All posts by ailsaf

Only time heals

When we lose someone, we lose our compass, our rudder.  Up is now down, and left is right.  Nothing is the same.

When we lose someone, we are in a vacuum and for the moment, time has no meaning.  We think this day will never come.

If you’ve been lucky enough to have a dog who meant the world to you, you’ll understand what I’m talking about.   If you haven’t, I’m sorry for you.

If you’ve had a dog who was sick, infirm or old, you’ll know that these are the times that your bond grows deep, develops extra lignin, strengthens your connection and builds a wall around you that is never breached.  This is love.

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I thought I’d be back blogging soon….but words seem to fail me.

There is plenty to talk about and I am keen to talk about it….but in this moment, I will simply reflect that it has been nearly a year since I said goodbye to Skye-dog and my life is slowly regaining its colour.

Thanks for waiting.

A winter reverie…

….with colourful summer planters!  But first, here I am with my big sister in the Gatineau hills.  She’s holding the leaf; I’m eating an apple.  My two loves: the outdoors and food.

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Successful summer planters are full and lush.  They are also fearless and creative….

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This is the planter that undergoes seasonal changes at True Loaf bakery on Gladstone in Ottawa’s centretown.  If you crave chewy, flavourful, delicious and inventive bread, both savoury and sweet, this is your destination!

This planter combines white cosmos, buttery yellow petunia, golden Carex, white Gaura, ‘Diamond Frost’ euphorbia, a hit of fire-y zinnia, ‘Tiger Eye’ sumac and the blades of Acidanthera.  It probably didn’t need the orange-red zinnia, or else would have benefited from more plants of that colour.  Oh well – live and learn.

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As you can clearly see, I can’t get enough of yellow, chartreuse, green and white, so this is my garden in the early summer.  Incorporating a large pot into a garden planting can be very rewarding and can afford a big statement, that can be changed according to the season.

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This is a family garden, where kidlets enjoy the raised pond and lawn play area while the adults appreciate the colourful planters.   Grouping smaller planters like this into a vignette makes a bigger statement than just one.  As you can see, the blue-silvery planter is raised on a simple metal stand, giving it extra height and presence.

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Planters can be anything — this one uses an antique bucket to great effect and is very much a part of the garden display in a plant nursery in Hudson, NY.

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The same nursery, this time with a large copper tub acting as planter, along with a vintage red truck.  Such whimsy!  When you’re building your arrangements, think about coloured foliage as much as you think about flower colour….

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This mirrored planting shows the value of both scale and foliage.  Palms provide bulk and height, massive ‘Gryphon’ begonias (large, palm shaped leaves) provide texture and a metallic quality, ‘Bonfire’ begonias shout red and English ivy trail.  This is the perfect combination for a sheltered, shady porch.

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Another entrance planter enthralls in the sunshine with luscious chartreuse, yellow and black….

I can’t wait to create some new combinations in 2017…..

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Colourful and natural planters for the holidays

Christmas is coming and so is our opportunity to do something festive and special.  A tree, yes, but also a planter outdoors that allows us to be as flamboyant or as natural as we like.

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The folks at Mill Street Florist in Manotick always mix the unexpected: in this outdoor display, cut red roses are paired with winterberry (Ilex verticillata) to produce an undeniable punch of red.  Of course, red roses will not survive sub-zero temperatures for long, so this combination is best for indoors, perhaps a cool vestibule, or outdoors during mild weather.

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My planter a few years ago was simple: imported cedar from British Columbia (much softer and greener than ours here), snipped wild rosehips and large pinecones.  Simple but effective, at least before it was covered with snow!

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A small yet jewel-like basket from Mill Street Florist.  Bark, cones, grapevine and greens combine with colourful berries, a rich rose and demure, artificial apples.

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Simple, natural displays can be all you need or want.

Consider that if you want red, winterberry and rosehips are entirely different in their effect…

While winterberry (left) is bold and lush and can be seen from a distance, rosehips (right) are much smaller and present a looser, more natural and spare effect.

Whatever you do, keep scale in mind.  A small arrangement is best reserved for the mantle or table-scape, while a large (weatherproof) urn works best next to your entry.

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Stuff, stuff, stuff; think about texture, movement and colour; and ensure it has impact.

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You don’t need to spend a lot of money.

Search the woods for different conifers and snip branches selectively.

Use dried flowers like hydrangea and seedheads like those from sumac and wildflowers.

And don’t forget to add height with dogwood, curly willow, birch branches or whatever you fancy.

Make something special and enjoy your creation through the holidays and beyond.

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Stick with me…

….and I promise to write on this blog more often!

