Category Archives: ephemera

Woodland wonders

There is weirdness in the woods.

It is amazing to me how these things happen naturally but try as we might, we cannot reproduce such marvelous oddities in our own gardens.

I suppose we can create outrageous topiaries and contort trees into espaliers, but I love searching for strangeness out on our walks.

It often means you have to look down, rather than up; these little details can get lost in the big picture.

How does this happen?   It is so perfect.

Moss ring toss!

Tipis and odalisques: what is real history?

On one of our winter walks Skye and I came upon this tipi.  Traditionally the poles are made from cleaned and stripped pine …

… and the fastenings are also made from wooden stakes.

Skye sniffed to see who else had been inside this modern tipi, with a covering made from stitched canvas.

There is a quiet majesty associated with a tipi.  Even this one that is located in a small clearing on the grounds of Carleton University in Ottawa.  The many footprints indicate that others have found it enticing as well.  You can’t help but enter…and by doing so, into the past.

For this iconic dwelling has the power to transport you.  The famous American photographer Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) captured this Sioux tipi on film around 1908 and called it ‘The Winter Camp’; it can be found here, on the Library of Congress website.

This print, also by Curtis, is entitled ‘The Village Herald’ and for me evokes romantic childhood images of Hollywood-ized ‘cowboys and Indians’.  It is hard to say how many of Curtis’ images were staged and dramatized for the camera and his non-native audience; some of his photos were clearly ‘parlour’ shots:

This man is from the Zuni tribe in what is now the south-western United States and he is shown essentially as a reclining nude in the grand odalisque style popularized by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres.  This photo dates from around 1903.

If I’ve piqued your interest about tipis and their rich history, you can find a comprehensive bibliography here.

Winter colour

So Environment Canada has finally admitted what we’ve all been thinking:  that is, weather is getting harder to predict so, I say, what’s the point of doing it at all?  Everyone seems to be wrong until after it’s happened.

I’ve heard that the West will have colder than usual temperatures and we’ll have milder than usual ones, but more snow.  I guess that’s okay with me.  I’d rather have a good snow covering, blanketing the garden and protecting it from harsh winter winds, if there are any.

This is a diving board used by beavers; no sign of any in this December landscape ;c)

It is perhaps, the quiet before the storm.

I understand the paintings that show snow as blue and the winter light, red.

I think there is a beauty to this early winter landscape too, with its more muted tones, but nonetheless, I realize how much I crave colour again when I visited Mill Street Florist and saw some of their holiday creations.

I love how the choices are entirely natural (well, almost entirely, with the exception of the chartreuse dyed reindeer moss):  winterberry, mini pomegranates, magnolia, ornamental cabbage centres, viburnum (Viburnum tinus) berries, grapevine, moss, evergreen branches and pheasant feathers.  Lovely.

How will you satisfy your craving for colour this winter?


Antique pots, Impruneta, Italy; sold through Siebert & Rice


Anyone who knows me knows how much I LOVE terracotta pots.

Especially antique terracotta pots.








But I especially like this jar (on the right) being sold by Siebert & Rice (a terracotta pot importer located in New Jersey who have been bringing high quality and frost-proof terracotta pots from Impruneta, Italy since 1994), which was originally used to hold olive oil …


Here is a video showing the process by which these hand-made pots are created. 

But this company also sells new terracotta pots, many of which have been designed by well-known garden designers in the United States.

Ryan Gainey in his Decatur, Georgia, garden: photo by Chris Heller


How can you not love this pot (above)?!  It was one designed as part of the American series of pots for Siebert & Rice by the flamboyant garden designer Ryan Gainey (right).

It pays homage to the traditional British basketweave pots, but instead uses a ‘faux-bois’ (fake, or imitation wood) motif instead.  I *really* want this pot!



And this one on the left is a quirky, intricate vase-shaped pot (known as a ‘long Tom’)designed by Abbie Zabar.  You may remember that she wrote and illustrated the little book called The Potted Herb.

“I consider my own gardens — where a clay pot is never less important than what’s planted in it — when Mara and Lenore ask me to design a pot for the Seibert & Rice ‘American Collection.’ I draw a basic Long Tom. It grows into a Longer Tom with a thin rolled edge at the top. And another roll at the base, for balance. I doodle wispy vines. They will be incised above and below the rims. I doodle some friendly critters, homage to my coworkers in the gardens that we share. They are hand-throwing the pots that I designed, these artisans of Impruneta who don’t speak any English. My Italian couldn’t be worse. Yet, positioning Abbie’s critters with the flying ones on top and the crawlers on the bottom, that was their interpretation. We’re talking the same language, the language of the garden.”  — Abbie Zabar

And Ken Druse (gardener, author and photographer extraordinaire) created this concept of a pepper pot (right) that can be used as either a quirky garden sculpture or with its top removed, an organic planter.

He also hosts a regular pod-cast that can be listened to here.






Or if a more classic design is your cup of tea, this acanthus decorated pot with a flared lip (left) is the perfect addition to any garden.


  The problem is that, as far as I know, there is no one in Canada retailing these beautiful pots.  But, the good news is that Whichford Pottery, a well-known British terracotta maker, is available at some locations here in Canada (namely Southlands Nursery). 

    Here is the range of shallow basket pots that they sell.  Years ago when I was visiting a friend in Oxford we made our way to the Whichford Pottery and I went a bit overboard purchasing some of these pots.  It didn’t matter how I packed them in my carry-on, they still weighed the same.  But I was lucky enough to get them home anyway!



In Mount Forest, Ontario, Paul Kaye and Elsa Mann are two potters making heirloom terracotta and salt-glazed pots under the name Night and Day Studio.

This is their most popular pot with a pressed leaf motif; it is shown with three pot feet, allowing the planter to drain properly when it’s watered ensuring the plants do not suffer rot.

You can order these pots (as well as other decorative gems) from their website. 


Years ago I bought an assortment of antique terracotta pots from Five O Seven Antiques in Toronto. 

Today I saw this (left) in their inventory.  Isn’t it lovely?  Not terracotta but certainly looks like carved stone.  It’s probably cast stone though but very exquisitely rendered. 

I expect it’s VERY heavy!

And that it would look very nice in my garden …