Arbor Day

Arbor Day has never been a day that I personally associated with…until now. I’ve always loved the notion of Earth Day, even though I try to live each and every day in a manner of caring for our planet. Arbor Day seemed too one-dimensional, too all-about-trees. I wouldn’t feel all aglow at the thought of Soil Day even though healthy soil is essential. Why the sudden desire to adore a day for trees? My heart just feels in tune with trees recently. I have become more observant of the trees around me and have gained appreciation of each one’s individual uniqueness. As a Horticulture Technician, gardener and environmental tree-hugger I have always understood the value and beauty of trees but something in me has shifted to feel the presence of trees like never before.

In Ontario (Canada) we observe Arbor Week from the last Friday in April until the first Sunday in May.   J. Sterling Morton founded the idea of having a special day in honour of planting trees over 135 years ago. Isn’t it reassuring that we still note this day to plant trees? I feel optimistic when a tree is planted with the intent of it enjoying its growth for many years. On the wings of optimism I planted a tree this morning in my back yard. My little tree has a special place in my heart. When my son was just a wee little guy, he brought me home a sapling from school one day. It was so tiny that it was almost unrecognizable as a Spruce. It was potted in a Dixie cup and sat on our windowsill for a month or so before it graduated to a pot on the patio. Since this tree exited the school in my son’s tiny hand it has been contained in a pot until today.  I couldn’t decide where the perfect spot in our garden would be to plant this tree until today. I went out into the back yard to enjoy the bright clear sky when I noticed a sunbeam in the back corner of our garden. It was like a stage light directed at the perfect location!

Spruce- Picea Abies

One day this small tree will become tall and stately, just like the little boy who presented it to me with great pride and a toothy grin.

Although I love my Picea abies (Norway Spruce), my favorite tree in my garden is the majestic Austrian Pine (Pinus nigra). To me it is reminiscent of the Group of Seven paintings I  adore and is a signal to me that I am home as I come around the corner.

Pinus nigra - Austrian Pine

Pinus nigra – Austrian Pine

Pinus nigra - Austrian Pine

Pinus nigra – Austrian Pine

Pinus nigra - Austrian Pine

“There is always Music amongst the trees in the Garden, but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it.”  ~Minnie Aumonier

Day of Smells

Yesterday. The Day of Smells. Every day is filled with smells you may say, but yesterday seems to be especially poignant in my mind. Let me explain.

 

 

 

Daffodils - Narcissus

Daffodils – Narcissus

 

 

 

Although the day was filled to overflowing with scents, there were a few that really stood out.

 

 

 

Starting my day as usual…freshly ground coffee. Mmmm, my favorite smell to start the day. Without coffee’s mouth-watering aroma my day is not the same. I even ran in to Starbucks yesterday for an extra fix on my way to work which is highly unusual. Alright, alright, I really needed a washroom before jumping in the work truck due to an overabundance of coffee already but I just can’t resist the deliciousness of wafting coffee aromas. “I’ll have a Venti Tribute Blend black, please.” Ah, just what I needed. Smell #1.

 

 

 

Smell #2 – crunchy, decaying leaves on the forest floor. I just love that earthy, rich fragrance. Breathe deep.

 

 

 

“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.” – Margaret Atwood

The fragrance of Spring is in full force. So many wonderful smells at this time of the year. More so than at any other time, I would say.  Hyacinth’s distinct smell perfumed the air yesterday. Such a heady fragrance.  The only issue was that while the hyacinth perfume was filling my nostrils another odour wafted in and altered the experience – skunk. Cough, cough…ew. There was obviously a skunks home in the vicinity. Wowzers, it was extra odoriferous.

 

 

 

The best smell of the day was a first for the season and another of my favorite smells – fresh-cut grass. Oh my. My head was swooning from the green ambrosia. Is it getting hot in here, or is it just me? Ahem, sorry.  There is something so mesmerizing about the first whiff of cut grass for the season. Oh who am I kidding, I am always affected by it. Always have been. So much so that years ago two friends of mine from high school (yes, I’ve love the fragrance that long) gave me a fresh-cut lawn scented candle as a gift. It was pretty darn close to the real thing too.

 

 

 

The worst odor of the day was also the last. There was a strange, funky smell in the hallway outside my office door. It was a strong iron-like stench with undertones of wet pennies. Gag. I was on a mission to find what was causing the rancidity and I eventually found it. Uh-oh. My daughter’s hamster had died and left behind wafting lines of stank. It is shocking how quickly dead animals start to decompose. I had heard him sifting around through his bedding the day before. Perhaps poor little Marshmallow was preparing himself for the inevitable. Sniff. We have had a few hamsters as pets over the years and each of them had unique personalities. Marshmallow was by far my favorite. He was a gentle little creature and will be missed. Many tears were shed last night over not being able to say goodbye. Sometimes a final farewell is within the heart, not with words. This morning I had the task of burying Marshmallow in the garden. I chose his final resting place in a small garden filled with Black-Eyed Susan that my daughter and her best friend planted two summers ago. What did I notice while fluffing the soil afterward? The spicy aroma of cedars and warm earthiness of the soil.

