Archive for May, 2017

Actually George, it was me, last week, butt in the air, head in the euonymus, fiercely yanking out the rampant Bishop’s Weed.  Recently, I have been volunteering with the Garden Guild of St. Jude’s Anglican Church, in Oakville.  After an unsuccessful fight with The Dreaded Weed last year (it deserves to be capitalized for its sheer mendacity),  I inquired if we might embrace its virtues and consider it just an overly aggressive ground cover.  I was greeted with horrified looks. (Truly, I jest:  there is a gentle camaraderie among the members of the Guild.)  Bishop’s Weed kills plants that we plant. And that is a universally understood definition of gardening:  man imposing his will on nature.  For what is a weed, but a plant that is growing somewhere that it is not wanted!

I do not have much of a garden at our town-home in Oakville:  my back yard consists of paving stones and a lovely big fountain that would not be out of place in the centre of an Italian village! But I have a need to get my hands in the earth, and the Garden Guild fulfills that yearning for a connection with the soil and the plants that can be coaxed from it.

Gardening is wonderful hobby for many reasons: beyond the exercise and cathartic benefits of weeding, there is the constant planning, learning, designing, selecting and then of course, the actual work of hauling them to your car trunk and getting them into the well tilled wet ground unscathed. Mix with daily or weekly tending and you have a source of satisfaction, pride and wonder at the perfection of nature.  Work may be hell, your kids drive you mad, and your house a mess, but every spring, the flower of the clematis vine is reliably, consistently, and apparently without effort, beautiful.

Time passes quickly in the garden.  I never seem to get everything done, but that is also the attraction.  The garden is always there, and with some attention, it always seems to get better.  The cycle of the seasons is of course reflected in the garden, and while it does mean another birthday marked, I can feel productive and useful, rather than just older.   Small rewards;  the smiles on the faces of those that pass by and wonder at the beauty of the summer roses.  There are memorials in the garden.  I almost ripped one out before knowing what the little markers meant.  A pink carpet rose in this garden is a tribute to someone’s wife and mother:  even if her family has forgotten it exists,  I take special care.
My parents live in Northern Ontario, and are passionate gardeners.  When I was a child, every fall we would pour over seed catalogs like they were the “Sears Christmas Wish Book”.  Remember that 300 page door stopper? My mother and I sighed over the more exotic treasures of the garden, like rhododendrons and azaleas, meant for climate zones that did not suffer extended periods of below zero weather, snow and ice.   I wondered at her refusal to concede to bitter nature:  in our crooked, barely upright, DIY greenhouse, she grows bountiful crops of sugar sweet cherry tomatoes (started from seed of course),  nasturtiums to garnish the plate, and tiny, delicate Alpine strawberries.    Can someone’s character be defined by their garden?  If so, here is my mother:  determined, optimistic and a lover of flavour as well as beauty.
My father is a farmer’s son.  His focus is on turning our oversized lot into a miniature experimental farm, filled with hardy vegetable plants, and every year, a new variety or two.  Yellow Gold potatoes and Peaches & Cream corn, were commonplace at our dining table at least a decade before you put them into your shopping cart at Loblaws.  He still strolls amid the summer rows, snapping the beans and opening the pea pods.  I can remember an ever hopeful pet rabbit from next door, hopping along beside him.  Here is my father:  always thinking, always reading, always taking care of his family.

Garden centres are one of my favourite forms of retail therapy, right alongside any kind of grocery store.  I walk around in a daze, overwhelmed by the colour, the fragrance, the possibility.  That too, is what gardening gives:  a belief in the outcome, however improbable, that your garden will look like those contained in the glossy pages of a catalog.  I read an article in the Times recently that suggested that what ails depressives is not to be found in past trauma, but in an inability to plan for or imagine the future.

I cannot imagine anyone being depressed, who also gardens.

I am attaching a bunch of photos from the recent garden sale:  it is the major fund raising event for the Garden Guild, and as usual, it was well attended.  Oakvillians love their gardens. If you live nearby and would like to join the Guild, I know that you would be welcome.  You give one morning a week and you get back so much from the knowledgeable members who are eager to help and share.  All you need bring is your own gardening gloves:  all else is there.

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