The overpowering scent of unpollinated petunias pervades the early evening air, while two black crows caw overhead. Suddenly, one dips low with a chortling sound; did it catch some prey on the wing?
These are the scents and sounds of my Charleswood garden and the park behind our house. In the yard itself, a little red squirrel scolds from high in the cedar tree that shields our sitting area from the worst of the wind and the eyes of the neighbours. In the spreading Manitoba maple that volunteered to grow across the yard, two bright finches shine yellow against the black of the sunflower seed feeder – the very feeder that has finally foiled the squirrel, who loves these seeds and will go to almost any length to get them. But this feeder is metal, with only narrow metal rungs at the bottom of the glass-enclosed goodies he craves, and no matter how hard he tries, he can’t get a proper grip. He swings under, clinging precariously to the slippery metal, then slips off. A few experiences like this and he is resigned to the gleanings on the ground that escape the greedy beaks of the finches. Fat finches. They gorge themselves, leaving the nyger alone. Glenn thinks maybe it has gone bad. It was their favourite food before.
Next door, we can hear the neighbours talking. There are children visiting – two little girls who are the new step-grandaughters from a recent wedding. There is happiness in their voices. The marriage is a May/September relationship, but he says he is ecstatic and her mother said so is she. It is a right thing. This beautiful girl once told me that she never could understand or appreciate the callow younger men who flocked around her. She found them boring and trite. The joy of this family is like a warm aura around that house. We are lucky in our neighbours.
They go in and all is silent. The garden surrounds Glenn and I like a benediction. We finally got most of the weeds under control, but it is true that the shrubs are badly in need of pruning. Mike – Dr. Tree to his patients — says that the maple tree has verticillium wilt and we can see this from the small yellow leaves that clutter the grass even though it is early summer. “Maybe we should fertilize that tree,” I suggest lazily. “Mike says that might help it fight off the disease. All we have to do is to drive a crowbar into the ground at about every twelve inches in the root zone . . .”
“Yeah?” answers Glenn in that way he has of asking a question that sounds like agreement.
“You have to fill the holes with fertilizer and sand,” I continue. “Something balanced like 20-20-20 would probably do.”
“Maybe we should fertilize the cedar trees too . . .” adds Glenn.
The cedars are monsters and their roots are all under the patio. We contemplate the problems.
The crows circle the park again, breaking the quiet with their noisy presence. “Did you see that piece on TV this morning about the crows?” I ask. “Some scientists did a study on how smart they are and they showed a crow trying to get some food from a small pail encased in a cylinder. He couldn’t reach it with his beak, so he picked up a thin metal rod lying next to the cylinder, bent it at one end and used this as a hook to lift the pail and the food from the cylinder. They actually showed in on TV.”
“Crows are smart,” said Glenn, going on to tell me how he knew this even as a kid when he caught one and tried to teach it to talk. Glenn knows a lot about birds and animals. He is very observant. He knows a lot about what goes on in the street. Not me. I am oblivious. I guess my head is filled with flowers instead of people.
If you want to know more about verticillium wilt, look here: