Hello from the sunny spring of Manitoba! How are you?
I enjoy thinking my readers are likely gardening now as Ron & I are. To share a little about that with you: we live in what is called “Hardiness Zone 3”. It is a frost date scale that I’m unsure growers in tropical countries pay attention to: do they? The larger the digit, the warmer your region, thus we sit near the bottom. However that has nothing to do with profusion of growth. It is green all around us, trees nearly finished leafing, grass and dandelions already in their glory and perennial flowers and plants already flourishing. Our last, telling bird arrivals have returned home too: gold finches, hummingbirds, and Baltimore orioles. When they are with us, by gosh: it is summer! I can thank Orioles at our window, for the last exceptionally beautiful photographs of our cat Love, with his brother Conan.
We can grow anything from spring to summer; even through autumn, to a late winter arrival, as “annual plants”. Soil affects pickier plants but is of little issue because standard soil can certainly be added and the right moisture maintained: consistently moist, or dry and well-drained. Our natural environment is prairie forestland and marshland, with semi clay and sand; quite neutral and easy for garden plants. The only vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers we could not grow would be those requiring longer growth spans than Manitoba’s period of warm weather has. Otherwise the hardiness zone chart is for telling us that certain flowers and plants which might re-grow each year in other lands (hence “perennial”), are seasonal, annual beauties for us.
It also suggests when we might begin sowing. If you consult this chart, you’ll see that these details come down to a region’s last frost date. Ours is May 25th and has only just passed two days ago. However this year has yielded an early, very warm spring for us, so we said “what the heck” and got started! I am ecstatic that we are done all four of the food gardens we plant and are also finished planting three of our five flowerbeds! There is a “flower hill” Ron & I created in our east field meeting the forest, which we switched to perennial flowers last year. I already have the pleasure of seeing them rise but have soil to add, a little more weeding to do, an annual flowers to sprinkle on it. Then there is a fresh, special, different tableau every year.
Lastly, I am half-finished the profusion of hanging baskets and flowerboxes I lavish upon both of our small dwellings; our main house and our library / workshop a few steps away. In Canada, there is an essential campaign urging people who haven’t so far grown a forest of flowers like we do, to do so now in order to restore our population of bees. Food doesn’t grow without them and I imagine the United States should or does have a similar campaign. If you can grow or put a few flowers out even in pots, this is the year to help North American bees surge. I have found that sunflowers attract them like nobody’s business but all flowers get visited.
The one downside to my homeland, which has no dangerous reptiles, amphibians, or insects and receives no warm weather wind storms except a highly rare tornado, is our frost. I am prepared to let my plants dry up and rest if winter is here for good. A great grief and frustration is that I have seen half of November continue without snow cover but a few nights of frost can spoil things: brief dips below 0 degrees Celsius. These are a danger in September, even if the daytime highs are well above zero for a couple more months. Can we whisk hanging plants inside and cover the outdoor gardens with blankets; the food ones at least that are still growing? You bet: with everything we have! Sheets, quilts, towels…. I have even grabbed pillowcases, hand towels and facecloths to fill gaps in. Of course, they shouldn’t go more than about three days without peeking at the sun so if it is safe, or if it has been that long: I uncover all of them. If overnight frost is a threat, we protect our plants again.
I don’t excuse anyone or anything perishing before their time if there is anything I can do about it! You certainly saw that when we were anguished to lose our four year-old white kitty, “Love”, on July 31, 2014. I will be very sorry to acknowledge that I have missed him for two years. But his remains are well-honoured and you can guess how. Perhaps we might even grin about it: flowers! To honour our gorgeous cat, one of our sons and to make his resting place the least sad possible, we have made a flowerbed of it too. At least 100 Marigolds bloomed upon it last year, which is special because it is his young Mother’s name. He also has an orange Sister named Petal, so a token of her is always present too. His Brother, Conan O’Brien is also, obviously orange! Not least is his twin sister Angel Petunia, a white tabby like Love. How our pure orange Marigold had two white children, I don’t know.
Our two elder kitties are happy and well. McCartney Hendrix is fifteen years-old, until he welcomes his birthday next month and Spirit Penny is eleven until July. