The BC wine valley

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This is kind of a follow up to the posting about Ohme Gardens in Washington, as our trip led us northerly along the lovely apple orchard, vineyard planted, lake strewn landscape, to the Border Patrol, and back into Canada…..first stop: Osoyoos!IMG_3681

If you have never traveled through this wonderful area, do so. It is amazing all the way from northern Washington to southern BC, in this heat infested, growing mecca! I LOVED the farm stands along the highway, stopping at several as we traveled. We had to eat anything we bought in the USA, of course, but really? How difficult is it to consume amazing fresh produce? Once we hit the Canadian side, though, no holds barred…….we shopped ’til we dropped, and, as a natural consequence, had to bring fresh produce back home! IMG_3677

IMG_3760So now on to our BC travels…..Starting in Osoyoos, we worked our way northward to Vernon during our stay. We were one week in this area, and, just the week prior to the Okanagan wine festival celebrations, so we had a few less people, but ample opportunity for sampling. IMG_3676

As a gardener, the appreciation of the vineyards was my greatest reward. Walking around this amazing area, sitting in among the vines, and then enjoying the product gained from all of this….amazing! I am an advocate of good wine….sorry…..(also good beer, but that is another page) and while we are not large drinkers, I do enjoy a good beverage with Hubby!!! or friends. IMG_3707

One of the things I love about traveling in any wine region, is seeing the variety of wines that are not available at my local stores. The ‘unknowns’ that we discover, or the varietals we did not know were grown in Canada, or the US….it is pretty cool, and a great learning. IMG_3685

So, I could yammer on about the amazing wines we sipped, and attempt to dazzle you with my (non-existent) knowledge, or I can just post some photos of this area……..hmmmmm…….photos it is! Enjoy! IMG_3699

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And some real COOL gardening, in Yukon and Alaska style.

Yukon garden, with row covers to protect from 'anytime' frost.
Yukon garden, with row covers to protect from ‘anytime’ frost.

Yesterday we returned from an all too short trip to see my sister in the Yukon. Sadly, this was my very first trip there, and it went by soooooo fast. But, it also was an eye opening experience, and I will return before too long.

While this is a gardening blog, it seems to take side trips to travel and gardens, so I hope you enjoy that as well! Today, I will highlight some plant material, but it would be very hard to write this and not post some of the photos of glorious scenery….so that is what I will do!

Deck plantings, and a great coffee spot!
Deck plantings, and a great coffee spot!

Raised in the quite northern part of Alberta, and also lived in the furthest north community, I understand northern life, and I love it. As all people, I am now unaccustomed to the differences, because I have been a ‘southern’ dweller for a good number of years. Prior to moving to Central Alberta, we were in sunny, hot Medicine Hat, which is prairie, and a very mild climate in winter. So, after landing in Whitehorse at 11 pm, spending time touring a bit with my sister, then driving to her home in Haines Junction, and hour and 1/2 away, we were facing 2 am. Still light out…..seriously! Solstice just past, we enjoyed amazing long days, and forgot all about bed time until one of us started to nod off! That was well past midnight each night! Loved it!

Emerald Lake, between Whitehorse YK and Skagway AK
Emerald Lake, between Whitehorse YK and Skagway AK

As you can imagine, the sun hours aid northern communities in growing amazing gardens. We were privileged to visit a few in both the Yukon, and in Haines, Alaska, a 250 km drive south, with a coastal climate. Very different, but amazing non the less. Highly recommended as a travel destination, if you are at all interested. Life in northern areas is very much about the outdoor experience, the vistas, the animals, the vegetation….and sooooo worth every second.

Dogwoods
Dogwoods
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Close to Skagway
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Skagway Town site

We started out in Haines Junction, spending a bit of time seeing the sights in and around this small town. It is located right by Kluane National Park, and is a hub for many activities. My sister is a great guide having lived in the Yukon for several years, and decided to take us on the Golden Circle tour: Whitehorse, Skagway Alaska, Haines Alaska, (Juneau is part of it, but we didn’t go there) and back to Hanies Junction Yukon. We loaded ourselves into her truck and camper unit and headed out. It is a long drive, but never boring! We spotted an elk herd shortly after setting out, and had to stop to take a few pics of course! We overnighted in Skagway, with the intent to take a train up to Laughton Glacier, and hike, but we couldn’t on the day we were there. Skagway is a cruise ship port, and 2 days a week are booked solid on the train. We hit one of those days!

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Mountain lake hike

So we hiked up to a mountain lake, and enjoyed ourselves regardless. We also drove out to Dyea, an old, now abandoned, community from gold rush days. We enjoyed lunch and the wild flowers everywhere!!!

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Mountain lake at Skagway
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Blue flag iris in the meadow at Dyea
On the Ferry from Skagway to Haines
On the Ferry from Skagway to Haines

The following day we took the ferry to Haines and spent the day either hiking or stopping at amazing locations. Luckily for us, my Sister has many friends in Haines, so we were up close and personal with a few gardens, art studios, coffee shops, and even a micro brew!

