Good-bye Winter

It is no secret that I love winter. There is nothing cozier than sitting by the window, with a good book and watching the snow swirl around outside. Going for a walk during a snow storm is invigorating. However; this winter-lover is ready for spring. I have already been outside poking at the flowerbeds, checking to see what has survived the cold of winter. Recently I observed a few brave sprouts peaking out of the soil. I cautioned them to not be in too big of a hurry as cold days are still in the forecast. Like teenagers eager to grow up too soon some of these plants will not be denied the right to be first blooms of spring. I raked the debris off my chives and oregano. The taste of spring chives and oregano enhance salads and stews. Soon I will be able to plant my other herbs on the deck and I can create my own salad dressing. No two dressings are the same and the taste is amazing.

This week I observed a splotch of red in the otherwise brown and grey treeline behind our yard. The male cardinal was checking out our yard. We are blessed with many species in our yard. Blue Jays, doves, chickadees, woodpeckers and to my annoyance squirrels all come to check out our feeders.

The most interesting little bird will arrive later with the flowers. Hummingbirds hover over our deck and stare at their reflections in our windows. One silly, little guy hit the window last summer and knocked himself out. Fortunately he was only stunned and after a few moments shook himself and flew off.

This spring we want to create a new flowerbed but recognize that this is a big job for us to tackle. For that reason we have contacted landscapers to develop our new bed. The plan is to keep it low maintenance perennials; allowing us the ability to care for the garden over the summer. We have asked for colour and plants to attract butterflies and repel rabbits. It is exciting to look forward to the completed project.

The Proven Winners Container catalog for 2018 has arrived and we have poured over the ideas for our planters on the deck. We love lots of colourful plants on the deck. Our neighbour once commented that looking at our deck from her back yard it looks like a greenhouse. Armed with the catalog we will go to a local greenhouse and show Lisa what we want to create. She will source out the plants in her greenhouse and make suggestions of substitutes for plants she does not have or might not be suitable for our climate. Back home we will follow the layout in the catalog and plant our containers.

Once all the containers are in place, the furniture cleaned and placed we will be able to sit back and enjoy the spring and summer weather. This will be our go to place to enjoy lunch, drink our coffee or other beverages, read, entertain friends or just sit and take in the beauty. Welcome spring!


A Tale of Many Peter Rabbits

There must have been some very frisky bunnies around the neighbourhood as we are now overrun with baby bunnies, teenage bunnies and big, fat adult bunnies. They are fat due to chowing down on the neighbourhood gardens. Apparently they like daisies, tulips, Echinacea, heuchera, Rudbeckia and coleus to mention a few of the plants nibbled on in my garden. My neighbours are all experiencing loss of plants to the little rascals. One aggressive adult rabbit pulled down on a branch of a lilac and broke it off.

Having so many rabbits in the yard triggered several memories; one in particular, “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” by Beatrix Potter. I went searching the book shelves and sure enough I still have a copy of the story, so I settled down to read the story once again. It is a short read as it is designed for young minds. Potter originally created Peter to cheer up a sick child. She wrote him a story letter with accompanying illustrations. Peter first appeared in 1902 in “The Tale of Peter Rabbit”. He was a mischievous little bunny who disobeyed his mother’s warnings and entered the garden of Mr. McGregor. When I read of Mr. McGregor chasing Peter I chuckled as it reminded me of the days when my two oldest grandsons would chase the rabbits out of my garden, with the promise that they could keep any rabbits they captured. Needless to say no rabbits were injured or caught. A few years later one of my granddaughters asked if they caught two could they keep both, of course.

Fast forward to a new neighbourhood and I looked out the window to see the grandson of a neighbour chasing a rabbit across our lawn. I guess chasing rabbits never gets old. He too was unable to capture a rabbit.

Desperate to deter all these “Peter Rabbits” from destroying our gardens I tried yelling at them, chasing them myself with a broom and even telling them that I know how to cook rabbit and they are quite tasty. They ignored it all. After more research on how to stop these gregarious, plant-eating mammals from raiding the garden I found a safe, friendly method. I planted marigolds among my other plants. Apparently the smell of this flower is repugnant to rabbits. What a great solution; safe and cheap and as a bonus the bright colours look cheery in the garden. My plants have been stunted and may not achieve their true potential this summer but will live to bloom another day.

Forecasting the Weather

The calendar says September but my Amaryllis, a typically Christmas plant, is blooming in a dark corner of my basement. It has not received a drop of water since spring so why is this supposedly dormant plant putting forth a bright red bloom? On more than one occasion I have been told that the long-range weather forecast is calling for an early snowfall on October 1st. So this begs the question, “does my Amaryllis know something about the upcoming winter?”

The trees behind our home are alive with bird activity. Robins, blue jays, woodpeckers, finches, orioles, cardinals, doves, chickadees and a few species that I will need to find in my bird book are in a never-ending dance foraging among the branches. Are they stocking up for winter or preparing to migrate?

