Saturday, February 21, 2009


At this time of year, I always start to dream about gardening.  I know when I have hit my emotional end with winter when I find myself having trouble walking by seed displays and pondering going to gardening workshops (which I never seem to actually do).  I am so there right now.

My gardening career started when I was about 8.  My "Auntie Marion", a family friend who had lived through some very bad financial times, was an avid gardener and harvested and preserved with a frenzy every year.  She didn't have a lot of yard and so she was actively involved in a community garden.   If you know Toronto, she was part of a gardening club that had a spot in the Sunnybrook estate.  All of the members had a plot and went several times a week to care for it.  She took me with her every Saturday for much of one spring, summer and fall.  I had my own plot and I was so interested by it.  I imagine that they (she and Uncle Jim) must have done a lot of work on it because I don't remember it being overrun with weeds and I certainly don't remember working all that hard.  What I do remember is my first radishes and beets being ready and how exciting that was to me.  It set me up for a lifelong fascination with growing things.

There really hasn't been the time and space for much gardening in my life.  We had a tiny plot out front of our house in Toronto and I tried year after year to grow crocuses - they are the true harbinger of spring to me.  They are such a happy flower  - they make me feel so optimistic when I find them peeking out of the snow.  Sadly, the squirrels adored them when I tried to grow them and I can remember several years being very excited to see them coming up and then coming out one morning to see that they had all been pulled up and shredded.  Poor dh didn't know what to do with me standing out on the front lawn in tears.

Now, we have a large if awkward garden space - there are several flower beds around the house but they are irregular shapes and not terribly great light levels.  I adore herbs, roses and the slightly wild look of English gardens.  I have planted a variety of things over the years.  Every spring, I get excited to see things coming up but I lack the courage to prune - I am terrified of killing something or doing something wrong to it.  Out the back, my hostas and bleeding hearts are very, very crowded and I suspect they need attention but I am not sure what to do with them.  There is the herb bed - I adore lavender and I have quite a bit of it, along with mint, lemon balm, thyme and sage.  Of course, the chives and lemon balm have taken over and I wage a war with them every year (which is a struggle because I won't use herbicides).  I was wise and kept the mint in its own bed and we love using that summer and fall.  We always have rhubarb and tomatoes and I love to put in basil and parsley, too.  I am such a city girl - it is so pathetically exciting to me to cook with something that I grew.  Dh has caught my gardening bug - he dreams of a big vegetable garden and eating from our own bounty - we had better be careful or we are going to turn into the people from "The Good Neighbours" - a British sit-com from the 1970's about a couple who decided that go back to the land, the only problem being that they live in suburbia and their neighbours are appalled.  We dream of having Pk help us to pick the things we have grown and hope that she will feel the same sense of accomplishment that we do.  

My greatest love is English roses I adore my David Austin roses with their slightly lemony scent and heavy blooms with such generous petals that they remind me of peonies (which I also have - love them too other than that once they get beaten down by rain, they just don't ever bounce back).  Each spring, I announce that they have all died over the winter and then I have huge pleasure discovering that I am wrong sometime in June.  I love cutting flowers from my garden to have in the kitchen on the window sill and between my roses and the sweet peas that I try to plant (thanks, Fiona, for introducing me to their beautiful scent), I usually have something to enjoy from July to October.

My gardening passion has only two big drawbacks.  The first is a lack of endurance.  Every spring, I have such great plans and work very hard but sometime in July, I usually lose interest.  By August, that loss is evident in my weeds and how tired things look.  The weeds start to take over and usually by September, I am feeling pretty embarassed about it all but going back to school doesn't leave me any time to repair the damage.  The second drawback is a lack of design skill on my part.  Every spring, I think things look bare and fill in the holes.  By July, things are choking.  I look at Martha Stewart's gardening issues and dream but spacing plants is truly an art and one that I entirely lack a talent for.

In spite of my failings, though, I never fail to feel that little bit of excitement at the sight of a seed pushing through the soil, the signs of the first blooms, the bit of purple hiding in a bed in early April or that first red tomato in the summer.  I hope that we can figure out how to convey our excitement to Pk.  I can totally understand why God's paradise was a garden.


  1. I feel ya!!!! This past Spring/Summer was my first chance at gardening, I have always had an apartment or lived at home so when we bought our house they had 2 garden boxes in the backyard and we tried our hand. Well many hands at that, the garden section at the local store had WAY too many options and we thought they ALL looked like a good idea and we went way overboard. ((And the dogs thought they were tasty too, grrr! Especially the cucumbers)) It was a lot of fun though, I too lost my endurance part way through but the tomatoes did not let me give up...they kept coming and coming and coming. There is something about seeing the fruit of your labor, whether it's flowers or produce that is so amazing. This really makes me want spring to get here. I completely agree that seeing that first little sprout is SOOOO exciting!!

  2. I love having all those tomatoes!!! We found an amazing recipe for grilled pitas with tomatoes, mint, red onion, black olives and feta that are so delicious - we must have them twice a week in August and September. I am getting hungry just thinking about it.

  3. I'm so with you on starting out with good intentions and loosing the endurance come July.

    Fresh tomatoes and strawberries are the best in my opinion!!

    Good luck on your planting and endurance this year! When we moved states, we moved into an apartment. It will be our first year in 9 years that we haven't had a garden/flowerbeds to take care of. I'm a bit sad!

  4. Every year Misterpie decides he's going to grow vegatables, and every year he ends up not tending to them, so last year's were a true disaster. I am hoping that if we can clear out the access to the back yard from the back of the house, we might spend more time out there and remember this year, since that debacle was very discouraging. (Not to mention painful - radishes have some basty barbs!)