Friday, August 1, 2014

bees and blooms

We all got our hands sticky at the Roots to Harvest Urban Beekeeping course on Tuesday evening. I'm not sure Adam will forgive me for sharing this photo of him all around, but I think it looks cool - we were all mesmerized by the bees, studying their combs, social order, and coordination. I absolutely love this - everyone should take this course.
I've decided next summer will be bee summer. At first, as I learned more about everything involved, I thought new bees and a new baby might be too much..., but, if I delay for reasons like that we'll never get bees. By the time the bees come baby and I will have had time to get to know one another, and establish some sort of routine. We'll start small, with two brood boxes and a stack of one or two honey stackers - I'll sort that out with Barry (Bears'Bees&Honey)
the bee hives at
Roots to Harvest
Cornwall & Algoma Garden
busy bees
Now known as the "bee garden" the adopted garden at the back of the yard now makes sense to me. It's already wild and mature, with enough small empty spaces for me to add some simple wildflowers for the bees. It's half covered by the Norway Maples nearby, and will have even more tree coverage when we plant a couple apple trees along the back fence on Finn's birthday this year. The garden will still get all day afternoon sun along the south side, which is what the bees need.
There are some purple/dark blue delphiniums near the centre of the bed that are blooming like idiots right now. Next year they'll be staked. Also in the bee garden: Stella De Oro who is taking up enormous space, desperately needs dividing, but we'll see if I ever get around to that.., some irises, a whole bunch of hostas, some Lady's Mantle, two things I'm blanking on, and a couple of lilies here and there. In spring there were some orange tulips, which I will add to with some other early bloomers.
I imagine the space looking like a wildflower garden - tall, kind of crazy, colourful, and every changing. The bees will love it. 

In other garden update news:

The backyard garden, which consists of the two beds nearest the house and shack. The peanut shaped bed already had a nicely shaped Catone aster, and the lime leafed spirea (which has been covered in bumble bees every day as it flowers). I've added bee balm and rhubarb, mother of thyme and ajuga around the rock and lamp post, two daylilies: 'Pizza Crust' and 'Anzac', a hosta under the Catone aster (can't remember the name right now), a dwarf Goat's Beard, and a Lady's Mantle. There's still a lot more space in that bed - and a dog problem.
The bed nearest the house remains empty - we haven't even topped it with triple mix yet. It is going to take me years to fill these beds. They're huge. For now, we left the caragana near the door, and the upright juniper near the dining room window. There's a peony to be planted near that, and 'Golden Celebration (David Austin rose) to go near the side door. I sort of wish we could turn this into a decorative vegetable, herb, and perennial bed (leave lots of empty spaces for annual food)..., but it's visited by too many dogs - who aren't even thwarted by ugly bright orange flagging tape. We'll have to wait and see how this one grows.

Under the Hawthorns, the lilies have bloomed. I'm not entirely crazy about them, which is why I like them. I never would have chosen these, it's a colour that is missing in my gardens, and I think they will compliment anything I add. They're bold and bright in the shaded Hawthorn garden. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Winchester Cathedral

Winchester Cathedral, finally I have this rose again. It's a little tender here, and won't survive a harsh winter like this last one, but with care I've had one survive and thrive for a few years. The fragrance is divine and is already gracing our front walk with a rose scented welcome. I've planted it (er, Rohan planted it - he's done all the hard work with me either to nauseated or tired to be useful..,)  in Finn's garden, near the front door to have a little love from my mother - both my parents, in fact, there with him.

