Tuesday, April 26, 2005

some pics from UBC Botanical Garden

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Tiny tulips in the rock garden. Note the "loonie" placed for size reference.

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More tiny tulips in the rock garden.

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Sunlight through the new leaves of a kiwi vine, with espaliered fruit trees in the back ground. The fruit trees and vines enclose the vegetable garden, which features raised vegetable beds with wide edging boards. Those boards make nice seats and I could really imagine myself weeding such a garden quite easily!

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These rhodos were spectacular, but the majority of the azaleas and rhodos were yet to open out in full bloom!

rainy weather

don't know why
there's no sun up in the sky
stormy weather...

That's a song, isn't it? But it has also been our reality for days now. The rain let up a bit today so that I could continue weeding the beds in front of the house. Those beds are on the north side of the house and I have a lot of transplants etc that I brought from the old place that will be very happy in the shade there. Once I get it weeded, that is. There are ferns, tawny day lilies (the common roadside variety), wild grape vines and tree stumps in there! And who knows what else. Ann says last fall when she weeded the west half of the front beds, she ran into lily-of-the-valley on that side, and I also suspect, goutweed. Yes, the dreaded goutweed! I haven't had the nerve to dig in and check it out for sure, but I do suspect....

No doubt, there were once tidy clumps of perennials, and the odd spring flowering bulb, but I decided the easiest thing here is to weed it all out, decided what I want to keep and after replenishing the soil, I'll put things back in my preferred order.

The hydrangea on the north-east corner also got a hair cut. It will be very nice and has fat leaf-buds already.

The other exciting thing was getting some laundry done. I couldn't hang them out on the line outside though, because we did get the odd rain shower today. But I did catch a glimpse or two of blue sky.

Yesterday, I was babysitting. Granddaughter has a stomach flu of some kind, and I was glad she didn't have to go out to the babysitter's. Usually her great-grandmother on her Dad's side babysits, but no need to send her there to infect the other kids when I was able to help out, right?

Granddaughter told me she has a black cat named Blackie, a purple dog named Purple, a goldfish named Orange, and a blue giraffe named Blue-ie, all upstairs in bed. And since she also has a baby-brother and a baby-sister and because they all have to sleep in a crib still, it's very crowded upstairs! And just in case I couldn't tell the difference, Granddaughter reminded me they are all "pretend". But, she assured me, she was going to ask Mommy and Daddy for a real baby brother and a baby sister, because her best friend Sadie has a baby brother now.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

back in the garden


Working from the theory that my muscles were aching to be working in the garden, that's what I did all day yesterday. I raked leaves, picked up wind-fall branches and garbage. I burned some of the dead wood. I even got out to my old/former garden to retrieve some of my more precious plants. Back in January/February they were frozen in and my former landlords were ok with me coming back to dig them out now that the weather got warmer.

The theory was great....

I am in a lot of pain today. So much so that scary thoughts of what it could be have been running through my head! But what is worse is that I'm noticing that the pain is not always in one location. Maybe it is because, without being aware of it, I guard the muscle-group that hurts, so other areas are over-stressed? Anyway, it's another theory -- ha, ha.

What I do not understand is the amount of garbage strewn about into the stands of trees along the fence lines, around the yard perimeter. I'm talking serious garbage: cans, wire, shingles, paint cans, beer cans, furniture, toys, wood, plastic bags, cottage cheese containers, baby gates, more paint cans, bottles...you name it! Bizarre! I'm accustomed to a garbage heap perhaps in one location, but no, this is all over the place.

The sad part is that a serious gardener did once live here. There is evidence of daffodils, tulips, crocus, sedum, daylilies all along the fence line perimeter and many other places here. But it's hard going in there because the seedlings of the trees and weeds have been allowed to grow and now are quite untamed.

I guess that's the definition of a gardener. While Mother Nature has not made a single plant in vain -- I believe they all, yes every single plant, serve a purpose, even multiple purposes -- a gardener seeks to tame or contain nature, or to impose some preferential sense of order: the gardener's preferences, of course.

But how to explain the garbage? That is just plain carelessness and laziness!

