Patience, or impatience?

‘Patience is a virtue’……usually. Sometimes, impatience gets your creative juices flowing, and new, fascinating, wonderful garden ideas cascade upon you! That’s what I’m telling my husband, as I show him yet another picture of a great idea I have…..he is not so keen. We work together in the garden, and work very well together, too. I know this surprises many who have told me that they NEVER get any help in the garden and have to do all the design, planting, digging, moving, building themselves. I’m sorry about that. I know I am very privileged to have my guy by my side, and, I gotta say, patience is his virtue!! I constantly think up ideas for the garden, sharing these with him, while he questions my sanity, and tries to figure out how in the world he will have time to build……whatever it is I have dreampt up! But he’s game, and good spirited, and although he mutters some times, he takes on most of my seemingly crazy ideas. He has admitted  that some of the things he thought were crazy are actually really good ideas. (Imagine!!!!)

While we operated a landscape design and renovation company, I was able to create cool and unusual spaces for many clients, happily using my design training to whet the appetite of not-so-enthusiastic gardeners, who wanted ‘something nice’. I cannot tell you how many times I heard the phrase “I want something with no maintenance, but nice”. Ummmmmmmm……..and now I am stuck explaining to them that there is no such thing as ‘no maintenance’ in gardening! Never. Ever. But, you learn to read between the lines, gently explaining things, and learn that what they actually mean is that they don’t want to be tied to the garden every moment of every day. Okay. No problem. I can do that. After all, I maintain a very, very large area, and it is what I call low maintenance. I employ good horticulture practices, thinking always of the impact on our carbon footprint, and the benefits that are not just for me but for any other beneficial (and sometimes not so beneficial, but cute) creature who loves my garden. But, while I am busily planning someone else’s garden with new perennial beds, water features, great design elements, my husband is looking over my shoulder, saying ‘how do you expect me to build that?’  and then we would have a conversation about the building and installation process, going over details of what each step entailed. When we both were happy, the plan would go back to the client for input. Good team work.

Don’t get me wrong here: building and installation is not something that only my husband did or does. We work side by side, carting about with blocks for retaining walls, pavers for patios, shovels, buckets…..and we both operate our little Bob Cat, which is a mini loader walk behind version. We have worked together on many other projects besides gardens, but, truly, this is the place that we work together the best. We both love it, and although it is not always fun or easy, have a vision of the end result, knowing it will bring someone great joy, and a connection to the earth on which we reside. Plus, I am happiest in the garden, so that may have a little something to do with it……just saying.

And yes, I am lucky. On many levels. As an avid gardener, I am fortunate to have someone who shares my dream. As a wife, I am fortunate to have someone who is a patient as he is! As a worker, I am fortunate to have someone bigger and stronger than me, because those stones can get mighty heavy!!

But, today I am creatively thinking about the containers…..and the seeds that need to hit the ground soon: sweet peas can go in any time now! Easter is usually my target……and I am perusing some other garden blogs, flipboard and magazines to take the edge off of my impatience to be outdoors in the dirt….soon. IMG_2806[1]

The Walk About

Everyone does it. Well, every gardener does it…..that early spring walk through the gardens, checking on damage, looking for signs of newness, discovering what the receding snow has been hiding for these long months. It is one of my favorite activities. Today was no exception. My husband and I returned from a good long walk around the town, and decided to check out our yard.

It is a balmy +14 C today, and we have waved good bye to some white and welcomed some…..brown. But, I really, really do welcome the brown! Of course, there is still a bit of snow remaining, enough to almost break ones neck on if you are not careful….the under side is a layer of ice just waiting to attack! We survived, though.

We found the little portable green house, ready to put my babies in as they grow. And some lovely round fertilizer, left behind by very sweet four legged apple tree eating creatures. We strolled along, discussing where the stream will be built, and where the plum tree will reside….checking this and that, enjoying the earthy smell from kicking around in the leaves and mulch….aaaahhhhhh!

