Happy New Year everyone.
As the calendar page turns, I find I become more excited: the days are getting longer, shoots are pushing up everywhere, the early blooms of hellebores are starting to fade, Jasmine is out and my favourite Christmas present - Witch hazel (Hamamelis) - unfurls it’s first irreverent, wrinkly ‘blooms’ also always on the 23rd so I think of my dad then as he gave me the plant just before he died.
Actually, it is a rather lovely story. In January 1993, My Dad was on palliative care for stomach cancer at his home. As I was headed over one morning, I passed Mercia McPherson’s house on Marine and hanging over her fence were blooming jasmine and witch hazel. Having secateurs in the car (of course), I snipped off a few booms for Dad to cheer him up that spring was indeed on its way.
When I got there and gave the blooms to Dad, he was excited by the witch hazel which he had never seen and asked Mom if she knew where the green glass bottle with the glass stopper was. As she went to look, Dad closed his eyes and just so inhaled the fragrance of the witch hazel. After Mom returned, he took the bottle in his hands and told us that as a boy when he got his migraines, his Mom would dab witch hazel on his temples. The loveliest part was to see his eyes closed, reliving those early days in Niagara Falls, being in a darkened room and in bed, his Mom coming in to provide some relief.
Dad bought us all a witch hazel plant that day.
Plants. They bring such joy from the memories they trigger.
On Wednesday night I went the WV Library for their Local Voices: Creating a Garden. It was jammed to overflowing. I know many of you were there, but for those who weren’t there were 3 speakers:
Michael Kluckner who spoke about Julia Henshaw who had ‘The Hut’ on land that is the NE corner of Marine and North Piccadilly. The P.G.E. Railway ran to Whytecliffe. This was before Marine Drive was put in in 1915. The house, remarkably, is still there and recent owners just happened to be at the talk. Her garden was described as “poetical’ on the terrace rock rising from the sea, in the days when people “loved the great outdoors rather than the great indoors”.
I looked on Michael’s website and I highly recommend that you go and look up the story of Julia. He even has a talk that was videoed. I haven’t watched it, but plan to.
Nora Gambioli spoke of her Dad’s garden in Horseshoe Bay. He recreated the gardens of his homeland in Italy. Remo’s garden was “productive”. there were apple and pear, and pear-apple trees. Fig trees and persimmons, and kiwi vines, and raspberry canes, grape vines (of course) using “all available space” above and on the ground. This was filled with vegetable beds. When that space ran out, well there was the house roof. And so grape arbors were set up there as well as attempts with watermelons. He had 12 chickens, 100 + rabbits and guinea pigs spend every daylight hour after work in his garden. And this was 2.5 lots! Nora’s Mom had the 2.5 lots to the north which she let stay in its natural state. I imagine we can all commiserate with Remo though. As he got much older though, Nora said that he had “created a monster”. He was as they say, a victim of his own success. It became difficult to maintain. As a sign of changing times, Remo originally used “half of Whyte Lake” to water his garden. (I suspect in jest, but all the same, his garden was water intensive). With metered water, that would be tough to do today.
Tish Davis said that she was not a Master Gardener but a “masterful gardener” and I would have to say that that is an understatement. She grew up in a family of gardeners in South Africa. Tish and her family lived up on Ottawa but she and her husband decided to sell and build a house that they could retire to and age in. So the house on the NW corner of 20th and Esquimalt was purchased. The lot was cleared, they built their new home in the NW corner of the “less than 5000 square foot lot” maximizing available space. Interestingly, I have a friend in that block and so have watched this home develop. And I loved the process.
First good soil. Then as Tish has, in essence, 2 front gardens (“where public meets private”) she created a triangular berm. The plants on the street side were for the public, and on the inside for the family. Perennials and shrubs were brought from the Ottawa house (being demolished) and within 4 years they had complete privacy. She created “a tapestry” of plants. “I created my garden to give pleasure to others”. Such a gift of joy for those who walk in the area and for the users of WV United Church.
After the speakers, there was discussion about the green houses at Klee Wyck, and the lack of funding. Unfortunately, the home and property was donated to the city but w/o operating funding. Could it be centralized as a gardening place?
Tribute trees are set up through Kiwanis and the project has been very successful.
WV Parks has changed its mission so that it reads, in part, not for colour but ecology. Hence the shift from annuals and bulbs to sustainable planting and water wise.
I read on BBC that Gardening is linked to longer lives, which we know. Nonetheless, it is an interesting read: https://www.bbc.com/news/health-24710089.
If we have time this meeting, it would be valuable to brainstorm some speaker ideas for us to follow up on.
As well I would like to brainstorm any ideas to make our Club more attractive to volunteering. I finish my term in September. Val would like an understudy for newsletter and or webmaster. At some point she too would like to retire.
Vitality depends on new blood. New ideas - all the things that we know about but just really don’t want to commit our precious free time. We are aging. We are not as fast or as efficient as we used to be…..
Volunteering for me is the rent I pay for living in the amazing society that I have had the luck to be born into.
I did speak with the WV Seniors Centre Garden Club last year. It is open to everyone. They meet weekly on a Thursday morning during the gardening season. There wasn’t much appetite to explore further from WVGC but I do think that down the road, joining forces may be an option to think about.
I just came back from walking around the neighbourhood with Cathy. It is a beautiful day. Much of the vegetation is still dormant for the winter, but the Sarcococca is glorious. The wave of scent was so special and such a ‘come hither …’ from spring.
A few years ago, I mistakenly ignored a small outbreak of bindweed between our gravel driveway and a cedar hedge. It quickly got out of hand as I worked on other more gratifying gardening projects and I now rue my lack of vigilance. Thank goodness there is the width of a gravel driveway between this thug and the front garden.
My penance is that I now spend more than an hour every two weeks throughout summer methodically snipping the stems at ground level when they reach 15 cm and discarding every morsel I remove. I cut, rather than pull the plants out, to avoid breaking roots underground. (It’s impossible to remove those long roots at one go!) Broken roots develop adventitious buds and shoots in just a few weeks which would only exacerbate this woeful situation. Sometimes more than two weeks elapse between my Bindweed Eradication Sessions (as the photo here testifies), but I am diligent about removing flowering vines before they set seed. In open areas, excluding light with a layer of black plastic for a year or two would thwart it, too.
Gleneagles SpringFest West on Saturday May 4th
Last, but most importantly, huge bouquets for those pitching in and helping make it such a fun Christmas event.
Well that’s it. See you next month.