Monday, April 30, 2007

Finding the Time to Garden

Being the mother of a three-year-old and a full-time career woman presents one big challenge for the gardener in me. When do I find the time to do any gardening?

Mornings are a blur of activity. Get up, get dressed, make breakfast, take Maja to pre-school and rush off to work. Upon my return home (some nine-and-a-half hours later!) dinner and bedtime stories take priority. Best case scenario, I get out into the garden by 10:30pm.

As a result, I've been forced to adapt. My new best friend and favourite garden tool is my flashlight. Every night, with flashlight in hand, I tour my garden to check on its progress. There's much reaching and squinting to get a better view of the night garden. And there's not much choice but to focus on individual plants rather than the garden as a whole. Inspecting the garden is relaxing as can be. But under the cover of night, I find it even more so.

Tonight, I ventured past looking at the garden with my flashlight to working in the garden with my flashlight.

Thanks to a neighbour's planned construction of a garage, there's a massive, gaping hole in our backyard fence. The area has been closed off with orange construction fencing as a temporary security measure. Now I'm hoping to transform this monstrosity into a wall of blooms.

I dug a trench through the gravel along the length of the construction fencing and planted dozens of sweet peas and morning glories. I sprinkled a light layer of soil over the seeds and then gave them a good soaking with the watering can. The soil here is poor to say the least so I don't know if the climbers will succeed, but the columbines seem to like it so I've got my fingers crossed.

So it seems that finding the time to garden is indeed possible. I just have to make sure my batteries are charged.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Hope Springs Eternal

April tries my patience. After months of grey, dreary and often frigid weather, April teases me. It entices me with warm breezes. It pulls me outside with the first aromas of thawing earth. It washes me in the golden light of mornings and the pink skies of sunset. Then it slams me back into reality with endless days of cold and rain. Sigh.

I have to forgive April its somewhat split personality. The by-product of the push and pull between a stubborn winter and an emerging spring is an abundant supply of hope and anticipation. I feel like my three-year-old daughter before a birthday party. She wonders if there will be cake and presents and balloons. I wonder what surprises the garden will hold.

Will the tulips survive an onslaught of squirrels? How much lemon balm will I have to pull out of the ground? If I start early enough, can I get rid of the rhubarb I dislike so much? Did the foxtail lilies multiply? I planted something right there, but what? I'll just have to wait and see. The anticipation is too much.

There's already a lot to suggest success lies ahead. Several new patches of daffodils and chionodoxa are in bloom. The grape hyacinths, a personal favourite, are poking through the earth to display perfection in miniature. The cranesbill, veronica, and liatris are all reaching for the sun. In typical fashion, the purple coneflowers (which never disappoint) are coming on strong. And it appears my inaugural session of lilac pruning last summer was a success. The buds appear ready to burst.

Now, to exercise some patience. Let the rain and sunshine and earth do their work. April, you tease.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Sunshine in the Deep Dark Shade

Go to the darkest, dingiest, most inhospitable corner of my backyard and you will find the cheeriest of blooms. The spiky petals are an intense yellow. They sit atop thick, fleshy stems that remind me of chicks and hens or even cactus. There's not much to the foliage right now, but as I recall from last year, the leaves are enormous. They hide the dirt and gravel patch at the back of my driveway where nothing will grow, except this mystery plant.

I set out to solve the mystery this week and it wasn't long before I realized this spunky little plant was bad news. A search of the internet using the key words "yellow blooms in deep shade" resulted in almost immediate results. I had a case of Tussilago Farfara.

Perhaps you know it by some of its other names: assfoot, clayweed, dummyweed. Not exactly inspiring. The Canadian Encyclopedia of Gardening lumps it into the dreaded perennial weed category. And almost everything I have read describes it as "invasive" and a threat to native plants.

Just my luck. I really like those sunny, dandelion-like blooms. Surely there must be some redeeming qualities to assfoot!

Turns out there are, but just a few. Tussilago Farfara is a perennial herb (that's much nicer isn't it?). It has been used throughout history to relieve coughs and respiratory problems. Is that enough to trump its invasive status? What to do? Let it grow or yank it. As to be expected, once it has spread its roots, it's tough to get rid of.

On this gloomy, grey, rainy day, Tussilago Farfara gets a reprieve. I won't touch it for now. It can brighten my backyard corner for a little while longer. But at the first signs of an invasion, I'm going to kick some assfoot.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Crazy For Corkscrew

Let's get some quick business out of the way first. With this entry, I am joining the blogging revolution! It's a big step.

You see, I'm slow to try new things. I've lived in the same neighbourhood for 36 years. I rarely use a cell phone, don't like the Blackberry, and my knowledge of computers is limited to checking email or turning the computer on or off. It took my husband years to convince me about the power and convenience of HD television, digital cable and the almighty PVR (thank god I came around). I am currently having panic pangs over our decision to replace our existing boiler and water tank with a newfangled tankless water heater. Never mind that the technology has been around for more than three decades and wildly successful in Europe. It makes me nervous.

I can go on and on. But in short, I don't mix well with new things. I think the old stuff works just fine and I'm slow to accept change. Hence the title of my blog. My Roots Run Deep. My husband might suggest that a better title might be "My Roots Run REALLY Deep."

But there is another reason behind the choice of title. I've heard that in order to be a successful blogger, one must choose a topic one is passionate about. For me, that's easy. My passion is my garden. It ranks right up there with my family, cat, and the cinema.

So there you have it. Let the garden blogging begin. Today's topic: crazy for corkscrew.

Last fall, I decided to let the pros at Pink Flamingo Landscaping help me out with a gorgeous Christmas window display and two fantastic urns. They were jammed with evergreen branches of all sorts. Fruits and berries too. And for height, some red dogwood branches and several corkscrew hazel branches.

I've long been an admirer of the corkscrew hazel. A mature shrub lit just right in winter time evokes memories of childhood fairy tales, magic forests, and witches ready to swoop by on a broom with a flying monkey in tow. It's amazing that even a single twisted, tortured branch can have such a dramatic effect. But alas, I've never had the space and I've always considered them to be pricey plants.

So imagine my surprise when I noticed this week that one of the branches was in leaf. I was cleaning out the urns to prepare for spring and there they were: leaf buds! I was ecstatic. I transplanted the branch into its own pot and left it on the deck right next to the urn. Since it rooted there and produced leaves there, I'm leaving it right there. It receives sun for most of the afternoon. As for water, I'm letting the spring rain take care of things for now.

I don't know if I'll end up with a viable plant but for now it's all very exciting. After work, I rush out onto the deck to see how my little leaves are doing. Crazy for corkscrew, indeed.