Riotous Explosion

Burning Bush - Euonymus alatus

Burning Bush – Euonymus alatus

 

 

 

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.”  – Albert Camus 

 

 

 

As the garden season is winding down and Mother Nature is tucking many types of flora and fauna in for a long nap, the last burst appears. A riotous explosion of colour that delights the senses.

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Getting To Know Each Other

This post is a bit out of the ordinary for me. Normally I don’t participate in awards sent my way. I appreciate the kindness of others to share my blog along and am flattered by the positive reinforcement that what I have to say is enjoyed, at least in part, by somebody  else. Today I am giving a shout out to a lovely lady blogger that brings smiles with each of her posts and comments. I have come to look forward to her posts because I know that encapsulated within each one there is positive reinforcement that there is a silver lining and life is grand. Thank you, Ute!  Please check out Ute’s blog at utesmile.wordpress.com .

 

 

I have decided to answer the questions Ute has requested to be answered. Doing so helps my followers or those new here to get to know me a bit better and perhaps create a more personal bond.  Sharing interests and similar thoughts with others allows us to appreciate ourselves and our relationships with others more and feel a sense of connection. Here goes!

 

 

 

1. Are you a morning or an evening person?

 

Hmm… I would say that I am both. I love rising before the sun to gain the peace before the morning chaos begins. Some mornings can be challenging to get out the door so if I already have my mind focused my day starts on a good note. On the other hand, I am driven by communication and fun and the evening seems to be when the world is buzzing!

 

 

2. Which day of the week is your favourite and why?

 

In all honesty, I love Mondays. Yes I really do. Activity and movement kicks into high gear on Monday mornings…knees to chest! Get moving!

 

 

3. What is your favourite fruit and veg?

 

This is a hard one. I love almost all fruits and veggies. As a longtime vegetarian I have learned to love the variety and taste differences, sometimes subtle, in all edible plants. With the exception of papaya and lima beans which I would rather not consume.

 

 

4. If there was a planet/star which can be lived on apart from earth, would you go there to live and why?

 

The planet Earth is an incredible place. Mind you, I have no first-hand knowledge of other planets. The thought of being encased in a capsule shooting through space for goodness knows how long freaks me out too much to imagine myself leaving the beauty of this environment. If I could teleport to another planet however, it would be one of botanical abundance.

 

 

5. What type of music is your favourite?

 

Definitely Blues.

 

 

6. Have you had any encounters with animals/ insects you don’t like?

 

As a professional gardener/landscaper and horticulture technician I have definitely had my fair share of insect and animal encounters. Insects are definitely fascinating if not a bit off-putting, however I think any contact with centipedes would count as the most horrific in my eyes. Ack!

 

 

7. What makes you happy?

 

I am easy to please as I enjoy each moment for what it is (unless of course I feel threatened or fearful). Laughter makes my world go around! Happiness comes from within but outside sources that contribute to inner happiness are my kids, squeezey-take-my-breath-away hugs, wind in my hair, cranked up loud music, the feeling of being connected, and on and on.

 

 

8. Imagine you are on a lovely island, stranded, who would you like to bump into?

 

Someone with a great mind, sense of adventure and a warm personality. Time flies when you are having fun!

 

 

9. What colour suits you best? Do you wear colours often?

 

My favourite colour is blue and I wear it often in all its varying hues, although I think I wear aqua/turquoise the most as it brings out my baby blues.

 

 

10. Is nature important to you?

 

Nature is the centre of my world. We all come from Nature and will return there. I work in Nature every day of my life and feel a strong connection with the Earth. I try to live my Life as environmentally ethical as possible with the knowledge I have at every given moment. I can’t imagine feeling any other way.

 

 

A huge “thank you” to Ute for the recognition.

Melissa

I Dream of Gardens

 

 

I am in a gardening frame of mind at present. I eat, breathe and sleep gardens during the summer months. Yes, I even dream of plants in my slumber. I am always grateful to get dirty and breathe fresh air.

 

 

Last weekend I felt the urge to get out into a garden that I could savor its beauty with no strings attached. To walk among the greenery, stop to smell whatever flower caught my eye, and sit still and let my senses lap up all that was on offer.  I figured that the best location to do this was at the Niagara Parks Botanical Garden that is about a fifteen minute drive on the highway from my house. I hadn’t been in this particular garden for a few years so I thought it was high time I check it out again. I am never disappointed by the gorgeous planters and urns that dot the walkways. They are a symphony of colour and textures that are pleasing to behold. Despite the plethora of planters, my timing was not great since many of the show gardens, the rose garden in particular, had just finished blooming and had been recently dead-headed. The Parks had planned well and planted adjacent flower beds with eye-popping colour in hopes of detracting away from the blah vista of non-blooming rose bushes. Candy-coloured annuals distracted me from disappointment.

