Category Archives: give

Earth Day 2014 and a challenge….

In honour of Earth Day, especially when this day in 2014 is grey and wet and there is little colour yet to be seen, I give you hope but I also give you a challenge….


How are you celebrating?  Have you gone searching for the earliest spring blooming perennials in your garden?


Did you skip your clean-up last fall and are you having now to unearth blooms from under a blanket of wet leaves?


Are you seeing these beauties in other peoples’ gardens?  Are you now making plans for this autumn, searching for Chionodoxa, primrose and other jewels to enjoy in your own space next spring?


This spring, I challenge you to not simply look down and appreciate the plants.  I challenge you to take a garbage bag with you on your next walk and pick up plastic, pop cans, other peoples’ trash — there is nothing that makes a landscape more unhappy and feel more unloved.   And if this blight is on your regular commute, you see it everyday and it chisels away part of your soul and your feelings of hope for the future.   Make the world, your small piece of the world, a place that can bring joy instead of discouragement.  Honour a small part of your world and clean it up.  Do it in honour of Earth Day…

But do more than this:  tell me about it!  Take “before” and “after” photos and I’ll post them — and give you kudos for a job well done.


The story of Prince Aidan and his 8th birthday

Once upon a time there was a little prince named Aidan.

Prince Aidan lived in a land far away where the only flowers that grew were dandelions.   Dandelions were named from the French term, ‘dent-de-lion’ meaning “lion’s tooth”.   Aidan left the castle one morning and came across a clutch of dandelions in a field.  Taking the name of these flowers literally, he brandished his sword and said, “Halt dandelion!  I am Prince Aidan and I will protect my kingdom from lions teeth!”

The dandelion replied, “We are not lions teeth!  We are just called ‘lion’s tooth’ because our yellow flowers have petals that resemble lion’s teeth!  You don’t need to be afraid of us – we are harmless!”

“Oh,” said Prince Aidan.  “I didn’t realize that you weren’t dangerous.  I am glad that you won’t be eating the people in my kingdom with your big lion teeth.  I will let you go.”

“Thank you,” said the dandelions.  “We are grateful that you don’t slice us up into smithereens.”

So then Prince Aidan kept walking through the woods and suddenly found a dragon hiding in the shrubbery.

“Who are you scary dragon and why are you here, hiding in the shrubbery?” asked Prince Aidan.

“Please don’t hurt me Prince Aidan! I am not a scary dragon.  I am a friendly dragon and I have been sent here to wish you a Happy Birthday!”

“It is said that on a Prince’s 8th birthday, a friendly dragon has to appear over the internet to wish that Prince a happy birthday.  That is why I am here.”


Emma Dibben: illustrator and allotment gardener extraordinaire!

These luscious figs, just enticingly juicy enough to make your mouth water and purple enough to evoke jewel-like baubles, are the work of English artist Emma Dibben.

If these images look at all familiar to you (like these delightful French Breakfast radishes), it might be that you’ve been lucky enough to acquire a re-usable Waitrose shopping bag.

Emma graduated from Falmouth College of Arts  with a degree in illustration in 2004 and makes her home in Bristol.  Today she has an impressive list of clients besides the mythic Waitrose …

… so you may have also seen her work in issues of House & Garden magazine, BBC Gardens Illustrated, Conde Nast Traveller, The English Garden and other print media.


But fans of her work can also buy her originals or signed prints either from her own website or from the Bristol Contemporary Art website here.

Emma has an allotment garden which she has blogged about since 2010 and this is where she gets much of her visual inspiration.

I find the best illustration is done by those who have seen, felt and tasted their subject.

Emma clearly has a green thumb and exercises it regularly on this plot of verdant earth.


Sometimes with company…

Winter on the allotment

She is a committed allotment-er and grows not simply veggies in the ground, but fruits and berries from trees and vines.  I think her allotment is not simply abundant but also beautiful.