And I must not forget the pair of hummingbirds who have designated the middle of our deck as their personal air strip. They appear suddenly, hover in front of our patio doors, chirping at their reflections and then dash along the line up of plants containing red geraniums, yellow pansies and purple petunias. From our deck they whizz off to the neighbouring hummingbird feeder. They show no fear of people and will retrace their flight path across our deck. They even flew between people sitting on opposite sides of the deck. Sometimes the only indication of their presence is the loud buzzing of the tiny wings.

Back to my original premise; do the plants and birds know something about the upcoming winter? Will these warm, sunny days quickly slip into the cold, blustery days of late fall and winter? Yesterday on ‘Canada AM’, Mark Cullen stated that the first frost for parts of the province is only two or three weeks away. Can it be? Are birds and plants forecasting the upcoming winter?

My Own Monets Garden

It is a beautiful summer day and I am sitting on the deck soaking it all in. The three new houses down from us are being landscaped today. The orange Kubota is moving from front to back dropping scoop fulls of topsoil. Soon rolls of sod will be rolled out like lush green carpet connecting all the other lawns.

The houses on either side of us have been busy planting shrubs and flowers to adorn their yards. They have inspired us to follow and the three lawns are awash with colour. Cone flowers, butterfly bushes, hydrangea, black-eyed-Susan, lilies, hosta and many flowers that I do not know the name of take on the image of a Monet painting. At this time of the summer all the plants are sporting their best finery tempting butterflies and birds to enjoy the nectar feast.

Our supposedly squirrel proof bird feeder is hanging empty but I am leaving it there to taunt the squirrels who emptied it. They climb up and hang off it desperately trying to rob the birds of more feed. Once they give up they move to my neighbours neon green shepherds hook which does have a squirrel-proof feeder hanging off it. The squirrels provide lots of entertainment as they run back and forth to the feeders not willing to admit to being thwarted.

Small caramel coloured chipmunks race along the top of the black chain link fence hoping that a few seeds will drop to the ground and be available to them. They disappear into the woods on the outside of the fence. The trees allow us to believe that we are still living in the country and the landscape tractor is no different in noise than the local farmers working away harvesting their crops.

Colourful butterflies flit through the air, never staying in one place for long but providing another splash of colour in the landscape. Hummingbirds hover over their feeder sucking up sugary red liquid then move on to the flowers for more treats. Yellow finches, blue jays, doves and many more birds share the air space. This is a busy backyard.

I cannot think of a better way to convalesce than to watch mother natures tapestry unfold before me. Next winter when the snow is blowing past the window I will retrieve this memory and feel warm all over.

Cemetery Adventures

My brother and I have divided responsibility for flowers on our parents and grandparents graves. This is my year to look after Mom and Dad; so I purchased a cone bouquet of silk flowers and last week I placed the flowers in front of the stone. It was windy and I worried that they would be damaged. This Sunday I went back to the cemetery to check on the flowers.

I trekked across the cemetery. The rain was pelting down on my umbrella. As I walked past a straggly oak scrub I noticed that the brown, crispy leaves still clung to the branches. Wind and rain lashed the leaves and I was sure that I could hear the ghostly voices of the inhabitants of the cemetery. The voices were sad and lonely. They yearned for all the loved ones left behind.

I continued on to the back of the cemetery to my parents plot. I found that the cone was leaning over, the spike on the bottom bent forward. Struggling with the umbrella in one hand and trying to straighten the bouquet and spike with the other hand I was getting whipped by the wind and rain. At this point the umbrella turned inside out. Giving in to the elements I laid the umbrella down and fixed the flowers. Satisfied that they were OK I then fixed the umbrella. I was now soaking wet.

Leaving the cemetery I exited past the leafy oak tree. This time I tarried to listen to the voices and decided that they now sounded like a choir singing the praises of all who dwell here and not sad ghostly voices.

All of this prompted me to recall past experiences in cemeteries. I was unaware of how much time I had spent exploring cemeteries.

Several years ago I took my grandson to the grave of his paternal grandparents. It had been our intention to place flowers on their grave; however; having left town with the street lights shining we did not realize how dark it would be at the cemetery. We stumbled about in the dark looking for their grave stone. We did not immediately find it. The shadows danced around us in our journey causing me to think of all the Halloween stories I have been told. The grave stone was eventually found, flowers placed and a hasty retreat was made to the car. I hope that I have not traumatized my grandson.

The next foray to the grave yard was with my granddaughter. Years ago; my father started a tradition by planting tulip bulbs beside head stones of family members. To continue this tradition we set off with a bag of tulip bulbs and a trowel. Carefully I dug small holes in front of my parents stone and she planted the bulbs. We also added bulbs to my grandparents and my uncle’s grave site. I sincerely hoped that no one would mistake us for grave robbers.

I hope that I have not traumatized another grandchild.

How many grandchildren can share stories about adventures in cemeteries with an eccentric grandmother?