red in the rug. 

Columbines bloom in the garden, mostly pale violet. Just visible behind them are tight peony buds. There are plenty of these pink ones and even more on the white bush. Something to anticipate. 

One rhododendron lives in our garden. It was here when we moved in over 20 years ago, but we moved it from the front garden to the back. Rhodos have never been favourites of mine. I long ago read a murder mystery where the murderer hid in the rhodo bushes under the window and that affected my feelings for them long before I ever knew what a rhodo looked like. I do admire the bright colours and the gold-tipped stamens. 

As I've been writing this post, the light fades. Time to close the computer and pick up a book. I'll make a cup of tea - peppermint, I think. May your evening be a pleasant one. 

Wednesday, May 01, 2024

Rain and Sunshine


When the rain stopped late yesterday morning, I pulled on my jacket and shoes for a walk. We are so privileged to live in a town where there are many trails and parks for walking and/or hiking. I mentioned Camas Lilies in my last post, and here they are en masse - a lovely swath of blue among mossy rocks. 

Pacific Dogwoods (cornus nuttallii) are currently in bloom. Raindrops still cling to these flowers. I'm noticing dogwoods more this year - is it an exceptional year for their blooms or am I just more aware of them? 

Here's a tree full of them. I also saw a fat American Robin pulling a worm from the grass and taking his time eating it bit by bit. How funny he looked with the worm dangling on either side of his beak. My presence didn't bother him in the least. 

Along a fence this lovely apple blossom clematis is opening. I stopped to take a sniff, but couldn't smell anything. Since my bout with Covid over a year ago my sense of smell is greatly diminished. Very sad. I keep hoping it will return. Nearby a crow flew overhead with a stick in his beak to land in a tree - nest building? 

I love the acid green of early spring leaves, maples here. Such lovely contrast with the dark branches that will soon be mostly hidden. 

Closer to home, a gentleman planted a variety of tulips, in a variety of pink shades. They are so pretty just now. 

Days are full of happy things. I try to spend a couple of hours writing each morning, followed by home-keeping and sewing or gardening. The gardening is taking the back seat these days as it's been quite cold. My tomatoes are doing well - I started them over a month ago - and I've been putting them outside during the warmer days. One night recently I awoke at 4 am realizing that they were still outside. I got up and brought them in right away. Often it's in the early hours of the morning that we get a touch of frost. I'm happy to say that the tomatoes are still thriving. 

How is Spring coming along in your corner? I wish you days full of happy things. 

Friday, April 26, 2024

Friday Favourites


Today I awoke to the soft beat of rain punctuated by a chorus of birds singing their morning songs. It's a soft rain, soaking into the welcoming earth. With the rain warmer temperatures are here and I've been putting my tomato plants outside each day. 

The lilacs are opening and look beautiful with raindrops hanging like crystals. I love the scent of lilacs, do you? They are such old-fashioned flowers, and the bushes live for a very long time, often outliving the houses they were planted near, a testament to someone who craved a bit of beauty. 

I am thinking about a question I read recently - "What do you look forward to each day?" I confess that I mostly go about my days not anticipating very much, but taking each moment as they come. I think there are many pleasant moments in my days, but I let them pass by without acknowledging them. I don't want merely to look back and see them, but to anticipate moments with a small, or large, measure of excitement. These things don't have to be amazing or momentous, but they should fill me with a bit of joy. For example, I have one square of dark 78% chocolate after lunch and another after dinner. Looking forward to that melting bit of richness will only add to the delight of it. 

I am thankful that my dad's 90th birthday party was a great success. We had an open house for friends, neighbours, and extended family, followed by a dinner with my siblings, and their children and grandchildren. Four generations, in all, about 36 of us. Not all could make it. Dad was very pleased, as was my mother. Katie, our daughter-in-law, made the beautiful cake. 

I am doing a bit more sewing these days, using up fabric. Hopefully I'll finish a few things soon and show you what I've made. It's always more fun starting projects, I find, than finishing them. 

I am reading The Secrets of Winter by Nicola Upson. There are several books in the series; this is not the first. If I like it I'll order the remainder in order from the library. It's a mystery set in the years between the First and Second World Wars, portraying the writer Josephine Tey in a fictional setting. 

In my kitchen today I roasted a chicken and am now simmering the carcass for stock. I do love making soup. The one pictured is a beef vegetable soup with ground beef, onion, carrot, green beans, rutabaga, tomatoes, and oregano. Soup-making is a creative venture. I made Vanilla Pudding to use up egg yolks I had in the fridge. Iris and Cora will enjoy it when they visit this afternoon. 