When I first planted this rose years ago in my first garden, my mother let out a little squeal at the name and proceeded to tell me about the real Winchester Cathedral, and the romantic time she spent there with my father. All architectural and historical, of course, and her knowledge was vast. I wish I could remember better what she said.
26 July 2014
27 July 2014
I tweeted the photo of Sunday's bloom, which was favourited by the Cathedral - which made my morning. My mother would think that's pretty neat. 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

on Bowman Island

Finn's name
on the shore of Lake Superior and the Nipigon River
19 July 2014

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

watching things grow

I'll admit, I had no real appreciation for Hawthorn trees before now. I've never examined one up close before.
A row of three Hawthorns grow along our north fence. They're a bit of a mess, in desperate need of a pruning, which I'll do a little of in the autumn, and maybe some more come spring. It will take a few years to prune them without harm.
Their flowers come out a pale pink nearly white and slowly turn a delicate deep pink. The glossy emerald leaves fill in all around - they're gorgeous.

Beneath the Hawthorns is another mystery garden bed. I don't remember much that was in it from viewing the house last year - other than noting that I was going to be filling in a lot of gaps. For now I'm just watching things grow, documenting who takes up how much space. I don't think I'm going to move anything, certainly not remove anything - it's all beautiful. It's mostly filled with lilies - nearly blooming, which will tell me a lot more..., and some irises.
irises under the Hawthorns
backyard adopted garden
4 July 2014
Peeking between the irises and lilies are sweet baby pink marguerites (at least I think that's what to call them). I adore daisy flowers, and these little pink babies made my day. They're tangled in a few weeds, but I'm less tempted to do a clean sweep on the beds - these have to stay.
Watching things grow, watching things wilt in nursery containers because I have no energy to plant anything...that seems to be the theme of planting season this year. Its amazing how as women we so easily forget the challenges of pregnancy (and morning sickness, and labour...). I knew I'd feel lousy, I forgot how tired I'd be. 
The few plants I have to plant get shuffled around - pregnancy brain has also wiped out my ability to clearly think about my plan - if there ever was a plan.. Unlike the detailed and well thought out plans I provide for others, my own garden is a little more, uh, haphazardly planned.., I sort of know what I want to see, and there are certain plants that I know belong - where exactly, I'm not sure. 

The beds are so big that even in planting in threes is still seems so sparse, and I'm trying to imagine large members who haven't even been bought yet - I'm still looking for at least two more Hansa roses, a Therese Bugnet rose for beside the front door, a yellow peony..., so I'm drawing circles in the sand and trying to imagine five years from now, and what size everyone will be then.

If I was working at full capacity this would be a breeze, but I'm exhausted nauseated and more mentally distracted than I had anticipated. The emotional toll of being pregnant in the midst of the saddest grief is hard to manage. It's not uncommon for pregnant women to have vivid dreams, but this pregnancy has also made my day dreams more vivid - my flashbacks and visions of Finn, it's all so close now.  
I've seen baby twice on screen, heard the heartbeat three times, and still I'm having a hard time believing. I think I'll feel a lot better when I start to feel baby moving around in there. I'm 11 weeks pregnant now, and baby is measuring right on track. There's no reason not to believe this baby will be with us forever. It just seems like forever waiting to have this baby in my arms. 
From the moment I found out about this little one I've felt the need to document everything. The apps on my phone already track weekly photos, and I've been subtly public about it from the beginning. I can't disguise my emotional roller coaster, and if there was ever a time I need my friends' support it's now. This baby is so loved and wanted, people around the world are praying and wishing, cheering on every milestone. It all means so much to my broken heart, and helps with the believing.    

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Hillcrest rainbow

29 June 2014

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

so many trees :)

Mountain Ash along the back fence
Silver Maple budding
We've got three different Maple trees in our yard, two Silver, three Norway, and one Red ..the Norway's are definitely my favourite - their lime leaves stand out beautifully among the greens all around.
I'm loving having so many trees to watch in this yard. :)

empty beds and new beginnings

It's been a slow process with me functioning at less than half power, and unable to do any of the heavy lifting, but thanks to Edie (and Lewis) and The Lawn Barber (for shrub removal), and my Bill Martin's landscaping crew (for turning the beds), finally the gardens around the house and under the oak tree are empty of boring shrubs and ready to plant. 

