Sunday, July 10, 2016

Blessed Rain and Garden Update

The last weeks of June and the beginning of July brought some pretty scorching temps here in Nova Scotia. "No outside fires" banned across the province which was a shame (but necessary) as we do enjoy our little back yard firepit. At the end of a day, especially if we've been tidying up in the garden, we burn debris and reward ourselves with a glass of wine or whatever. You can just see the flames off to the left above, the garden lush after the downpours.  Refreshed with mushroom compost, cutting a good 'edge', the beds look smart this time of year.

Finally, the roof on the Summerhouse shed is finished and although a big job removing the old windows we are pleased. You can compare with the last blog post in which the shed looks very broken. Thanks to our neighbour Quentin for helping out!

So what's growing in our Nova Scotia zone 6 garden right now? Had my fill of lettuce and salad greens..enough so that most are pulled out and composting. No guilt, no guilt, no guilt :( But the peas have come on strong and one variety in particular is prolific. Golden Sweet Pea is not only beautiful and glowing, the see-through pods are buttery, and delicious. They are my favourite ever ever ever! Dill and garlic scapes and a few green peas add to the bowl.
The blooms of the Golden Sweet Peas (seeds available at Baker Creek or Johnny's seeds) are a bi-color pink and purple fading to blue when finishing.  Awesome!
If we want a side of salad greens right now, we use the thinnings of baby beets, baby leaves of chard, the inside new leaves of kale, tiny garlic scapes just forming, tiny flowers off the Egyptian Walking Onions, (above mentioned peas) any and all herbs that would enhance the side, served (we like) with a stronger dressing as you would on a Caesar salad.

There is a carrot we tried this year called Nelson, an F1 from Johnny's Seeds in Maine and it too, has been prolific and tasty. Not as sweet as some, I will admit, but a great success, and carrots can be so fussy I find.
No strawberries this year sadly, as the bed was five years old and so not really producing. Next year perhaps, a bed devoted entirely to berries and I will cover them like a grown up gardener would do so the chipmunks and squirrels don't get them first. But, that means finding the plants for sale now.  Red currant bushes are loaded and they will satisfy almost as nicely but it isn't the same, you know. We have four shrubs of red currant, planted way back. Oh gosh, I can't believe it was sixteen years ago. Have we lived here on the south shore of Nova Scotia that long!! Apparently so as I just asked the Captain and he says seventeen years ago.

And that leads me to admit, we took out the lilac bed and yes, we will forever mourn grubbing out 'Beauty of Moscow' the lilac we loved the most. Sadly, the forest grew a lot taller in seventeen years than anticipated and the whole planting had become sad..just sad, tired, leggy and shady. It is surprising how beautiful the burning roots and branches smelled last night. Made me even sadder though.

This spring and summer was especially more difficult regarding weeds unwanted seeds. For the first time in a few years there was very little compost to spread on the beds to freshen them early on when the weather turned warm. So, I bought some, but too late realized that lovely bucket of compost had been left uncovered from the year before and OMG, the unwanted seeds that sprouted. I guess I can be thankful there were no invasives in there, and hopefully only annual unwanted seeds but I guess time will tell. Let that be a hard lesson learned because I tell you there is nothing sneakier than a clump of couch grass hiding in a bed of carrot fronds.

The rain continues thankfully but please don't let the tomatoes get blight, please don't! I can live without lettuce greens, carrots, peas and more, but I can't live without tomatoes.

Monday, May 30, 2016


It was only a matter of time before the roof windows in the summerhouse started to fail. First, they leaked just a little bit. Then, gradually the drip drip got worse and worse, and then...last winter a heavy branch fell smashing one pane to bits. Up until then, I had thought the glass was industrial and would shatter if broken. So it was quite a shock to see the shards of glass one morning, on the floor, absolutely everywhere. And so, their days, from that point on, were numbered.
"Sunny for three days and no rain" the forecast said. Do you know, I think the meteorologists take the weekend off because until it starts to rain, the forecast doesn't change. This wet surprize, of course, delayed everything! Quickly, plywood was nailed over the openings and a tarp over that. How I will miss those sunny bright days, looking up at the sky when potting or puttering. Doesn't it look dark inside. Maybe when the new tongue in groove is put in place and painted white....
But heh, the greens and the garden are in utter heaven! However, I didn't pay attention to my own mantra..grow only what you can eat and share. Even the succession plantings are catching up to the first plantings.  Arugula has been composted twice now because of wanting to go to seed. Thinning little Tom Thumb lettuce has helped to allow their sweet lime green heads to form and I must admit, this is my favourite lettuce. A butterhead with a nice crunch, perfect with a creamy dressing. This lot needs a little more thinning heh!
Another spectacular lettuce this year was Red Deer Tongue. It remains green at the bottom when it is intensely planted but if transplanted out properly, with space between the heads, the intensity of the red is incredible. This also makes a great ornamental.
"Lighten up, enjoy the garden and make time to relax" I tell myself. Almost June when the fairies and Gnomes arrive. For some fun, especially if you have children visit, why not plant up an old wheelbarrow, perhaps something safer than this old rusty thing. We tucked in a nasturtium, and a sign that says "Welcome to the Great Outdoors" and wouldn't you know it, a little gnome showed up just last night!! He wouldn't let me take his picture but you can just see his tiny Green hat if you look closely. Maybe he thought it was Heligan in Cornwall but no I said, there are three white spheres there, don't you know. ;-)

