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

June Greetings from your past president

Greetings to All!!

As I write this message my outdoor thermometer says it’s 7 degrees. It’s been a pretty strange summer so far. Everything is delayed but thanks to the abundant rains, what is up is incredibly lush.

This weekend is our County Blooms Garden Show and our Garden Tour!

County Blooms is on Saturday, June 15th from 10 to 3 in Wellington, at the Town Hall, the St. Andrews church and on the CML Snider School grounds.

There will be a:

  • Judged Flower Show, yes, some flowers are in bloom!
  • Kids’ Activities, we will be painting rocks to help identify and protect ground nesting bees.
  • Book Sale, lots of gardening books and vintage Harrowsmith magazines
  • Silent Auction, many items to bid on including Carson Arthur’s new book, a foot massage, unique planters filled with herbs, books, bird feeders, gardening gift baskets, a certificate to High Tea at the Waring House and many more.
  • Plant Sale, over a dozen heritage tomato varieties, herbs and garden treasures
  • Garden Bistro, serving homemade quiche (Lorraine, smoked salmon & leek and broccoli & cheddar cheese) with a salad and homemade dessert and drink. All this for $8.00
  • 10 Vendors, selling soaps, lip balms and creams, garden ornaments (all beautifully handcrafted), plants and an arborist.

As you can see there’s a little something for everyone. And there’s even the Wellington Farmer’s market across the street!

The Garden Tour is on Sunday, June 16th from 10 to 4.

· We have some new exciting gardens this year and some returning favorites.

· Tickets are on sale at Books & Company and will be available at the County Blooms Garden Show.

· Sandbanks is offering a free tasting when you show your map/ticket!

· Waring House is offering High Tea from 2 to 5 for $25.00.

So a very exciting weekend! Looking forward to seeing you all!

AND …

We do have a Members meeting this month. It’s on Monday, June 24th , 7 pm at the old Fire Hall, 2nd floor. Please note the day change.

Our guest speakers will be, Sam Shephard, from Picton Physiotherapy will show us how to garden safely.

Denise Galloway from Heron House studio will do a small gardening yoga session.

Dr. Anne Uings representing the Bay of Quinte and Area Lyme Support Group will talk about living with Lyme disease.

And don’t forget the members pot luck dinner on Saturday, August 24th at my home. More details to come!

Lise