Thursday, January 28, 2010

more cold day dreaming

Bergamot Monarda didyma (Bee Balm) 
growing in my cousin Wendy's garden 
July 2009 Mississauga Ontario

Frosty Day

Robert Frost ~ A Girl's Garden
A neighbor of mine in the village
Likes to tell how one spring
When she was a girl on the farm, she did
A childlike thing.
One day she asked her father
To give her a garden plot
To plant and tend and reap herself,
And he said, "Why not?"
In casting about for a corner
He thought of an idle bit
Of walled-off ground where a shop had stood,
And he said, "Just it."
And he said, "That ought to make you
An ideal one-girl farm,
And give you a chance to put some strength
On your slim-jim arm."
It was not enough of a garden,
Her father said, to plough;
So she had to work it all by hand,
But she don't mind now.
She wheeled the dung in the wheelbarrow
Along a stretch of road;
But she always ran away and left
Her not-nice load.
And hid from anyone passing.
And then she begged the seed.
She says she thinks she planted one
Of all things but weed.
A hill each of potatoes,
Radishes, lettuce, peas,
Tomatoes, beets, beans, pumpkins, corn,
And even fruit trees
And yes, she has long mistrusted
That a cider apple tree
In bearing there to-day is hers,
Or at least may be.
Her crop was a miscellany
When all was said and done,
A little bit of everything,
A great deal of none.
Now when she sees in the village
How village things go,
Just when it seems to come in right,
She says, "I know!
It's as when I was a farmer--"
Oh, never by way of advice!
And she never sins by telling the tale
To the same person twice.



Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Batty Bats

According to Bat Conservation International (BCI)

  • A single insectivorous bat can eat hundreds of insects an hour, including mosquitoes and agricultural pests, reducing our dependence on pesticides.
  • Frugivorous bats in the tropics are vital in seed dispersal and nectivorous bats pollinate plants when they feed on nectar.
  • Although 70 percent of bats eat insects, many tropical species feed exclusively on fruit or nectar.

Despite their notoriety, vampire bats make up only a small portion of all bats (there are only three species), and they live only in Latin America. With the exception of three species of nectar-feeding bats that live along the Mexican border of Arizona and Texas, all bats in the United States and Canada are insectivorous.

  • Fruit bats bring us over 450 commercial products, including 80 medicines. 
  • The seed dispersal and pollination activities of fruit and nectar eating bats are vital to the survival of rain forests. 
  • Seeds dropped by tropical bats account for up to 95% of forest re-growth on cleared land. 
Night blooming plants and trees depend on nectar eating bats for pollination.

Bats are such unique mammals that they have been placed in a group of their own, the Chiroptera, which means hand-wing. Bats are of the grand order, Archonta, grouped together with monkeys and flying lemurs. All living bat species fit into one of two major groups, the Microchiroptera or the Megachiroptera.

Linnaeus was so impressed by the similarities between bats and primates (lemurs, monkeys, apes, and humans) that he originally put them into the same taxonomic group.

Most agree that bats are far more closely related to primates than to the rodents with which they often are linked in the public mind.

  • Only three out of more than 1,100 species of bats worldwide feed on blood, and they are all in Latin America. 
  • As for spreading rabies, BCI states that fewer than half of one percent of bats contract rabies, and rabid bats usually are not aggressive.
Bats are among the cleanest of animals and are also exceptionally resistant to disease.

Guano is the collective term used for bat or bird droppings or feces. For many years, people all over the world have been using guano to fertilize their crops.

Canadian Bat Houses, Inc. manufactures the only 
BCI Bat Certified bat house in Canada.

Our garden will be brimming with a wide range of plants to attract insects of all kinds, encouraging diversity from spring to autumn. There are enough old growth, trees, flowering and fruiting plants nearby. I'd like to add a few more native plants, which support far more species of insect than hybrids, both front and back. Compositae (Daises), mallow, forget-me-not's(front), yarrow in pots(back), along with Bergamot, Rosemary, Thyme ~ and revive Rohan's lovely Lavendar. Of course, different plants attract different types of insects, florets for those with short tongues, and for those with long tongues, honeysuckle. Also, pale flowers that attract insects at dusk, moon garden flowers, and annual fragrant tobacco and night jasmine.

Plants for Bats
Aubretia (spring to early summer)
Corn marigold
English Bluebell (spring)
Evening primrose (summer to autumn)
Ice plant ‘Pink lady’ (early autumn)
Knapweed (summer to autumn)
Mallow (summer to autumn)
Mexican aster (summer to autumn)
Michaelmas daisy (summer to autumn)
Night-scented stock (summer)
Ox-eye daisy (summer)
Phacelia (summer to autumn)
Primrose (spring)
Red campion (spring)
Scabious (summer)
St John’s wort (spring)
Sweet William (summer)
Tobacco plant
Verbena (summer to autumn)
Woodland forget-me-not (spring)
Yarrow (early summer)
Bergamot (summer to early autumn)
Borage (spring to early autumn)
Coriander (summer)
English marigolds
Fennel (summer to early autumn)
Feverfew (summer to autumn)
Hyssop (summer to early autumn)
Lemon balm
Marjoram (summer)
Rosemary (spring)
Sweet Cicely (spring to early summer)
Thyme (summer)
Bramble (climber)
Buddleia (shrub)
Dog rose (climber)
Elder (small)
Gorse (shrub)
Hawthorn (suitable for coppicing)
Hazel (suitable for coppicing)
Honeysuckle (native honeysuckle)
Jasmine (night-scented)
Pussy willow
Silver birch
Creeping Jenny (spring to summer)
Flag iris
Lady’s smock (spring to summer)
Marsh mallow
Marsh marigold (spring)
Marsh woundwort
Meadowsweet (summer to early autumn)

Our Garden Peony

In my backyardovich 2010 drawing (which needs to be revised ) I named the peony, blooming here on the 7th of July 2009, 'Cornelia Shaylor'. I don't know why. Did I find a tag? Was is my best guess? I'm not certain. I'd would now think that it is P. lactiflora 'Sarah Bernhardt' if I didn't follow my notes. I wish I could find all those tags. Ahh, adopted gardens.

Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


This Australian Digger's Club catalog is from Rohan's father, who thoughtfully forwarded it along through Rohan during his visit home last August. Digger's boasts "the largest range of heirloom vegetables, cottage flowers and fruit plants that can be delivered direct to your door." I enjoy their logic, and especially enjoy their
Comparing the dates (i.e. planting, harvesting) to ours in the northern hemisphere is something. I can't wait to gaze at the stars in Australia, and see what's blooming there this August ~ during winter.

Johnny's Selected Seeds catalog also arrived the other day.

Urban Planning for Community Gardens

An Honours thesis submitted as part of a Bachelor in Urban and Regional Planning
School of Natural and Built Environments
University of South Australia
October 2008


Amy & Rohan's Garden June 10, 2009


Botanical: Ocymum basilium (LINN.)
N.O. Labiatae

Sweet Basil
Ocimum basilicum
greenhouse 2008

Belonging to the Lamiaceae (formerly Labiatae) (mint) family, Basil in our region is an annual plant, with broad leaves ranging from green to purple, depending on the cultivar, with flowers range from white to lavender.

The aroma of basil, often compared to that of cloves, lemon, anise to cinnamon, and of course sweet, makes it ideal for any herbal garden especially an aromatic herbal garden.

Preferring a sunny location with at least six hours of bright light per day, Basil thrives in moist, well drained soil. It is quite sensitive to dry conditions, so it is important to watch it closely during hot weather.

Basil self-sows by producing many dark brown seeds in the many small florets.

The word Basil is derived from the Greek basileus, meaning "king," although to the ancient Greeks and Romans the herb was a symbol of malice and lunacy. They believed that to successfully grow basil, one had to yell and curse angrily while sowing the seeds. In French, semer le basilic, "sowing basil," means ranting. (source unknown)

  • Basil attracts bees and is usually considered for a garden for honey bees.
  • Basil has traditionally been given as a good-luck present to new homeowners.
Planting Seeds
For transplanting, start basil seeds indoors in small pots in mid-to-late April (bottom heat helps), moving plants outside when the temperature is warm (late May or June) or sow the seeds directly outdoors once all danger of frost is past.

It is important to keep the surface of the soil dry to avoid damping off, so water from below and use a fast-draining soil mix. Basil plants have large roots, so transplant carefully.

Planting Out
As basil is frost sensitive, set plants outside after no risk (in the last few years here in Thunder Bay that has been late June, sometimes even early July). Transplanted seedlings need to be hardened off before planting out.
Basil needs real warmth and regular fertilization. A manure rich soil, I find, grows the largest leaves. Worm and compost tea, and cold coffee in my office seems to keep my basil plants happy.

Space basil 30cm (12") apart in full-sun.

Companion Plants
Pepper, Tomato, Marigold
When planted next to tomato plants, it wards of the white fly, which plagues the tomatoes.

There are more than 50 species of Ocimum and more than 60 varieties of Ocimum basilicum. A selection of basils, from Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs, is as follows:

Ocimum basilicum / Sweet Basil
Ocimum americanum (tender perennial) / Lemon Basil
O. basilicum 'Anise' / Anise Basil
O. b. 'Cinnamon' / Cinnamon Basil
O. b. 'Crispum' / Lettuce-leaf Basil
O. b. 'Green Ruffles' / Green Ruffles Basil
O. b. 'Minimum' (tender perennial) / Bush Basil
O. b. 'Nano Compatto Vero' (tender perennial)
O. b. 'Piccolo Verde Fino'
O. b. 'Purple Ruffles' / Purple Ruffle Basil
O. b. 'Purpurascens' / Dark Opal Basil
O. b. 'Thysiflor' (tender perennial - used in Thai                                                cooking)
O. gratissimum (tender perennial) / Clove Scented Basil
O. kilimandscharicum (tender perennial) / Camphor Basil
O. sanctum (tender perennial) / Holy Basil

Diseases & Pests
Diseases to watch for are Botrytis cinerea, Black spot, Damping off, Fursarium wilt.

Occasionally pests such as aphids, flea beetles, and Japanese beetles will feast upon Basil plants. Rinse off aphids with a garden hose to prevent infestations. To prevent beetles from munching, cover the crop with fabric row cover (which can also keep heat in). If slugs are a problem on new transplants, try a barriers of copper flashing, egg shells, or coffee grounds.

Fusarium wilt of basil, first identified in the early 1990s, arrived via infected seed imported from Italy. Symptoms include sudden wilting and leaf drop, accompanied by dark streaks on the stems, usually in weather above 80°F. If you notice these signs, quickly dig up the infected plant, along with all soil around the roots, and discard it. Avoid spreading the disease by moving soil around on your tools or tiller.(source unknown)

Basil is also susceptible to a few bacterial rots that show up on stems or leaf clusters, usually in cool, wet weather, often late in the season (or in our case, June). Keys to control include planting in well-drained soil, spacing plants so they dry off after rain, and removing infected plants from the patch.

Consider growing your basil in containers.

Medicinal Uses / Homeopathy:
Basil has medicinal, culinary, magical, aromatic, cosmetic and ornamental properties. It's medicinal properties include: diuretic (increases urine flow), antispasmodic, carminative (expelling gas), stomachic (stimulating the stomach), antimicrobial.

It's many medicinal uses include for bad breath, constipation, vomiting, stomach cramps, whooping cough, wounds, bites.

  • A teaspoon of dried basil leaves in 1 cup of boiled water is said to relieve cramps, vomiting, constipation and headaches caused by nerves.
  • Basil tea is considered so calming, that it is used for upset stomach, spasms and in particular whooping cough.
  • In massage oil it is a nerve tonic and helps to ease sore muscles.
  • According to some, basil oil in a diffuser will relieve mental fatigue.
  • Fresh leaves can be rubbed on the skin as an insect repellent, or chewed as a mouthwash. (It is a mint after all.)

Flower Power: Flower Remedies for Healing Body and Soul Through Herbalism, Homeopathy, Aromatherapy, and Flower Essences (Henry Holt Reference Book)According to Anne McIntyre's book Flower Power, Basil is revered for its ability to open the heart and mind, to engender love and devotion, to strengthen faith and compassion and clarity.

Culinary Basil
Basil contains calcium, fibre, iron, potassium, riboflavin and high amounts of Vitamin C.

Although identified readily with Mediterranean cuisine and Italian pesto, basil is a native of India where it is regarded as a sacred herb dedicated to the gods Vishnu and Krishna. Some species of basil will grow as perennials in the south Asian regions.

Basil is a very versatile herb with a variety of possible uses. It is excellent in tomato-based dishes, spinach, and all types of squash. It is great in soups and stews, but don’t add it until the last thirty minutes of cooking. Cooking alters the herb’s flavour and tends to make the minty side of basil come to the forefront.

It can also be used on sandwiches, dips, and pasta dishes. Basil is very important in Thai, Laotian, and Vietnamese cooking.

Speaking of Thai cooking, harvesting fresh leaves is easy for us; Rohan and I can demolish a pot of basil in one days meals. Frequent harvesting will prolong the life of the plant. Basil leaves have the best flavour just before the plant flowers, and if you plan to preserve some of your basil or make a big batch of pesto, this is the best time to harvest. (Flowering can be delayed by pinching or clipping off new flower buds.)

The later in the day you harvest basil, the longer it stays fresh. In a perforated bag kept at around 60°F, it will keep for 10 to 14 days. In contrast, refrigerated basil only lasts two or three days. You can also store stems in a vase in your kitchen, close at hand for cooking.

Tear basil rather than chop with a knife because when you chop the oil stays in the leaf and does not properly flavour your food.

Basil is best fresh, but can be preserved by drying or by freezing. To do this, tear the leaves into small pieces and freeze small batches of them in ice cube trays with a little bit of water. Once frozen, the cubes can be saved in zip-lock bags and can preserve the fresh flavour of basil for up to four months.

For a large harvest, you can cut off as much as a half the plant at once.

Of the countless species of basil the favourite in the kitchen is Sweet Basil (Ocimum basilicum), with its close relative Genovese Basil being preferred for making pesto. Also, the lemon basils with their citrus tang, are excellent for desserts, soups, tea, lemonade and for cooking with fish and chicken.

1 cup fresh basil leaves chopped
2 tbsp pine nuts or walnuts
1 clove garlic
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
2 tbsp grated romano cheese
1/2 cup olive oil
1 lb egg or plain noodles

Sauce: puree all ingredients except the oil and pasta. Add the oil slowly until the sauce is creamy. Prepare the noodles. Drain and add the sauce.

Greek Summer Salad
3 to 4 tomatoes
1 cucumber
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
1-1/2 tbsp vinegar
2 cloves chopped garlic
3 tbsp fresh oregano
1 tbsp fresh basil
1 tsp salt 1/2 cup feta cheese
1 head of lettuce olives (optional)

Cut up tomatoes and cucumbers and put in a large bowl. Mix olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, garlic, oregano, basil and salt together and pour over vegetables. Refrigerate. At serving time, add lettuce, torn to bite size, and cheese crumbled into small chunks. Olives optional.

*Baked, Grilled or Barbecued Vegetables

*Add several fresh basil leaves to slices of zucchini, onions and tomatoes and bake, grill or barbecue until done.

To best maintain the flavor of dried basil, store it in the freezer. To quick-freeze basil, dry whole sprigs and pack them in plastic bags with the air pressed out. To dry basil, pinch leaves off the stem and spread them out in a shady, well-ventilated area. Check in 3 or 4 days, and if they don’t crumble easily between your fingers, finish drying in the oven; otherwise the leaves may turn brown or black in storage. Use the lowest heat possible with the door slightly open, turn leaves for even drying, and check them frequently.

Another method is to make pesto (or even basil processed with olive oil), pack it into containers or ice cube trays, and freeze it. Once cubes are frozen, you can pop them out of trays and into plastic bags for easy storage.

*Cinnamon Basil does not cook well, but contributes an interesting piquancy to stewed tomatoes.
*Thai basil, with its pronounced anise-licorice aroma and flavour is excellent with green curries and stir-fry dishes. Look for "Siam Queen".
*Opal Basil has dark, purplish leaves and is particularly good in herb vinegars and dressings.

Spinach and Basil Soup
3 tbsp. Extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
4 garlic cloves
2 bunches fresh spinach leaves, washed & with stems removed
1 cup fresh basil leaves
3 cups herb or vegetable bouillon
1 cup milk (or milk substitute)
Dash cayenne
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
¼ cup freshly grated Romano cheese

Sauté the onion in the olive oil until translucent. Lightly steam the spinach with just the water clinging to the leaves and add to a pot with the cooking liquid, sautéed onion, basil leaves and herb or vegetable bouillon. Cover and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes, and then add the milk, cheese, garlic (crushing the garlic is unnecessary as it's bound for the blender), cayenne and nutmeg.

Puree the soup in batches in a blender, then return to the pot, re-heat and add salt to taste. Serve hot.

As a member of the mint family, basil is sometimes recommended as a digestive aid. Try an after dinner cup of basil tea.

a Winnipeg nursery specializing in culinary, medicinal and sacred herbs.The greenhouse is located at 3410 St. Mary's Road, Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Friday, January 22, 2010

green tomato relish

25 medium or 35 small green tomatoes
3 medium green bell peppers
2 medium sweet red peppers
3 medium onions
4 tbsp pickling salt
4 cups sugar
3 cups white vinegar
3 tbsp mustard seed
3 tbsp celery seed

1. Chop, process or grind all vegetables into a fine dice, then cover with the pickling salt and stir to coat. Let the mixture stand for 3 hours, then drain well.
2. Boil the sugar, vinegar and seeds for 5 minutes, then add the vegetables and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.
3. Seal in hot, sterile pint jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

The Green Fork

The Green Fork is the official blog of the Eat Well Guide. 