Yellow flag in an artist friends garden
Yellow flag in an artist friends garden

Both Haines and Skagway are on ocean inlets, so the climate is different than inlandOcean waters at Haines

Ocean waters at Haines Alaska

Rainbow Glacier
Rainbow Glacier

Glaciers are numerous, and we were so fortunate to see a few quite close, along with the amazing mountain scenery. We also we introduced to some of the fishing practices, and saw parts of that industry.

Fish plant in an idyllic location
Fish plant in an idyllic location
Along the way, from Haines Alaska to Haines Junction Yukon
Along the way, from Haines Alaska to Haines Junction Yukon

Our drive back was a different kind of scenic. Still mountainous, but also large valleys, and rolling alpine ridges, with rivers, streams and lakes everywhere.

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Kluane Lake
Kluane Lake

We spent our final day in Kluane National Park, exploring more. We biked and hiked trails, which I am not really in the best of shape for, but we did it! And we loved it.

Dust from the silt on the Slims river, at Kluane Lake
Dust from the silt on the Slims river, at Kluane Lake
Natural vegetation creating a stunning drive!
Natural vegetation creating a stunning drive!

We stopped at Sheep Mountain, and we fortunate to see many mountain sheep

Mountain sheep high on the mountain
Mountain sheep high on the mountain

high up. The spotting scope helped with detail, but we watched for a long time as they traversed the craggy heights. The coloration of the rocks was so amazing!!

Wild chocolate lilies
Wild chocolate lilies
Wild delphinium and columbine
Wild delphinium and columbine
View from my sister's home
View from my sister’s home
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Near Haines Junction Yukon

Insel Mainau…..not just another garden!

Okay, today I promised myself I would get back to the business of garden blogging IMG_0183rather than travel blogging, but…..just one more and I promise to get back to the

Planting near the entrance: changes yearly
Planting near the entrance: changes yearly

garden. Truthfully, I have seen many posts lately on Facebook about tulips in swaths, and have read some blogs about spring gardens, so, I really couldn’t resist! I am also lamenting the fact that my love of tulips has been sadly stifled by my 4 legged friends who also have a love of tulips…..and the bulbs. We have attempted tulips a few times, having grown some amazing colors and varieties prior, but we learned after the first 3 seasons in this location that the deer are more persistent than the humans (in this case). We have an amazingly successful deer fence up (following a lot of research on the topic: repellants are only slightly successful in deterring my little friends) but alas, I am not yet brave enough to give the tulips a go yet. Maybe in the fall I will change my mind. I think we need at least 2 summers of no chomp before I can feel confident. And, only those who IMG_0179have lost entire crops of fruit and/or veg and/or lilies and/or roses……will fully appreciate my hesitancy. There is a fine line between enjoying these beautiful creatures, and keeping them happily away from my plants….right now we all co-exist and it’s good….and they enjoy some tasty morsels on the other side of the barrier!!!

IMG_0181Back to travel…..located within Lake Constance, also known as the Bodensee, is a beautiful flowering island, accessible by ferry from either Germany or Switzerland. The island has an interesting history, having long been owned (and managed) by Swedish lineage linking back to royalty. We have been to the floweringIMG_0177 island twice, both in May, and it is a relaxing, easy place to see, despite the crowds of people. As it is a strolling island, with a LOT of garden to stroll, it is easy to not notice that you are amongst so many others strolling!

The location within Lake Constance gives IMG_0199a semi-tropical climate, and an amazing array of themes and blooms. Additionally, garden artwork abounds, making this a treat for any eye. Of course, one cannot discount the area surrounding, on the shores of the lake. Both sides have not-so-small, and yet, somehow quaint towns built beside IMG_0191the lake, where you can also enjoy lush plants, little coffee shops, and the ever so amazing European architecture that is old and new, lovely!

Walking into the park requires passing through the entrance, where maps and information is housed. Take a map!! This is at least a half day tour, if you actual want to see things (Palm House, IMG_0204Butterfly House, Orchid house, rose gardens, tulip show, farmyard, Arboretum, Castle….)…..take a light lunch and water bottle as well…..and good walking shoes.  After that, it is impossible not to step past the entrance and find yourself stopping, slowing, and simply taking in the amazing beauty. This tour is so, so good for the cortisol level!!

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Please enjoy….

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Sometimes it’s all about the therapy.

Today will be a shorter post than usual, and I am diverting from our spring here in sometimes cool, sometimes warm central Alberta, to take you on a trip with me to another garden that is very close to my heart. Why, you ask? Well, my husband & I have shared a loss this week, as an important and loved member of our family left this earth. He left us with so many wonderful thoughts and memories, but, of course, it is still difficult. Hence, both of us have spent the better part of the week outdoors, puttering and getting our hands dirty, and utilizing the best garden therapy of all.  I have also scrolled back through some of my garden favs to find some garden travel pics, which is also therapeutic for me…..

