Monday, May 30, 2011

Fast Forward

On May 4th, I took the first photos of the tree peony, its leaves tightly curled around the bud and yesterday it blossomed. In spite of all the rain it opened and unfurled its flower in a space of a few hours. I love watching these miracles in the garden. You go to bed, rain sounding on the tin roof, thunder and lighting making a fine racket, Zoe trying to sleep in the cupboard where she feels safe, and when you wake up and go outside the iris and peonies have bloomed. And it's not a dream.
Stages of a Tree peony

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Re-Creating Magic

A couple of days ago I wrote of the impact my Gran's rock garden had on me; how it was a place of magic, of hidden treasures, and especially, climbing up the different stairways, a gateway to another, hidden world. As an adult I was shocked to realize that my "place" was about 30 feet from the front door and the parental unit could see everything I was doing. When I started this garden the first thing we built were the stairs, shifting now with their years and wearing their moss coats. There are now 7 staircases winding their way though out the garden and slowly I am re-building them with flat stone. Not as pretty as the field stone but much easier to navigate. Can't resist the photos with the ajuga [common bugleweed, you have to admit ajuga sounds better] a piercing blue when it flowers, and very welcome in this rainy weather. In the center photo are some of the hidden treasures, Buddha, peeking out of an astilbe in front of the For Sophia stone.
Mossy stairs in the studio garden with Buddha in the middle

Thursday, May 26, 2011


It's breezy this morning and the apple blossoms are floating about; not the only thing floating about as here it's pollen time. Everything is coasted with a soft yellow haze, so yesterday was time to wash the front porch. Not the most exciting job but someone has to do it, and I will spare you photos of the clean front porch; unlike December when I showed you my clean kitchen floor. On the pond though, the pollen makes beautiful patterns that change in front of your eyes. Looks like the milky way, worlds forming, swirling through space. And thinking about pollen I wanted to know if you have read a marvellous book by Michael Pollen called "Second Nature". Even if you are not a gardener, I think you would enjoy this as he attempts to follow Thoreau's example: do not impose your will upon the wilderness. It's one of my favourite books, a keeper and very funny.
Pollen on the pond

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

After The Rapture The Weeding

There is a wonderful Zen Koan that goes "Before Zen, trees are trees and mountains are mountains, During Zen, trees are pillars of wisdom and mountains are thrones of spirits, After Zen, trees are trees and mountains are mountains," well here it's back to the weeding. The studio garden was inspired by my memories of my granny's garden. We would all pile into the car, and drive down to the Townships. It was usually quite an adventure as my Dad loved garages and conveniently the car would break down. Don't think it was quite as much fun for my Mum who had to keep 5 unruly children, a dog and a cat occupied as the men discussed car mechanics. Gran's was paradise and my favourite part was her rock garden. It had staircases winding up and down and wonderful places to hide. It was a magical place and when we rebuilt our studios, digging down 13 feet, I knew what I wanted to do with the slope that would now face our studios. Re-create that magic of childhood. So this is what you see when you walk out of my studio. You are facing south but the garden faces north which has presented a few challenges. The grassy area is actually a road so that we can bring a truck in to load work going off to exhibition. A great idea but we both seem to have our shows in early spring when there is still feet of snow. Makes a great place to sit though.
Studio garden looking east and west

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Rapturous Garden

Sorry about the title but I couldn't resist, as I took all the photos yesterday. Besides it's the place that we consider our piece of paradise. And the forget-me-nots have formed their sea of blue. From one seed pack they have given me years of pleasure. Never sure quite where they will be next year. You could say they have the travelling bug. I thought it would be fun to orient you in the garden as I tend to spend a lot of time in what I call the summer studio. First photo is looking north [ the photo in the previous blog is from the same place looking south-east] and just outside the kitchen door, where we have a table and chairs under a crab apple that my Mum gave us when we moved in 35 years ago. Her leaves turn that reddish burgundy as she finishes flowering. Below is the view north along my studio wall. We rebuilt our studios 16 years ago, well someone else built them, it just felt like we built them; and as you can see they became a berm. Earth surrounds them on 3 sides with the shed type roof giving us the extra height and light we need.The picture in the center, [you sort of have to squint,] shows the lower level of the studios. The chairs are just out side my studio door and there is a stone staircase leading back to the upper level where the last photo was taken. It's the same sea of blue along my studio wall but looking south
The Rapturous Garden, May 11.2011

Friday, May 20, 2011

Fleeting Beauty

Spring, an ephemeral time. Light here, now there, now quickly gone. Nothing to hang on to. Change in front of your eyes. A time of promise. Small wonder we love spring.
Spring trees

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Chartreuse has become my new favourite color. For years I would ruthlessly cut of all the flowers on the Lady's Mantle as soon as they appeared, trying to banish that nasty color. Then I saw some amazing quilts done by Evelyn Lambert and began to rethink my aversion. The way she used the color made everything around sing. So slowly I began to work with it. Now I want it everywhere! Lady's Mantle [Alchemilla Mollis] has long been a staple in my garden and she is a prolific mother. The way the soft hair holds the water droplets on the edge of the leaves is one of the most beautiful sights that greets me on my morning tour. And it doesn’t have to be raindrops she will do the same thing with dew.  The alchemists, these early chemist and magicians believed that the dewdrops which gathered on the leaves of the lady’s mantle had some magical powers that could really help them in their ultimate quest for the philosopher's stone [maybe I should bottle it]. The hosta is August moon and is looking particularly fine as she unfurls her leaves.
Water droplets on the Lady's Mantle and Hosta August Moon

