Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Little Green Onions

I often wonder if I am strange, or if living in the country has just made me feel stranger without the veil of a busy city life to disguise things. I can't sleep again, and at 2 am I thought I would be much alone with with my thoughts to sort this out. But a constant scraping outside the window has alerted me to my neighbour, who is shovelling his driveway. I guess he can't sleep either, or he's trying to escape his wife again, for which I wouldn't blame him.

We moved to our country setting nine years ago to find peace. But the quiet imposed by this winter has made it almost too quiet. The birds have retreated and the coyotes haunting chatter has ceased to fill the early morning air. The relentless cold and ever mounting snow is starting to feel less beautiful and more confining. Reaching for gratitude lightens my spirit and I do try to remind myself that nature is vastly intelligent, and in the spring this snow will melt and feed my well, the river that runs behind us, the roots of the trees and the very soil that I need to grow things in.

All will be made green and glorious once more.

Our wood pile has dwindled down to the last row of logs that are perfectly frozen to the ground. Feeding my wood stove gives me purpose in the winter, and one of my few forms of exercise. Chop, carry, stack, repeat. Though we can heat with the furnace, we've tried very hard not to and much like an eager child I look forward to seeing how much lower my hydro bill can actually go, and if the savings we incur offset the initial cost of the wood. And, so far, yes it has. With the wood supply dwindling I am worried about the rhythm of my days as two more months of winter looms in the horizon.

Which is why I am thinking too much.

I am one of those that worry deeply about climate change and wish truly that I had more answers on how to make it better. I look at my youngest daughter and wonder what her life will be like when she reaches my age. Food security is a hot topic right now, and I do find it encouraging that more of us seem to be inclined to have chickens and victory gardens and bravely take a stand for a more honest way of living. I wish our governments and large corporations could bring themselves to be just as honest.

We compost, we recycle, we buy as much organically grown and free trade products that we can afford. In the growing season we choose to design with native plants and drought tolerant varieties. Little acts of kindness to repay a world that has given me so much.

I was inspired by a photo I saw on Pinterest.  I started saving the ends of the rather expensive organic green onions we've been buying and planting them up in spot on the only windowsill in the house that lets in enough light.  They will grow in water, but I was craving soil between my fingers.

I don't believe I have ever admitted the aversion I have to house plants in general, which seems like a contradiction to my very nature. I know am very hard on myself and I find it utter nonsense that I can't keep an African Violet alive, but there you have it. A confession. That these unsuspecting green onions have flourished and are ready for harvesting after a mere three weeks is astounding to me. One small victory. I'll gladly take it.

I think the point I am trying to make to myself in these early morning, slightly caffeinated ramblings is that there is always more we can do, that I can do, even when we feel overwhelmed by the troubles of the world. That I may be strange in thinking that a garden has the power to change a life, to change worlds, but that perhaps I should be thankful that I feel that strangeness...that I am not content to live by the status quo.

Meet Ron Finley

Hope takes many forms. Inspiration can be found in the smallest of things. Gratitude has the power to shift beliefs.

Be bold. Cherish everything. Grow onions.

Monday, 27 January 2014

Kiwi Gardens, Perth

I am slowly making my way through the hundreds of pictures I took last summer, scattered between the Canon and the Blackberry. Waiting to edit summer photos while yet another January snow falls softly outside the windows is a reward in itself, and I am thoroughly enjoying the escape to some of the beautiful places and spaces we were able to visit in 2013.

At the end of the first week in June, Paul and I were able to sneak away for a quiet drive to Kiwi Gardens in Perth. Though it is only an hour away, this is the first time we had been there. I was on a quest  for Persicaria Polymorpha, and their website had it listed…the only garden centre, it seemed, anywhere near Kingston that had this particular perennial available...but that is a post (or rant) for another day.

As we pulled into the parking lot, the gardens began, and I instantly regretted leaving the Canon at home.  I said a small prayer to my husband's Blackberry and hoped it would do some justice in capturing what I was seeing. The garden centre is surrounded by lush forest, and overcast skies gave contrast to the vibrancy of the perennial beds, most designed with shade loving perennials and native shrubs…I will let the pictures speak for themselves.

Parking lot border

A lesson in the effective use of ground covers,
colour and composition.

Beautiful flagstone pathways -
hostas clearly thrive here

The nursery - I was impressed with the staff as much as the gardens.
Everyone was incredibly friendly and possessed a genuine, passionate
knowledge about the plants they sell. 

Pathways lead you through tantalizing display gardens,
many perennials are identified along the way
for gardeners of all abilities.


Beautiful artwork is displayed along the walkways.

Display bed - perennials are grown and propagated on site.

Kiwi gardens is situated on ten acres near Perth, Ontario. The owners have been in business for twenty-five years and though I did not have the opportunity to meet them, their love of the plants and nature is evident in every beautiful nook and cranny. I look forward to visiting again this spring and perhaps wandering a little longer.

Theirs represents the dream of a life I hope to have someday, working and living amongst gardens, sustaining, nourishing and cherishing diversity. Kiwi Gardens offers a refuge for 3000 perennials, many unique and not easy to find on the tables of our mainstream garden centres. A plant list is available on their website, and I urge you to browse through it as we sit and wait, planning for spring. If you are lucky enough to visit and shop, I urge you to bring your camera and comfortable shoes for strolling the trails.

