Tuesday, August 2, 2011

EOMV - July (with apologies for the disappearance of June)

Determined to return to Artgarden following an abrupt and unplanned leave of absence last month, I needed to retreat and engage in some genuine soul searching.  The nagging question "why bother" had reared its ugly head,  combined with a multitude of stressful events, and the wretched though inevitable realisation that Alzheimers and schizophrenia are slowly stealing away my much loved family.  A nasty bout of depression appeared to have replaced my usual resilient and patient self, resulting in a very tired, discouraged, and frustrated wife/daughter/mother/caregiver.  Although the term "burnout" is usually associated with this condition, I discovered a rather more appropriate description while browsing through twitter the other day; so much better to relate the whole miserable experience to something in the garden after all - and I can honestly say at this point that I feel pretty much composted (which may not be so bad really...!) 

The Bonica roses in the front border never got pruned back earlier in the year.  As a result, they are now blooming all over the place and have pretty much taken over - something of a metaphor for other uncontrollable events taking place right now.  I can't bring myself to cut them right back, as the flowers are so lovely; instead, I'm gradually getting the job done while preserving as many of the beautiful blooms as possible.

The roses aren't the only things growing rampantly.  The sweet peas (mammoth blend) are over 8 feet tall and completely cover their metal frames.  We have picked armloads for indoors where their gorgeous and evocative scent provides a welcome reminder of summer.  My grandmother used to grow sweet peas too, so they are something of a family tradition.

The front border is at its summer finest right now, with sensation cosmos, nigella, and a pink rambling rose (unknown cultivar) providing the cottage garden look I had hoped for.

This is the first year I've grown nigella, and I will certainly repeat it.  Lovely blue flowers nestled in lacy foliage provide a light airy splash of colour.

Detail of the sensation cosmos.  This year, I have tried to grow  all our flowers and veggies from seed.  Strangely enough, I could not find any seed for the sonata variety of cosmos (which I usually grow) which is why there are none to be found in the garden!  Lots of sonata plants in the local garden centres, but no seed...  Not to worry, I have sonata and sensation cosmos seed for next year thanks to the dilligence of a fellow gardening buddy - and will definitely be growing these wonderful summer flowers again.

As you may have guessed, my favourite colour in the garden is blue which includes all the purple, lilac, and true blue hues.  This close up of  our sweet peas hilights the gorgeous delicate blooms in a lovely soft shade of lilac.
Although I have mostly featured flowers on EOMV, my husband and I are enthusiastic allotment gardeners too.  This year, we have about 12 different varieties of tomatoes (all grown from seed).  The poor weather earlier in the year has affected the quantity of fruit and harvest dates - but we are now enjoying the small and cherry tomatoes.  Favourites so far:  tumbler and gardener's delight.

This clematis surprised us all by growing vigorously through the trellis, around a bristlecone pine, over the fence, and into the neighbour's garden!  Lovely big purple flowers.  Good to know that something enjoys the water-logged boggy corner of our garden...

These lovely snapdragons are another summer favourite.  These lemon yellow ones are found in planters located around the house.  They are biennials of course, and well worth the wait.
This is our "planter bench".  The seat itself needs some repair, but is a perfect location for my two "rescued" hanging baskets, purchased for next to nothing as they were both bone dry and the plants virtually dead.  A little tlc, lots of water, and some slow release fertilizer have worked wonders, and I'm delighted with the combination of  red geraniums and white bacopa (yeah, I know I broke the "seeds only" rule but the price of the baskets was just too good to pass up). 

I'm gardening again, and trying to stay mindful of my own stress levels.  Self-care for me has to involve time spent working in the garden - that's clear.  I'm also learning to adapt and delegate.  We take advantage of several community programs to assist in the caregiving puzzle, and a brief hospital stay has also stabilized things.   Our family is evolving, and part of the challenge involves staying ahead of the changes.  Artgarden is all around us - offering peace, reflection, and serenity.  How could I not "bother" with it.  Artgarden provides nature, unspoilled woodland, safety, memories, beautiful flowers, a koi pond, home-grown veggies, and a place to be together.  One day at a time...

