I went looking for spring yesterday, as it was 12 degrees Celsius and sunny, and to my great pleasure found indisputable evidence. It makes Halifax feel a little less like The Selfish Giant’s garden.
I don’t remember quite when I got interested in gardening. I’ve always liked plants, always noticed them and remembered them — some of my earliest memories are of plants and flowers. I remember the tundra bursting into bloom the year we lived in the Arctic, pussy willows everywhere in Canada, waiting for fireweed — in England called rosebay willowherb — to bloom because that’s when the wild raspberries are ripe. I remember alfalfa and sweet melilot (which we always called goldenrod or silverrod, though it’s a legume rather than the Solidago usually called goldenrod), canola sulphur-yellow in the prairies. Bulrushes and trembling aspen leaves. The tamarack — larch — in the bog walks.
So much for wild plants. I remember helping my dad plant a vegetable garden in La Ronge, northern Saskatchewan, which is something like zone 1 in terms of hardiness — it’s in the middle of the Boreal forest, and this winter got down to -50 without the windchill. What grows there, you might ask? Peonies and rhubarb for sure. The cucumbers we planted succumbed to a late snow, and the corn flowered but didn’t have a long enough season to fruit … but it was still the first time I’d ever felt the tassels of cornsilk, and that was pretty cool.
Most of my gardens are tied up with my dad’s — still are, since I still don’t have land of my own. We’ve built stone walls and pergolas together, planted bulbs and vines and shrubs, tried to overwinter agapanthus. I grow tomatoes from seed to plant in his raised beds; this year I’m trying San Marzanos for paste.
I’m not sure how much sun the area in front of my current place will get once the trees leaf out, but I’m going to try growing things in pots. Herbs will work for sure, and lettuce and probably some Swiss chard and pansises. I have a lemon tree I’ve been nursing along for a few years that I’m sure would enjoy a summer out-of-doors in the sun. I worked as a gardener all through university, and am going to be doing it again this summer — maintenance gardening, weeding, planting, pruning, tidying — as practice for when I have the One Day House. I’d much rather spend the day weeding outside than doing data entry.
I love gardening. I love watching plants grow and change over the seasons. I love the fact that they are living art forms, that you are designing with time as well as colour, shape, texture, form. I love getting my hands into the soil, love harvesting fruit and flowers, love simply being in them.
I love that when I was taking pictures of crocuses yesterday afternoon a rather rough-looking man stopped to smile and tell me that there were a bunch of good ones on North Street as well.