Clockwise from Top Left: 1. My garden today, January 28, 2013. 2. October 2012. 3. April 2012. 4. June 16 2012.
This morning I took a photo of the garden as it was after a fresh snowfall. Shortly afterward, I dug into my phone’s photo archives and found an image taken from the same perspective approximately 3 months ago, back in October. What a difference!
Barry’s cyclamen have begun their yearly emergence from dormancy and his small, cold greenhouse is alive with them. My own few pots of Cylamen coum (gifts from Barry, of course) have also begun to emerge, although I have noticed that they are behind his.
What you see in this photo isn’t even half of Barry’s collection — there has got to be at least a hundred — pots upon pots upon more pots that he raised from seed seven years ago. He has transplanted some outside into the garden where they have propagated into a million different leaf patterns, colours, and forms. It’s fun to pull back the leaf mulch and observe these tiny new creatures. What new designs will we find? Barry keeps his favourites in pots in the glasshouse where he can enjoy them more closely.
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!
The entire block is festively adorned with swaying animatronic santas, flashy light extravaganzas, and colourful wreathes. There are plastic moulded nativity scenes, herds of wire-frame deer, fences wrapped up to resemble presents, and branches stuck into urns and tied around with oversized velvet bows. There are garlands, enough to form a line across the world and back. Garlands wrapped with ribbons, stuck with oscillating lights, and dotted with strange glittery baubles. There are holiday messages written on windows in spray snow from a can, and others spelled out in lights.
And then there is our house, the sore thumb. The sole, cheerless home on the block. Scourge of the neighbourhood. Don’t get me wrong, there are lights — a single, short string of white solar lights that illuminate feebly when and if it does at all, unable to collect enough sun energy through these long and bleak early winter days. It worked too well through the sunny, summer months, announcing our neglect loudly, “Here be your weird, lazy neighbours (or are they hippies? They don’t look like hippies…), too apathetic to bother removing their single, feeble attempt at Holiday participation. There they go. The couple that hates Christmas.”
Last weekend we dug up a boatload of Jerusalem artichokes aka sunchokes from the garden, right on schedule.
Believe it or not, many of the tubers are even bigger this year than last. And there are more of them! God help us.
When we began digging, I told Davin that we would only be excavating a few. But it’s like once you start you just can’t stop. And when you do think to stop you tell yourself, “Well, I have GOT to get the tubers that have grown into the neighbour’s yard. They’re compromising the fence!” The next thing you know, you’ve got a basket so big you can barely even lift it.