Monday, April 20, 2009

5 Tips for a Spring Garden Tune-up

"With tumbled hair of swarms of bees,
And flower-robes dancing in the breeze,
With sweet, unsteady lotus-glances,
Intoxicated, Spring advances."

from a Sanskrit poem

It's cool, damp, dark and drizzly today (what my husband likes to call a 'Winnie-the-Pooh blustery day') and a friend even mentioned we might be receiving the "S" word ( snow!!!). This rain at least should eliminate the few pockets of snow we still have remaining, so it's time to tune-up the garden for the season ahead.

1. Clean up all winter's debris. We had lots of wind storms over the winter so have to deal with lots of downed branches.

2. Cut back and clean up any vegetative matter you left standing last fall. If the matter is healthy put it in the compost, if diseased dispose of in the garbage.

3. Prune any shrubs and flowering plants like roses and grapes that suffered winter kill and also require a new hairdo (a little shaping for looks and control).

4. Check your compost bin - give it a turn to reactivate it if your fall compost isn't quite finished.

5. Get bang for your buck by planting seeds - now's the time to start planting outdoors your cool weather crops like lettuce and greens, peas and sweet peas.

Remember not to work in the garden until its dry or you risk compacting the soil structure preventing oxygen from reaching the plant's roots.

A pleasant surprise for me the other day as I worked doing garden clean-up was seeing the flash of gold in one of our ponds. The goldfish we put in the pond last summer had survived the winter and are ready to provide us with wildlife pleasures again this summer. It was a meditative day and I was happy for the return of birdsong and the lengthening days - more time to spend in the garden. The daffodils are up now and just about to burst forth in bloom - when they do, it will bring to cheer to these necessary April shower days that promise May flowers. Spring truly is here!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

World of White - What Happened!

"All beaut-iful the march of days
as seasons come and go;
The hand that shaped the rose
hath wrought the crystal of the snow;
Hath sent the hoary frost of heaven,
the flowing waters sealed,
And laid a silent loveliness
on hill and wood and field."

Frances W. Wile (1878-1939)
from "All Beautiful the March of Days"

Well, last Thursday I said that spring had finally arrived, the snow was melting and the tulips pushing through the damp soil. But I think I was a little premature. Because over the past two days, winter has not wanted to lose its grip on us. Constant snow and the gardens are once again covered, not truly ready to accept spring's warmth, they have pulled the covers back over their heads. Having packed away the winter boots, I had to pull them out once again to wander through the 6 inches of snow.

Outside my window the birds huddle in the trees to keep warm against the howling winds, shaping the snow into architectural drifts. Nature does have a way of keeping us in suspense. So to bring some warmth into the spirit, I turned to my photos of my recent trip to Florida's Polk County. My new friends, Gorgia Turner and Katy Martin of the Polk County Visitors Bureau warmly showed us the beauty that abounds in central Florida. For me one the the highlights was our visit to Historic Bok Sanctuary, a stunning estate complete with bell tower and natural parklike gardens. For me one of the most interesting items was the beautiful neo-Gothic and art deco Singing carillon bell tower pictured above. As a member of a handbell choir, I was thrilled when we were allowed special consideration to see the inside of the tower. Travelling up in a very tiny elevator, we reached the level of the 60 carillon bells and the view out over the surrounding orange groves was magnificent, as was our guides description of how the carillon bells were played. Handbells are a simpler version of the ancient tradition of changing ringing in church steeples, that then was replaced by carillon bells. A camera in the bell tower, allows visitors to the gardens to watch the carillonneur play during concert times.

Designated as a National Historic Landmark, Bok Tower Gardens provides a continuous array of musical and artistic events throughout the year. Located on Iron Mountain, the highest point on the Florida penninsula the Tower stands as a sentinel. On the ground, visitors can enjoy strolling through the 128 acres of gardens designed by the renowned Frederick Law Olmstead Jr. The gardens were a gift to the Americvan people by the Dutch immigrant and humanitarian Edward W. Bok in the 1920's. Mr. Bok was a world peace advocate, Pulitizer-Prizewinning author and editor of Ladies Home Journal. The gardens bear his grandmother's motto
"Make you the world a bit better or more beautiful because you have lived in it." Mr. Bok did just that in offering this natural site to the world. Next time you are in Florida take time to visit one of America's finest historic gardens, I guarantee you won't be disappointed.

For more information on events, concerts, art exhibits and seasonal bloom times check out their website at
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Thursday, April 2, 2009

Spring is Finally Here!

"Those who look at sea or sky or wood see beauty that no art can show; but among the things made by man nothing is prettier than an English cottage garden."
Willaim Robinson, 'The English Flower Garden'

William Robinson was the great English garden designer known as the originator of the herbaceous border and this photo brought to mind the season soon to come. The sunshine today, that is to be followed by April showers tonight, will certainly be bringing these summer flowers. Already I have hope for the beauty soon to come as I noticed my neighbours crocus blooming just the other day and I see my tulips pushing through the still cool soil. We still have pockets of snow here in the shady corners of the yard but soil is being exposed to the warming rays of the sun.

And inside my tiny tomato seeds are beginning to germinate and I can hardly wait to bite into a vine-ripened red tomato bursting with delicious flavour. I love to eat seasonally so I savour each fruit and vegetable as it comes into maturity, gorging for the weeks when it is at its best and most flavourful and then waiting for its return next season. Tonight I think I'll start some more seeds to get a jump on the planting season and hopefully when they have germinated my new greenhouse will be completed. My husband started it last fall using recycled windows from a local business but winter's early arrival forced him to curtail its completion. But upcoming holidays mean it will be finished just in time for me to start more plants indoors and then move them to the greenhouse prior to our plant out date of June 1st. If only it would get a few degrees warmer!