Oh..the rain stopped! Time to pick some supper greens..and reds. Thanks for reading.

Monday, May 9, 2016

May Gifts

Continuing with the theme of giving, and gratefulness....a man with the kindest eyes came to visit on Tuesday. We met only once before, two years ago, after he contacted me about my quince posts here on blog. Realizing he lived nearby, an invite to visit his orchard was offered; the highlight for me was to visit his quince tree!
"Would you like a quince tree I grafted" he emailed not long ago...and also, by the way, "a small Chicago Fig". Quince trees are not readily available in the nurseries near where I live, so you can imagine my delight.. utter joy upon receiving two gifts of promise. May I introduce to you dear reader, the newly grafted and newly planted Portugal quince. Ta DA
It actually had two enormous blooms when delivered but these we removed. How I hope and pray it thrives. (clear direction has been offered on making this possible) At present, because we could still have a cold night, or a visiting nibbler, there is a steel cage around it and around that we place fleece. Will there be roasted quince in my future? I hope so!
As for the's getting the in and out treatment, and will for a week or longer, until I am convinced it won't drop its leaves in the cold. But as a new fig mother, this is a learning experience. Chicago Fig, welcome to your new Canadian home.
Swollen buds are everywhere, anxious to feel the warm spring sun and rain. An Eastern Redbud species waits to be planted. Three new challenges for an old gardener like myself, wanting to TRY rather than not try.
The handsome Chestnut 'Briotii' is also about to unfurl it's leaves. Later, its red candles will glow.

"Better than Vegas" I say!!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Find Your Joy

Spring came to Nova Scotia in one big blowing swoop. Warm windy day after warmish cool day, the weather held.  Here on the South Shore, it nursed the bare ground awake, encouraged blossoms to open, charmed the heart and mind, restored the soul. Although Witch Hazel 'Diane' has been the first star to shine the past few years, it was the native Nova Scotia Daphne that truly stole the show. You only see it in retail nursery shops on occasion and often, expensive but mine was a humbling gift, a multibranched fist of sticks from someone who knew the value of what she was offering. I did not! So every spring, I bless my dear Ms. Vicki, breathe in the deep purple pink Daphne's, sweet modest scent and thank God there are good, dear, kind and thoughtful people in my life. Because, you know, we can sometimes forget their blessings on us and how even if they are far away now, or not with us anymore, the gifts they gave make the difference in a life full of moments.
The bees were captivated and equally grateful to find the blooms. Oh to hear that buzz again after so long. A sound you miss, but don't realize until you hear it again.

Four years ago I was offered another stick...a single rooted branch of something called a Cornus Mas "yours for only five dollars" sold as a fund raiser. Thanks to Ms. Niki this amazing stick has grown into a five foot tree in so short a time, even the giver was amazed. Not only is Cornus Mas covered in deep yellow spring flowers, they will turn into dark red fruit which, if the birds are kind, I will get to try later in the year. If the rabbits stay away from the bark, which they can't seem to do regarding the Witch Hazel... this tree should grow into a beauty.
Then, there is the gift to myself, from the garden. Branches of the Quince Japonica, that tried and true early blooming shrub of all farm houses and quaint gardens are cut and blooming ahead of time, in the kitchen. Our well water must contain something that keeps the blooms very pale as they should be deep pink or orange, but for some reason, they are on the pale side, forced inside. Maybe that is just the way it is and no fault of the water at all. But oh the joy, the gift of just being in the same room with blooms to favor your eyes.
So even with a troubled heart, or a worrying soul, there are gifts all around us I suspect, that sometimes, we forget to see. Our eyes can grow dim in beauty, when in fact, every bloom has a story...every tree, every berry. Find your joy, as they say.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Sometimes Its Just the Little Things