On the south side of our house, I have 4 raised beds, along with 2 tiered beds. These are built into the hill side: the lower one is home to strawberries, asparagus and rhubarb. The upper one will be home to a few herbs, more strawberries that I must divide this spring, and whatever else happens to find it’s way there….I have yet to decide. We have lived in this location almost 5 years, the first year being the year of the build, so some areas still need some tending…..not that I mind….really, the tending never ends! The plants move, the scenery changes, it happens.

The big thrill, however, was discovering the tiny rhubarb buds poking through the earth! Shock!!! Granted, the garden beds are in the sunniest location, and definitely warms the quickest, but still, I was very surprised to see these sweet little buds emerging. Soon, very soon, we will enjoy the first rhubarb crisp of the season!

Sleepy raised beds
Sleepy raised beds
Here comes the rhubarb!
Here comes the rhubarb!

Kale & Fennel

Funny story. I live in a very small community, really a country residential area, but some people refer to it as a ‘town’. Not true. We love the lifestyle here. Neighbors are close, and so is nature!

One of the drawbacks to small town living is the lack of amenities….(or so I’m told).  I don’t really notice the lack, having grown up in a farming community, but I am aware that this life is not the ideal in everyone’s eyes. I have lived in large urban centres, but this is my preferred lifestyle….not sure it is my husband’s, but that is a whole other blog topic!!  We are fortunate here to have some small businesses, one is my hair salon. Yesterday was my ‘hair day’ so off I went to see the local stylist. As I was entering, a neighbor lady arrived. Of course I know her, which is one of the perks to small town living! We all know each other! She came bearing fresh produce…..and a LOT of fresh produce. She had received a huge donation for our little food bank, and not all was used. What do you do with extra produce? Give it away!!

Now, I ask you, when is the last time you went to the hair salon, and came home with a huge bag of fresh kale and some fresh fennel bulbs??? I can honestly say this is a first for me! Now I must decide what to do with this. First thought: kale chips! I have never made kale chips but I have an amazing sister who does all things natural, and she inspires me to try different recipes. Following that inspiration, and armed with Google, I found a few recipes for kale chips…..and today, I am munching on these ‘full of goodness’ tasty morsels!

I gain inspiration from my other sisters, (I have 5) all for different reasons. Last fall we held a family reunion, and everyone brought something for the meal preparation. One of my sisters brought with her a recipe for potato kale soup, also something I had never made, and it was delicious!

Fennel is one of those herbs that few use, or like. I love it. I first tried the fresh flesh of the fennel bulb on a trip to Germany, where our friend served it at the breakfast meal. Loved the licoricey taste, and the crunch of goodness. Receiving these bulbs yesterday was a pleasure!

A few facts: fresh kale is chucked full of Vitamins C, A & K. It also has good amounts of the B’s and is a keeper of Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Copper and Manganese! Cooking it reduces these slightly, but the benefits are still there. Do you need more evidence to try this vegetable?? It easily grows in the gardens of cooler climates, and can be direct sown or can be purchased as bedding plants. Try it this summer. Tip: it makes an awesome centerpiece in containers!!

Fennel is not as generous in nutritional content, but does have a Vitamin C, with traces of others, and a few of the trace minerals. Personally, I chew on fennel for the taste, knowing it is healthy, fibrous, and not a junk food! This one you will need to purchase though. Our season here is a tad short.

Baked Kale Chips:

Kale leaves, washed and dried. Cut off stems, and thick spines, as they will remain soggy after baking. Toss with olive oil, layer on a cookie sheet, sprinkle with sea salt and bake for 12 minutes (or so) at 350.

Potato Kale Sausage Soup:

1 lb hot sausage meat, 1 large onion diced. Brown sausage, remove fat, add onion and saute until no pink remains in meat.

Add 5  to 6 cups water, and simmer for 1/2 hour.

Add 1 pkg frozen kale or large bundle fresh, chopped kale, and 4-5 chopped (diced) potatoes. Add fresh or dried basil, salt and pepper to taste. Simmer all for 1/2 hour. Add 1-2 cups low fat cream (or milk), heat and serve. Sprinkle on Parmesan or Romano cheese.

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Fresh Kale and fennel
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Kale chips and fennel ready to eat!