 

 

 

 

 

 “Spring won’t let me stay in this house any longer! I must get out and breathe the air deeply again.” – Gustav Mahler

Lightning Storms Aplenty

My first day off work in seven days has finally arrived and with it came a great amount of rain.  This is turning out to be a Spring dictated by the pendulum swing of Mother Nature’s moods. The past two nights we have been treated to incredible lightning displays interspersed with loud rolling thunderclaps. Pelting rain and hail have also made an appearance. I enjoy a good thunderstorm every so often.  The intense energy of a thunderstorm is exhilarating. I have great memories of sitting outside in the breezeway with my dad and sisters watching thunderstorms as a kid. My dad instilled in us that all aspects of Nature and weather are to be respected and enjoyed. These are the memories that last a lifetime. I think this is why I love the energy of storms and rainfall so much.

 

 

 

lightening

 

 

 

Last night as I sat sipping tea with a wonderful friend in the window of Starbucks, intensely discussing our lives since we last talked. We noted periodically the flashes of lightning strikes on the other side of the glass.  I was feeling a bit edgy being so vulnerable while at the same time enthralled by Nature’s magnificence. Why is it that often we are drawn to things that can do great damage? Like storm chasers following tornadoes or those that love the thrill of cliff-diving. The chances of being struck by lightning are pretty slim but it’s still a possibility. It seems to me by my limited research that approximately 120 to 190 people per year are struck by lightning in Canada. On average about 10 people per year die from lightning strikes in Canada alone. Most of these “hits” occur in Ontario, Quebec or Saskatchewan. Yet another reason I refrain from golfing (not really, I just am a seriously terrible golfer). There are not enough trips to the clubhouse that could make me enjoy spending time on the course. One interesting tidbit is that 84% of lightning strike victims are male and sometimes while holding a metal club while in an open area. Very curious.

 

 

 

One of my early recollections of lightning striking close to home was just that; lightning striking my home. Luckily no one was in the house at the time. My mom and I had been shopping for back to school clothes if I remember correctly and we were coming out of the shopping mall on the opposite side of the city from where we lived when the thunderstorm began. The thunder was insanely loud, that I still remember. When we finally returned home we noticed bricks scattered around the yard and our chimney missing. Inside the house told  the story of how damaging lightning can be. Throughout the second story of the house the jolt of electricity left its calling card. Even down the stairwell at the opposite side of the house there was evidence remaining. I recall standing in the backyard noting how the bricks of the chimney lay while listening as the adults talked. Funny how only certain snippets of past events stay within our memory while the remaining information is suppressed or deleted.

 

 

 

From this moment, I was a lightning enthusiast. I have a healthy respect for the destructive power while being enthralled by its magnificence. Shortly after the aforementioned event I went on a warpath in the tiny school library looking for information about lightning and storms. I became hyperaware of safety protocols and still recall vividly the day on the school playground when a thunderstorm rolled in at recess and a bunch of kids ran to a lone tree in the middle of the field. I kept thinking “what a bunch of idiots! Don’t they know that is the worst place to stand?” Obviously they didn’t know and were more concerned with getting wet than being struck by lightning!

 

 

 

I have passed along my appreciation of a great thunderstorm to my kids. Some nights when the sky is filled with flashes of lightening bolts we snuggle on the living room couch and watch as Nature shows off.  Way better than squeezing in amongst other people, vying for the perfect position and swatting at mosquitos to watch a fireworks display, I’d say. Now that Spring has finally arrived and with it the likelihood of thunderstorms, I feel electrified. Pardon the pun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“There are many silly superstitions about lightning, and as a result many people – maybe even you – are terrified of it. You shouldn’t worry. Thanks to modern science we now know that lightning is nothing more than huge chunks of electricity that can come out of the sky, anytime, anywhere, and kill you.”  – Dave Barry

Spring Whimsy

Lately I have noticed a bit of a trend toward goal-making. I love this concept of putting down on paper (or shouting from the rooftop, so to speak) what one plans on accomplishing within a certain time period. As I was reading many admirable lists that others made for themselves it became increasingly obvious that I am not in this goal getter zone. Normally at this time of year I would be planning what needs to be in order before summer arrives but this year feels different. Why am I not chomping at the bit this Spring to get myself making lists and putting my plans into action?

 

 

 

Here is my list as to why I have not prioritized my life from sun up to sun down each and every day this month.

 

  • I am a whimsical sort of person. I will drop everything if I come up with a more interesting plan. Yes, my Gemini spirit is rather dominant.
  • Lately I feel confined by lists.
  • There are so many great things to do in the Spring! How can I possibly list them all?
  • I have just started back to work (landscaping/gardening) and am aware that by the end of each day I will be moving as though I am wearing a suit of armour. It is temporary until I get back into the swing of things and my body remembers what it is supposed to do. Let’s just get through each day still smiling, shall we?
  • Day to-day stuff like meals and laundry just has to be taken care of, list or no list.

