The County Cactus Patch: I Discover Flowers – R. John Garside

The County Cactus Patch
I was about four years old when I first noticed that there were flowers in my world. My parents owned a new bungalow in Scarborough and other than mounds of clay and construction debris there were no flower beds of any sort to be seen in the newly built neighborhood. My father’s mother, my grandmother, lived just across the railway tracks from us. Her home had been built in the 1920’s and had lots of shrubs but no flowers. However, my mother’s mother, my other grandmother, lived in North York in a home built in the 1930’s. It was here I encountered my very first flower bed.

Now getting to one grandmother was as easy as crossing the tracks, but the other grandmother lived a fair distance away. My parents did not own a car, so the only way to get there was by public transit. So early one morning my mother and I boarded the local Kingston Road bus and headed west. I remember seeing lots of low-rise apartment blocks and small homes as we traveled off on our visit. Eventually we got on a streetcar, my first, and then a very new electric trolleybus! By this time it was nearly noon and the sun was high overhead, and then the bus stopped, and out my mother and I got.

I was now in a totally different world from my native Scarborough. The surrounding homes were all very neat, with lawns and pretty trees and there was not a bit of construction waste to be seen. We walked a couple of blocks to the west of Bathurst Street and at number 204 we stopped, turned and approached the home’s front door. There standing on the porch was my other grandmother who I had not seen in over a year. After welcoming us to her home, my mother and her mother sat down to chat and I was told to, “Be good and play”.

So with those words in my ears I set off to explore the yard and all the greenery, starting with the front drainage ditch. I remember walking down the slope and there on both sides of the ditch were these beautiful purple flowers, just not one or two but a whole carpet of them! I then got down on my hands and knees for a closer look and was amazed at everything that was there. Not only were there lots of pretty purple flowers but also a host of bees and other flying insects. I was quite taken by this as in Scarborough we only seemed to have heaps of clay and the odd ant or two. So kneeling in the grass I watched the bees go about their business and admired the flowers. It was many years later that I learned that flowers were actually planted by my other grandmother and they were a form of primula and had colonized the ditch over the years.

With my ditch discovery completed I then moved on to the green shrubs that lined the west portion of the my other grandmother’s front lawn and there encountered a very thorny thing. This shrub had lots of thorns and small leaves and a noticeable aroma filled the air too. Looking up I then spotted a very bright flower at the end of one of the branches. Unknown to me I was looking at my very first rose. The flower was hard to see as the bush was quite large and I was quite small, but I soon realized that this flower was not alone; there were dozens of them all along the fence line, all living at the top end of this thorny shrub. They were quite pretty I recall and I wondered if we would ever have any in Scarborough as we did have a fence which was flower and shrub free.

I then walked down the side yard and there just beyond the back of my other grandmother’s house was what had to be “paradise”. The plants and flowers of the front yard had fascinated me but here in the back yard was what seemed to be the mother lode of all flowers. The yard was completely fenced in with high white pickets and several shade trees lined the edge. In the middle of the yard was a small patch of grass. Everything else was an eruption of green plants and flowers! This just had to be heaven I thought at the time. I walked to the centre of the grass patch and took in the wonderful aroma of the flowers. To this day I recall the sweet smell and instantly know when I am in company of the same flower today. My other grandmother’s backyard was a sea of peonies which were in full bloom on the day of our visit. There were all kinds of colours and sizes, some quite small, while others stood as tall as me or more and the wonderful thing about them was their very delicate and aromatic flowers.

A call to lunch interrupted my back yard adventure but on the way home I kept on thinking about the flowers and the bees and all the wonderful things you could have in your yard other than piles of clay and old construction material, and wondered if any of these flowers would be able to find their way to our home in Scarborough.

Light Up the Night – Carson Arthur

Light Up the Night - Carson ArthurEvery year at this time I get a chance to slip away down south for a little r & r. Each trip, I try and learn something new from the landscape designers and gardeners that I can bring home to Canada and share with all of you. This year, I really noticed the impact that outdoor lighting had on transforming the trees, paths and overall outdoor spaces. Too often the lighting is the last thing we invest in when it comes to our gardens but the impact of good lighting at night is amazing. I blame tv for the lack of landscape lighting in our yards. Not because of what is on tv, but because of when we watch it. I spend every evening indoors watching some show that I don’t want to fall behind on. Because I never really see the yard at night, the lack of good lighting is never an issue. This is the year to change all of that. If you want to light up the yard like a pro, here are a few key tips to doing it right

Path lights are more than just a small down light that shines on the edge of the walkways, they are also a fantastic way to make you space safer at night by highlighting steps, edges and the uneven spots in the path. The rule though for spacing is one light every 6-8 feet. You can definitely go closer together for more of an impact but you run the risk of having your path look like a landing strip for an airplane.

