No matter the season, there is always something of interest (many, many things of interest) going on in Barry’s garden and even though I know not to show up without a proper camera, I can’t deny that sometimes (most times) I am lazy and the camera stays at home. Of course, I always regret it later as I did when I visited his place on Friday to see what was new.
And what was new was everything. It was the day of the epic thaw. One day our city gardens are buried in snow, the likes of which we haven’t seen in ages, and the next the sun is shinning, the birds are getting busy, and some guy is traipsing down the street in a T-shirt and flip-flops like it’s August, except that it isn’t August it’s January, and it may be unseasonably warm, but it’s nowhere near Spring Break in Cancun 2013 (Spring Break! Woooo!). That dude is going to regret it next week when he’s stuck in the bathroom suffering the symptoms of the NoroVirus, I tell you what.
I love these first big thaws. First of all, they are a desperately needed reminder that the winter isn’t forever. Spring will come again. They also reveal that life has not ceased underneath the snow. Plants are alive. Some of them are green and fresh. Take this lush and very alive hellebore (above) in Barry’s garden. Before meeting Barry, I had never paid hellebores much mind. Now I can appreciate their merits, the main one being that they stay green year-round!
Some of them, like this Helleborus niger ‘Praecox’ bloom in December and January when most plants are months away from breaking dormancy, let alone making flowers. Let me repeat: I took this photo just a few days ago. In January. In Toronto. What a plant!
Whenever I travel I tend to be drawn to the mundane: Where do people live? Where do they shop? What do they eat? Somehow, I often end up passing a graveyard. Over time and many trips, I have started to make observations about the different traditions that are observed around burials. And as a gardener, I find I am often drawn specifically to take note of and/or document the plant life that grows there as well as the small gardens that families plant on or around individual plots.
In Dominica I spent more time in cemeteries than is usual as I was specifically looking for any traces of my ancestors that I could find. With little resources or space, burial grounds are regularly overturned to make room for new bodies so it was rare to find a gravestone older than 20-30 years. Edited to add: Commenting below reminded me that Hurricane David completely devastated Dominica in 1979. That’s would be a major factor in why there are few gravestones before 1980.
I did not expect to find anything, but Davin and I looked carefully just in case. While searching, I took the time to document some of the interesting things that I saw, specifically the plants. I thought you might like to see it too and even though it has taken me three years to post these images, I had you in mind when I took them.
This was the closest I came to locating a distant relative in a graveyard. I was never able to determine if I am related to her.
I’m still engaged in the long process of catching up on developing and scanning a backlog of film dating back a few years. There are lots of plant and garden related images within this pile that I had forgotten about. It is bringing up old thoughts, ideas, memories.
For instance, looking at this image taken in NYC last August has me thinking about unusual gardens. I found this one attached to an auto body/detailing shop on the Bowery. I had to stop and capture it for my memory.
Gardens like this are some of my favourite. They are a surprise. They are little gems that lie tucked within the overlooked nooks and crannies of the city. Blink and you will miss them. They are not beautiful in the traditional sense. They are dismissed. They are not celebrated within the glossy pages of horticultural magazines. There are no unusual/rare/designer plants here. The pots are ugly/handmade/crude; they were not purchased in contemporary shops. They are messy. They are dirty. They are not special.
They are brilliant. They are magic. They make the city come alive.
Happy New Year!
I wrote my first year-end wrap-up post in 2010 and continued with it in 2011. As I sit here at my desk the end of 2012 [note that I began compiling this post just before the New Year], the garden buried underneath a blanket of snow, I feel compelled to continue the exercise, in part, because I can hardly remember what I ate for lunch yesterday, never mind what I did over the last year! I have a tendency to be onto the next thing the second the last thing is done. Exercises like this are a good memory jog and a way to slow down, look back, and remind myself of the things I accomplished in the recent past.
2012 began with a tranquil week in the desert or more specifically, coastal Baja California desert chaparral. Oh, how wonderful it smelled. There was rosemary in bloom and sunshine on my face. There was an organic farm with a head gardener who could match me in his enthusiasm for seeds and interesting edibles. We plunged our hands into warm soil and pulled out fresh carrots. We spent our nights cozying up to a fragrant wood fire and toasted our escape from the frozen, scentless world at home. I loved every minute of it.
All photos in this post were taken by Davin Risk
These first two photos show a restricted access carnivorous plant room at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. I found out later that I could have got a tour had I only asked!
I am tackling my New Year’s Resolution early. Doomsday predictors believe we only have a few days left — I should probably get busy.
Do something with all of the travel pictures. I’ve been fortunate enough to go on quite a few journeys over the last few years. Many were work-related, but when I could I tried to tack on a few extra days so that I could see a place that I had never been before and probably would never see again. No matter where I go, there is always something to see.
And so there are pictures. Heaps and heaps of pictures. I am buried alive in pictures. First there is the digital stuff. And you know how it is with digital. You snap away like a maniac and deal with it later. Or you don’t. Instead you look at it and think, “Seven hundred images. Ugh. I will do this later.” But later never comes. And then there is the film. These days it is abhorrently expensive to buy and even more expensive to develop. So I sit on it and roll it out in affordable chunks. Then I must endure the slow process of scanning it, image-by-image. Once that is done I am tired so I take a break that lasts indefinitely.
This is where, Do Something With All of the Travel Pictures, 2013!, comes in. It would be nice for some of those pictures to see the light of day, never mind the stories that accompany them. I want to tell more stories. That’s my other goal these days: Tell the Stories. There are many stories inside me that want to be told. Lately they have been punching at the walls inside my head, desperate to work their way out into the world. Some of these stories relate to small things like travel, plants, and food. But others are more complicated and so much harder to tell. I suppose the good thing here is that the drive to tell them has finally superseded the fear that my writing skills are not “good enough” to do them justice. I am working at it.