The Eat Well Guide® is a free online directory for anyone in search of fresh, locally grown and sustainably produced food in the United States and Canada.

Eat Well’s thousands of listings include family farms, restaurants, farmers' markets, grocery stores, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs, U-pick orchards and more.  Users can search by location, keyword, category or product to find good food, download customized guides, or plan a trip with the innovative mapping tool, Eat Well Everywhere. Eat Well is also home to the free educational booklet Cultivating the Web: High Tech Tools for the Sustainable Food Movement.

The Eat Well Guide was initially created by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) as a directory of sustainably produced animal products.  IATP later joined forces with Sustainable Table on the project. The Eat Well Guide in its current form, which includes all types of food products, launched in 2003, along with The Meatrix, a critically acclaimed Flash animation series about the dangers of factory farming. Eat Well emerged as an independent program in 2007.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Futuristic Farming

These vertical farming  designs are one thing I think of when I think industrial organic. For this climate we would  need a sprawling Frank Lloyd Wright type of design, with greenhouses in rotation. If they can grow pineapples at Heligan...
The same principle applied  on a smaller scale for the backyard gardener, and community gardens? Imagine the LU Garden taller than the Hangar.
Oddly, I didn't see any of this sort of thing in the scenes of Firefly.

Further Reading:
The Vertical Farm:
Reducing the impact of agriculture on ecosystem functions and services

An essay by Dickson Despommier
Department of Environmental Health Sciences
Mailman School of Public Health
Columbia University
60 Haven Ave, rm. 100
New York, New York 10032

Lily Blooms

Amy and Rohan's Garden 2009

herb bibliography

Herbs and the Earth (Pocket Paragon)Beston, Henry. 1935. Herbs and the Earth. David R. Godine Publisher, Boston, MA.

Blose, Nora and Cusick, Dawn. 1993. Herb Drying Handbook. Sterling Lark Book, New York.

Bremness, Lesley. 1988. The Complete Book of Herbs. Readers Digest, Italy.

Duke, James A. 1997. The Green Pharmacy. Rodale Press, Emmaus, PA.

Griffin, Judy. 1997. Mother Nature's Herbal . Llewellyn Publications, St. Paul, Minnesota.

Halva, Seija and Craker, Lyle. 1996. Manual for Northern Herb Growers. HSMP Books, Amherst, MA.

The Woman's Book of Healing HerbsHarrar, Sari and Altshul O'Donnell, Sara. 1999. Woman's Book of Healing Herbs. Rodale Press, Emmaus, PA.

Hemphill, Ian. 2000. The Spice and Herb Bible. Robert Rose Inc., Toronto, Ontario.

Hemphill, John and Hemphill, Rosemary. 1990. What Herb Is That? Stackpole Books, PA.

Hermann, Matthias. 1973. Herbs and Medicinal Flowers. Galahad Books, New York.

Hole, Lois. 2000. Herbs and Edible Flowers. Lois Hole, St. Albert, Alberta.

Kowalchik, Claire and Hylton, William H. 1998. Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs. Rodale Press, Emmaus, PA.

Lima, Patrick. 2001. Herbs The Complete Gardener's Guide. Firefly Books, Altona, Manitoba.

McClure, Susan. 1996. The Herb Gardener.. Garden Way Publishing, Vermont.

McIntyre, Anne. 1996. Flower Power. Henry Holt, New York.

Mojay, Gabriel. 1996. Aromatherapy for Healing the Spirit. Henry Holt, New York.

Growing & Using the Healing HerbsPodlick, Dieter. 1996. Herbs and Healing Plants of Britain and Europe. Harper Collins Publisher, Italy.

Polunin, Miriam and Robbins, Christopher. 1992. The Natural Pharmacy. Raincoast Books, Vancouver, BC.

Small, Ernest. 1997. Culinary Herbs. NRC Research Press, Ottawa, Ontario.

Walters, Clare. 1998. Aromatherapy, An Illustrated Guide. Element, Italy.

Weiss, Gaea and Weiss, Shandor. 1985. Growing and Using the Healing Herbs. Wings Books, New York.

garden scenes 2009

books I wish I owned cont.

