It is a good time of year. We can very nearly say with almost sort-of, closing in on possible certainty that there will be no more snow for a good 6 or 7 months, the plant sales are in full swing, the plant-specific festivals are rockin’ it HARD olde school (emphasis on olde), and people are cleaning the crap out of their sheds and basements. And that crap, dear reader, may very well end up as my crap.
Last Saturday was the annual Parkdale Horticultural Society Plant Sale or what I like to call, you better get there early and you had better lace those fightin’ shoes up extra tight and be ready to kick major butt cause those gardeners are tougher than you’d expect! And they are very serious about their sale plants. And to be honest I am very nearly choking on the word “sale” as I type this because while some plants were indeed sold at below market cost (as you shall see from my awesome scores below), I spotted a number of plants that were priced higher than plants I have seen at bourgeois garden stores. NICE TRY Parkdale Horticultural Society members. Sure the money collected from the sale goes towards altruistic endeavors, supporting local gardens and feeding starving children and saving the world or whatever but you can’t make me spend $3 a piece on your repotted strawberry offsets or your they’re-native-therefore-worthy-of-a-big-markup plants.
I’ve been attending this thing for years now and there are always one or two surreal moments in that community center gym that make me stop and ask myself, “Who are you?” My inner voice sounds exactly like Brenda Walsh when I say it. [Okay, pause for a moment. Now Davin and I are arguing about who said that. He thinks it was Kelly to Brenda and I think it was Brenda to Brandon.] Like those few seconds when I was stuck in the crowd, pushing my way in slow motion through a sea of bodies and carts towards the Shady Perennials Table feeling like an early eighties mom fighting for the last 5 Cabbage Patch Kids. And then by the time I reached the table all that was left was the not-so-cute one with a weird name like Geneva Mary Rose or Mercedes Brandi Lynn.
For years I’ve been trying to convince Davin that a big button press would revolutionize our world. Small buttons are fun and have their purpose, but big buttons offer up a whole new world of possibilities. Big buttons remind me of special button-making fundraising days at my grade school. Throughout the course of the day students were escorted by classroom into a closet-sized room, where for 25 cents a woman would convert a photo of your choosing into a pinback button. I’m pretty sure mine was a photo of grade school me sitting at the top of the slide at my favourite park — all of the rides there were shaped like spaceships and the slide was a part of the Starship Enterprise!
I’m not sure if Davin has come around to my way of thinking or level of enthusiasm, but regardless, we’re making big buttons and I am happy.
The first thing I did was modify our garden designs for the new size. I love the designs at this size and have rediscovered a joy for wearing buttons. Although I generally try to stick to wearing one at a time.
Editing this to add that in a moment of clarity we made a change to the site so now people can choose if they want packaging or don’t want packaging. We try to keep packaging to a minimum in general, however the button sets come mounted on cards. So now buyers can choose to receive their buttons without the cards. Woot!
I’ve decided to take the plunge back into the world of sunflowers. Anyone gardening in public space knows that sunflowers have a time-sensitive contract out on their lives beginning the moment they bloom. Their big beautiful blooms inspire grabbing hands that MUST rip and tear and have them all to themselves. I’d like to think those grabbing hands are taking the decapitated, stemless heads home and cuddling with them at night, clutching them with joy. The hands are lonesome. They need beauty in their life! Odds are that those ripped flowers don’t make it down the block — tossed into a City planter as soon as the hands realize the awkwardness of a stemless flower head.
The sight of enormous decapitated plants poking from the back of the garden is too heartbreaking. I got fed up years ago, throwing my arms up in defeat and announcing “A sunflower will never bloom in my garden again!”
And so I have remained since, living in denial that sunflowers exist. Allowing myself rare moments to enjoy them in other peoples’ gardens but never allowing myself to look at seeds or varieties. It’s all very sad and heartbreaking.
I let my guard down in a moment of weakness on our trip to Austin last month. We had soldiered through the rain and across a highway to visit Big Red Sun garden center. I refused to leave empty-handed having put in such great effort to get there! As soon as I saw this pack of ‘Chocolate Cherry’ Sunflowers from Renee’s Garden I knew I had to grow them. I had been withholding from sunflowers for so long that I had completely missed out on all the rich, burgundy varieties available. Now that the door is open I’ve also got my eye on ‘Cinnamon Sun’ and ‘Junior.’
You can bet I will not be starting any of these in the street/guerilla garden. No ma’am, I am saving a nice sunny and safe spot on the roof for these babies and I MIGHT attempt to grow one in my plot at the community garden where their safety is less secure but much greater than their chances in the Garden of Doom.
I recently sent off seed requests via Seeds of Diversity Canada, a seed exchange organization dedicated to the preservation of heritage varieties that I joined last summer. In the face of online ordering, the ease of PayPal transactions, and good ole’ email the whole experience felt downright old-fashioned, involving about three hours of painstaking reading and rereading instructions cross-referenced against further instruction. Having mastered that challenge I’m thinking about doing my taxes on paper, just for fun.
The process went as follows:
- Highlight selections. I chose yellow this time around. With a five-colour brick on hand I take my highlighting needs seriously.
- Next, decipher confusing abbreviated code and cross-reference abbreviated names and locations with a full list at the front of the catalogue to ascertain who to send money to and where.
- Address an envelope and affix appropriate postage. I can do this. This is familiar.
- Make copies of the printed form found in the middle of the catalogue. You will need copies if you plan to request from more than one grower or if you are prone to making mistakes on written forms yet insist on using indelible ink. I used the “copy” feature on my ancient and nearly useless fax machine. Surprisingly this was my second time turning it on in the same day. Hello 1993!
- Fill out the form. Oh crap, I do not know my membership number. Apparently I was supposed to keep the envelopes containing all correspondence from the organization since my membership number is printed on the mailing sticker. Apparently this was all outlined on my introductory membership letter. The introductory membership letter I filed away without reading because I do not care to read instructions. Write long-winded explanation for lack of membership number in supplied tiny space.
Was it worth it? Absolutely! The catalogue that arrived in my mailbox last month contained more plant names in one place than I have ever seen in my life. Making my way through it with the highlighter was a gardener’s wet dream, so-to-speak. Imagine 37 letter-sized pages of single-spaced text and no photographs dedicated entirely to tomatoes. From such an exhaustive list I bought only one variety, a purple cherry called ‘Haley’s Purple Comet’ that I fell in love with at a Tomato Tasting Party last August. I had not been able to locate seeds for this genetic fluke — a delicious love-child derived from tasty favourite ‘Cherokee Purple.’ And from another grower I ordered four lettuce varieties I have not seen available anywhere else: ‘Cheetah Oak’, ‘Devil’s Ear’s', ‘Ibis’ and ‘Drunken Woman.’ Surprisingly I ordered the last one for more than the name alone!
Placing completed forms and envelopes containing cash money into the mailbox this morning felt about as certain as making a dandelion wish and releasing it into the wind. Will my seed selections actually arrive or did I just buy lunch for some disenfranchised postal worker? Only time will tell.