Normally at this time of the year, we board a plane to head oversees…for some reason this year we did not. Regardless of that, I am still transported to Europe in my mind, often, each spring. I have been thinking of this particular water garden for some time, and was not actually sure where the digital pictures were. I have the printed ones…..yes, I print all of my vacations….but, as luck would have it, I found them on Hubby’s computer one fine morning, so I will share with you today.

Interestingly, we did not intentionally set out to find this garden, it somehow found us. We had traveled to Germany, then through the Netherlands and into Belgium, in late May. Our friend in Germany had provided information on some open garden tours of private homes and estates, in the Netherlands, so as we ventured off, we planned the first stage of our trip around these (will share another time). We ended up in Bruge, enjoying this amazing Belgian City, then wound our way through some historic areas, ending in a farming picturesque country villa….amazing really!!!!

With no plan for 3 days, we set our GPS to a ‘spot’ on the map, and off we went! DSC_1170That, I tell you, is amazing! Off the beaten path, nowhere we could speak the language, and just seeing some of the most amazing countryside and towns….just wow! And, as we traveled, we saw a sign for this Jardin, of course, we stopped.

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DSC_1160It turns out that this garden is/was built in the style of Italian water gardens, and uses no pumps, electricity DSC_1181or anything other than gravity to create it’s water features! That was what impressed me the most. And the fact that it is over 200 years old! We wandered through the very quiet place (it really was off the beaten DSC_1154path) and strolled up hills to find streams flowing out from the earth, and we followed along a very calm, lovely, zen-like walk. It was amazing.

So, I give a few photos for your enjoyment. It brings me peace to revisit and realize that some things are just fine without our modern touches; nature truly is magnificent.

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One of the joys of spring…….

IMG_2903I am not sure if there is a favorite spring activity…..I really love spring…not so much the accompanying wind, but we take the good with the bad! Today is Saturday, and we are determined to get out there and clean up some of the winter leftovers…and fall left overs….and summer leftovers…..and veggie scraps….

It has been a busy week in this house…..Hubby and I are both part of several Volunteer Boards, and one of them hosts the yearly Volunteer Appreciation event…see earlier post on that…my role is the organizing, poster making, etc, and hubby’s role is going to the local business community to solicit donations for our silent auction. He never fails to impress me with the amount and array of goodies that come our way!

IMG_2897We discovered a ‘find’ earlier this spring, as we were en-route to the grocery market. When I say en-route, it is simply because our little hamlet has a very limited supply of grocery items, therefore, we travel 45 kms to a larger center for most of our shopping needs….but I must set the stage a little for those not familiar with the central Alberta landscape….we chose to make this our home because of the amazing beauty of the area. Rolling hills, farmland, forested areas, small lakes, and vastIMG_2892 blue skies are all a part of our daily lives. I love it. In the 5 years we have been here, I have yet to take the drive from home to any neighboring town, and not be awed by the glorious beauty of nature and this landscape! We have deer aplenty, (not always great for the garden, but that is another post to come!), and enjoy the horses, cattle, bison, and other assorted farm animals we see as we IMG_2890travel…so on this fine shopping day, we topped a hill, and over the edge, noticed a blue sign (part of travel Alberta) for Tranquility Greenhouse. Having never seen the sign, nor visited this greenhouse, we decided to take a tour. As it happens, the Greenhouse has only been in this location for one year, opening last season. Because of the rural setting (and I do mean rural….off the main highway, on gravel by about 5 kms) it is unknown, thus prompting the addition of the blue sign!

It is quaint and beautiful all at once. We were early, so the outdoor products were not yet set up, but as you enter, you are greeted by an amazing little gift shop, full IMG_2906of country chic items. The owner sells milk paint, which I love, and has not a large store, but a worthwhile addition to her Greenhouse. I browsed through, and purchased a few items, including these glass door knobs that I re-purposed for a jewellery rack…..and painted with Milk Paint!

Hubby chatted with the owner, as hubby does, and gathered all kinds of info! Where they are from, how long they lived IMG_2899here, how many kids they have, what animals are on the farm, if they would like to donate to our Volunteer Event….you see where this is going….he is amazing in his ability to do this!! Armed with a new local business to visit and the promise of a donation, we carried on our way.

2 weeks later, hubby returned to Tranquility Greenhouse, with my camera, and IMG_2893snapped some pics of their establishment. I love the use of re-purposing old furniture and wash tubs for planters! Her gift is her uniqueness of planters, and arrangements, and it is worth a visit. She is not a seed starting Greenhouse, as some others, although she does start some of her own product. Having worked for another greenhouse,  I IMG_2896see the differences, and it is the differences that I love. Each greenhouse offers something unique to the whole.

On that note, I am not ‘advertising’ for these places, but recommending them if you are nearby. I plan to post later about 2 other local greenhouses I love as well…..these places are therapeutic to the soul, even if one does not plan to purchase….just find your local greenhouse or flower market and hang out for an hour or 2. I guarantee you will feel refreshed and revived!!IMG_2900IMG_2895

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