Thursday, June 2, 2011

EOMV - May (just a little late)

May has not been kind to Artgarden.  Cool temperatures, constant rainfall, and the absence of the chief gardener and her boss (rumoured to be having a glorious time in the sunny Mediterranean) have all taken their toll.  While the men of the house did a fabulous job looking after everything - it would appear that the garden itself has become quite overgrown.  Vegetation is everywhere, all over the place, taking over, and in danger of overwhelming anything in its path.  Indeed, the woodland garden feels very crowded and disorderly - spoiling the usually peaceful relaxing atmosphere. 

Things do not get any better indoors.  Rows of veggies are lined up on window sills like soldiers - growing leggy as we wait impatiently for warmer temperatures so they can be planted outdoors.

Things have become even more desperate in the kitchen where entire windows have been obscured by ripening tomatoes and butternut squash!

In an attempt to "manage" my kitchen jungle with less than hospitable outdoor temperatures - we have had to resort to some unusual measures - including the ghastly (though effective) kosy coats pictured below.  The red colour is supposed to aid in the growth and ripening of tomatoes and other heat-loving plants.  We also invested in "tomato craters" which are bright red, and operate on a similar principle.  While, plastic gimmicks such as these do little for the aesthetics of the garden - we are running out of time (and space!) indoors - and I'm willing to try almost anything until we can afford a proper greenhouse.

Our raised bed however, is a huge succcess - filled with five varieties of radish, carrots, spring onions, etc.  The marigolds are supposed to be good companion plantings.  The raised bed is my answer to easy cultivation for anyone with bad knees and hips - which includes me and my Mum.

To say that we have had our share of rain, is something of an understatement.  Unfortunately, this soggy situation has contributed to the death (and subsequent removal) of a mature yew, as well as the dreadful demise of this fully-grown pieris (pictured below).  All the plants in this border are suffering - and sadly, there is not too much we can do about it (circumstances beyond our control due to new development in the building lot next to ours which has substantially altered the grade of the land).  I am having to completely re-think our options in this shady bog land that is now taking over this part of the garden.  Ah, the never-ending challenges of gardening in Canada!

One minute this pieris was in bloom - now this.

There are some bright spots too - including this beautiful rhododendron in bloom...

 pretty little blue flowers add their delicate presence - myosotis are everywhere.

This ocean of hypericum is not what I had in mind for the woodland garden!  Lots of digging to do here, as we replace it with something that fits in a little better...still trying to decide what that will be.
This view of the woodland border surrounding the pond is showing promise, as the plantings slowly recover from the construction that took place last year.  Thanks to Jesse James for his EOMV debut!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Gardens & Countryside - Hampshire in May

Our holiday began simply enough for me and my Mum - a few days in Hampshire to fully recover from the nine hour plus flight to the U.K. and resulting eight hour time difference, and the chance to visit with dear friends and family.  Of course, I was not going to pass up the opportunity to observe and photograph the many gorgeous gardens and countryside that can be found throughout this lovely part of the world.  I adore cottage gardens - set amidst thatched cottages and idyllic villages - there were plenty to choose from...

 ...but first we had to get there.  I won't go into details regarding our first rental car, but needless to say - we had quite an extraordinary and exciting time, especially when the side mirror and an extremely large piece of metal scafolding  chose to fight it out in the tunnel leading to terminal one at LHR.  The car rental company staff appeared a little sceptical when I explained that their sat nav had sent us down the bike lane ('tis true!) but fortunately they were able to provide rental car number two, and thanks to my premonitions of doom (and tons of extra insurance) no harm was incurred - either financially or bodily...  Things did not get any better with the sat nav after this - as it appeared that someone had programmed it to avoid all traffic whenever possible!  We toured many lovely villages that afternoon in the surrounding counties - but I began to despair of ever arriving at our destination.
Finally in a fit of frustration, I turned off the unhelpful Tom Tom - and armed with "your guide to a smooth journey" and some excellent directions from passers-by, we arrived at our B & B.  These photos are all taken in and around the villages of Selborne and Upper Neatham near Holybourne. 