Goody, Jack. THE CULTURE OF FLOWERS. NY, Cambridge, 1994, 462pp. An unusual look at the themes and transactional uses of flowers across different cultures.
 ( also available from The AMERICAN BOTANIST Booksellers )

Grannis, Ruth (ed). PLANT ILLUSTRATION BEFORE 1850. NY, Grolier Club, 1992, (1941) 33pp., wraps & conts. NEW. This is reprint of a catalogue of an exhibition of books, drawings and prints. Containing no illustrations itself, it does a good job of outlining the important botanical texts, giving woodcut and plate numbers.

Mules, Mrs. Helen et. al. FLOWERS IN BOOKS AND DRAWINGS. NY, Pierpont Morgan Library, 1980, 80pp., paper, conts. VG. Covers 141 titles, with numerous illustrations between 940 and 1840. .

Phipps, Frances. COLONIAL KITCHENS, THEIR FURNISHINGS, AND THEIR GARDENS. NY, Hawthorn, 1972, 346pp., DJ lite wear, cloth & conts. VG. Based on settler journals & traveler's diaries. An accurate look back.

Wright, Richardson. THE WINTER DIVERSIONS OF A GARDENER. Phila., Lippincott, 1934, 1st ed., 356pp., DJ chipped & worn, cloth & conts. VG. Travels, hermits and the like.

Cranesbill Geranium

Kingdom:     Plantae
Division:       Magnoliophyta
Class:            Magnoliopsida
Order:           Geraniales
Genus:          Geranium
Species:       G. phaeum

Illustration by
Prof. Dr. Otto Wilhelm Thomé  
Flora von Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz
1885, Gera, Germany
(copyright expired)

The violet-blue coloured flowers of the cranesbill geranium which thrives amongst the explorers in the University's memorial rose garden suggest G. himalayense but could be the more common Purple Geranium G. magnificum adopting a more blue hue from the soil. Maybe a hybrid cultivar - Jonson's Blue? 
G phaeum has rich wine coloured blooms, and I adore it. I would love to find one for the front garden. I believe there are already some hardy purple/violet/blue cranesbill already in the garden, but we'll have to confirm that after the excavation in the late spring.

The rose garden's cranesbill grows as a neat little mound of foliage to the north east of the bench. When it blooms it compliments in contrast to the roses around it.

  • Cranesbills are also popular among the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Brown-tail and Mouse Moth. There is already a fair selection of food for the butterflies in the garden, but I'd like to improve it.
  • Some species are perennials and generally winter hardy plants;. they are long lived and most have a mounding habit, and some have spreading rhizomes. 
  • Grown in part shade to full sun, in well draining but moisture retentive soils, that are rich in humus.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Being Backyardovich in January 2010

Earlier today I was running around mad trying to find a collection of plant tags that I found in the back porch last summer. They were obviously Wayne's, from when he planted the garden, and identified most of the junipers. I still can't find them, but in my mind's eye I can see them in a few places, so I'm sure they'll turn up - which will give me something else to post about when I do.

Instead I doodled our garden using notes and photos I've collected since the summer. I took a photo this afternoon of the January garden to use as a guide because some of my notes are sketchy, and I wish I had more sketches - I remember best by those. As I reflected upon one (which I'd rather not post) I slipped into a daydream; sitting in one of my neglected Adirondack chairs in the backyard. I had brought the chair nearer to the fence to the dog run so that Claire, on the other side, wouldn't feel so apart from me. This tactic was a complete failure; Claire sulked on the other side of the fence, taunted me with rock chewing, paced until I felt uncomfortable. Few drawings were ever completed, though I can still see them in my imagination.

In one of my little green Journals I found a list of the garden's plants. I remember compiling that list. It was before I found the plant tags. Still stumped on the names of the Lilies, I'm only guessing. I'd like to believe the Daylily closest to the house is Mini Pearl. The Daylilies were what I was most curious about. I had wanted to talk to Wayne directly to ask what his inspiration was; what was his plan? The only time he was over I wasn't home. Rohan said he was thrilled with how the garden has grown, saying, "It is exactly what I had envisioned." I can completely understand his sentiment. I had that vision at Castlegreen. I only really saw it thrive in maturity one season, woe.

I was able to admire Wayne's design even more during the summer as I waited for and watched the daylilies bloom. The first question I had for Rohan regarding the garden was which daylilies were each. He didn't know. I don't think he realized how many different ones there are, or anticipated my attention to their names. I told him about my daylily circle of yummy things: 'Raspberry Parfait', 'Melon Balls', 'Vanilla Fluff', 'Strawberry Swirl'.... We still don't know the daylilies names, but I did document their colours and blooming periods, and have a vast collection of photographs (of course). What I found most spectacular about Wayne's plan was the timing. The whole garden was colour-timed throughout the seasons. In early spring it was the purples and lavenders who stole the show, then some yellows and peaches in the daylilies, and in late summer when things are lush and thoughts of autumn begin to surface, the red daylilies change the hue of the whole garden accordingly. The thick greens and reds almost brought thoughts of Christmas, and brought us to the end of the season.

