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Posts Tagged ‘gardening’

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Day lilies

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Phlox

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Gladiolas

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Coreopsis

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Statice, I think

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Crocisima and wild geranium

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Bee balm

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Mexican grass and annuals

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So satisfying to pick one sad corner of the garden and do some spring cleaning.
That’s what I did last Friday while waiting for the honey wagon to come and pump out the septic tank.

Before

Before

and After

and After

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I can never remember -exactly- what blooms when. So I will be posting pictures once a month for future reference and so I can choose and position new perennials to best advantage in future. 

Peiris

Peiris

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Lenten Rose. (Hellebore)

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Bluebells and primrose

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Pig's Ear

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Heather

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Trillium

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Rhododendron

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Mystery plant from my neighbour Elaine

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Sweet olive tree just one sunny day away from bloom.

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Spring in the Kootenays: High water and lupins

I believe it’s good – every now and then – to push “Pause” and do an all-points inspection of yourself and your life. When actually forced to do this, about a year ago, I came to the conclusion that a personal retreat was in order. I have latched on to current events and dubbed my retreat my “Jubilee Year Celebration.”

It isn’t easy to pull this off. It required planning. Cottager came on board right away. My employer agreed, last November, to allow me eight weeks leave on an income averaging arrangement. I want to give my full attention, through this period, to the things that really matter to me.

So the first thing I did was make a visit, along with my sister, to my parents in the Kootenays.  We stayed five days, helping out a little bit around their property, but really just enjoying their company. Our usual visits involve husbands, children and pets and can seem rushed or chaotic. It was so pleasant to just hang out.

The second thing I did was make some quality time with my own family. It’s hard, with both urchins in school and working, but we did it.  We spent a night in a hotel near Seattle; visited the Woodland Park Zoo (we’re all bonkers for animals); had great Mexican food, and went shopping at the Outlets.  These are four things we all enjoy. Along the way we had a lot of laughs and some great conversations.  My guys are just amazing men.

And today I’ve moved on to Stage Two, taking up residence at Keats View Cottage for the next month in order to pursue personal goals which never seem to find time and space in my day-to-day life.

These goals fall roughly into two groups: Creativity and Wellness.

My creative goals include indulging a desire to immerse myself, however briefly, in a creative writing process.  Sub goals are to make a small quilt and to work an hour or two in the garden each day so as to move beyond simply trying to beat back nature.  Quite honestly, the quilt may just be wishful thinking.

On the wellness front, I aspire to get 8 hours of sleep each night, exercise, eat well, and make a daily practice of stress-reduction techniques. It’s a tall order, but I like tall things, and I am determined to give this a try.

Follow along and I will let you know how it goes.

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All that cooking wasn’t quite enough to purge me of all my mental clutter and exhaustion. So when I got to the cottage that recent early morning and Cottager needed a nap on the couch to recover from a late night and an early morning, I grabbed all my sharpest and most dangerous tools and went out to deal with Laurel.

This single shrub has monopolized the sun, harboured invaders like English Ivy and Morning Glory and crowded the paths from day one.  My initial timid trims gave way to repeated efforts to keep the top shoots under control, but on this particular day, it was like I was seeing it for the first time.  I knew I couldn’t kill it if I tried, so why not  give the girl a serious haircut?  Luckily, I remembered to take out my phone and take a few pictures before I started…

From one side . . .

 

. . . and from the other side.

 
And here is how it looked a few hours later after I had unloaded all of my urban frustrations, anger and guilt:
 (yes, there was a stump in there!)
 

From one side . . .

 

. . . and from the other side.

And here is what I removed from this shrub, including the forementioned parasites and an enormous salal growing out of the stump:
 

What Cottager had to haul away when he got up from his nap.

Now, what to do about the stump? It is fairly degraded, and Cottager is of the opinion that we could tear it out easily. I, on the other hand, like the idea of chopping enough of a hole in its soft gooey center to hide a nice pot with some trailing flowers in the spring.  O!  and some small white lights for the laurel branches, I think.

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What to take – or leave – as a gift of thanks when invited out to a friend’s cottage? I’ve been asked this question a few times recently.  It depends, in part, on how long you stay, and how well you know your host. At the risk of appearing grasping to our own dear friends – who know that a bottle of red and a heat-and-serve appie thrill us to the core, here are a few ideas for when the terrain is less certain: 

For a day or overnight visit –

One – or even two – nice bottles of wine.  You don’t have to be extravagant, but this isn’t the time to bargain shop either. A nice rosé or chardonnay in the $15-$20 range should hit the mark.  Just to be clear, this is a gift for the host and should be separate from whatever you bring to contribute for the day’s or evening’s festivities.  They may choose to open it while you are there, but don’t be surprised if they don’t. 

Even if your hosts aren’t known to be big drinkers, a bottle of wine will be appreciated by nearly everyone, and can be easily passed along where it is not.  Consumable items are always the best, since a big part of the joy of a recreational property is keeping it simple (ie, uncluttered.)

A Weekend Visit

The wine, as noted above, plus a small gift.  If you have time to bake something a bit decadent and wrap it up attractively, do so.  If not, think luxury consumable – like a deluxe coffee or box of teas. If you want to give something more enduring, best to keep it small in size. Consider a small token that mirrors one of your host’s enthusiasms.  I once received this lovely mug, with a detail from a print which hangs in my cottage, and I am touched by the thoughtfulness of the giver each time I use it. 

 Lee Valley also makes garden mugs resembling terra cotta flower pots. I received a pair of these and they see lots of use. They say ‘country house’ without being the least over-the-top or kitschy. 

A few days to a week’s stay-

Another great gift for anyone with rural property to maintain is this Lee Valley Folding Kneeler Stool.  While bigger than a mug, it folds neatly for storage and is endlessly useful for both the occasional putterer or the hard-core gardener.

It flips over to offer a dry kneeling pad and the legs become uprights to help get you back on your feet again with ease. I love mine. This retails for around $40.00 and has an optional tool holder for another $21.  In early spring or fall, when all the outdoor furniture is in storage, it doubles as a quick drinks table at the end of a day of yardwork.

The Really Grand Gesture –

Suppose an acquaintance hands you the keys to his waterfront, hot-tub equipped, 8-room chalet, and says “take the whole family and have fun for a week – we’re just sorry we won’t be there to host you”  – then wine and a mug will not suffice.  First, leave the place cleaner than it has ever been.  If possible, engage a local cleaner to come in at your expense and leave it in pristine condition.  Second, a case of wine would be a great gift for a wine-loving cottage owner.  If you are not feeling confident, ask for some assistance at the liquor store in choosing a thoughtful, themed selection rather than a dozen identical bottles – even if you feel pretty sure you know your host’s favourite label.  A gift card for a nice restaurant back in the city is another option.  Or if your benefactor is fond of reading, and not already equipped with the latest technology, a e-reader makes a wonderful gift – choose a 3-G equipped model so books can be downloaded at a moment’s notice even in a remote or rural locale.

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It was never really a contest. When these four black bears – a Momma with triplets – descended on the lone huckleberry in my tiny patch of garden on Saturday afternoon, the huckleberries had no chance. They pulled the bush down and stripped it in about three minutes. The cubs wrestled and cavorted in my geraniums for a bit and then they beat it up the trail, leaving less than a dozen crushed berries behind. That green chair is where I was sitting and reading half an hour prior to their arrival.

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