In the garden, besides the lilacs, pink rhododendrons, tulips, and bluebells provide colour. With all the rain everything looks fresh and vibrant. 

How are things in your corner? Is your garden coming awake? 

Thursday, April 18, 2024

A Bit of This and That


Off in the distance Mount Baker, in the USA, gleams in the sunlight. My best guess is that it's about 100 km away as the crow flies. To drive, it's 263 km, including a ferry ride. On Sunday afternoon we visited a new-to-us park, Mill Hill. The trail to the viewpoint was steep, but not too long. It's always good to stop and take photos along the way (and to catch my breath). 

I've been admiring (with some envy) photos of bluebell woods in England and Wales via social media. Then I realized that we have swaths of Blue Camassia (camassia quamash) currently covering sunny slopes with their star-shaped blossoms. A native perennial, the blue camas bulbs were an important food source for First Nations Peoples. On such a sunny day it was difficult to capture the fields with their haze of blue. 

Rhubarb is growing fast, as it always does in early spring. I've made this Rhubarb Cake twice already, once for coffee with neighbours and once for dessert with friends. It's so good, a seasonal treat. I know that I can freeze rhubarb and make it year round, but eating in season is appealing and there is always something to anticipate. It's a recipe from a cookbook printed in 1980, and I probably first made it within a year or two of that. Yikes. 

The sun's been shining although the wind is chilly. Every day seems to warm up just a bit more. I've been working in the garden, cleaning out a few beds, planting a few seeds, and pulling LOTS of weeds. This little patch of tulips with bluebells (not the English ones) underneath is a happy spot. One rogue orange tulip is determined to fit in. 

I recently read someone's thoughts about Artificial Intelligence - they thought real AI would be useful to do the dishes and the laundry so that we could spend time writing and doing art - it seems that AI isn't so good at the practical things, is it? Another person said that AI is really Artificial Plagiarism rather than Intelligence, for it can only produce from what humans input. I know that AI has its uses, and I'm happy for that - but I really hate the idea of creativity and hands-on work and art being replaced. Am I old-fashioned? Yes! 

We're off to the mainland for a few days to celebrate my father's 90th birthday. A milestone, for sure! 

Friday, April 12, 2024

On a Morning in Spring


"Nothing is so beautiful as Spring - 
When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;"
Gerard Manley Hopkins

I awoke in the early morning darkness to the sound of gentle rain, promptly rolled over and awoke again, this time to light and the sound of merry birds singing their sunup songs. Breakfast was eaten while watching birds at the feeder and the delicate new birch tree leaves swaying ever so slightly in the breeze. The House Finch pair above puzzled me for a bit - usually the head of the male is a bright red whereas this one is orange. And still very pretty. Soon the lilacs will bloom, just a hint of them visible now. 

On a recent walk, I was delighted by a large and lovely patch of  Pacific Trilliums (trillium ovatum) in the woods, almost a carpet of them stretching in every direction in a clearing. A common name for this creamy white native flower is "Wake-Robin" for they appear when the first American Robins return from their winter getaway. How charming. 

Bright acid green maple panicles brighten a grey day. So hopeful. Don't they look almost like lilacs? We are fortunate to not be bothered by pollen (other than my husband complaining about it getting all over the car). When we walk by the water and look towards the land, this shade of green brightens the dark mostly coniferous forest. 

The Downy Woodpecker and his mate are regular visitors to our suet block. Soon we will stop putting out food for there is plenty to eat in the garden and we want to discourage the birds from devouring our blueberries later. Outside my window, at this very minute, gulls soar high in the sky, riding the thermal air currents. A tiny hummingbird sits at the very top of my neighbour's tree, visible across the fence. I see him turning his tiny head from side to side. Soon, I expect, he will zoom down, looking for food. Oh, there he goes in a blur of wings. 

Clouds of blue forget-me-nots bloom under the rose bushes with their new leaves. A peony leaf is seen in the background. I have one peony that appeared on its own and blooms much earlier than the others. It already has fat round buds with a hint of colour. 

In spring every bloom is cause for exclamation. They march in a reliable parade, first this one, then that one, each in their turn. Isn't it amazing?

No big plans for this weekend, although we are going out to a Persian restaurant with friends. Laundry, a bit of house-tidying, and I hope to spend a few hours in the garden for tomorrow sunny weather is predicted. 

I hope your days are filled with small delights. Happy Weekend!

Garden Musings

  Gardening has this embracing quality in that it colours the way you look at the world. Penelope Lively - Life in the Garden Most of the co...