Monday, February 23, 2015

This Winter Has Been Impressive

Not quite as fierce as last year, but this February has been ridiculously cold.  The temperatures are at least 10C colder than normal - and there have been no days above 0C.  Kevin God Bless him, washed my car on one of those balmy -10C days ("But Barb, it's sunny!) With practice, I'm getting better at climbing in through passenger door, scooting across the frozen seats and starting my car.  Good old Honda CRV - no problems starting, just getting in and out, and locking and unlocking door - minor details.

This cold has slowed everything that I'd normally have done when it comes to the garden:  seed ordering, seed starting and the beginning of garden revisions well underway - at least in my design program.  This year I haven't even begun to open my catalogues or check out the websites.    May these words now written serve as my spark to turn my attention the garden calendar.

We've had several visits to the Cherry Hill Trail at the Royal Botanical Gardens.  More and more people are visiting - so great to see the trails so well used.  Bart found this poor little raccoon.  I fear he wasn't doing too well.  Didn't look like he'd been in a scrap, but certainly was moving very slowly and should have been hidden in his den by this time in the morning.

Kevin and I took turns feeding the birds.  Notice how they're lined up like airplanes waiting to land on his hand to grab some seed.

With all the cold weather, I though it would be fun to ask GWA writers from our region to a "It's too darn cold, let's have a soup party!"    It was great to see everyone and catch up.

Kevin and I are still eating soup and enjoying all the beautiful flowers they brought:

My own old tulips on the way out, but still lovely...

A gorgeous spring arrangement:

Anthurium in the kitchen - a real favourite for both Chinese New Year and Valentines Day:

The scent from the potted daffodils is divine:

Muscari making friends with the primula:

Lovely white tulips:

And of course Hercules getting ready to have some fun with some of the trailing bits, the moment my back is turned:

Muscari grateful to be on the inside rather than the other side of the window:

And Bart so tired of his coat:

Fortunately there was a break in the weather on Saturday & Sunday.  The temperature was no higher than -7C, but when it's been -20C, it really did seem like a break.  There had been about 15 cm of snow, so we figured it was a perfect opportunity to go check out the trail to see how it looked.  We took the longer leg, because it really felt so warm.  It was so beautiful.  I only wish the sun had come out a bit to give the snow more definition and depth:

At the mid-point of the trail there is a grove of Sycamore Plantanus occidentalis.  It is at the top of its range here in Ontario.  You can certainly understand why one of its common names is buttonball tree.

Kevin and Bart:

The track has been worn down both by boots and by skis:

Mr. Morning Dove having a little snooze:

And now all the way back around with the Sycamore trees off in the distance:

Using my trusty zoom - a little closer:

And then closest, with my camera not knowing whether to grab the image of the branches or the increasingly heavy snow flakes:

So very beautiful.  So very cold.  All I can say, is thank goodness for good friends, soup and beautiful flowers that can be enjoyed well ahead of those that are fast asleep beneath the frozen ground.

Monday, February 9, 2015

A New Best Friend - The Toronto Gardener's Journal

Day 6, and hopefully the final day of plumbing woes.  We thought we might be bidding farewell to our maroon fixtures last week, (circa 1953!), but as luck would have it, the toilet was fine.  It was detached, and received a brand new seal at the base.  Then several nights ago, I heard a disturbing gurgle, bubble, bloooop sound.  The toilet had come alive and was sending bubbles up through the bowl.  More alarming was the fact that the water level was rising faster than I could spin the shut-the-darn-thing-off-valve.  Managed to stop its performance and get some sleep.

Called in the plumber who diagnosed a blockage.  He needed information from Halton Region. We called in the Region to give the plumber the green light to fix it.  Two brightly dressed regional workers arrived in two large vans.  They tromped through the house in their boots, played my piano briefly ("Boy, wish I'd had my sheet music with me!" said one of them), asked for direction for the clear-out pipe, (why am I the one who knows where his pipe is?) joined me as I pointed mid-garden bed where the clean-out pipe was - and then began to dig up my garden with a spade.  Shortly thereafter, one of the men, in one of the vans left.  And, after 30 minutes, the second man in the second van left too.  Kevin and I stood incredulously in the foyer thinking, what on earth?  Now what?  They were with the Region, it was 5:00 and no doubt the vans were due back to the garage.

Kevin called the Region the next day - they said we needed a "Call before you dig" guy.  We called and a very nice young CBYD guy arrived and proceeded to mark all the services in brightly coloured paint, all over the snow.  And most importantly produced a PROCEED certificate for the plumber.

Which brings us to today - the plumber and his assistant are in the garage.  Bart and I are now waiting in the office for it all to be over and for our celebratory flush. 

And, one more thing to be happy about on this cold Monday morning is this little burst of green:

One of the Amaryllis is starting to sprout.

Now, had I had my act together, I would have rescued it from the garage and planted it up sooner. Perhaps the week of December 7th, as recommended by friend and colleague Margaret Bennet-Alder in her gold-standard The Toronto Gardener's Journal and Source Book.  

This journal is a terrific reference.  Good for new gardeners (and experienced, though forgetful ones), it takes you week by week providing tips of what to do when.  This week, the suggested task is to take cuttings of some of your favourite houseplants, along with a good description of how to do it.The source section is extensive - books, columnists, bloggers, ezines and ebooks.  There are associations; suppliers listed by type of plant; events and tours; garden centres, and one of my favourite sections is the Gardens to visit within and beyond Toronto - many of which were completely new to many gardens, so little time!Margaret and her son produce this journal and coordinate its sales and distribution.  If you are interested, go to  Anyone who gardens along the Lake from Niagara Falls to Oshawa would benefit from having this book in their library.  (The only benefit I receive from this shoutout is feeling good for recommending a good garden book.)
And, on another note, the plumbers have left.  They were able to get to the "root" of the problem - one of my fine remaining trees had stretched its gnarly toes into the waste water line about 12 feet from the house.  So, problem solved.  Cheque written.  Celebratory flush just moments away.   Am off to find a houseplant in need of a trim.  Looks like it's going to be a great day!  

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Storm

If you ignore the digging, car brushing off, the driving, the cold and the blistering wind - it's absolutely beautiful:

Early in the storm, I'm inside.  Poor little Bart has to go outside.  He's established a little pathway to the right.  Nothing like the winter interest of a watering can to the left.....

A few hours later.  I'd cut a lot of material down after ice storm last year to help clear the area for the fence repair.  Looking forward to establishing larger plant material this year.

And my establishing shot from the front porch.  Now, you probably can't see too well, but the plow drove up over the sidewalk and into my corner bed.  Something to consider for redesign - do I continue to have a corner bed?

At noon, the storm was done.

Really does look like a soft blanket doesn't it?

At 4:30, Kevin, Bart and I headed off to the mailbox to pick up our mail.  You can almost make out where the truck has pushed the snow:

This is a little further down the street - so beautiful:

I had been shovelling earlier when one of these patches of snow let go on my head:

So much snow that this street hasn't even been touched by plows:

And finally the mailboxes - alas, Canada Post called it a snow day and didn't bother to deliver.  The snow is up over your knees here:

See how pretty the snow is on the evergreens.  So much better when it isn't wrapped in burlap.

One of about five urns:

Dear Sedum trying to keep their heads above the rising snow line.

My big front rock, just barely visible.

And a long-shadowed goodbye for this blog post for the day.  Stay warm!  More snow scheduled all week long.