Last weekend Rohan did the manual labour and planted a number of things we've had waiting, (then replanted them after I decided I wasn't happy with my first choice of locations). We're on hold until we can get some more triple mix into the beds - especially Finn's garden, which is very rocky and dry. It's not the worst soil, but not the best..., a little amendment never hurts. 

I'm not entirely sure what I'm going to do with this small oval under the caragana near the driveway. Maybe just some thymes for cover. The caragana actually stands nicely on its own, and soon enough we'll have a vegetable garden not far away.

Under the oak tree is the largest space - approximately 18 x 16 feet. Closest to the pea shrub along the south side is where I want to plant a row of Hansa roses, my mother's favourite. They get big, and might eventually be able to take over those boring pea shrubs. My hope is that their scent will sweep along with the lake wind and fill our whole yard with my mother's childhood memories of the roses along the Massachusetts beaches. 
Tulips in spring, daylilies of summer, sedums and coneflowers in autumn among many others will move into this space. I'm curious as any to watch it develop.  

The work in progress around the back side of the house is also going to be a development over time. Peonies, foxgloves, liatris, monarda, shasta daisies and who knows who else. I haven't mapped anything - well, I have, then it changes, and changes again..., so I think I'll just have to wait and see. 

We've already added the Tinkerbelle lilac on standard tucked in behind the ninebarks, giving a little extra height to the side garden. A Flowering Almond and Southerland's Gold Elder and Jude the Obscure David Austin Rose are in near the cedar. Behind the cedar tucked close to the door we planted a Vancouver Sea Breeze Clematis, which so far looks to be thriving. I really hope it takes because the blooms in photos I've seen are the sweets shade of pale blue, and I'd love to see that each time I step out that door.
More roses, Mordens for sure, a bird bath and butterfly flowers will fill in the spaces. And a hummingbird feeder outside the window...
I'm liking this garden already.

Along the south side of the yard there is no garden..., yet. I've dug a small bit, and will continue bit by bit until I reach the back lane. Dr. Ballantyne used to plant impatiens along here, which I'll continue tucked under the hostas, pulmonaria, astilbe, goat's beard, tiarella, bleeding hearts, and solomon seal along with the existing ferns. This one will take years to establish, but the end result will be a lush line of shade plants weaving along the fence.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The weekend Rohan and I ran away to Lutsen ...

on our way to dinner
I had no idea how important it would be, there was no plan - we had decided the night before, after weeks of tension and sadness, and booked our room on a whim. I've never even been down the road to the Lutsen Resort, I've only ever gone up the road to the ski hills. When we arrived I was certain I was in paradise.

The beginning of May is always going to be difficult, it will always remind me of loss. Every May from now until forever I am going to run away to this place, because what I found there was more healing than I could have ever imagined.

where the Poplar River
meets Lake Superior
and the Lutsen Resort beach
Back in our room Rohan slept.., he slept when we arrived, was early to bed, late to rise..., slept most of the next day after our hike; it was probably the first time since we lost Finn that he really slept. At home he's too busy distracting himself, fighting the sadness, and nearly killing himself in the process. He's worn out, skinny, and consumed by a very private grief. I hate seeing what it's doing to him. I didn't realise until we were there in paradise that maybe he needed this even more than I did.

If there was ever a time we needed help, a little hope, anything ... this was it. We're beat. Grief for our child is so much more powerful than us.

Our one full day away was reserved for a river walk along the Cascade River. Of all the trails in the area we could have chose, we found the one with protected White Pines, and for the first time in years I felt my father. Some might think that sounds ridiculous, but I don't.. I truly believe the people we lose stay with us. I used to sense my father around Hannah's crib - nowhere else, just at the foot of her crib. I can't explain the feeling, it's peaceful, and just ..there.. I felt him that day in the forest. As if he read my post from the week before missing our walks along the Current River counting the White Pines along the way. For the first time since we lost Finn I felt peaceful...the churning stopped - briefly, but it stopped. I didn't feel as weighted and the tightness in my chest released..., just enough.

While Rohan carefully chose subjects for his photos, I ran around the forest like a kid in a candy store grabbing shots of every step along the way. I tried a few times to get a full circle perspective of my camera on the ground, waterfall before me, and trees towering over, but it didn't really work. The sun kept hiding behind clouds and no matter how long I held my breath and waited it still screwed up the exposure - and of course my panos were wonky because I haven't mastered that down/up thing yet.
I have mastered the foot selfie. I'm not a selfie headshot kind of person. I prefer my face behind the lens, but my feet - they show where I'm standing, and to me that's all that matters.
although I didn't know it at the time
this is the first foot and "belly shot"
of my pregnancy
with Hannah and Finn's
new baby brother or sister
I photographed my feet in the forest, in Lake Superior, on the wood floors of the resort, and in the best bathtub I've ever floated in. I watched the moon rise and listened to the waves slosh up against the shore below our cabin. I felt calm, and I think Rohan did too (all the sleeping helped..) ..and maybe that's what was needed for a miracle. I was already pregnant - just, ...this baby started growing in peace among the giant pines and on the shore. This baby was with me when I wrote Finn's name with rocks.
We have a long way to go together, but with all this powerful energy brought to me on this trip I have faith in a way I'm sure wouldn't be had we not run away. With new visualisations for meditation, and the memories of this beautiful place now charged with new meaning it will always be a very special paradise.

Thanks Dad.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

hope 2

tulips with a view
4 June 2014


The tulips under the oak tree bloomed yellow, 
"the colour of hope" a good friend said of them. 
I'll take that.

delicate blue stars shining

As shrubs are one by one removed from Finn's garden, making way for planting for him, we have appearing below his window a small cluster of Chionodoxa 'Snow Glories' or 'Glories of the Snow'. These little blue stars were already among the bulbs I've ordered, and will always be the first blooms each spring.

Dear Garden Diary,

I've finally had to break down and hire a landscaper to take the shrubs out. I offered them free for weeks, and only one person came. A few will go next door, Edie and Katie will take some to redo their hedge line, and Marie's sister Leeann will take a whole group to start her new yard. I'm happy they're being saved, and finding homes with good people. As much as I wanted to rip this garden out, I can't just go around killing perfectly good shrubs.

As for what I'm going to plant and where ...that's a good question. I know what I want, I'm just in the process of making sure I place things as best as I can for these wacky top of the ridge weather conditions. Wind, again, is going to dictate this garden more than I like..., sigh, but there's not much I can do. Strategic planting, the buddy system, that's what I'm counting on.
A couple of lilac have followed me home recently after a conversation with Anne next door lamenting the loss of the lilac grove in the lot behind which was once Dr. Ballantyne's garden. Apparently before the McMansion was built no thought was put into preserving the lilacs, so they were all mashed before anyone could save a few. I'll never understand that kind of "development"..

The destruction of mature trees to build and plant new trees was the theory yelled at me - literally yelled at me, by Rajni A when I called to ask why the condo development next to Maplecrest Tower was taking down mature trees on the Maplecrest side of the property line. She insisted they were on the side of the new condos (which they weren't), and that they were "in the way." It didn't matter to her - absolute ignorance to how long it takes to grow a mature tree, or to develop natural green spaces in urban areas. We should be preserving them, building around them, not destroying them in the process. I don't understand the mentality of developers in this city.
Rajni went on to tell me how beautiful these condos would be, and how the landscaping would improve the view.. (yes, because un-naturally placed leafless trees, and shrubs from nurseries really compare to mature evergreens). She said, "you just wait, in a few years it will be gorgeous." ...completely self centered and thoughtless... my mother didn't have "a few years" and in the meantime her tranquil view was destroyed. Rajni and the developer were completely self serving. I don't like those kind of people.

So, along with roses, Dr. Ballantyne's garden will come back to this space with lilacs - Madame Lemoine (a double flowering white), Tinkerbelle (pink, and a weird hybrid standard at that- so unlike me), and of course a few Beauty of Moscow (white-pinkish). I've also learned from a neighbour (um, can't remember his name...) that Dr. B used to plant impatiens all along the south end of the property. Though I have plans to add a border bursting with lush shade plants, at their feet will be impatiens, as it should be.

Monday, May 19, 2014

eight months without you

On our way home from Lutsen, 
on the shore of Lake Superior 
I wrote his name in lake stones. 
My love and grief are so powerful
and so entwined around my heart
it takes my breath away.

I can wish for things to be different all I want, plead for this to not be our reality, for him to be returned to us..., but it will never happen. I took all his rocks home with me, not knowing exactly what I'll do with them yet..., but it's things like this that keep him close. It's all I have - create for him, grasp on to it, bring him with us wherever we go.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

white pine peace

We came to Lutsen to run away, get away, escape the pain of the past two weeks.
We found a forest, a forest for me, what I was wishing for but never thought I'd see. My white pines protected and growing giants. I couldn't believe it this morning as we walked the Cascade River Walk, how much effort has gone in to save these trees.
Minnesota's reforestation efforts filled my heart with happiness and hope today, a rare feeling for this broken organ. It's as if my father heard my tears too, and lead me here to find a little faith again.

I'll post more on this forest walk when I'm not "away on a romantic vacation" and actually supposed to be at my computer. This update just couldn't wait. 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

being frontyardovich 2014

Stopping to smell the tulips this morning, I took a photo using my iPhone's ProHDR app - which takes two photos using different exposures with a slight delay. The result is often kind of awesome.
Sometimes, I'll get ghosted images of things moving through the scene.

There's a small patch of tulips (and I think some lily of the valley?) popping up in the garden bed under the oak. Upon further inspection this morning and later again this afternoon with a measuring tape I am pretty sure I can fill all 17-18 feet of this space before we see another winter.

These tulips will stay. There's something about adopted tulips... Not sure who they are yet, but we're about to find out. I'm hoping to just work around them, leaving them as they are.

As for the rest... What the frack. No seriously..., those marigolds (upon further inspection) were planted in groups of three. Somebody actually put some effort into that. #headdesk Filler, I get it, but the lack of creativity in such an inspiring place sucks a little life outta me.

Yoga breathed it all back in and then some. Robin offers more than yoga; there's her background in massage therapy and understanding of anatomy, but it's more than that. I'm struggling for the words - too many things come to mind..., somehow today while trying to explain breathing and positions we ended up on ecosystems and the whole interactive within ones space and all the things within that space. The healing she offers encompasses not just now, my grief, my body and mind's desire to die, but all the things, everything from my very beginning: the sensitivities I have to chemicals (in food especially), illness and emotions that I thought would never matter, tragedies physical and emotions. Things I had put behind me: the c-section and difficult recovery from having H, the infection of 2009..., all of it revealing and relieving, finally feeling free to hope a little.
Last week, when I was as low as ever, feeling heavy and weighted by grief, Robin chose to weigh me down more with warm heavy blankets while in each position. The release was intense, I felt safe for the first time in days..., I fell into it and nearly fell asleep, crying, dreaming of my sweet baby Finn.
It's times like that I'm most grateful for my healers.

Today I think I can feel my rib cage for the first time in ... uh, years maybe..  I can breathe. Oh thank you thank you...
Taking my time to stroll up the hill, I stood in the playground at Hillcrest Park, on top of a jungle gym - joined briefly by a little girl who might have mistaken me for five. I twirled in my 360 panorama awkward way, pausing occasionally while clouds passed between me and the sun to maintain my exposure.
Up the hill with a view of the Lake, it's not the sanctuary that Waverley Park is, but it does the soul good for other reasons. When I got home I emailed the City to put in motion a memorial bench and tree for Finn in Waverley Park. 
I've thought about it for a while, and debated the parks. Waverley always wins, it's where my heart is, it's where Finn and I spent most of our time twirling around taking tiny planet panos. Hillcrest may be the view from his room, but I think if I was to find him in an urban forest it would be in Waverley. 

