Monday, August 31, 2009

The Final Flush

I bought this Thérèse Bugnet rose on Father's Day when I was supposed to be shopping for a rose for my Dad. It had finished blooming then and apparently bloomed a bit while I was on holiday but I hadn't seen much activity from it.

I think it must have wanted to reassure me as it sent up a few blooms last week to let me know what next summer might look like.

Okay, you have my attention, Thérèse. You are rather sweet (and love winter, I hear)

This hybrid rugosa rose was bred right here in Alberta just north of Edmonton in the town of Legal in 1950 (after 25 yrs of breeding) by Georges Bugnet.

It is hardy to zone 2A (Canada) and is supposed to have great fall foliage colour. It grows to a height of five feet and has a spread of four feet.

He named it for his daughter. Isn't that lovely?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Carpet & Stairs

Some of you have been out in your gardens and elsewhere capturing the changes Mother Nature is bringing as we approach the turn of the season.

So I thought I would share with you some of the changes I have observed in my much loved ravine. I go for walks there just about every weekend morning and often bring my camera or binoculars (or both!).

You saw the woodpeckers I observed in the back lane as I headed out last weekend. (I have to go out the back because I must go through my garden first - you understand!) Well, once I leave the back lane it is only a few minutes until I am down into the ravine. This area of the wooded ravine is a natural preserve here in Edmonton. That means there is interpretive signage, occasionally university students doing research (with areas marked with signs on trees and fenced off with temporary fencing), no bicycles and lovely, well-kept trails. I can't help but be happy when I go on this walk. I will often find myself humming or singing a little bit. (No, I don't wear an iPod as I don't want to miss any of the sounds of nature around me.) It's a great way to start my day.

Here are some images of the floor of the ravine at this time of year. In some areas the forest floor just glows in the morning light with a lacy green dappled light. I wish I could capture the beautiful light in there in the mornings, but maybe you will get a sense of it.

(click to enlarge)

Mother Nature has a rather good sense of colour and form, don't you think?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Three Amigos

I was very excited to spot these three woodpeckers in the lane just behind my house early morning last weekend as I headed out for a walk. I managed to get this not-so-great photo of them before they started going their separate ways. My book, Birds of Alberta, tells me they are Pileated Woodpeckers.

(click to enlarge)

The book says they have a "maniacal call". Geez, I thought that sound was the teenage boys across the lane.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Two Blue Sisters

“Blue colour is everlastingly appointed by the Deity to be a source of delight” ~ John Ruskin

The last of my neighbour's delphiniums in the back lane. They deserve their moment, don't you think?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Prairie Oasis

To close out my little holiday, I wanted to show you the stop we made on the way home from our trip to Winnipeg.

It was in the lovely city of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. This city is really one of Canada’s hidden gems. Tucked down in prairie valley along the North Saskatchewan River, it is a verdant and luxuriously green oasis of tall trees, funky restaurants and lovely old buildings. I hadn’t been there since 1993 and this time it was even better.

We arrived late evening at the downtown Sheraton Cavalier after having slowed to a crawl on the highway as we drove through a prairie rainstorm, complete with great cracks of lightening.

Dirty, sticky and matted with muffin crumbs, we pried ourselves out of the babymobile. I mumbled to my husband that I couldn’t believe he chose such a nice hotel for such a short stay and that, really, we should have stayed at one of the motor inns out on the highway like the rest of the family travellers whose vehicles were packed with blankets, coolers and toys. As we rolled the luggage trolley into the lobby I continued to mutter something dark about looking like the Beverly Hillbillies (with no Ellie-May to be found!).

First, the sight of the king-sized bed and lovely, fluffy bedding soothed me. Then we had our showers and our little guy splish-splashed in the bath. And then we slept. During the night it rained a steady rain outside onto the elm trees and river.

The next morning the clouds broke a little and slants of morning sun sparkled intermittently everywhere. We had a fabulous breakfast in the hotel restaurant looking out over the river green. The excellent food restored my soul and the gracious service made me feel civilized again. Hubby was right. It was worth it.

He and our little guy soon made for the pool and waterpark in the hotel while I grabbed the camera and a takeout coffee from the lobby Starbucks and made my way down to the river. I needed to walk before getting back on the road.

The city has pots of flowers out everywhere. They even had a cute little van with flowers painted on it that the city workers drive around maintaining the pots.

The local businesses and churches joined in with the flowerpots.

The hotel next door to ours, the Delta Bessborough, was an old Canadian National Railway hotel that has been restored.

Now, I do have a soft spot for nice architectural details.

And artisanal touches.

While I only had about 90 minutes for my stroll, I was again struck by how this pretty and artsy city manages to continue to fly under the radar. Perhaps now that Saskatchewan’s economy is getting some attention, heads may turn in its direction.

I checked its tourism site and the tagline for the city is, “Saskatoon Shines!” However, I think it’s rather charming even on its moodier days.

So, if you are looking for a place to restore your spirit on a long journey across country, Saskatoon may be just the oasis you are seeking.

