Behold, the beautiful leaves of this Rex Begonia I bought last winter. It’s flowering!
The trick to growing this particular begonia is shade and humidity. My time hiking through forests in Dominica really drove that point home in a clear way. I often found begonias growing in surprisingly dim spots underneath thick tree canopy and near to a water source where the humidity was high. Rex Begonias are known for demanding more of both.
When I first bought this plant I had a difficult time finding that balance. I got the humidity part right but gave it too much light. Rexs without enough humidity end up with crispy leaf edges. And when the light is too bright, they lose their vibrant color.
From the moment I first laid eyes on an Oxalis palmifrons I knew I wanted to take a picture of it with a tiny model train figure standing underneath the leaves as if she/he was a tourist posing among a bank of palm trees.
This photo isn’t quite what I had in mind.
Our new place has a cold, south-facing, window-filled mudroom. It was the porch at one time and still has the original stone window-ledge, window, brick facade, concrete floor, and functional doorbell. It’s not a very functional living space, but it makes a perfect cold greenhouse!
Since before the move, my poor plants have been suffering through weeks of neglect and life in less-than-ideal conditions. They’ve spent the last 10 days or so sitting in boxes; some getting too much light and others not enough. Several were in the cold room that shouldn’t have been, while others were baking in the heat without adequate water. A few were even stuck in the basement without any light or water at all! I haven’t lost anything completely, but I’ve come close and just about nothing looks like it did before we began the moving process.
The original window is still intact. This is the view from inside the living room.
I knew from the moment we saw the place that that mudroom would become my personal greenhouse. Last night, I finally had a chance to do a cursory setup of the plants along with a good watering and some pruning back of dead and broken branches. Hopefully the plants will bounce back from the abuse they’ve suffered. In the meantime, my friend Barry gifted me five new oxalis plants and a potted Scilla peruviana. Barry grows his in his cold greenhouse and I’m hoping mine will be just as happy in my setup.
When I went in there this morning to check on the plants, I was shocked and happily surprised by how earthy and greenhouse-like the room smelled. When those really cold, miserable days of winter start to get me down, I can putter around inside my little greenhouse, touch some greenery and smell fresh soil. This move is turning out to be better than I had imagined!
First there was a fat lump of a thing found in the Yardshare Garden here in the west end while planting squashes. And then a few weeks ago we found Leopard Slugs (Limax maximus) in our friend David’s plot at the Leslie Street Allotment Garden on the east side of Toronto.
Prior to these two sightings I had never seen slugs of this size in Toronto, or this part of Canada for that matter. Our slugs are tiny little things called Gray Garden Slugs (Agriolimax reticulatus). Tiny, but pervasive! Until recently I could always ease my mind with the knowledge that while their numbers are legion, at least we don’t have the massive banana-type monsters.
And now we do.
These new slugs are European introductions, although there is speculation that they could have come from British Columbia. There is a scientist in Toronto who is currently tracking their occurrence, and while it looks like the Leopard Slug hasn’t really reached my part of town, it will soon enough.
And I thought I had my hands full with the four neighbour cats that have made our quiet yard their hang out. I feel like I’m in a horror movie, waiting for the giant insect army to invade.
- More on another giant slug found in Etobicoke, the suburb west of my home. It’s very pretty, but no thanks.
- A video (narrated by David Attenborough) of Leopard Slugs mating. Very fascinating, but again, not in my backyard!
A few days ago we packed up the old place, packed up the roof garden and all of my plants, and moved. It was hell. A special thanks to friends who helped us get the remaining vestiges of our stuff out. That was no small feat and I am super, super grateful.
As of right now we are living in the midst of chaos. Piles of boxes lay everywhere. We can’t find anything, although I did find the kettle yesterday! Baby steps and small victories. I’m calling this stage the Where is Everything? Phase. The basement is like a set from the television show Hoarders. Regardless, for the first time in my adult life I have a basement. Hooray for a place to throw the stuff I can’t deal with right now and the location of my future seed-starting set-up!
This morning I woke up from a bad dream. In it, I had gone back to the old place to visit a neighbour and there was a television crew out on the roof giving it an extremely fancy, bourgeoisie makeover. In typical dream-like fashion everything was twisted. So while I should have had direct access to the roof, in the dream I couldn’t get anywhere near it to ask what was going on. And as I walked around looking for ways to gain access, it only got further and further away. The next thing I knew I was lugging my bike around heavy security lines and the makeover wasn’t just my old roof but the whole neighbourhood.
As the size of the production grew, so did my anxiety level. I was becoming a frantic person running around muttering aloud, “That used to be my garden. What are they doing to my garden?”
Finally, I found someone who would tell me what was happening. They were filming a makeover show, but they were also super fancifying the space to be a meeting place for a Catholic Bishop that was coming to town. Huh? All I can say for that portion is that last night was Halloween and one of the movies I watched (John Carpenter’s “Vampires”) must have melded with my dream.
Needless to say, I am beginning to suffer some emotional fallout from that tornado-like move. It was fast and furious, leaving me with a sense of displacement and some vestiges of separation anxiety from my old and familiar garden. And yet, I am also very excited to be embarking on gardening in a brand new location with a new set of positives and challenges to maneuver within.
Onward and upward.