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A Staggering Rat of Heartbreaking Something or Other in Toronto is doing 42 things including…

have a beautiful garden

138 cheers


A Staggering Rat of Heartbreaking Something or Other has written 27 entries about this goal

Miss Heritage pulled a fast one.

Once she was settled in her new spot (displacing a young peony), she drank in plenty of sunshine and rain and produced three fat but scentless magenta buds.
‘You minx,’ I thought. (Heritage roses produce the palest pink cabbages you have seen and carry a heady old rose scent.)
‘I dunno how she’s gonna pull this one off,’ said the sous chef, yesterday. I told him roses are tricky. Tiny buds can open to enormous, lush blossoms. The darkest buds can unfurl to surprising colour or pallor. My dear friend Miss Bloom, known for her wicked glances, always tells me Nothing is as it seems. I have come to believe her, either happily or not.

Today, Miss Heritage proved not to be Miss Heritage, but an imposter. She opened up three magenta blooms that are decidedly not old garden rose in character. And she remains a scentless apprentice, like Grenouille, and maybe just as sinister.

I will have to adjust my list of Do Something and solve this as soon as possible.

As for Madame X, she’s not talking.


dicentra spectabilis (alba)



(Angus won.)


is this?

The Beautiful Garden

Some denizens I thought were in for the long haul said “Adios, amiga,” over the winter and are never coming back. I’m surprised to lose almost all of the stachys byzantina (lambs’ ears), myosotis (forget-me-nots), a rose (The Shropshire Lad), veronica, echinacea (coneflowers) and lupins. Bloody lupins!

So those of us who survived are now close-knit, in love with our steadfast nature. New things have shown up. I do not remember planting pink hyacinths, some pretty yellow lilylike thing or a Korean lilac. But I did, somewhere along the line, and here we all are. Kind of cool, isn’t it?

Festiva Maxima is a peony who must be about 60 or 70 years old by now. He is remarkable in that he and his bits and pieces travel all over the place and never sulk. I found him languishing under a pear tree in 1991 and grew him to a stately 5 feet the year after. I could not bear to leave him behind when moving to a new garden a decade later. I had left 65 antique rose bushes, all known by name, and that was enough leaving behind. Festiva was so big he had to be carried to his new digs in a garbage bin. And again he chose to thrive.

Last sometime or other, I lopped a chunk of him at the wrong time of year and gave it to Mr. Sunshine, hopelessly hopeful. Today, he is the bushiest peony in the garden, bristling with fat, promising buds. Talks the hind legs off a donkey, too. Watch out, Mr. Sunshine.

I have a few small pieces of him stuck in castoff pots on the back porch now. They look like they mean business. I’ll leave them over the summer and let them get their bearings.

So far, the gardens look good. Onward!

And suddenly, everything was different.

Today, almost a year later, the garden is happy, but now it expects anything. Under a crust of new snow and ice lie good green things, waiting to burst forth. “We are triumphant,” shout the flowers, mingling just above the soil, “And you should be, too!”

For my part, I have things ready: trowels, fertiliser, all manner of pots, urns, niceties. I promise to take tea out there with the blooms once the weather is decent and no-one is huddling.

Gardens and gardening are an important part of this year’s goal of RECLAMATION. Cringeless gardening! And a surprise: I learned I can grow KEY and KAFFIR LIMES here in the Banana Belt!
I can’t be a shade gardener, though, now that a neighbour’s tree was taken down. There is dappled sunlight waiting for the emerging daffodils.
“What’s that – you’re not SHADY?” ask the daffs.
“Nah. New year and all,” I say. “But it’s always good to keep on your toes.”

It's summer.

There are changes afoot.
Under the lilacs grow lofty hollyhocks, each a slightly different shade of dark red.

Some of the old roses have been under a strain lately. Evelyn has bent right over. But new, straight, happy canes are springing forth along her back. She still pushes forth a few blooms, too.

There is one hydrangea who turns from green to apple blossom to blue to purple and back again. She holds her breath to do this. She is not lush or blowsy, like Epic’s hydrangea. She bears a dainty three blossoms, heads held high. “Like my owner,” she says, not haughtily. I will have to check her vision.