Today’s gardening column in the Ottawa Citizen was my last.  That is because they have parted ways with their freelance writers – that’s right, as I understand, all of them.

Thank you so much for following me through my columns talking about gardens, plants, our struggles and triumphs.  It was a privilege writing for Ottawa’s paper for so many years.

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But, you’ll still find me here and hopefully in some other select gardening publications as well.

Stay tuned….

 

Perfection in a pocket

Earlier this summer I had the pleasure of visiting Kristin Kendall’s garden in an old central neighbourhood of our city.  Tucked next to the Rideau River, and surrounded by other charming homes of similar vintage, the Kendall home is full of character and style.  And so is the garden.

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Barely large enough to swing a cat, the natural paving stone patio nonetheless is furnished with a small teak table and two wicker viewing chairs.  The secateurs and trowel on the table are not props; Kristin and her husband Bill (my old high school teacher no less!) are active workers in this jewel of a garden and keenly choreograph the plants and keep them happy and healthy.  There is not a weed to be seen!

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Of course, there is no swinging of cats here.  Sorry, didn’t mean to offend.

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The colours in this half and half sunny/shady garden are hot and luminous.  The brights include Ligularia dentata ‘Desdemona’, as well as a scarlet coleus, a lupin, Japanese blood grass, a dark border sedum and monarda in the rear.  A weeping hemlock on the right, Virginia creeper on the fence and a Serbian spruce on the left all provide a green backdrop for this brilliant canvas.

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A stone water bowl with rhythmic striations provides a feature in the garden as well as a drink for wildlife.  These grooves are mimicked by the shadows of the iris growing alongside.

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Kristin would have me tell you that the garden is impeccable at this moment because it is post-tour.  But I’m not so sure — I think the stylish gardener and homeowner is detail oriented every day.

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On this day the hyssop was absolutely covered in buzzing bees; a sound that complemented that of the gently bubbling fountain…

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The weeping larch cascades to the ground alongside the giant boulder, bubbling constantly.  Everything is compact in this garden, but every inch has been thoughtfully filled.

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Non-living details in this garden are chosen with style and taste.  Kendall’s brother is the owner of Balleycanoe & Co., a business that sells 19th century architectural salvage pieces in Mallorytown.

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This garden is truly a labour of love and the owners appreciate what they have helped to create.  You may even find one of them sitting, every once in a while, appreciating the view…

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I went for a walk….

So I went for a walk this afternoon.

Just like I went for a walk yesterday afternoon, and the afternoon before that.

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Rushing first, rushing, rushing, rushing….becoming breathless because in truth, I haven’t walked like this for at least two years.

I know why I’m walking.  I know it.  I’m looking.  I know this feeling.  I remember it.

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I’m looking for her.  But I know I won’t find her.

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But I hear rustlings.  I hear peeping in the thickets.  I hear the swishing of the leaves.  Or could it be her?…….

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I haven’t been on this path for a long time, not since Skye’s elderly back and balance and strength would no longer allow it.

I haven’t been on it since I lost my first heart-dog, Riley.

Our visits had been clipped short.  I would drive to our spot, the same spot we had driven to for the last 14 years, take out the ramp, open the hatch, help her up on her feet with her harness and slowly guide her down.  She would wobble but right herself, walk to the same familiar entrance to the woods, sniff, pee and then return back to the car.

It was enough.  She could do no more.

I remember coming to the same spot with Riley, 14 years before.  She would not get out of the car.  She was not even able to do that.

Today, things have changed.

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This is our woods.  But the memory has changed.  It has been invaded.  Defiled.  You can’t stop me.  I’m walking here.  I have always walked here.  Sometimes with another dog friend.  But always here.

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Through here was our spot.  The opening to the water.  The giant old willow that bowed down toward it.  The same trunk that both Riley and I walked along, tip-toeing, balancing.  When I started to come with Skye, it finally crashed down. And further along….

We would watch the river together.

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…and then pause, discuss our plans before hopping the stream and walking under the railroad bridge.

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But today, it is hushed.

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I have to turn around and go another way.  To where we used to play in the river.

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….where the chunk of concrete was exposed in the early spring and Skye would search for sunken treasure, it is now submerged by late summer rains…

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I turn away from the river and walk along the shaded paths, now grown over and unfamiliar…and I brush the trees and towering undergrowth away from my face…and feel the tears.

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But wait…Do you see?  Does the grass look like fur to you too?

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I have walked these paths.  I will walk these paths again.  But today, this path is lonely and dark.

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But my memories are not.

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It will take time.

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Today, I went for a walk…

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