Monday, May 16, 2011

Sorbus Aria Lutescens

Impressive title for a wondrously beautiful tree. Well it's still a small tree at the moment and it will never become huge but she's growing well. Her claim to fame, for me, are her softy and velvety leaves, which open tightly corrugated, a silver gray with undertones of green. This is beginning to sound like a description of wine. You know; where they say 'This is a rich, complex wine with overtones of chocolate". Any ways I this love tree and I love watching her leaves unfurl. Even in the rain.
Sorbus Aria Lutescens 

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Light In The Woods

We have had the best week, 7 days of sunshine with the light shimmering through the young growth. We keep saying 'Did you see that?" or 'Look at this". Having our coffee out on the terrace watching the light, conversation drifts away as we look. Peonies grew about 10 inches, the astillbe are wearing their rusty, burgundy new growth, views are changing in front of your eyes. In the woods the forest floor is welcoming ferns, while all about you the soft, tender light of promise.
The tender light of promise

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Close to Finished

Well there are a few gentle waves which I hope to press out after the rain scheduled for Friday, add the last of the sand, after said rain has done it's compacting work, and voila, a new path. I was able to recycle all of the old path into the new; sand, bricks and geo textile, so that I only needed 3 more bags of sand and a load of stone dust [my favorite building material], and some new edging. Bought some really ugly plastic stuff but as I only need it for a few years before I pull it out, I went hunting and found some edging made of recycled material. I may not even have to take it out, it may dissolve like the recyclable garbage bags that disappear in 3 months. They work, we use them in the winter for compost. And as a reward for finally getting the job done we are off to the Atwater Market. Plant hunting.
New path with the outline of the old in the dark earth, adding sand, need to replace my gloves

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Fun Part Starts

And I am a bit of a wreak; the body is protesting. J has suggested a move up in sore muscle management to Motrin, that was after posting the sign on the door. The path is progressing well and I am almost half way. The best thing I did was borrow a friends roller to pack down the stone dust and sand. That has made a huge difference to laying down the bricks. As I lay the bricks, the robins are gathering for their nests, Zoe is keeping me company, the frogs are singing, the forget-me-nots are starting to spread their sea of blue, the early rhododendron are opening and my grannies violets are blooming. Can't believe we are into day 3 of glorious weather. Life is good. Hope your is too.
J's edict, starting re-construction, great light, last nights finish

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Path

I've been putting this job off for 5 years but finally got to it yesterday. Redo the path from the driveway to the front door. Over the years the bricks have heaved and slid slowly out of position; but the most pressing thing to me was the curve was wrong. I would look at that curve day after day redrawing it my mind. So I got the hose out, a great drawing tool, and redid the curve, removed the sod, and stacked the bricks in rather large piles. I am still not sure about the curve, it's better, but I will get the hose out again and see. Today I hope to get the path levelled and packed down, fill in the sod that you can see lining the edge and then the fun part starts.
Renovating the path
Stacks of bricks
Louis Kahn said bricks always want to be an arch. 

Friday, May 6, 2011


While the past few days have been miserable; cold and very wet, with snow on the mountains last night, the growth in the garden continues at an amazing pace. A few days ago the scilla were at their peak and when I went out this morning the rain had flattened them. I find I can't bear to miss a day in the garden, things happens so quickly. The budding on the trees and shrubs is creating auras and all the bones are soft and hazy. Views are being hidden as plants swell and burst forth. Last year my 2 older rhododendrons finally flowered. I hate it when you bring home something from the nursery and plant it and watch it sit there for the next 10 years, so with the rhodo's we have had many conversations over the years and it's gratifying to see that they have come about to my point of view.
Horse chestnut, tree peony, rhododendron, ferns

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Small Treasures

While the news from the outer world has been tumultuous these past few days, I have taken sanctuary in the woods. Carrying bundles of brush up the path to the pile, placing them, walking back to pick up the next pile and repeating the whole process over and over. It's quiet, contemplative work and while I move brush from one place to another I have time to notice some of the tiny treasures. The wonderful rust color of the decaying wood with the beetles having lunch on the wood, the patterns of bark, the blooming of the moses clinging to wood and stone, the dog tooth violet blooming at my feet that I almost stepped on, the shapes of the fungus attached to trees, even the color of a wound on a tree trunk. 
Small treasures

Monday, May 2, 2011

Pond Life

There is a wonderful rose called Rosa Carolina spreading itself around one side of the pond and every few years I prune out the deadwood. It's the only rose I know that likes it feet wet, and from a single plant many years ago, it has grown and spread. While I was working yesterday two large bull frogs kept me company, salamanders or newts were swimming about and the water beetles were drawing their patterns on the pond surface. There are clouds of frogs eggs and spring growth has the trees and shrubs wearing their halos. In the rose canes hanging over the edge of the water I found a last years nest. A home with a view.
Clouds of eggs
keeping me company
Well hello big boy
Nest with view