Sunday, March 23, 2014

Primula and hyacinths

Did I tell you I also went shopping?

They are so tiny but they give me such enormous joy! I can sit in my favorite chair with my knitting and I have only to glance up and I can see -- colour!

I bought  some Hyacinthus orientalis in a blue, and Primulas in pink and yellow. I'll have to dig again for the actual varieties as they came from the garden centre with only generic labels. The ivy is a variegated one I found in the woods and dug up. Engish ivy is a garden escapee here on the Sunshine Coast as it is in much of the Lower Mainland of BC and is very invasive, so I feel not a twinge of guilt in digging it up. I will not allow it to get full grown and set seed.

There are many ways of looking at the problem. The purists would have you stick to only native plants. Others will leave a bit of room for horticultural varieties that aren't considered thugs and unlikely to survive without a gardener coddling them along. And then at the other extreme are those who say Mother Nature mixes it up all the time and we might as well let them duke it out.

English ivy does only seem to be found especially in partial shade in second growth forests and disturbed soils. I have yet to see it in the middle of the deep shade of the coastal forests, but I wonder. Because it is so prevalent the Vancouver area, especially on parts of the North Shore, I have participated in restoration meet-ups to try to get rid of it.

Narcissi and violas

Well, this is what it is now. The planter I did up last fall is coming along nicely and is about the only colour in my garden so far. It won't be this dreary for long!

In my enclosed patio area:

Narcissus 'Tête à Tête', Carex oshimensis 'Evergold', Gaultheria mucronata 'Variegata', Viola cornuta 'Black' and mystery heuchera.

The blueberries have come through the winter with the strawberries and the wintergreen at their feet. In the blue ceramic pot, Vaccinium caryumbosum 'Patriot', and an ever-bearing strawberry ?. In the white planter, Vaccinium x 'Chippewa' and Gaultheria procumbens, also with the ever-bearing strawberry ?.

Under the spruce in the north-west corner of the yard by the walkway: my own Lavandula stoechas 'Silver Anouk' and L. angustifolia 'Hidcote', plus the assorted sedums and ?red campion from the wooden planters left behind by the previous tenant.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Donkey work

Spring is starting to show what has survived.  Here, the planter that I did up last fall is finally giving me a little cheery colour, narcissi and a dark viola with the gold sedge, some heuchera and a variegated lingonberry. Of course, with the move and stuff still in boxes, I have no idea what I did with the labels. Maybe eventually, I will be organized and will be able to rescue the correct names from somewhere.

(update August 19, 2014: found labels. Narcissus "Tête à Tête" -- planted by my former housemate and her mom; then, Viola cornuta 'Black', Carex oshimensis 'Evergold', Gaultheria mucronata "Variegata', and the Heucheras are still a mystery.)

The planter was one that was here when I arrived last fall. My housemate and her mom had planted it up with a few things, the only surviving things being the narcissi. They are lovely. I moved them around a bit to accommodate the things I added last fall.

Can you see the pea shoots going crazy?

So, an afternoon's work and between my upstairs neighbors and I, we got the soil shifted.

The Plan is that Marla and Steve will put their veg into the first bed, and I've been allocated the bed towards the back.  Both get a fair bit of sun, Marla and Steve's in the morning through until the late afternoon, mine being completely in the sun from just before mid-day to early evening.

Marla is a beginner and quite nervous, despite my assuring her that I've killed a lot of plants along the way...Maybe that's not reassuring!

Under the spruce, there's a dead spot that I layered with compost, cardboard, soil and bark mulch. Into it, I moved the bits of sedum and stuff that the previous tenant had left behind in the planting boxes, and also my own lavender from my pots. The front of this bed gets lots of sun for most of the day and is very dry in the rain-shadow of the spruce.

To border the bed, I repurposed the driftwood that had been stacked up in one of the veg beds for some reason or other.

Now, to recover! Shifting that heavy wet soil has been back-breaking! I'm pretty sure I am going to be sore for the next couple of days at least!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

This is what joy looks like

Continuing on that lace theme, I found some delicious yarn and am starting a scarf for my other Favorite Daughter. Isn't it gorgeous?

Soggy Mess

Voilà! I had a scary load -- several cubic yards of top soil mix and bark mulch -- delivered and there it sits in the driveway and I have to shift it into the garden!