 

 

There is one area in particular in this 100 acre property that calls to me through the treetops and beckons me to make a beeline directly into its inner sanctum – the herb garden. This garden is walled by cedar hedges that were planted in the 1940’s and still stand, perfectly manicured to create not only a mini micro-climate but also creates the feel of an outdoor room that quite honestly, I would be more than happy to stay in for hours.

Herb Garden

Herb Garden

 

 

 

After the herb garden, a nice stroll through the arboretum was in order. Don’t you just love the cool shade beneath the trees? My inner child wants to run from one shady spot to the next by the feel of the shades’ coolness alone while the sun shines in my eyes.

 

 

arboretum

arboretum

 

If you plan on visiting the Niagara Region, I highly recommend both the Butterfly Conservatory and the Botanical Gardens on your list of places to see.  Who knows, you may even bump into me taking in the gardens in every season!

For more info on the botanical gardens, visit this link.

Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens

 

 

I bid you farewell and many enjoyable hours in the sunshine!

“When the world wearies and society ceases to satisfy, there is always the garden.”
– Minnie Aumonier 

Rolling Storms & Tomatoes

What a week it has been here in the Niagara Region of Ontario. The heat and humidity have been unbearable with  most days this week over 100 degrees with the humidity. It’s been draining working outside and quite irritating to hear those that work indoors complaining about the heat while sitting in their air-conditioned splendor. It’s unnerving how heat and humidity can turn the gentlest of souls into cranky bizatches at the snap of the fingers, myself included. I was teetering on the verge of insanity a few times this week…it was not comforting, let me tell you.

 

 

Thankfully, the rains finally came last night helping to rid us of some of the humidity and the accompanying suffocating heat. Although it came at a price. We had rolling lines of powerful thunderstorms, severe winds, and tornado warnings. There were a few times we ran to the basement for cover when the rains pelted down so heavily that we couldn’t hear each other speaking and the winds contorted the trees like seasoned yogis. We had just sat down to dinner when the first wave of storms rolled in with huge dark clouds, whipping winds and rain that hit the windows like rocks. At one point the rain ceased between storm surges and a flock of seagulls took to the sky above our neighborhood, circling overhead like a warning.

 

 

Throughout the night my mind kept going to my garden. Hoping my tomato plants were holding up. I had noticed while closing up before the first rainfall that one of the plants had been bent by the winds, putting it in jeopardy of snapping off. A few stakes were strategically placed to try to stop the toppling of the tomato cages in hopes of preserving the easily snapped stems. Early this morning there was a clap of thunder so loud that I sat straight up in bed. What was my first thought? My tomatoes. I was thrilled that the gardens were getting a thorough watering but at what expense? I certainly wasn’t about to trek out into the storm and it was still dark outside so I couldn’t see if there was any destruction in the veggie patch.  I am definitely a gardener to the core…or perhaps just anxious for homegrown, plump and juicy tomatoes.

 

 

First thing this morning before the neighborhood started to stir, I tiptoed barefoot out to the garden with a mug of steaming coffee in my hand to check on my little lovelies. Phew! Everything had weathered the storm far better than expected. One of my Brussels sprout plants had been partially uprooted but was easily re-positioned. Two tomato plants were tipped but not broken, thankfully. One of my potato plants’ top growth was flattened by the pelting rain but all-in-all everything looked happy to have been saturated and refreshed. I took this time to get cracking at pulling weeds while the ground was soft and still have loads more weeds to pull today since they are easier to pull out of mud than dry, compacted soil.

 

Interested in what it looked like around these parts? Check out this link on The Weather Network. There is a brief video and loads of pics sent in by Ontario residents.

 

 

Today has turned out to be a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

 

 

 

 

“In all things in nature there is something of the marvelous.”  – Aristotle 

Garden Goddess Strikes Again

It’s that time of year again! The annual planting of my veggie garden. My green thumbs are twitching and I’m ready to get dirty…again.

 

 

 

Last weekend, I made the trek to the “local” heirloom plant sale and stocked up. There were a few things that I couldn’t get my hands on like kale, so I am still on the hunt for a few items. Fingers crossed that I’ll find good quality heirloom plants. The garden centres seem to be either picked over, sold out, or they lost mass amounts of plants due to the frost we had last week. I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled.

