(I wrote this blog three weeks ago. Forgive me for being so late in putting it up.)
The wind was like a knife whipping through the yard, dwelling in the open spaces, carrying whiffs of the Oklahoma tornadoes in its fierceness. But the sun shone intermittently, teasing enough heat out of the sky to bring a smile to the tulips.
And there was I, bending and dipping and lugging and hauling heavy containers around the yard, stooping to pop bright bedding plants into the freshly dug potting soil. It seemed so inappropriate; the cold morning was like an insult to the greenhouse pampered plants.
I can hear Gail Braun’s voice in my mind saying, “Don’t plant too early. If flowers get a chill, it will set them back for the year.” Gail plants thousand of annuals each year – her yard is a wonder of colour and bloom. Still, I have no choice. It is this weekend or two weeks from now when there will be nothing worth buying in the garden centers. I have to be in Toronto for the next ten days.
Barb comes by at 3:30 so planting is over for the day. Barb is 84 next week, a former model (mod-elle, she says, exaggerating the elle part), one of the local socialites of the 1960s and 70s. She is still beautiful, but a lifetime of smoking and two lung lobe removals have left her a bit breathless and unable to walk far. She loves to garden and the previous weekend, it was her garden that we concentrated on, except for last Saturday morning when Ian and I drove out to Portage la Prairie to visit Our Farm nursery. Here, a widowed single mom and her large family of 14 beautiful kids run a greenhouse tucked away in the middle of farming country – and here one of the boys has discovered the wonderful world of succulents. They have 275 varieties.
I am thrilled. I want one of everything, but I restrain myself to a several dozen. As I shop, we – or perhaps I should say, Ian — stop to chat with the many members of the family who are working around the greenhouse, watering and pruning and tallying up orders. Their young mother comes out to talk – she is beautiful, too. They are all so excited and enthusiastic. I am completely charmed; Ian falls half in love with the oldest girl. Near the front door to the nursery, where a large tank is filled with goldfish and koi and a giant coffee urn dispenses Tim Horton’s finest, the loveliest surprise resides behind the till: a large picture frame showcases an abstract “painting” of subtly coloured succulents. It’s not for sale, although they have had some amazing offers.
Now here we are, the following Saturday, Barb and I, and a lot of these fantastic plants. I have a large clay trough that once belonged to Barb – perfect for a planting of succulents. We choose them together and tuck them in looking for contrast in height and colour and texture. Barb is also an artist.
Then I haul over an old cracked birdbath that we fill with earth and plant a few more succulents to provide greenery for the fairies, in our fairy garden. A piece of broken mirror makes a pond. Bits of river stone and some coral we brought back form Mexico cover the bare earth while the sedums take hold. The chickadee that has taken up residence in the ceramic birdhouse by the kitchen window flits to and fro, not the least intimidated by our presence.
Thus we while away a couple of hours, absorbed in our make-believe world, oblivious to the wind, which is now only cool. The light begins to wane and trays and trays of annuals still await their final homes, but Barb and I are filled with contentment as we move into the warmth of the house and a meal of salmon and salad with Glenn.
Sunday dawned bright and clear with a promise of warmth in the air. After my radio show of CJOB and numerous errands, it was back to the garden. Ian and his kids came over and, in four hours, we accomplished what would have taken me four days. Now the dog work is done and I can play with the yard, moving this here and that there . . .
Meanwhile the hummingbirds have emptied the feeder. The Red squirrel has chased away its rival Gray. Under the budding apple tree, the hostas have poked their furled leaves through the soil and forget-me-nots are waiting to paint the garden blue. Native ferns stand fresh and green, the youngest still shyly holding their heads down. The bergenia have not yet sent out their stiff pink spikes. But the ornamental plum is fully dressed and the lilac may yet wait for me to come home before releasing all her heady scents.
Even though there was frost twice last week, spring is fully engaged now and I am immersed in the joy of the new season.