Simply amazing countryside, and gorgeous gardens greeted us at every turn.  I especially loved the weathered fences, wrought- iron gates, and stone walls which provide the perfect backdrop to the tidy yet prolific folliage and flowers which appear squeezed into every corner. 
Thanks to the extremely warm, dry spring experienced in the U.K. this year - early summer flowers were out en-masse.  We were also fortunate to have excellent weather during our stay (just one short but fierce thunder shower) which meant that Mum and I could relax outdoors and truly appreciate the beauty around us.

Splashes of red and yellow mixed with the soft tones of lilac, blue and violet were some of my favourites.  Cool whites contasted with shades of green.

Woodland paths tempted us to follow their lead - we were careful to watch out for the stinging nettles!
Blue flowers, lush green lawns and weathered fences are in plain sight, as well as stone walls with locked doors leading to secret gardens beyond...  So much to see and discover in such a short passage of time.

This wall hides Gilbert White's house and garden.

Possibly my favourite cottage flower if I had to choose...

Another gorgeous thatched cottage with pleached limes.

The river Wey in Upper Neatham offers a tranquil setting for both humans and wildlife.

This view of the Hanger in Selborne is so gentle and peaceful - the perfect antidote to our rather stressful arrival.  Following a perfect few days of rest, recuperation, including excellent company combined with local pub food and drink - Mum and I set off on the next leg of our journey - armed with a copy of the fully revised and updated "Trucker's Atlas of Britain!"

Monday, May 2, 2011

End of month view - April

This month's post should be called "the garden awakens".  Finally, after months of unseasonably cold, wet, windy and downright miserable weather, we have been treated to some warm days of spring sunshine.  The garden has responded - and it is as though everything is bursting into bud, blossom, and flower.  The last of the early spring bulbs are putting on a show, and the late spring shrubs and flowers are ready to burst!

Although the early flowering plums and cherry trees have gone over - there are still more showing off their lovely blossom.  Our 4 in 1 grafted cherry tree (ranier, bing, lapin, and one other that I can't remember) is loaded with delicate white blossom.

Tiny saxifrage flowers line the gravel pathway

 ...and the rhododendron is ready to bloom any day now.

Huge buds on the grapevine signal the beginning of its annual growth spurt.

Forget-me-nots (myosotis) basking under the brick in the sunny front border, have produced their sweet blue flowers.  These escaped my transplanting aspirations, and appear to have grown extra tall to compensate!

These fancy double narcissus are some of the bulbs remaining in bloom throughout the garden.

Flowers in many shades of blue and lilac blue (my favourite!) can be found in the garden at this time of year.
The new growth on the native ferns unfurls in fascinating curly fronds.

I found a checkered lily (fritillaria) growing happily in the border with the roses.

The pond goldfish and koi are swimming up to the surface, hungry and ready to be fed.

Not too many views of the front border this time around.  Little has changed other than the daffodils beginning to die back, and lots of new growth on the roses.  The rather chilly (and a bit mildewed) cosmos can be seen in the back, and the newy transplanted nigella in the front.  I had no choice but to plant them out very early on thanks to the need to make more space indoors for even more tender seedlings than these.  The green loopy plant supports are to prevent the cats from taking a short-cut through the fragile young plants - and will be removed shortly!

More lovely blue - this time one of many scilla scattered in the woodland.

Finally, a view of the erythronium self-seeded in the woodland garden - demonstrating once again that nature is the finest garden designer in these parts. 

This is the view of the garden that I will carry with me for the next few weeks as I venture out with my mother for a little vacation - the chance to re-connect with family & friends, see new sights (hopefully some gardens too!), and experience a world away from ours.  I leave Artgarden in the trusty hands of our other family members, and I will be interested and excited to see how much everything has grown when we return.