 

 

 

In order to prep the garden, I needed a rototiller. I wasn’t in the frame of mind to ask the neighbour that helped me last year. This year I wanted to do it myself. It looked like to fun of an opportunity to pass up. Who doesn’t like crazy, loud engines attached to tines that clutch hungrily at the soil? I just couldn’t resist the temptation. The last time I used a rototiller was in Horticulture college. It was not a positive experience, although I did laugh like crazy when a friend of mine wanted to be the first to take a crack at it. Having no clue what she was doing she quickly lost control and was dragged along behind it. I seem to remember that being the last time I ever saw my beautiful, off-white fisherman sweater…she had borrowed it. This year’s garden prep was the perfect opportunity for me to have at it. Luckily, I have a fan-flippin’-tastic boss that just happened to have a rototiller I could borrow. I was in luck! This machine kicks butt! I seriously need one!

 

 

 

The Machine That Won My Heart

The Machine That Won My Heart

*if you look to the right of the rototiller you can see my new spade mentioned in a previous post (that I did not dance late into the night with).

 

 

 

The only problem with me having a rototiller of my own would be that I would feel the need to dig up every bit of unused space on my property. Plus, I’d like to be less petrol-dependent so this would be seriously counter-productive.

 

 

 

Let me just say that the time I spent rototilling the garden has been the most fun I’ve had all week. And I’ve had a good week so far. Is that sad?

 

 

 

I worked up a serious sweat working in this crazy heat we’ve been having. It’s been above 32 degrees Celsius the last couple days. I thought it would be great to go with  breezy, wavy beach hair this morning which was not well thought out. My hair is super thick as it is so this made it even thicker feeling. Looked great before I started gardening though. I tried an easy  beach wave spray recipe that uses sea salt, coconut oil, water and hair gel. Oh…my…gosh. Why this is a good idea while hot out I won’t ever understand. It made me even hotter. I will not be hanging out on a beach after spraying my hair with this concoction, let me tell you. Mind you, I don’t normally hang out on beaches anyway since sand in my bathing suit makes me cranky.  This hair technique must be reserved for days when I will be trying to sport a carefree look while in air conditioning.

 

 

 

Soft soil after rototilling

Soft soil after rototilling

 

 

 

 

It took me all of about 15 seconds to figure out proper tilling technique and get serious. The soil in the garden is now so fluffy that it is simply dreamy. I was able to smooth it flat(ish) with a leaf rake afterward. That’s how soft it is. This is temporary since soon enough it will be tamped down by rain, walking around in it, and settling. I must get my vegetable plants in the ground when the soil is perfect. Not only does it make my life easier but the plants get a great start at getting their roots going with as little resistance as possible. I guess you know what I’ll be doing later this afternoon.

 

 

 

 

 

“There can be no other occupation like gardening in which, if you were to creep up behind someone at their work, you would find them smiling.”  ~Mirabel Osler

Born To Be Alive

I feel so alive! I’m not sure whether it is the extreme exhaustion of five 8-9 hour days of landscaping/gardening/mowing at work or the sudden warm weather of 16-20 degree Celsius and burning sun that we have been enjoying over the last week. Perhaps it was the crazy dancing that took place last night after a hard day at work until almost 1 a.m. Or just maybe it was the impulse purchases I made today. Whatever the cause, I am bursting with exuberance.

I am thrilled with my first purchase of the day which was a new spade. Yes, I am easy to please it seems. I bought myself the same type of spade I use at work since mine somehow went MIA somewhere along the line. A girl needs to dig sometimes and needs the right tool to do so. Almost as soon as I got home with my new spade I put it to use edging my veggie garden in preparation for rototilling. I am as giddy as can be about prepping the garden for planting. Seeing a growing veggie garden is like a mini Utopia in my own backyard.

Then I went a bit wacky and bought something that I honestly never thought I would own…a leather jacket. Gasp! I am struggling with this a bit, I must be honest. I very seldom purchase leather items as it seems so very wrong to me to wear another animals’ hide. However, this was a pre-owned jacket that I don’t think has ever been worn so buying leather seems a bit easier for my conscience to swallow. This insanely gorgeous jacket nearly jumped off the rack into my arms, I tell you! I wouldn’t bend for any old jacket though. This beauty is lime green and says “purrrrrr”. It really does. As soon as I slipped it on it was mine.

We all need to do the things that make us feel alive. Live life the way we dream in our mind’s eye. There is nothing that fills the Soul with the presence of Life like throwing back your head and laughing until your stomach muscles hurt, letting the wind whip your hair as it so pleases, and feeling Life force make you glow so others notice.  Life is to be lived, not to watch it pass you by.

“Seek out that particular mental attribute which makes you feel most deeply and vitally alive, along with which comes the inner voice which says, ‘This is the real me,’

and when you have found that attitude, follow it.”  – James Truslow Adams

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

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