It is a soggy mess because it is raining nearly every day for hours and hours. It is still our rainy season here on the coast. We often do get a bit of clearing in the late afternoon, just as the sun is going down, but not enough for this lot to dry out.

I did wish the truck driver could have dumped it directly into the yard, but that was impossible. Handling that soil will probably cause any clay in it to bind the soil into nasty lumps of concrete. Well, it can't be helped; it has got to go in the garden. I just hope I can minimize the handling and mitigate the damage somehow later on.

Thursday, March 6, 2014


I have had some adventures exploring what is on offer at the local nurseries. I am noticing that after a few years without a garden besides what was on the balcony, I am unsure of the rhythm of the season and what to expect to find in the nurseries and when. It seems like the nurseries are awfully bare right now.

Still, I found some supplies for starting my seeds. I have lots of pots I have saved which I will scrub thoroughly before using. But I thought I'd show that it's also possible to reuse and recycle containers for seed-starting.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Taking stock

Yeah, so, it doesn't look like much does it. I see possibilities but there's a lot of work to do, a lot of cleaning up to do and a lot of plants to acquire from somewhere.

Monday, March 3, 2014

the story we live

Any passion you follow leads you to research, read, talk with others who do what you do. For years, my favorite snooping has been done on gardening blogs. Being a visual person, I particularly love photos, especially photos of garden designs, seeing how plants look next to other plants and in relation to the site.

I have to admit, however, I have often been guilty of withholding from view what I perceive as the flaws in my own design. I have been guilty of taking only closeups of the best of my garden, trying to frame photos so that the ugly bits don't show. Does anybody else do that?

Of course, another part of the editing is to preserve some privacy and to protect my privacy.

Even that hasn't worked all that well for me in the past. A few years ago I walked out into the garden to encounter a man lurking around in it looking for chanterelles. Yes, really.

The previous year, I had posted about the flush of chanterelles that had appeared in the yard and there he was, hoping to find the chanterelles! I kid you not! To say I found it weird and a little frightening is an understatement.

How much do gardeners worry about theft from their gardens? I suspect it is related to the culture of the places in which they garden as well as the story they tell themselves about themselves and how other people relate to them.

There is a new story appearing amongst many gardeners I know, one of sharing. Some deliberately open up their front yards, fences are coming down, even the curb-side strip between the sidewalk and roadway is being planted with fruits and vegetables and flowers. Passersby are encouraged to pick something. Community gardens are planted with fruit and signs are put up that encourage people to pick and share and leave some for others.

Because for most of us this is a new idea, I am told that people do not pick from most of these gardens easily, at least not in daylight. Even though they have permission!

The return of a sharing economy into a space almost completely monopolized by one of legal, moral and spiritual rents and official currencies is refreshing.

So, in the interest of changing the story I have lived by up 'till now, I plan to share with you the ugly bits too. By widening the focus of my photos, I will perhaps betray my location and sacrifice some privacy. But I hope in the process I will be acting on my desire to be more open-hearted and generous, less guarded and fearful.

My hope is that my attempts will encourage others to go ahead and try. After all, gardening isn't about perfection, it's about participating in the joy of growing things. If you do discover where I live, respect my privacy and that of the other tenants of the house which I share. Let's talk and discover ways in which we can learn to know and trust each other, how we can share the joy.

One of the most profound things I have read recently is the idea that the next buddha is going to be the sangha, as I mentioned in a previous post.

After a several hundred years of a masculine story and a suppression of the feminine, I think we have come to a tipping point, a crisis, and a turning, hopefully a rebalancing. It is certainly a time of chaos, fear, challenge and destruction. It is also a time of new beginnings. Older folks like me, who even though we have been searching for a kinder and more meaningful paradigm to guide our lives, will naturally find it difficult to even imagine a new way of being. Simply finding the old story unsatisfying is not enough: we need to imagine a new story, a new mythology for our lives. And we need to live it.

The other day, I heard an interesting interpretation of the old story, the one that suppressed the feminine, that expresses its dysfunction through consumerism-gone-mad, a distortion of matter, mater, mother and earth. The feminine didn't go away. It became twisted into the illness that is destroying the earth. The spiritual or psychic myth that we live, unaware, has become a festering sore that has finally broken open.

I see the signs of the new story that may be coming in the younger people. As I have heard intimations of what the new story might be, I hear the dissonance in the story that old people still tell themselves and I realize that many will never be able to learn the new story that we so desperately need. Of course, the old white men who think they must own everything are still talking. But underneath all that, there are millions of other voices and they are saying something completely different!