Don’t you love it when travelling and your expectations are exceeded?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

A Charmed Afternoon in a Garden

During my very brief three days in Winnipeg visiting Hubby’s family, I did manage to spend my last afternoon with my dearest friend from our university days. We met in English Lit on the first day of classes and remained fast friends ever since.

We dressed up a little and went for lunch at the fabulous Terrace Fifty Five Restaurant in the Pavilion at the gorgeous Assiniboine Park, a huge urban park along the river that also houses gardens, a conservatory, an art gallery, two fine restaurants, a zoo, a forest, sports fields, a duck pond, and walking and biking paths.

(photo courtesy of Wikipedia commons)

Our restaurant was at the back of Pavilion and was in the style of a large glass conservatory that looked out over the grounds of the park. For lunch I had a lobster and shrimp roll with salad and for dessert we shared a trio of tiny crème brulees: a lavender one, a chevre (goat cheese!) flavoured one and a pistachio one. The lavender was my very favourite!

It was wonderful to have some one on one time with my friend. It is especially nice that she is in Winnipeg now. It is a truly romantic ending to a beautiful story. (Short story: a friend of Hubby’s at our wedding fell for my beautiful bridesmaid and wooed her across country until eventually she moved to Winnipeg and they married! – I love it when that happens!)

Okay, back to our afternoon in the garden. We finished lunch and popped upstairs to the gallery to visit this little guy. Look familiar? Yes, Winnie-the-Pooh is named after the City of Winnipeg and the story is rather lovely.

Then we wandered down to the English Garden where I took some pictures of those things that were unique to this beautiful site.

This fellow originally presided over the Canadian Pacific Railway’s Royal Alexandra Hotel and now has found a cosy corner of the garden to live out his retirement.

He is made of Tyndall Stone, a limestone from Manitoba used in many important historical buildings including Canada's Parliament Buildings. Personally, I find looking at Tyndall Stone is like looking at an “I Spy” book, soon enough you will spot a skeleton of a long-extinct marine animal (yes, those squiggley lines are the trails of things that once moved around)

From the English Garden we wandered the paths over to the stunning Leo Mol Sculpture Garden. This garden features bronze works from the incredibly talented artist Leo Mol, who sadly passed away at the age of 94 last month. Now, I have to tell you – I am a bronze fanatic.

I love bronze. I love the patina, the texture of it, I love how it ages, but most of all, I love how it feels. It seems to actually warm up under my hand when I am touching a sculpture. It must be because bronze is a good conductor of heat, but the effect really makes this a ‘living’ metal for me – fantastic for recreating the sense of a living being.

It’s obvious that Leo Mol understood his medium well. His sculptures thrum with life.

Of course, there is nothing like adding water to reflect all that beauty around to create a restful and rejuvenating garden experience. The ponds in this garden are stunning. There is a large wooden pagoda at one end of a pond where my friend and I sat and talked and talked and watched grandmothers and babies get their picture taken in front of the water.

Ahhhhh, now, is there anything quite like a beautiful afternoon in a garden with an old friend?

Hope your summer holidays create some new happy memories!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Prairies through Glass

We are back from our holiday. We spent a crazy four days driving and three days visiting. The ratio is all wrong, I know. We had initially planned to fly, but because we had to bring some extra stuff we decided to do a road trip. A test run, if you will, for future vacations with the wee one to spots such as our very favourite hidey spot, the enchanting Waterton Lakes.

So we drove across the prairies from Edmonton to Winnipeg (approximately 840 miles or 1350 km each way). We took the “old way” there on the Yellowhead Hwy and I must say, there was very little traffic between Saskatoon and Yorkton. I realized that this must be one of the ‘black areas’ at night that we fly over. At ground level, however, it was verdant, rolling, lush and a summer paradise for ducks and other waterfowl.

The prairie provinces of Canada (Alberta, Saskatchewan & Manitoba) are vast. People cluster together in cities that shine at night like oases in the desert. The rest of the land is farmland with boreal forest and muskeg in the northerly areas and some desert to the south. For the most part the land undulates and tilts in wide curves where the rivers run through it.

On the way back we took the TransCanada Hwy, a divided highway that took us from Winnipeg to Regina and up to Saskatoon. The landscape was much drier than the old way to the north. We all learned the words to “I’ve been working on the railroad” as somehow it became my toddler’s favourite song.

I grew up hearing that the prairies were the world’s bread basket and that fields of wheat swayed under the sun. I think that might be changing. The dominant crop that I saw along the roadsides was Canola, used for making vegetable oil.

The other crop I saw, a new one to me, was Flax. I don’t think it was in full bloom yet as it appeared between the windbreaks as a moody flush of blue scattered on top of ever-dancing fields. I was mesmerized by it.

While we were away I did manage to squeeze in a little sightseeing, so next up I will share with you a few pictures of a very special garden I enjoyed one beautiful afternoon with one of my dearest friends from back in my university days.

In the meantime, I am very happy to be back to my own home and garden (even though the weeds settled in nicely while I was gone!)