Thursday, April 14, 2005

garden visits and encounters

Today, Dad drove me to Southlands Nurseries, first. Naturally, it was in the very first few seconds there that I spied Thomas Hobbs himself, talking to a customer. My normal shyness overcame me, but now I regret that I did not at least talk to him to tell him how much I admire his books. His garden has been featured in gardening magazines as well. Ah me...

Then we went to the UBC Botanical Gardens. I tried to photograph minute little flowers in bloom mostly in the Alpine gardens, although I think I did photograph a few rhododendron as well. As we were leaving, I was thrilled to see David Tarrant with a lady who said she was visiting from Winnipeg. Of course, I am never satisfied. Now, I am wishing I had asked them both a million more questions!

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

puzzles and surprises

Our surprise went very well. Mom was in the middle of a continuing-education class (obtained through the University of Helsinki) with some other Finns in the library of the senior's apartment building she lives in when my Dad and I walked in. She didn't notice me at first, but then the jaw dropped. Surprises are such fun. Several times today, she was still puzzling out how we pulled it off.

I still have to meet and in person, thank Riitta again. She is the office manager of the Finnish retirement home next door through whom I contacted my Dad to let him know I was coming. Dad is so hard of hearing that he rarely answers the phone, Mom reads all the mail and she is the one who plays on the computer, so trying to get something past her was very tricky. Although I have been introduced to many of my parents' friends and neighbours in Vancouver, I really haven't developed enough of a friendship or relationship of any kind with them to have a phone number or way to contact anybody. I could barely remember names and faces, particularly as I maybe met them once or twice. I feel very inadequate about remembering people. I know it's a skill that can be learned, but really, some people seem to just have the gift.

Anyhow, isn't the internet wonderful? Knowing the retirement home is right next door and that staff there might have met my Mom & Dad at some event or excursion or other, I found the info I needed on-line and emailed Riitta, who contacted my Dad.

From what I understand, she sent a fellow named Topi over. He managed to intercept my Dad after watching my Mom leave for a coffee klatch. Topi told Dad Riitta had a message for him...

I couldn't resist teasing my Dad. He whipped off a letter to me as soon as he got my message, saying that it would be easy for him to find a reason to slip away "because the people here are old, they need this and that"...Funny how I too don't usually think of my own age much. But those interns and residents at my paying job get younger and younger. I swear they are in their teens these days! Tomorrow, they will be in diapers!

Now, for anyone who doesn't know, coffee is a tradition in Finland. It's strong, black and bitter. And it is served often and always served with pulla, a traditional sweet braided bread flavored with ground cardamom. It often has raisins in it and the top is glazed with egg and sprinkled with almonds and/or sucre de perle (pearl sugar).

After I stretched out the kinks from sitting all day yesterday with my yoga routine (thank god for yoga), we went for a walk down by the river this morning. I was constantly distracted by the plantings, the shrubs, the flowers in bloom, the mountains and the birds.

At one point, a miniature Schnauzer walking with its owner was so upset that it was not allowed to chase the ball being thrown by another owner for another dog. I would make a lousy witness at the scene of a crime: I cannot recall at all what kind of dog the other one was. I know the other owner was a man, and the two owners chatted a bit. When the man threw the toy for his dog, all I remember is the energy trembling through the little Schnauzer, who whimpered and whined to be allowed to chase the ball too! A cookie appeared and the little Schnauzer forgot about the ball. Or maybe decided the cookie was a more immediate and available gratification. Whatever. Food is entertaining to me too!

The ball/toy was impressive in its simplicity and effectiveness. I have never been able to throw well, so the design intrigued me: a sock-like thing with the ball in the toe, so to speak. Even I could get great distance using the sling-shot effect.

I'd love to have immediately available pictures (of the masses of cherry blossoms, which are nearly spent; the rhodos just opening up; the tulips, the bluebells, the pieris, the camelias...oh, and of course, the mountains!) to post here, but I still have a digital camera on my wish list. Ah well.