 

 

Included in my Plan of Attack (this is as organized as I am going to get at the moment. In two weeks I will probably be organized to a “t”. I normally like the structure of goals and lists but for now I am going to forego this need to plan everything):

 

  • My intention is to live each day to the fullest.
  • Laugh every day until I either cry  or my stomach hurts from laughing so hard.
  • Enjoy my time with friends and family.
  • Dance like no one is watching…a lot!
  • Feed my Soul and my body with goodness.

 

 

 

 

enjoy life

 

 

 

 

So in the spirit of the riotous behaviour beginning outside in the garden at the moment, I too shall be full of whimsy and delight in the energy of renewal that blows in on the Spring winds. With a dash of sass, of course.

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”  – Confucius

Jumping the Gun

Spring has arrived, at least the calendar tells us so. Here in southern Ontario (Canada), it feels a bit more Spring-like than winterish. Is winterish a word? No, you say? It doesn’t matter, I like it so I shall use it. Signs of Spring are starting to become more obvious. The air smells different – earthy and wonderful, yet there is still a chill in the air when the breeze blows. Yesterday I pointed out to my daughter that the narcissus’ in the front garden have started to laboriously push their way up through the mulch to reach for the sun. We were perhaps a little too excited by this as we clucked like hens loudly about the coming of Spring flowers and warmer temperatures while hovering over the tiny green shoots. I felt as though we may just break out in song and dance! Perhaps we should cut back on watching Glee for a bit. The appearance of these tender green shoots encouraged me to look around a bit more at things we take for granted when the seasons change and life-force starts to become evident in the plant world. Yes, this is the plant nerd coming out in me again. I could inspect plants in minor detail for hours on end and never lose interest. I am utterly fascinated by the tenacity and instinctual intelligence of the botanical world around us.

 

 

 

Spring shoots

 

 

 

Although Spring is definitely my favourite time of the year (and not just because my birthday is in the Spring), there is a phenomena that always irks me each and every Spring. I am about to share with you one of my greatest pet peeves so get ready. It may not seem like much to most of you but to me this is HUGE. After a few nice days in a row, people start to flood outside into their gardens raking like fiends and start working in their gardens. Hey, I am as antsy as the next person about getting out in the soil and getting dirty but slow down!  This, my friends and readers, is my pet peeve. Over-zealous gardeners that are starting too early and possibly doing more harm than good. This won’t ring true world-wide obviously, but here where we enjoy four distinct seasons we need to stop rushing the next one before Mother Nature is ready. We are pouncing on Mother Nature as she is stretching, waking from her long slumber through the winter and demanding that she perform her magic instantly. I would think she would like to enjoy a cup of coffee before she gets down to business, just like you and I would. We need to focus not so much on getting things in order but instead enjoy the order of things that take place. Think about that a moment.

 

 

 

Non-gardeners and gardeners may view nature differently but we often have something in common. The desire to keep nature in its place or to tame it. To use it for our own purposes whether it be for cultivation of food or aesthetics. This has both pros and cons and I think has inspired another post at another time. Instead of rushing things to the next stage, why not watch the splendour that nature offers at this most magical time of the year. Have you ever noticed the formation of a flower bud? How the small, hard green bud slowly alters into a tightly wound group of petals that unfurl until its beauty is on full display. If that weren’t incredible enough, pollinators like bees start to notice this gorgeous display and come in for a landing. This whole process is mystical and hypnotising…I’m surprised I accomplish anything in the Spring!

 

 

 

When we slow down our need to control the elements of nature in our yards we allow nature to do what is intended without our interference and interruption at a critical time in its life cycle. For instance, if I rush outside today and start raking leaves that have blown into my garden over the winter, I will be removing the protective barrier that keeps tiny shoots from being hit with frost or even being damaged by me raking over them. Fresh shoots are immensely strong to push through soil to reach the sky but are also extremely fragile. Being mindful of the growth cycles in your zone and garden is a much more logical way to plan your tasks than rushing out and being a weekend warrior and doing everything at once. Treat nature with respect, supply the correct care and you will be rewarded.

 

 

 

Furious activity is no substitute for understanding.
– H. H. Williams

To begin your gardening year off on the right note inform yourself as to what zone you live in. This is imperative to proper plant selection and care.

Click here for North American plant zone map.

Click here for Canadian plant zone map.

Click here for European plant zone map.

Click here for Australian plant zone map.

Click here for African plant zone map.

 

 

 

Take the time this Spring to inform yourself about correct timing for garden tasks in your zone before jumping the gun. Your garden will thank you. It also gives you time to enjoy the show!

“If you really want to draw close to your garden, you must remember first of
all that you are dealing with a being that lives and dies; like the human body,
with its poor flesh, its illnesses at times repugnant. One must not always see
it dressed up for a ball, manicured and immaculate.”
– Fernand Lequenne,
Botanist