By the drawing above one would think Rohan and I have no business going through seed catalogs, like we were last Saturday. Lying in bed on a January morning with coffee and dogs, newspapers and seed catalogs. We discussed the state of the world, the state of the locals, the Thumbs Up Thumbs Down section, and agreed upon enough seeds and plants to fill our yard twice over. How we will accomplish this is what we have to look forward to, and what this journal looks forward to recording.

Taken on August 13th, 2009 - I also used this photo to assist my memory in doodling today's drawing.

There are things missing from the drawing, names, and I'm sure I missed a plant or two. The dogs are each included 1.5 times. (Maybe because each dog, in his or her own way, often feels like one and a half dogs i.e. in poop scooped and household fur.)
Especially included is our glorious boulevard tree, who is currently the only one on the block to be holding on to some foliage. Also in front are a number of mystery plants and shrubbery. I had wanted to tackle the space in August, and add the hostas and other shade plants I have saved from amy's garden. I didn't. There's always this coming spring.

I have the best love. Rohan's careful maintenance, and enthusiasm for his own additions can be thanked for the garden's success. Appreciation

This summer will be an interesting challenge. With all our expectations for incorporate all our food plants, and establish them, while exploring/returning to Australia for most of August. (Oh just imagine what amy's garden will travel-blog about Australia!)
Being the cooking enthusiasts that we are most of our wishlist is comprised of things we most often eat: garlic, herbs - namely basil (and lots of it), thyme and rosemary, sage, dill, garlic chives (already thriving under the tamarack). Capsicum of many kinds from hot to sweet, tomatoes, and squash - if we can grow these at home, in pots and clever tucked in places, we'll be able to satisfy many meals. The Rhubarb will feed us for months. The onions will likely never stop.

The lack of space for both a goat and a small flock of backyard chickens is easily demonstrated through the drawing. This doesn't stop me from saying often how lovely both would be.

And so this is a new backyardovich, the best backyardovich. It's just beautiful.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


A HISTORY OF Silver Islet AND IT'S Gardens
text and photographs by
Barbara Lesperance

It was a journey dear to my heart through this book. Silver Islet sets the stage for some of my fondest and oldest memories. It hosted the photography leg of my first, and endless, date with Rohan. Always a visitor, I suffer pangs of envy every time; but the awe leaves me grateful for the opportunity, and for having this lovely location so nearby.

* Another treasure from the trove of Nana's Christmas book gifts. :)

Monday, January 11, 2010

JSTOR goodies

O. E. Jennings / Published by: American Fern Society
American Fern Journal, Vol. 8, No. 3 (Jul. - Sep., 1918),
pp. 76-88

Stable URL:

Friday, January 8, 2010


There's been little for me to blog about gardening lately, not that I haven't been thinking about what I would. It's not that my interest has faded, but rather how it's changed, and how I feel about the gardening climate today.

The hysteria over "climate change", environmental concerns, and "the food crisis" has sent the media and politicians after gardeners to save the world, and everyone wants a piece of it. I've been trying to avoid all of this and remain true to the more containable story, mine.
My story is ever changing, as all good stories do. Amy’s Garden has moved and moved again, and many of my beloved plants have found new homes in community gardens, lost their battle with moving, or have survived with me to tell their story. Amy’s gardening experiences have evolved as well and in many ways come full circle. I’ll be back at the greenhouse this spring; the community gardens will grow on, and I will return to where the air is clean and I can be myself again.

It's difficult to compose my words because I certainly can't find fault in people wanting to grow things. What I've always enjoyed most about the greenhouse are the conversations that develop about techniques and tricks people have picked up over the years, or things they learned from a grandmother, father, or friend. Essentially the latest wave of community gardening is bringing people and those conversations together in a way that is not all that different in nature, just a little more in your face. To have kitchen gardening become an even hotter topic outside the greenhouse how could I complain? I guess it was that the unique quality to those conversations has been altered somehow.

It's the motivation behind the effort that has often discouraged me in the recent year. This is where I find it difficult to get too involved. I'd like to think that the motivation is to share one's love for gardening, and demonstrate what can be produced with a little effort, but I think it's become more of a competition of involvement.