SPRING IS just around the corner and each day, ignoring the foot or more of snow we have, my eyes are on March. Here in our area of Nova Scotia, we were blessed with a day full of sunshine at the end of January. Most of the snow had melted in that interlude since Christmas and it was actually really WARM. Well, nine degrees warm ;-).  Protected in sheltered spots the soil was soft, damp and rich with the scent of spring. Gathering eager little bulbs, showing points of green, the sun beating down on my back, has to be one of the most lovely individual pleasures of a gardener. These were mostly snowdrops and that little blue flower that seems to be the star of early beds, "Glory of the Snow". They came to visit one day and never left.
The above were photographed last spring, but those tucked in the little pots on that warm January day, are doing quite well also. "Woodie" is doing a great job protecting them.
You might notice the beautiful hand thrown vessel in front, which was made by fellow blogger GZ . When I saw it on her Etsy shop I knew it would be perfect for my well being. In fact, it has a twin. Second to a garden, I love ceramic pots, but then, they are both of the soil and happen to go joyfully hand in hand. Gathering sea glass is another natural pleasure.
I look more to my garden for joy than anywhere else. Always something to do, and never a dull moment. Honestly...never a dull moment.

May I share with you something that is niggling at the Captain and I. The fence pickets are rotting at the bottom and all getting rather shabby. Definitely in need of a new lick of stain and perhaps some replacement. But...we have been thinking about removing the garden as it is, and doing a low raised bed arrangement that is still welcoming and will still have some bones (structure) in the winter months. Not sure we've got it in us this year as it would have to happen (begin) soon. But he did bring his BIG measuring tape home from work, .....and I am trying to find a large piece of graph paper, .....and I do have an idea of what we'd like which involves galvie. If you don't hear about this again, you will know, it was a no go. ))))  For now

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Just a Few Words

Dear mom, she never cared too much about gardening. It was dad who had the green thumb.. just more work for her, having both hands full with us kids. Bless her. What to do with "all those tomatoes" for instance. Surely that thought came to her one blistering hot day in late August thinking of the job ahead; canning the back garden harvest. That summer day is my earliest and most vivid tomato memory.

A lady from church came by to visit and Mom, generous as she always was, but going a tad overboard, gave her the whole lot from the garden. I mean every single one of dad's cherished red tomatoes. I don't think she really meant to give it all to our visitor but, caressed with encouragement she just, got carried away. Well you could have lit a match and no more fireworks could ever erupt from that house then when dad arrived home from work! I smile now at the unfortunate memory but some days, when I am here working in the kitchen trying to 'put by' as they say, I feel perhaps mom had a good idea there. (Sometimes fireworks are worth enduring, if you don't have to can tomatoes ;-) By the way, I did speak up to mom and the church lady that dad 'won't be happy' in my quiet be a good little girl voice...and the lady with her three bags full did have a glimpse, just a tiny glimpse of guilt on her face, but only for a moment...then she walked out the front door like a queen...the 'tomato queen'.
Life is turning to a new normal here. Most of dad's old seed catalogues, given to me decades ago are read year after year. As for the new catalogues of today, they've been poured over, penciled and stuck with fluttery sticky notes. Needless to say, that first list is the "I want all of it" list. After that, is the "smarten up Brenda" list. But soon, the orders will go in and soon, we will start our own tomatoes and the new growing year.  Never to be like any other year before; a new beginning built on the past, including its loss.
You see... mom passed away days before Christmas eve, so you can imagine what it was like saying goodbye to the matriarch of our family who LIVED for Christmas. Her generosity was overwhelming, all of her life. "Do good and be kind". Those words would sum up my mother's life. Someone recently said to comfort: as long as that person lives in you, they are not gone, nor are they forgotten. I do feel her there, inside, in my heart and mind, and although she doesn't respond to my questions, my pleas or my jokes, she is there. Thankfully.

Magnolia blooms are asleep, warm in their furry pods. Witch Hazel 'Diane' has been feasted on, but the rabbits own the garden too, and the birds and the squirrels. We must provide for the littlest among us. Hope, and promise, the words and value of spring shared recently here. We must have hope and there is promise. For now, that is what sustains.

Linked to dear friend Pondside.