Even in the winter –


Her artistry both on paper and in the garden has truly given me renewed inspiration for my own plot which, by the way, just experienced tomato devastation.  So at my virgin allotment in the ‘colonies’ –

– with tomatoes that I had grown from seed and planted thus-ly:

They now look like this one:

I have been told by Mary, a veteran allotment-er, that the culprits are field mice (our guesses had been giant cutworms, voracious earwigs, rabbits, groundhogs, etc…).  Well, live and let live I say so immediately went out to the Lansdowne Market the following day and purchased four new tomato plants: 2 Brandywine and 2 I can’t remember (another heirloom variety).

As you may remember from last year, I had high hopes for this allotment and my hopes have not been dashed.  This season we have grown and already harvested different varieties of greens as well as some Rainbow chard.

Here is Monet’s Garden mesclun from Renee’s Seeds.

In the last couple of weeks the plants have grown exponentially!  I have also snagged some blackberry, raspberry and haskap plants from certain death on a rack in a Loblaws garden centre as well as several shrubs that I received to trial as a result of my membership in the Garden Writers Association.  Lucky me!  So, although my allotment is several minutes from home and completely at the mercy of mice and men, I am hopeful that it can begin to flourish as a place of ornamental experimentation and tasty produce.  I may even buy some fruit trees!

I’ll be back again with more photos.  In the meantime, I will dream of Emma’s beautiful plot and devise ways to make mine half as lovely.

This treasure does not last long enough…

* Swoon *

Meet Paeonia ‘Garden Treasure’ with its companion, Alchemilla mollis (Lady’s mantle).  This peony is an ‘Itoh’ variety, also called ‘intersectional’, meaning it is a cross between a herbaceous peony and a Japanese tree peony.  It is also a American Peony Society Gold Medal Winner.

I purchased this peony from La Pivoinerie d’Aoust about three years ago and it cost me ….. shhhh…. $150.0o!  If you’d like to order from this company, you’ll have to wait until the fall of 2013 when they will have a new catalogue and will resume shipping.

In the meantime, you’ll have to see if Suzanne Patry can get one for you at her nursery, Whitehouse Perennials.  If no, then there is no shortage of other glorious peonies to choose from!

Old-fashioned Christmas

Our family has decided again this year to abstain from gift giving and just concentrate on being together.  My two sisters will visit from Toronto, one of them complete with partner and kidlets, and it will be nice to see them although I know our time will be short.  The only exception will be gifts for the kids, who are always fun to shop for but funner still to see them open their presents and enjoy the food, laughter and festivities.

Just the thought of not having to brave the malls, big box stores or busy main roads has me feeling a bit more relaxed.   That being said, the shops I’ll visit will all be local, within walking distance so it will be a civilized endeavour!   This is my neighbourhood.

Although I’m not old enough to remember these old cars, this corner of Bank Street and Second Avenue was three blocks from where I grew up and the corner store was a groceteria owned by the Badali Brothers which I remember clearly from my youth.  For more information on the history of the Glebe, John Leaning has written the definitive record; read it here.

This nostalgia for times gone by had me finding a program called Victorian Farm Christmas on TV Ontario the other day.  This is a very well done series that follows three British historians as they take on specific working class roles on an English country estate that time has forgotten (Acton Scott Estate).  The series follows them through a Victorian rural farming year and ends with them enjoying a Christmas feast at the grand home of their boss, the landowner Mr. Acton Scott.

The Victorian Farm series was produced by Lion Television and saw a team of three historians, Alex Langlands, Peter Ginn and Ruth Goodman,  recreate rural life as it might have been in 1885.  The  series was filmed through four seasons in 2007 and 2008 and first broadcast early the following year accompanied by a best selling book. With viewing figures of more than six million  for each episode, the first series of Victorian Farm proved enormously popular. 

To build on this success, BBC2 commissioned a three part series, Victorian Christmas, first on air in December 2009.  This involved Ruth, Alex and Peter returning to the estate during 2009 to tackle an array of new farming tasks and discover how the Victorians created the celebration of Christmas as we know it today.  

You can watch several episodes of Victoria Farm Christmas on the TVO website here or watch the TV Ontario schedule for a re-run of this beautifully produced series (it originally aired December 11th).