Friday, December 30, 2011

A Year in a Northern Garden

For love, for love, we toil.  

Our gardens are a curious mix of labour and art. And let's not forget the dreaming. It all starts with the dreaming. While our gardening styles may differ wildly, as do the conditions under which we toil, we are all creatures consumed by imagination. I like that. That is our art. The labour is our act of creation.

Looking back over the past year, it's interesting to see just how our gardens grew. And grow they did. You probably worked harder than you realized even if you didn't work as hard as you planned. Did your heart break just a little bit now and then? Were you thrilled and surprised on occasion? Good.

Inspired by Laurrie's month by month look back at her tumultuous year in the garden, I decided to reflect on my own garden by the season.

Like much of this continent, at least, it was a strange year for weather. Our spring arrived very late, and when it did it was wet. We really needed the moisture but it pushed back the arrivals so far that spring and summer stumbled over each other in the mud. I suffered a few losses over the winter but nothing calamitous. My double flowering plum (Prunus triloba ‘Multiplex’) had its best year ever. Our tree, Goldrush Amur Cherry (Prunus maackii ‘Jefree’), planted the fall before, came through with flying colours and dazzled us with its copper bark, fluffy white pom-poms and elegant shape. Spring was a time of waiting for us, for we had plans...

The wet spring led to a wet summer and pushed our plans back to July. But the big day finally happened, the planting of the bones of our back garden. After three years of taking out the gravel, scraping away eight inches of clay, bringing in topsoil, removing stumps and grinding out an old gnarly hedge, removing dead trees, building a fence, adding sod and doing the hardscaping we finally (!) got to the fun part, the plants! We put in more trees, shrubs (assorted roses, hydrangeas, spireas, ninebarks, mock oranges and yews, among others) and the key perennials (hostas, rose daphne, daylilies, heucheras, ferns, lamiums, bugbane and more). The garden looks much fuller, but there are miles to go before I sleep. :) I had hoped to put in more perennials nearer the end of summer (and then bulbs!), and maybe even tackle other areas of the property but I ran out of time and steam. *sigh* But that's why we get back to it the next year, right?

When we returned from holidays in late August the sun had found us and the garden was glorious, just in time for autumn...

Our autumn was absolutely gorgeous. AND it lasted. The garden, and the woods, had an opportunity to develop stunning colour. My hydrangeas were the stars in the back as their great dancing blooms turned rosy and carried the day. In the front potted mums and a collection of pumpkins provided the intense colour this season calls for.

The light was a rich, golden honey and the days felt luminous. Halloween came in trailing the last vestiges of gold and red, then November settled in with sombre greys and bark browns. The walking weather remained and I started to incorporate some running into my walking routine. Much to my surprise I've kept it up. The sun began to retreat south, reluctantly sending us slanting rays, as an afterthought, really, and soon our mornings and evenings darkened and Christmas lights went up on the houses. Winter was coming...

December is a very dark month here. Unless I get outside at noon hour, I don't see daylight during the work week. Right now, we get just over seven hours of daylight each day. This contrasts with the summer solstice where we get 17 hours. The mild weather continues and there is only the lightest dusting of snow. I'm enjoying the shapes of my newly full garden. I've filled the front pots with festive greenery and branches. The dry weather has meant lots of clear nights, providing the opportunity to enjoy the first hours of the lunar eclipse. Deer and rabbits are happy. Christmas was the best yet. My young son was over the moon. My favourite gift? The necklace on the right side of the mosaic. The charms are based on old wax seal patterns. I love the one with the tree. My husband knows me well.

And now we close the year. I hope you weathered the storms (or droughts!) and found beauty in your creations. The seed catalogues are arriving and gardeners dreams are stirring. I am thinking perennials and what I want to see happen in other areas of the garden. Scary as it may be, I am even thinking of changing some of the garden we have created in the last three years (Don't tell my husband!). :)

As you dream, I wish you all the best in the New Year for your gardens, and for you. Gardeners are full of hope, that is implicit in the act of planting. And you know, hopeful people create the future. I like that too.

"A garden is never so good as it will be next year." ~ Thomas Cooper

Welcome to 2012!

Monday, December 19, 2011

I wasn't expecting it to be so much fun

Hello! Yes, the garden is quiet here in the GWN, but life is bustling as we get ready for the festive season. After a hectic autumn at work (new assignment, new colleagues, lots of travel), I finally skidded in to the holidays. And I am soooo happy to be here!

I thought I might be frazzled and stressed, but somehow I'm not. I could feel the stress creeping in during the last week of work (so much to do!), but midweek I snuck away to a noon hour concert with friends at a church near my office. It was just the antidote I needed. The next day I went to the pool and worked out until I was spent. After that, I slept through the night and have since.

My son is four this year and his joy has certainly rubbed off on me. Is there anything more exciting than anticipating Santa's arrival? Reading Christmas books, putting up the lights in the trees out front, and, for the first time, making a gingerbread house. (Bits and bobs of it are "disappearing" but I'm good with that):)

I also picked up a cute creche to start explaining the story of Baby Jesus' birthday. (Last year he thought it was Baby Cheeses and was relating it to the little red Babybel cheeses in the refrigerator). I put the creche beside the gingerbread house and then felt guilty to have the Baby Jesus housed outside such 'opulence'. Hmm, perhaps I need to lay up an offering of chocolate coins to explain the gifts of the wisemen. On the other hand, I may be overthinking this. ;)

On the weekend we went to the tree lot and our little guy picked out our Christmas tree. I think he charmed all the retired gents volunteering there as he ran from tree to tree exclaiming how beautiful they were. We finally settled on a Grand Fir. I have never had one before, the flat needles are a bit curly and the branches are very dense. It looks kind of wild and both exotic and traditional at the same time. Oh, and it smells divine. I love it.

I'm afraid we got a little carried away with the decorating and even tackled the dining room chandelier. It feels very festive so I think it will be a new family tradition. Why not, hey?

I found the box of ornaments my mom gave me when I moved away for university. It contains my childhood ornaments including favourites, ones I made, the plastic one with my name on it in black marker (written by my dad in his beautiful handwriting) that I took to school for the classroom tree, and some that I think belonged to my mom from her mom. Every year, when I see these, I fall in love with Christmas all over again. There were a few years after my mom died that I couldn't open this box, but now I can and am glad to have them.

I recently bought this St. George ornament. Maybe not your typical ornament, but it makes me think of my English gran who was such a big part of my Christmas's as a child. It's for her that I set the plum pudding on fire each year. She understood a little pomp and circumstance go a long way to making rituals into family memories.

And, finally, we spent Sunday afternoon decorating the tree. My little guy danced around with joy. I've decided I absolutely must have more bird ornaments. There is a small flock fluttering around the star now but I really need more. Now that the tree is done, it really feels like the Christmas season has officially arrived.

Still a bit of shopping to do, my son's preschool Christmas concert (can't wait!), family events and parties with friends ahead, as well as some quiet family time. I hope to get out for a few walks in the woods, read some books, visit some of your blogs (!) and listen to some beautiful music. We may even sneak away for an afternoon movie matinee now and again. I want to get to the Muttart Conservatory to see the Snow Queen display and to a garden centre or two to enjoy the Christmas displays. Mostly, I just want to enjoy loving being with the loves of my life.

Here is our favourite Christmas song this year. My son won't let me sing it in the car because he likes it too much ("Mommy, please, please, let it sing by itself!"). He calls it "Ark the Herald Angels Sing." :)

All the best to you and your families for the holiday season. I hope love and joy find their way to your door -- or down your chimney! ;) xo

Merry Christmas!!

Ms. S