Hearing plants grow

April 29 2012

Yesterday was lovely. The sun was warm on my back as I worked to clear last year’s debris from the front garden, but today the wind has returned and the sky is frowning on the world. We could use rain, but it doesn’t rain; it is simply bleak and blowy.  It is so dry here this spring. There is none of that brilliant green lushness we usually see at this time of year. A good pelting rain would be so welcome and satisfying and I know the earth would drink up every drop in gratitude.

The rabbits have been dining on my tulips.

In the garden, though, plants are growing and the rabbits are flourishing. They have been dining in my tulip patch in the front yard, pruning them to within an inch of their lives. I will be lucky to get any blossoms.  But in the back yard, the tiny blue scilla, so pretty and so delicate, are struggling through the debris.  My friend, Mr. Tomato sent me photos of his thick patch of scilla – his are way ahead of mine.

Mr. T’s yard is covered in scilla. (Photo by Mr. Tomato)

Mr. T, as I call him, is a wonderful gardener. And he’s an interesting person. When he isn’t in the garden, he is posing as “Ivan Bigg”, the spokesperson for our local horse races at Assiniboia Downs. But while he may speak Horse, I know his native tongue is Plant. It is Mr. Tomato who says that on a clear, still night in spring, you can hear the plants growing. He hears the whispers of green tendrils curling around a trellis, the pop of a tulip piercing a fallen leaf, the snap of a bud opening on the trees. He hears the fern unfolding with a swish and the crack of the earth as the hosta pushes through. He swears that anyone can hear this. I think we should all try.

I have to go to Ottawa tonight and be away from my garden for another day. I really hate travelling at this time of year because I feel I will miss something, even if I’m only gone for 48 hours. Spring is the magical, mystery time when all good things are happening and usually so fast that we miss much. This year, spring is slow and leisurely and we have been having the pleasure of actually seeing the trees flower, one by one, not just the showy fruit and other blossoming trees, but the ordinary maples and willows, which are both in bloom now, the willows yellow and heavy with pollen for the fat bumblebees that have emerged and the maples, red with sticky promise.

Our TV show progresses

Dr. Ian Petunia and his Petunia-ettes!

Yesterday in the morning, many of my staff members were at T & T Seeds, where dear Kevin and Brian Twomey have allowed us to set up a planting demonstration for the community television show we are working on.  They call Ian, their gardening leader, Dr. Petunia, and they follow his instructions to the letter (perhaps I should say to the “T” in honour of our hosts). They have enough seeds planted to start their own garden centre, but they are happy in the learning and are soaking up happy bacteria by the shovel full! Dr. Petunia is another interesting fellow – he is also a very good chef and in addition to being the lead salesperson for my magazines, he writes a cooking column for my Lifestyles 55 publication. However, his native tongue is also Plant and he loves the garden with a deep and instinctive passion. He is originally from the semi tropical Jersey Isles and is learning how to garden here.

He is a fast learner and a good teacher.

Giant fleeceflower

Giant fleeceflower (Persicaria polymorpha) is a gotta-have! Psst! They have it at Dutch Growers in Saskatchewan.

I have just introduced Ian to the giant fleeceflower, Persicaria polymorpha. This is an amazing shrubby perennial that gets very large. I saw one in Edmonton last year that was ten feet tall and just as wide, but I understand that they normally grow in this part of the world to be just around six feet tall and wide. Giant fleeceflower gets masses of creamy, white flower  plumes, reminiscent of goatsbeard flowers, that bloom from early spring to late summer and, while it loves moist soil, it will tolerate drought once it is established. Nor does it wander, staying in its spot, although it will get bigger and bigger. And it lives 15 years!

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