Lately I’ve been thinking about my gardening past: how I got into gardening and the first books, magazines, writers, and television hosts that inspired me. Coincidentally, just yesterday I learned about Thalassa Cruso, the” Julia Child of Horticulture.”
I’ve decided that she just might be my new gardening hero.
Through the late 1960′s Ms. Cruso wrote and starred in a PBS television show called “Making Things Grow.” She is described in the New York Times as a “… witty and acerbic Englishwoman…” and an, “Everygardener, a true amateur who drew her advice from personal experience rather than formal horticultural training.”
Sounds like a plantswoman after my own heart. Now, how do I get my hands on a copy of this series?
Sound familiar? I was shocked when I heard the first line spoken by Carol Bowlby in this National Film Board of Canada film on urban gardening from 1984. Separated by birth and about thirty years, she and I. Watching the film was like watching myself go through my own garden chores and routines.
And just look at her usage of recycled wash buckets, milk jugs, and assorted “garbage” in building a thrifty and organic garden well before it was in the vernacular (or minds) of any of us new-style URBAN HOMESTEADERS. Carol had it going on back in 1984. I salute you, lady.
Carol’s yard is slightly larger than mine (I think. Still need to work out the math), but hearing about how self-sustaining she and her family are within the confines of this space makes me even more enthusiastic about achieving the goals we have for our new yard. The first is to never buy another leaf of lettuce or salad green, again. I’m absolutely confident we can achieve this as I have done very well in much smaller and harsher growing condition. And where Carol has set aside room in her yard for kids’ space, I will be making room for the many non-edible plants that I am passionate about.
Spring can’t come soon enough! I just want to be out there, hunched over and digging in the soil with the sun on my back, chirping birds and urban sounds as my soundtrack.
Addendum: Davin says that our yard is larger… at least what will end up being the growing portion. In the film, Carol says her total garden (the entire yard itself is larger) is 260 square feet. We just did the math and our entire yard is approximately 700 square feet. Friends, that is the size of the apartment we just left! Putting numbers to it really drives home how different the new space will be. This is very exciting, indeed.
Special thanks to reader Marie-Louise who sent in this link!
I’ve got several deadlines on tap, a chipped filling that has exposed something that should not be exposed, and a bad case of writer’s block, so today’s post will be nearly wordless. These photos were taken on a trip to Shelburne several weeks ago to visit Brian Bixley’s garden, Lilactree Farm.
Brian and his wife purchased the property, a former cattle farm I believe, in the late 1960′s. They’ve divided up the land nearest to the house into garden rooms that are surrounded by tall hedges and filled with trees. It was open and treeless originally. Many of the rooms radiate from this bird bath.
They’re waiting for me to stop taking pictures and catch up. We haven’t even entered the property by this point. I could have spent my life exploring the flora on that road!
Perennial sweet peas and geraniums have self-seeded alongside the road just off of the property.
Gorgeous and easy to maintain, but they don’t have that signature sweet pea scent.
When the country road was expanded, Brian tossed seeds of thyme and other drought tolerant plants into the ditch. That ditch is nicer than my street garden. If I had it to do all over again….
Over the weekend my friend Barry opened his garden up to public viewing and for something special, brought most of his impressive agave collection down from a third floor balcony and into the yard for viewing. It’s not just that Barry has assembled this collection, but that he grew many of these large plants from seed! Perhaps not such a difficult feat in a southern climate, but here in the North that means years of shifting spiny plants indoors and out, and months of coddling under lights and in sunny windows through the winter.
I walked around the table with my cellphone and shot a little video of the plants. If I had to choose a favourite, I think it would be the one that has black leaf margins and spines. But only under duress since there are several others that are just unbearably pretty. The white one in the centre of the arrangement is pretty impressive too. And the little one with the very thin leaves….
Back in February a secret somebody, whose identity I will not reveal (pinky swear), gifted me a package of seeds of the only open-pollinated (OP) blue tomato to have been raised by natural plant breeding techniques (not GMO). I was under the impression that this yet-to-be-released tomato was so secretive that I didn’t plan to write about it at all and was extra careful not to show it in photos until last week when I did an internet search and discovered that everyone and their second cousin has been growing and writing about it willy nilly.
Perhaps it is not so secretive after all.
This experimental blue tomato (sometimes going by the name P20) is being produced by Oregon State University in an attempt to create an uber-healthy tomato with a high level anthocyanin, the powerful antioxidant found in blueberries.