For more on that, I recommend two books: "The Empathic Civilization" by Jeremy Rifkin, and "The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible" by Charles Eisenstein.

Saturday, March 1, 2014


Low tide

Wintry days

february is gone

Thoughts on February that's gone.

It was sunnier than I expected. Despite a week or so of cold weather, two or three snowy days, it has been pretty warm.

I've spent hours and hours on Facebook, feeling at times overwhelmed by grief and despair about the state of the world, aching with the longing to reconnect with a natural world that is fast disappearing. Only sometimes have I felt hopeful, even though intellectually I am a hopeful person, hopeful that the spiritual myth we are telling ourselves will change -- well, it will change whether we want it to or not, that's a fact.

Still learning the language of this place, the texture of the days, the paths through the forests, the rhythm of the seaside, I stumble through my daily walks along the suburban roads of my neighborhood, stop by the beaches and rocky outlooks to stare at the ocean. I venture into the strangeness of these western woods, so similar and so different from the woods of Ontario that I knew so well, listening nerves straining for bear or cougar, cedar smell so familiar, water rushing down rain-swollen mountain-sides so foreign. I watch the sacred trees on the mountains making rain, mists marching along their own mystical journeys, sometimes eastward, sometimes creeping up from Howe Sound northward over Elphinstone. I don't understanding the meanings. Not yet.

I have read and read and read until my eyes were scratchy. I've watched gurus and prophets of doom, activists and anarchists on video, trying to get a sense of the zeitgeist. I have watched the unheeding hyptonized masses in thrall to the old story of conquest and control, of exponential growth and exploitation, consumerism and acquisition, winners and losers, in turns angry and sad, loving and impatient, furious and resigned. Occasionally, I find compassion for myself and the world. Occasionally, I am at peace. I am at peace slightly more as time goes on. I think. I think this is good overall.

And I have ordered seeds and supplies, scrounged around for leaf mold and compost, chatted with some of the other tenants of our house about possibilities in our garden, and done loads and loads of daydreaming. And I have made expansive and impossible lists of things I want and browzed through luscious catalogues of plants indigenous and exotic that I might grow here and that are beautiful.

I bought some delicious yarn and I'm knitting up a lace-pattern scarf for my daughter. The color ways are surprising me by being earthier than I expected, lots of browns and greens, not quite as pink and purple as I first thought. Hopefully, my daughter will like it. She requested pink.

And, oh yes, I have escaped into lots of old episodes of British mysteries on youtube.

One morning my son sent me a photo via text of his face obscured by an oxygen mask and the terse message that there had been a fire in his apartment building and that he was in the hospital with smoke inhalation.

An appalling sense of alarm, the bottom falling out, my mind resolutely refusing to go there, then I texted him back. "Where are you What happened?"

He was released after several hours of tests and observations but had no home to go home to in the sense that although his unit had not burned, smoke damage to the building meant it was not safe for any of the residents to return.

The next several days he was busy going through his things and packing what he wanted to keep, emptying out his life of over 8 years. His dad helped him move his things and put them in storage. My son hates the motel where he and many of his fellow tenants have had to take up temporary lodging, until the restoration work is done.

It wasn't until a week or two later in a conversation about the events when the true horror of it became clear to me and immediately my mind turns away from it, unable to stay with it. The firemen thought everyone had been evacuated. D. is such a sound sleeper that neither the firealarm nor the pounding on his door roused him. What did rouse him perhaps we'll never know. Some time of initial confusion in a black, smoke-filled apartment, then he was crawling down the hall trying to find air and the exit. A headlong fall down the stairs as he blacked out. Coming to and fighting off EMS personnel trying to help him sit up, coughing and retching.

Somehow, he had his wallet and mobile phone in his coat pocket which he had grabbed on his way out, but his pants were torn to the point of indecency. The shock of surviving and the feeling of being alone,  not sure what to do next.

I was desperate, on the other side of the country, communicating with him by text, trying to contact his father through his sister, grateful for his friend close by who was able to get to his side at the hospital and who helped him through the first few hours until he was able to reach his dad.

I still don't know what I feel exept for the helplessness and the shock of it.


Tentatively exploring a new story for our dying world. Some say the next buddha will be the sangha.