This is what passes for a flower bouquet at my house.
As a small space gardener I can’t grow the volume required to create large and frothy bouquets. I need to work with what I’ve got since we’re not growing cut flowers in Oprah quantities around here (I followed her Instagram account for a few weeks and could not believe the buckets upon buckets of roses that are harvested from her gardens). There wouldn’t be a whole lot left to enjoy in the garden were I to pilfer from it regularly. Instead, I harvest little bits of this and that and display them in tiny vases comprised of old perfume and medicine bottles, bud vases, and tiny bowls. I found a small stack of the tiny bowl (front right) at a market in Chaing Mai, Thailand. My favourite is in the right back, a rock with a hole carved in the centre. Can you believe I got that one free from a local junk shop? “Oh, you can just have it,” the proprietor replied when we inquired about the price.
Colourful bits of plant matter from my garden and an oddball assortment of free and practically free vessels = priceless (literally).
These blue primulas (Primula acaulis ‘Blue Zebra’) are unreal. They are hallucinatory, a visual flashback from some bad trip I foolishly took in high school. No, they are like a prop in a cartoon remake of Alice in Wonderland. I wonder, when I turn my back, will they grow anthropomorphic limbs and dance?
I bought my first Primula auricula back in 2010. It’s dead now, a casualty of the move. I’ve successfully grown other primulas since, but it’s the diminutive, silvery auriculas that really captivate me.
Just the other day, I was walking in the sunshine, music playing through the buds stuck in my ears, when the song, “You Are My Sister” came on. As Antony Hegarty’s melodic and impossibly high-pitched voice filled my head I thought back to when we first “met” and how we bonded very quickly over a mutual affection for this album. Immediately my mind took me back to late summer when we met in person for the first time. There I was again, driving up to your place in the rental car, a canopy of tall trees shading us from above; you standing at the gate, that familiar green and red house behind you, the garden surrounding us all. And then, jumping further ahead again, my mind made a b-line to the nicotiana.
Dear Margaret: Those two words are how each “letter” in this series of letters to my friend Margaret Roach of A Way to Garden begins. This is letter number thr. To backtrack, see letters one and two. Margaret’s most recent letter to me is here.
UPDATE (April 10, 2013): My plants have flower buds!
Are you afraid to grow hellebore? I am. Like clematis, they are a plant that I have long associated with hoity-toity gardeners and their fancy pants gardens. Their ticket price doesn’t help matters. Hellebores are notoriously expensive plants, often coming in at the $20-30 mark in most retail garden centres. That’s a lot of money to sink into a plant that I am almost certain I will kill.
And then I met Barry Parker.
Barry loves hellebores. He also loves clematis (but that’s a story for another day). And you know what? Barry’s garden is awfully fancy. Few fully staffed, public gardens I have visited have been able to pull off what Barry achieves in his urban Toronto backyard. While the initial shock has worn off, after 4 years, it still blows my mind every time that I visit it.
It may be fancy and a little bit intimidating, but I never walk away from Barry’s garden feeling like a failure in my own. I think this is owing to Barry’s heart of gold and his cheerful, encouraging, and generous charm. Instead, I always leave Barry’s garden with a can-do attitude and the drive to do better. Whats more, having Barry as a friend has helped me come a long way in undoing old, self-imposed stereotypes about gardeners, plants, and gardens.