The amazing gardens of Claude Monet

Since it continues to snow, I thought I would take you on a gardening journey! After all, this blog is about gardens…..mostly here in Canada, but when you can’t get outside to play in the dirt, why not take a trip with me, and visit some other amazing gardens?

Last summer, my husband & I planned a lengthy journey through several European countries: one being France. We spent a week enjoying a river cruise that began in Paris, and ended in Paris! But, on the days in between, we enjoyed a leisurely sail on the Seine, with many amazing stops. As a gardener, I was busy snapping photos of everything and anything green or floral! Plus, a few stone buildings…..maybe a vineyard or two….some pastries…..oh you get the picture! It was amazing!!

On day 2, we visited the quaint village of Giverny, home of the late Claude Monet. I am a lover of Impressionism, and was so excited about this stop over, but I did not anticipate the amazingness of the gardens! I was equally enamored by the setting of his home, the story of his life, and to stand in the places where he painted family members amongst his gardens. Later in his career, Monet began to lose his sight, seeing more in shadows. Many of his famous paintings of water lilies were painted from the reflections on the waters, with the lilies as centerpiece.

The use of color in the garden is a designers dream. Sections were set off in shades of blue, interesting foliage, or shades of yellows, reds, etc. Filled to overflowing, and yet artfully staged in a way that only nature allows, this garden made my heart sing, and the pictures still evoke that feeling for me…..

This is a small glimpse of the amazing garden….I will follow this post with more pictures of the garden and the village….tomorrow.

Wisteria over the bridge
Wisteria over the bridge
The famous water lilies at Monet's garden!
The famous water lilies at Monet’s garden!

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Reflections
Reflections
Stillness
Stillness
Lovely alliums
Lovely alliums

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Is it spring yet? By the calendar it is….and I have to admit, it is beautiful outside! But, my gardening juices continue to flow, albeit early, and I ache to get going.  I promise to wait until April 1!

Every year, I start ‘salad bowl’ for my deck. I love stepping out and cutting fresh, tiny baby lettuce leaves for our meal. Add in a bit of chives, basil, and dill, and voila! The makings of the best in early greens! In past years I have asked my friend, who owns one of the local greenhouses, to start this for me, but this year, I will plant my own. Our deck has great east exposure, and warms beautifully in the morning sun. It stays sunny until mid afternoon, an ideal location for spring starters. Yes, I bring these tender annuals indoors while the temperatures dip below normal. However, once we move along in the season, early crops like lettuces, any cabbage family, peas…these can withstand cool temps. Be forewarned: cool temps does not equate with frost coverage! A blanket of frost will kill even hardy baby plants.

If you dislike the idea of moving pots in and out of the house each day, this may not be your option. Wait until the season has stretched along, into early May, and plant happily in a pot on the deck! Full sun for as much of the day as possible until the heat becomes too great….more on that in another post.

I have several herbs growing perennially in my garden beds; chives, thyme, oregano, mint (with a variety of each!) and look forward to the tender leaves popping out, but until then, I purchase a small pot or 2 of  my favs to plunk into the salad bowl.

Salad bowl. Just the name makes me happy! Give it a try!!

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First day of spring

And so it begins! The hope, the dreams, the anticipation, the snow…..wait….what? Snow?? Why!?!

Better question is ‘why not’. We live in that part of the country where snow can fall whenever the mood strikes, and in March, Mother Nature is quite, quite moody! I look out my window to some grass, perennials that need trimmed down, shrubbery that will need some care following deer tastings, and, of course, white snow. But I know that this will go and the seeds that are sitting on my table, awaiting a start, will soon be outdoors.

What I really love about spring is the planning. Looking at seed catalogs, checking out the new seed displays that are springing up all over, and re-visiting my stash of gardening books. I wait patiently to pull out the shovels and pots, thinking about the water feature that will be installed as soon as the ground thaws. In my mind, I already see the pebble stream that is meandering down the hill toward a little catch basin, trickling past the grasses and lilies, flowing through an old, cherished pump and setting a sense of calm in the garden.

Yup, it’s spring. Time to plan. Time to hope. Time to wait…..