By the way, I did find my Persicaria, and purchased three healthy plants along with five Carex Rosea and a few more perennial treasures.

Wishing you lovely day!

Friday, 24 January 2014

Beginning Again

It has been quite a while since I’ve written, and I am actually so surprised I remembered my password to login. Making the time to write, something I think of as a gift to myself, lost priority this year to the running of businesses and caring for a home and family. More than once I have wondered why we keep up this crazy notion that running two businesses at the same time is a good idea, but it is hard to imagine life without both of them in it.


The doubts and constant soul searching that comes with being an entrepreneur, and a completely self taught one at that, creep in constantly. In a seasonal business like landscaping, when winter feels like it will never end, I find myself worrying what the next season will bring. Will I have amazing clients like last year, will I be challenged, how is the industry truly doing, will I be able to pay the bills, will the bees come back, will I finally make time for tomatoes…

Bachelor's Buttons blooming all summer…one of the few bees we had can be seen nestled in a flower

Nepeta…perhaps a garden's best friend

I am so grateful to report that last spring and summer was a truly amazing season for us. My baby, Stone and Maple Landscpaing, had the opportunity to work with truly wonderful, interesting and inspiring people. We began in the spring teaching a group of volunteers in a three week landscaping program partnered with a not-for-profit daycare centre. A cedar pergola and sandbox was constructed for the children, and our volunteers learned valuable skills, the most important I think being the value of giving and the happiness that working with your hands can bring. I will never forget the last day of the project, as three tough looking guys with tears in their eyes stood watching the kids play in the sandbox for the first time. Priceless.

Found a new geranium at the garden centre…she's so pretty
Chamomile left to self seed

The rest of the summer was a whirlwind. At home inspiration came from that April ice storm. So many branches destined for the fire pit made their way instead into the beginning of a hugelculture garden. The plum trees bloomed, the cherries tried, a carpet of chamomile swept under the apples. I waited for bees. I cursed the mustard garlic pulling it out by the wheelbarrowfull. I planted peas, lettuce and spinach with my sweet Julia, watched in amazement at the progression of the raspberry patch. The old apple tree bloomed. The redbud bloomed, I sat in my wicker swing and meditated on its beauty. I sat grateful everyday for the spring rains, plants that struggled last year burst forth with flower. 

All the world becomes right again after a few moments spent in the swing...

Our youngest daughter Julia and my best garden helper! 

The glorious blue spires of baptisia, luscious peonies, iris, lilac, and the tiny white bells of Deautzia Chardonnay Pearls and Bridal Bush. Bachelors buttons, calendula and daisy erupted everywhere. The clematis was a riot of pink, nepeta Walker’s Low was a froth of lilac/ Carl Foester was stately, but Miscanthus and Pennisteum were sadly missing. 

We watched and waited for the bees. 

Chives, rhubarb and comfrey in the herb garden

Beautiful blue baptisia 

I pulled more mustard garlic. The hedge of comphrey was a magnificant show, I left it to flower for the bees. A few came, but not the hundreds that used to swarm the comfrey flowers, falling asleep in a contented, drunken state to be found asleep every morning snuggled in the blossoms.

I watched Julia play in the garden, marvel at the size of the rhubarb, sit quietly by the pond, play with frogs, run through the stone pathways and gather bouquets of dandelions. She waited for the butterflies.

In the shade gardens the hostas grew, mingling with Solomon’s Seal, hydrangea, geranium and masterwort. Ajuga spread under the boxwoods, jacob’s ladder and brunnera created a sea of palest blue under the japanese maples.

The sweet scent of Miss Kim lilac perfumed the yard for days on end
Clematis finally taking off this year, I thank the spring rains
I added more herb beds and promised myself that I would valiantly make the effort to take care of my vegetable garden, whose fate is very similar to that of this blog. Additional work and maintenance began for two of our favourite long-standing clients at their cottage; a drainage problem was remedied and a new garden was created for Pauline, one of our very first clients, and as such holds a special place in our hearts. We spent a few days on spring maintenance at the Utilities Kingston Water Conversation Garden then spent time throughout the summer working with the summer’s garden intern, another sweet, creative, hard working Julia, who was an absolute joy to be with. 

We worked again with Utilities Kingston to design and install Phase 1 of a water conversation garden, this time at the King Street Water Treatment Plant in Kingston. Everyone we worked with on this project was so truly kind, passionate and supportive of this project, it was a true pleasure. This segued into a three week build of retaining walls during the hottest part of the summer. Our client Tom was a dream to work with, and he made sure he kept us well watered and filled with gingerale as we struggled in the heat and humidity. But it hurt, my muscles ached for weeks and my body reminded my daily that I was definitely not even close to being 29 anymore.

That segued into the bioswale installation in Kingston, which I confess is one of my most rewarding experiences, for many reasons.

Echinacea and switchgrass dancing in the bioswale

Summer gave way to fall, then winter and Christmas and finally this ice locked January where I sit in my snow pants at the keyboard trying to warm body and soul.