Light Up the Night - Carson Arthur
Up-lighting and Down-lighting are literally directional lights that draw your eye in a specific route. I use up lighting to highlight stunning trees that have great canopies. By placing an up-light at the base of the trunk, they draw the eye to the points of interest you want your guests and passersby to notice. You can also use this type of light to really create focal points in your home. Try putting an up-light at a corner of your house or under a decorative detail like a bay window in the front. This definitely adds stunning impact to the fixtures that set your house apart. Down-lighting works it the exact opposite way (surprise!). I like to think of down-lighting like the street lights alongside the road. The higher up you put the light, the larger the area they illuminate. Most designers will put down lights on walls outdoors, often at the front door to flood the front step or the front flowerbeds. I like to put the in trees as well to add light to gardens below (especially my large hostas!). Remember, your eye naturally moves away from the dark patches so down-lights make a space feel smaller and more intimate because they pull your eye towards the ground while up-lights make a space feel expansive and larger because they draw you up into the starry night.

There is one other very good reason to add lights to your front yard this year! The online experts agree that a majority of buyers in the market will drive past a home after work to check out the neighbourhood. Adding lights to showcase the best parts of your yard and your home adds impact and value. Set your home apart with some subtle night lights!

Light Up the Night - Carson Arthur

October Members Meeting Summary

Nancy Cole Master Gardener

Nancy Cole – Master Gardener
Landscape Bones – Trees and Shrubs.

Nancy’s presentation made recommendations of what types of trees and shrubs are suitable for including in landscape plans, which tied in with Justin’s presentation of caring for and maintaining trees, etc.

Justin Dart County Arborist Inc

Justin Dart
County Arborists Inc.

Justin’s presentation focused on the Pruning of Trees. He also talked about the benefits of pruning, as well as, some ‘how to’ tips and suggestions. Justin also be provided information on Tree Identification of a dozen or so local trees.

Mini Show Design Winners

Display – “Last Bloom of Summer”

Ursula Cattelan
First Prize – Ursula Cattelan
Mary Jenkins
Second Prize – Mary Jenkins
Kathy Bondy
Third Prize – Kathy Bondy

Design – “Autumn Splendor”

Laura Bryan
First Prize – Laura Bryan
Kathy Bondy
Second Prize – Kathy Bondy

Bring and Brags

Pat Stuckey - Streptocarpus
Pat Stuckey – Streptocarpus
Lise Bois - White Sage
Lise Bois – White Sage
John Garside - Coffee Tree
John Garside – Coffee Tree

Recent Reads: Vegetables, Chickens & Bees

Vegetables, Chickens & BeesReviewed By: R. John Garside

Author: Carson Arthur

Pages: 240

First Published: 2019

Publisher: Appetite by Random House

ISBN: 978-0-14-753061-5

eBook ISBN: 978-0-14-753062-2

When you know the author you expect certain themes and agendas and I was not disappointed in the least. In fact, I was not only informed about gardening as I thought I would be, but I was also highly entertained by Carson’s love of chickens and his adventures with bees. Now for many people this book will be quite an eye opener as many of us have some very concrete ideas not only about gardening, but also the various plants we like and don’t like, plants we plant and don’t plant, and manage our gardens as taught to us by our parents or significant other. Carson is very up front about gardening, if you do it my way, you will have not only fun doing it, but also you will reap a harvest of food that will make your neighbors very jealous. You are carefully walked down the “garden path” from the garden bed conception to the purchasing of seeds and plants right up to the ideal combinations of plants that will result in a very prolific garden. The book is very well written and has lots of pictures, charts and quick review pages so you always know what you have read and why it makes sense. Carson has certainly taken the guess work out of gardening for you and presents his findings in a very orderly and entertaining way, one that entices you to read on and maybe just take a chance on something new, be it a unique planting or possibly planting in an area you never considered before.

However, I must admit the funniest part of the whole book is the middle section on chickens. Reading the pages brought tears of laughter at times and having looked after a few chickens in my time I could relate completely with the wonderful experience they give you. They are not the dumb creatures that many people think they are, but highly organized and purposeful creatures, that not only serve up an egg or two but also learn to interact with you and your garden, and to everyone’s benefit!

So I highly recommend this book not only for its gardening expertise which will be useful to both new and experienced gardeners, but also for the Carson’s wit and humorous take on plants, chickens and bees.


Vegetables, Chickens & Bees can be purchased locally at Books & Company, and Zest Kitchen Shop in Picton.