Archive for the ‘gardening’ Category

Hubby and I were sorting out the den the other day in our annual Spring/Summer momentary cleaning frenzy. This goes hand in hand with the clean-up the garden and get rid of all the dog poop, plastic bags, weeds and rusty [unused] garden implements frenzy. Or clean out the ponds with all those moldy leaves and dead goldfish that we forgot on the bottom last winter frenzy. Or the remove the canvas gazebo that inverted itself during the first snow-fall and is now three feet tall in the middle and unless you have very small friends will never be used to eat in again frenzy. No frenzy lasts very long and is usually over before the end of the weekend. We don’t belong to the immaculate lawns and gardens brigade – to the disapproval of the neighbors – and would no doubt have weeds the size of tree trunks if we thought we could get away with it and if the council wouldn’t keep snooping around and delivering official looking letters threatening dire results if we don’t repair the eaves troughs, clean up the back-garden, remove the broken lawn furniture and dispose of the old car forthwith. Let’s face it – we’re slobs. We are the sort of neighbours that you don’t want moving in next door to you.


It’s not that we don’t want a nice looking house and yard with sweet smelling roses climbing up the drainpipe – it’s just that there are so many other things we want to do before we go to that great lawn and garden centre – or maybe if we’re unlucky that big compost heap – in the sky. Like learn the guitar, sail up a canal in Venice, spend a summer in New Zealand, go swimming on a beach in Hawaii, read Moby Dick and War and Peace, paint, learn Japanese in Japan, travel through Europe, visit all the malt whiskey distilleries in Scotland, look for the Loch Ness Monster, set up an eBay store, or anything else our little hearts desire – so long as the money holds out and none of it has to do with gardening. Of course money always has to factor in there somewhere but we figure if we wait until the real estate market is just right we can flog the house for far more than we paid for it and take off with the kid’s inheritance. Not that it will amount to much once we’ve bought the enormous RV, the better to tour the continent with.


We could ‘do’ North America first, before we do the distilleries. I always wanted to see the Custer battlefield – silly sod that he was. What did he expect after he had massacred all those innocents? A fruit cake and a silver cup? You couldn’t exactly blame Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull now could you? If *your* family had been slaughtered for no particular reason other than arrogance and idiocy I think you would be a tad peeved and out for a bit of revenge too. I bet that was some sight to see – something like a scene from a David Lean film – a thousand braves on horseback slowly appearing in the haze over the top of the hill waving tomahawks and Enfield Rifles while singing their death songs. Pan to small group of very pissed off troopers who didn’t sign up for this led by old yellow hair, soon to be old no hair. That’s what’s called a ‘bend over and kiss your ass goodbye’ moment.


Another place I would dearly love to see is the Grand Canyon, preferably sans tourist buses. We’ve flown over it a couple of times on our way to Las Vegas, usually at night which makes it rather hard to see. The visit to the Hoover Dam was something of a disappointment. It wasn’t nearly as awe-inspiring as the brochures would have you believe and we didn’t even get to see Charlie’s Angels or James Bond, or Harrison Ford for that matter, plummeting over the edge – not even a lone bungee jumper. All in all a bit of a let-down, so to speak. I’m hoping that the Grand Canyon will be much more thrilling. Although I rather suspect that the tourist trappers will be at it again and there will be ice-cream stands and souvenir stalls every 5 feet all the way to the bottom. No doubt even the donkeys will be adorned with Celine Dion’s face on a saddle-blanket.


I was in Jamaica once, anxious to see Dunn’s River Falls but was put off from two miles away by the sounds of ‘today’s reggae selections’ issuing from the canyon interrupted only for a brief commercial about Conchita Bananas or Planters Peanuts or maybe it was Blue Mountain Gold, which might have been coffee but one could never be sure – not in Jamaica at least, where the bar-tenders, all the waiters and the little boy who lives down the lane will sell you a stash of Marijuana the size of a brick for fifty bucks. The problem with that is you would no doubt be forced to smoke it all before your 4 day holiday expired because you dare not carry it back in your luggage to puritan Canada. Horrors! Canada Customs would have a fit – and possibly so would their pot-detecting sniffer dogs. I did hear of one couple who mailed a brick to themselves. They are probably still languishing in Kingston Pen .


One of those ‘101 Places to See Before You Die” books suggests that in addition to jet-setting around the world and visiting such relics as the Great Wall of China or the Hanging Gardens of Babylon – oops – there I go again thinking of gardening; you could actually do no better than visit your own home town, but this time as an adult. Good idea actually. If I visited Portsmouth as a tourist I could go on boat rides around the harbour, take the ferry to France, have a drink in the Still and West, stroll along the seafront and eat an ice-cream on the pier or winkles from a paper cup. I could take a ride on the Ferris Wheel at Clarence Pier, from the top of which you can see the entire harbour and the dive tower at Hayling Island, or I could ride on one of those open-top buses and marvel at the ornamental clock composed entirely of flowers at the rock gardens along the Ladies Mile, or imagine myself in some bygone era trotting side-saddle on my bay mare down the path beneath the chestnut trees on a lazy Summer afternoon wafted by salt breezes from the sea. Hmm – sod the gardening – where’s my passport. With the money I save on lawn and leaf bags I can buy postcards of the Victory.




Read Full Post »

Spring Fever

Well it’s that time of year again – or at least it is in some places on the Earth, not necessarily here in Southern Ontario where it’s still snowing and looks like it will keep on going until September. I’m talking about Spring – you know, that time of year when flowers pop their heads up and the grass turns green and the birdies start singing and making nests for baby birdies to fall out of and be fodder for the cat and all that life-renewing stuff. It is also the time when the garden is revealed in all it’s awful messy post-Winter glory reminding me that I really have to do something about the awning that collapsed under the first snow fall because we didn’t take it down in time [we never do] and those branches that fell off the neighbour’s tree into the pond during the last wind storm. And the pond, the pond – oh urg! It’s full of brackish slimy black stuff liberally sprinkled with floating rotten leaves because we also forgot to drain it before the temperature plunged to sub-zero and stayed there. There were a couple of large frogs in there last summer – I wonder what became of them? There is a dark mass of some sort embedded in the deepest ice block down near the bottom…


Last Spring we decided to go all ‘Alan Titmarsh’ and clean up the jumbled mess that is attached to the back of our house. In a momentary fit of enthusiasm we put in boxed flower beds. Unfortunately we made them slightly too large and were forced to make four hundred trips to the garden centre to haul back dozens of floppy black bags of soil to fill them with. The pile of stuff with bricks in it that I found down by the fence didn’t seem like a suitable growing medium somehow. After hauling about two hundred bucks worth of bags and still barely covering the bottom of the biggest flower box [I told you they were a tad large] we decided to ramp it up a little and take a trip up to the sand and gravel pit with the old van. We took the seats out, spread tarps all around the floor over the carpet and shoveled in a yard of dirt and manure. Now I don’t know if you know what a yard of dirt looks like but it appears somewhat smaller than it actually is when it’s sitting in a heap on the ground. When it’s shoveled into a Chrysler Caravan it assumes monstrous proportions something akin to the alien predator from all those horror movies of the fifties. It moves and shifts, it writhes and pulsates, it spreads itself into every nook and cranny, it grabs you around the neck, it creeps up the windows, and it stinks. It also shifts every time you go around a corner and washes up against your feet like an incoming tide. Then of course we had to shovel it out again. Suffice it to say that it was one of the hottest summers on record, the temperature soared into the high thirties, and we were shoveling cow poop – for days… I still get flashbacks. The van of course has, shall we say, a lingering ‘earthy’ aroma that refuses to leave despite all efforts, and the springs are shot.


After all that the boxes were still only a third filled so we said bugger it and gave up before we all died of heat stroke and anyway, bountiful mounds of sweet smelling herbs and masses of Pansies and Flocks and Sun-Flowers would soon be overflowing the edges so what did it matter? How much dirt do flowers need anyway? I’ve seen pictures in National Geographic of lichen clinging to bare rocks out in the middle of no-place for God’s sake and looking pretty chipper so surely a few coddled Pansies could manage to survive in four or five inches – well – centimeters – couldn’t they? An aromatic trip up to Canadian Tire yielded stacks of little packets all bearing encouraging photographs of flowers en masse, herbs in abundance and pumpkins in profusion. I looked forward to having the garden of the century, provided the undesirable neighbors at the back stopped flinging empty bottles of Labatt’s Blue and cigarette packets over the fence that is.


Too bad that nothing came up except for a lively patch of weeds that resisted all efforts to dislodge it including being bashed with a spade and dumped on by the dog. Tell me this- how come the weeds could thrive like crazy with no attention and no water and no sun and my Pansies and Flocks and Sunflowers poked their spindly heads up for about a nanosecond before expiring in a shriveled brown lump? Hmm – sun – could it be that building the flower boxes under the shadiest tree in the darkest corner of the garden overshadowed by the highest section of the fence had something to do with it?

Read Full Post »