Monday, April 11, 2005

sunshine, breezes and crocus in bloom

Finally, finally, this afternoon I was able to spend a few hours uncovering the secrets hidden under the leaves in part of the yard. On the weekend, I was just a little jealous as Ann had some time to do a bit of raking and she had uncovered some crocus in bloom in our back yard.

There are tantalizing tips of green everywhere: iris, daylilies, grape hyacinth, hosta, shasta daisies?, primrose, ajuga, artemisia.

I threw a couple of loads of laundry out onto the line to dry -- for my first time this season! They dried in a snap in the sun and the cool breeze while I raked happily away, taking uncounted wheelbarrow-fuls of oak,maple, beech leaves to the compost mound at the bottom of our garden. I was able to uncover more daylilies, daffodils, ?mint --I hope not!

I might have gotten a little pink from sun exposure on winter-white skin on my face -- oh dear. I'm a little sore too, but it's soooo satisfying to tidy up the garden and see what has been hiding under the leaves!

Then, after supper, when I put the laundry away, it smelled so of sunshine! I love clothes hung out on the line to dry.


I asked the question: If I could guarantee that you could do anything and that you would not fail, what would you do?

Surprisingly, most of the people I work with at my paying job had never really thought about it! Really. A couple people had some vague ideas of having more time for the crafts they don't have time for now...But Debbie! Now Debbie could picture it very clearly.

Debbie said: I want to have a garden store and in one part of it I want to sell my pottery and leaded glass work. And I want a little house, two bedrooms, one bathroom, a big kitchen because I like to entertain. It would be all windows across the side facing the lake. I want a house by the water because Bob likes to go away to go fishing, and this way, he could just step out our front door. There would be a workshop there where I could do my pottery and glass work.

Isn't that marvelous?

My head has just been popping with ideas of what I would like to do, once I heard that question suggested on one of T.Harv Eker's cd's.

But in any case, it's an interesting way to find out more about your friends, what is their secret passion? What do they dream about? Or your kids. You could ask your kids the same question.

Granddaughter made me laugh this morning. I stayed at Oldest Daughter's last night. They woke up before I did, and at some point in my sleepy state, I heard Granddaughter ask her Mommy for help to reach something. Then I heard her say to her Mommy, "Thank-you, Mommy. Mommy, you're so grownup! Mommy, you're so grown-up. Of course you are! Of course you are! ... Of course you are." She kept varying the emphasis and I think Mommy had long ago moved on to other tasks and didn't even hear Granddaughter practicing...

It made me chuckle because she was practicing phrases that she had heard, naturally, phrases that she didn't quite get completely, but phrases that she obviously liked the feel of, in her mouth. That was what her Mom used to do too at that age--over and over and over and over again. And I could tell, that her Mom was distracted too, not paying attention to Granddaughter, because she was trying to get everything together in order to take Granddaughter to the babysitter, and then get herself to work on time, just like I used to do when Granddaughter's Mommy was little. Some things do sort of repeat themselves from one generation to the next, don't they.

I'm excited to be off in the morning to Vancouver to surprise my Mom for her 80th birthday. I don't think she has any clue I am on my way. (unless she has figured out how to read this blog--then, I've just given the surprise away, haven't I?) I'll keep you posted!

Friday, April 08, 2005

raining on my days off

Has anyone else noticed how it seems to be sunny on the days you must go in to the paying job and stay inside, and it seems to pour buckets or even snow when you might have the time to muck about in the garden?

I dare not dream that my attitudes are having an affect on the weather, but wouldn't it be nice if I could have cooperative weather for the days I want to be in the garden?

Mind you, yesterday, I did have errands to run in the city and would have been sorely tempted to blow them off if it had been a sunny day...Maybe, sometimes the weather is really cooperating with my true intention. I know I would not have felt too good about myself, if I had put off going to the OHIP office and the passport office, and played about in the garden instead.

So, of course, today the day dawns sunny and warm, not very windy...but I cannot indulge myself in the garden. A quick check on the greenhouse seedings etc. The greenhouse get incredibly hot during the day and I have to open the windows and the door a crack to cool it off! (Still need to figure out someone to look at the automated ventilating system.)

