In just two weeks. This is how it happened.
During the Xmas Holidays we were sitting in the living room watching a television show called, River Monsters, which is essentially a fishing show but so much more. I’m really into fish and have kept freshwater aquariums on and off since childhood. Is there any geek hobby I haven’t tried? The answer is, no. But I digress. The host, Jeremy Wade, is a biologist and angler who travels around the world catching fascinating and fearsome freshwater fish (say that 10 times fast!). Each episode is an attempt to prove or debunk the myth of a supposedly man-eating freshwater fish. It’s a great show.
Fish ON! [Said with British accent].
While watching an episode that was filmed in Thailand, I turned to Davin and said, “Oh yeah, this reminds me that I got an email today asking me if I want to go on a garden writers press tour to Thailand. I kind of ignored it because it’s the Holidays and I’m trying to avoid thinking about work right now — I should take a second look.”
At which point I did take a second look, started to think about the possibilities, got excited about them, and sent in my pitch. Jump ahead a few months to just two weeks ago when we were given the go-ahead to purchase our air tickets to Thailand. And in another two weeks we are off!
I’m at Disney World right now, where I will be giving talks on growing delicious and gorgeous food in small spaces until Thursday afternoon as a part of the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival.
Yes, you read that correctly. You are not hallucinating. Or perhaps you are? Or perhaps I am. Maybe those bottles of water our liaison gave us when he picked us up at the airport were filled with *Magical* Disney Water and everyone here is participating in a giant group hallucination. Our minds are moving around a giant 50 square mile theme park but our bodies are asleep inside womb-like pods in one enormous room. If that’s the case, it’s all very well constructed because those painful blisters on my toes are terribly convincing.
Regardless, it is a very warm, sunny, and plant-filled hallucination so I accept.
I am told that it continues to be cold and grey back at home in Toronto so I am soaking up as much sunshine, warmth, and colour as I can in the days that remain. Here are a few sights from the first day:
I’ve spotted several tillandsia on this trip — they infest many of the trees — I’m showing you the first because it’s always the most exciting.
This is pink trumpet tree (Tabebuia impetiginosa). Several other people informed me via Twitter that there is a yellow version, too. For desperate, colour deprived Northerners, flowering trees are a religious experience right about now. Davin and I flocked around this one on one of my breaks between presentations like it was one of Epcot’s biggest attractions or a Disney child star roaming the parks. Squeee!!! Eventually a little girl asked her parents what was so special about the tree. They were as confused as she was.
Do you become absolutely insufferable through the last dregs of winter? Do you cry, bitch, and moan that spring will never come and you will not make it out alive, not this time? Well then you and I are in the same boat my friend, and this post is for you.
Last April I spoke at the Drawn and Quarterly bookstore in Montreal to promote my book, Grow Great Grub. While there, I took the opportunity to visit my favourite botanical garden, the Montreal Botanical Gardens. If you’d like to see images of the gardens and greenhouse at different times of the year, I have an archive of images from past trips. You can not visit Montreal without visiting the garden!
Magnolia trees in bloom. Enough said.
I love the way the hardy sedum trails over the hard edges of the concrete border, and the little muscari flowers that are popping up within it.
Grecian Thistle (Ptilostemon afer). My love for thistles is expanding.
Yesterday, my friend Celia visited the House of Hope in Dominica. She and her husband Paul took photos of the visit and shot a video to give us a closer look.
House of Hope from Paul Crask on Vimeo.
The following photos are of the organic food garden that is in progress on the property. They are currently growing pumpkin, sweet potato, bananas (or plantain), and coconuts.
Click here for more pictures of the visit.
Information on how to donate to the House of Hope directly can be found here.
Thanks to Celia and Paul for all of their help making the connection in Dominica.
And thanks to all of you for your support!
Guest post by Davin Risk
I am asked now and again if “I am a gardener too” and my answer is an invariably unsure, “Well, yes and no, I help.” As Gayla’s partner I am often by her side in gardens and a certain level of gardening knowledge has seeped into my brain via osmosis. I garden, therefore I am… a gardener? What would Descartes do?
My hesitation in claiming the title is common. Over the years many people I’ve met with Gayla, and many more who have come to the You Grow Girl site, have either shied-away from calling themselves gardeners or have simply stated that they are poor ones—the infamous black thumbs club. What I’ve realized though, and seen Gayla champion on many occasions, is that if you get a thrill from seeing any plant grow and you actively want to plant and foster more of that lovely green growth yourself—you can wear the title gardener with pride.
I thought of my own trepidation when Gayla asked me to write a short something about my experience with Dominica’s beyond lush, wild, varied, and rainbow vibrant plant growth. That feeling came up… who am I to write about plants or most especially gardening? But here goes… I love plants. My affection far outstrips my knowledge and so I chose to write about how much I loved the very bane of gardeners everywhere, those climbing, twisting, cover-everything plants that are especially pervasive in vastly sunny and moist Dominica.
In Dominica they struggle year-round to slash and burn back the beautiful twists and turns of plantlife. Flowering vines adorn every pole and telephone wire. A nuisance sure… but gorgeous and wonderful especially to us Northern plant lovers beaming at every bit of warm moving colour so contrary to the cold stillness of our winter.
Those wild dense spaces—bursting with life—do drive the most plant-fond gardener to the brink of sanity. But I think even those Dominicans who complained about the constant encroachment of nature had a passion for that same indomitable green force.
I choose to embrace the beauty in nuisance plants and I think that actually makes me more gardener than not.