Back at home, I took what I hope will be the last photograph of this pitiful garden. Whatevertheheck weird weeping juniper thing trying to be something beside that nice rock it just got to get torn out. We're going to go for a more real look - none of these whackidoodle nursery experiments. It doesn't even understand what it's supposed to do: trained to go up and fall un-naturally, it's over grown and trying to grow upside down, rooting all around its "trunk." Why?
I did my best to photoshop out what's currently there, leaving the rock (I like that rock), and the tulips, with the oak anchoring one end, and the young blue spruce along the south side. The options are endless. I'm swimming with thoughts of sweeping spreads of spring bulbs - daffodils mostly, with tulips popping up from early to late season. Summer roses, butterfly flowers and soft colours, ending with a blast of autumn blooms in deep reds and oranges firing up the feet of the red oak.  
With 17 feet from the east to the blue spruce and 18 feet to the end of the bed under the oak branches, that's  lot of space. It won't take long though, and if I could absorb my entire wishlist from the catalogs spread all over my desk the dog ottoman it would be filled by the weekend. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

dear garden diary,

10 May 2014
10 May 2014
From under our oak tree, the tree I see when I close my eyes, I've been creeping around watching things grow. Tulips are appearing, maybe some Lili of the Valley too..., not entirely sure who else. In the back - in the garden bed we're removing entirely to make way for dogs and two wind-breaking, privacy giving blue spruce - I'm finding hostas, daylilies, and maybe iris(?) but it's soon soon and cold for them to identify themselves. They'll all be relocated somewhere along the south border.

From under the oak I also find a great view of the harbour, the park, and our Wild Thing trees. As I began writing this post I was staring out the window, watching a man walk with a skip in his step across the park and as he passed the Wild Thing he tapped one tree then backtracked a bit to tap the other. Saying hello? 
Who else loves those trees as much as I do?

This is the May of April showers. The few nice days we've had have turned out backyard and shack into a garden in progress. Plants and pots everywhere, bags of planting mixes heaped on the back wall, tools leaning. It's beginning to look less like someone else's boring shrub garden and more like Amy's natural disaster. GRIN

Saturday was a good day in the midst of misery. An enormous number of plants followed us home from lunch, and I can't even be entirely blamed (Rohan is as bad as I am so long as he can eat it).

The evening that followed found me laughing hysterically with Cathy and Lori as the sun set, then sitting fireside with my best friend and best love until midnight. Warm enough to stay in flip-flops, cool enough to want to add leg-warmers to my ensemble.
What all this time outdoors has taught me is that wind may be a bigger problem than I had anticipated. It can be wild. When it dies down the air here is fresh, it has never felt settled - there are just too many places for it to swirl around, over and through. I'll have to make sure everybody has a buddy, a plant to lean on, you know. 

I spent today planting in a cold wind and a bit of drizzle a few feet from the fire pit:
russian sage 'peek-a-boo blue'
virginia bluebells
scabiosa 'butterfly blue
carpet phlox 'sapphire blue'
aster 'wonder of staffa' (blue)
clematis 'sea breeze (blue)
liatris 'purple blazing star'
lilac 'beauty of moscow'
echinacea 'emotion bright orange' and 'marmalade'
agapanthus 'blue globe'
achillea millefollium - yarrow 'red beauty'
anchusa azurea 'dropmore'
anemone hupehensis 'praecox'
lilium 'strawberry vanilla'

The pot of enormous size that lives in the corner of the patio was there when we bought the house, and I'm undecided about leaving it there. For now, for lack of a better idea it will stay (and because it's too damn heavy for anyone to move..). I've seeded a bunch of gourds and miniature pumpkins that should be strong enough to climb from the pot over the obelisk, and maybe strong enough to withstand the wind. We shall see....