A little ruby-crowned kinglet in the big tree outside my bedroom window kept me entertained yesterday as I was getting dressed for my excursion into town.

I have noticed several interesting waterbirds on the open sloughs, collections of water running of the melting fields, and the open water where the ice is breaking up on the lakes and rivers. Flying past in a moving car is not the way to do any birdwatching, but I am left wondering as I hurry along, "Was that a bufflehead? Was that a golden eye? Was that a wood duck or a teal?" Aaaargh! Why must I be is such a hurry these days? I mourn the lack of time to wallow in what I can only have glimpses of right now.

The incursion of the grey owls seems to be waning. They must be returning to their nesting grounds in the Assiboine forests of Manitoba. I did see one still last Monday...Hello, owl, I said. I'm sure she heard me as I drove by and waved at her. Hello, and thanks for making my day.

Monday, April 04, 2005

messy workrooms

About a week ago, Ann and I had company for dinner. Ann decided to show them around. They did have a personal interest in the history of the house, so it made sense.

But! They peeked into my bedroom. The air in there was stale with the smell of wet dog or dirty socks -- take your pick, and you wouldn't be wrong! Then they peeked into my workroom!

Oh, it's alright, they said, workrooms are supposed to be messy. So messy that you can't get anything done in there because there is so much stuff stacked up on the work table?? That messy? So messy that you can barely walk around in there to reach books, supplies, tools?? That messy?

OhyesIforgot. I wasn't wearing my elastic-band to remind me to be positive yet; we had not started our game yet when they visited. And I chose not to wear it all week-end. But I didn't need the elastic band to remember to try to keep positive. My mind does bend toward the negative so easily. Keep pulling it back...

On the positive side of the tally: I raked piles of debris, branches, dead leaves off the island in the driveway, on Friday. I unpacked seven (7) boxes of stuff, put the stuff away, broke down the boxes and prepared them for recycling on garbage day. I made some calls to get my data updated with OHIP and with AirMilesCanada. I did my laundry and put it away. I took the compost out to the compost pile. I kept the snow shoveled off the deck by the side-door which tends to leak into the basement via the outside access to the basement when it rains/melts. I found the legal documents that I will need to apply for a new passport. I took more cuttings of the coleus. I cleaned out the pots from the greenhouse to make way for our plants! I hung and got my own grow-light working. I got the heater in the propagating box and existing grow-light working. I watered my plants, monitored the temperature in the greenhouse and checked on the progress of the seeds I have planted in there.

There, that's not a bad list of accomplishments!

I started some cool-loving lettuces and salad greens, as well as some herbs and flowers: lavender, nicotiana, cosmos...

the basement is wet

There are a couple of spots in the basement that are leaking. A thin stream of water is crossing the basement floor and collecting in a couple of depressions in the concrete. What to do? What to do?

The weekend was grey and depressing. It snowed and rained and snowed, heavy wet stuff. It melted only a little slower than in fell, so, this morning we did have some snow on the ground. On Friday, I had spied the pale green tips of ?crocus, ?scilla, poking out of the ground in droves at the front of the house, but Sat and Sun were way to wet to work outside.

I was consumed with daydreaming about gardening all weekend. I pored over catalogues, revisited drawings I have made over the years of possible plant groupings, etc. Although I did manage also to finish unpacking my dried herbs, teas, oils, and flour and sugar, etc., and I did sort them out and put them away in the kitchen cupboards, most of the time this weekend, I spent thinking, thinking, thinking about gardening, imagining this here, or that there. Last night I was exhausted!

I finally stopped...or tried to. The wheels on the brain don't have very good brakes! I laid a fire in the fireplace, had myself a glass of wine, and tried to stop thinking!

Finally, I decided it can't be done. I went to bed with the newest Richter's catalogue and kept on circling with my pen the listings in the catalogue of the plants I want or need...until the old eyelids got heavy.

I had to laugh this morning. In trying to find some legal documents I had mis-filed, I ran across stacks and stacks of more gardening related stuff: newspaper clippings, brochures, old catalogues, old drawings I had made over the years...My mind is consumed by gardening!