I feel have been and am overwhelmed with the topic from every direction. Again, why do I find this disconcerting? I know part of my hesitation comes from knowing I feel quite different from most on a few of the more politically, and to many, moral, topics that tend to be surrounded in great debate - none of which I feel like getting into passionately.
Luckily my significant other is also a disbeliever of many of the hot urban garden myths, namely "global warming", and provides wonderful literature for coffee table resources. Climate Confusion: How Global Warming Hysteria Leads to Bad Science, Pandering Politicians and Misguided Policies that Hurt the Poor by Roy Spencer, and Red Hot Lies: How Global Warming Alarmists Use Threats, Fraud, and Deception to Keep You Misinformed by Christopher C. Horner, to name a couple. He's a scientist, which I think is so sexy, but also confirms his wonderful sense of logic. I'm very attracted to that.
Don't get me wrong, I'm all for improving any negative human impact on the earth, I just don't agree with the current agenda put forth in the media through the politicians.

The phrase "food security" alone creates a kind of problematic fear factor of it's own. On it's own it defines itself properly in that the objective is to "secure safe and healthy food for oneself"; but with the decade's use of the word "security" the expression presents, whether it wants it or not a troubling underlying mood. I don't mean to sound callous, but people have been starving all over the world for as long as we've been around. If sustainable agriculture is going to save them, it would have done so long ago.
The recent organic movement is also instilling terror in the population with documentaries such as the Monsanto and Food Inc. (although extremely valid and true), and discredit all attempts at food modification (which could save the starving), while at the same time opened up a Pandora's box of what food manufacturer's have been feeding us for so long. I think it's doubtful that organic agriculture is the solution.
Is it politics and the current state of the economy? The reaction from people and communities in similar situations (the Victory Gardens of the World Wars, for instance) influenced community gardens, so it's not surprising that during another downward slope in the economic markets, we find a rise in the farmer's markets, right? It should be inspiring, and it is, but again local food (especially in the Thunder bay area) has been available for a long time, as has the market, and only recently has enjoyed this surge of attention.

While driving around town the other day, R and I heard a CBC Radio One broadcast about Haiti and how the country spends $1,000,000.00 each year importing eggs. They were interviewing an eleven year old boy who was collecting eggs from a coop rather than playing soccer, who said (paraphrased) he would rather be helpful than playful.The question of the story was the same we've been hearing often lately, which is why are some countries and communities having to put out such expense for something that could be produced locally. I don't have the answers of course, but the questions are certainly provoking.

When I first started working at the greenhouse more people were interested in flowers, while vegetables not so much. There was always the old Polish guys looking for their eggplants, and that non-English speaking elderly Italian woman who bought and planted every food plant we had (her garden is near the 55+ Center and is incredible). Tomatoes are always very popular too. Most people though, just wanted the baskets with the bacopa and a specific list of plants for a container a magazine designed.
Last year the greenhouse could hardly keep up with the demand for vegetable plants.

It will be a satisfying return to the greenhouse, and one I'm deeply looking forward to. I anxious to have my fingers handing seedlings by the thousands, smell the air, and soak up the sights of row upon row of plants of all kinds. It's not about saving the world, but growing plants and finding them homes. I'm happy with the simplicity of that. As far as Amy's Garden grows, that's another post. Fueled by our love for cooking Rohan and I have numerous plans to incorporate some of our own plans into the adopted garden we have, as well as rejuvenating the front shade garden. I will have lots to say as all this develops.

A view over the LU Garden from the Centennial Building, reflecting me.

The Young Omnivore's Dilemma

For Christmas my book giving mother presented me with a copy of The Omnivore's Dilemma by Micheal Pollen. Last night, while scrolling through Hannah's Scholastic offerings for the month I discovered the young readers edition, which I will order for her. The description on Amazon reads:
""...this young readers' adaptation of Pollan's famous food-chain exploration encourages kids to consider the personal and global health implications of their food choices.
In a smart, compelling format with updated facts, plenty of photos, graphs, and visuals, as well as a new afterword and backmatter, The Omnivore's Dilemma serves up a bold message to the generation that needs it most: It's time to take charge of our national eating habits — and it starts with you."

I'm curious to compare the two editions.

The Nature of Things

To Bee or Not to Bee

Premiering: Thursday January 7, 2010 at 8 pm on CBC-TV
Repeating: Thursday January 14, 2010 at 10 pm ET/PT on CBC News Network

Directed by Mark Johnston and produced by Natalie Dubois and Christine Le Goff, for Galafilm Productions.

Monday, January 4, 2010