The Japanese maple seedling disappeared after a heavy rain, and a small octopus is growing in the pot there now. I have more decisions to make once I clean off the debris from the rainstorm.

OK then: first things first!
1. Clean off debris – broken branches, leaf detritus, et cetera.
2. Pick flowers for night-table, including Anthony Waterer, who is blooming profusely.
3. Tie up tomato vines.
4. Weed out the clover.
5. Figure out what to do about the octopus.

I do not have a green thumb,

I do not design three-dimensionally and I am impatient. I also have a Red Bull instead of a tiger in m’tank, and am out with felco #6 to GIVE THE SHRUBS LEGS.

I took away a plethora of dead unVirgolike wood and watersprouts on the lilacs, dogwood and Bluebeard spirea. Anthony Waterer was a mess. I lopped off half of him so he can breathe better.

I like shrubs to have elegant legs. So much the better, I dare say, for them to dance later.

There was a tiny baby peewee Japanese Maple growing underneath the front-yard roses. She’s neighbour Alice’s tree’s daughter. I found her when I was on hands and knees, weeding. I put her in a McCoy pot and invited her into the back garden to grow. A cutie!

I waved at Alice’s maple. Mazel Tov!

Cecile does not exist.

We searched everywhere for her. The closest thing to finding Cecile was the vague promise of a twig in Hamilton. I let go of my longing.

I found a New Dawn at a Mother’s Day sale. Two of her sisters grow here in the front yard over an iron arch and along an eccentric fence (not “electric fence”). I looked at the sport White Dawn, but she won’t grow as vigourously. I saw Coral Dawn, another sport, but she is also of shorter stature, unfragrant and not very winter-hardy.

This third New Dawn will slip into her home today, by the back gate and along a tasteful but dull bleached-wood fence.

She promises to grow 12 feet high with “an arching habit”, and be prolific with her pale pink, fragrant – almost spicy – flowers.

Go Dawn!

May Days 2012

I returned to the garden I had left for a few days. Some people ask their gardens Did you miss me? but I ask mine What good tidings have thee? and it enjoys the stilted language so much it bursts into bloom.

I walked under several fragrant lilacs who are at their best, just beginning to blossom: pale pink and almost white, pale purple, mid purple and a deep grape popsicle purple.
The myosotis I found skittering all over the yard earlier in the spring are tiny blue jewels set in stone urns along the porch steps.
The peonies are leafy and huge, as are some of the hydrangeas.
The daffodils my friend Cindy gave me are blooming at last, in clumps at the back: petite, buttery-white and slender-stalked.

I saw Cindy’s garden a few days ago. It is huge as a Yorkshire moor, with winding paths and arbours and hidden nooks at the back of it with surprises growing. She has two fig trees with tiny figlets all over them. She has dwarf plumcot and apricot trees and raspberry canes. There are English hyacinths, too, and roses and ajuga: a million things blooming and budding and fading. I can tell the garden loves her as much as she loves it.

I am glad to see my garden is happy and looks loved as well.

Spring 2012

I have never seen a nose that runs as inelegantly and profusely as mine. The garden laughed: “There has been a drought lately. Thanks.”
Nevertheless, I planted two pots of winter narcissus bulbs and the last lilac shrub. The lilac should be the colour of a purple popsicle when it blooms. The row of lilacs are softening the hard edge of the east side of what I fondly call the “potting shed”.
On either side of the “potting shed’s” back entrance grow daffodil clumps from bulbs I planted a year and a half ago. They were a gift from Cindy, hortulanus concordis.

I am on the lookout for a vigorous climbing rose to soften a wooden fence corner that could be beautiful instead of austere. Cecile Brunner is going to be hunted down this week.

The flailing dogwood twig was given a stern warning and a new location along the edge of the “potting shed”, opposite a healthier sibling. I have to run a tight ship these days.

Rain tomorrow. No nose drippings.

A Staggering Rat of Heartbreaking Something or Other has gotten 138 cheers on this goal.


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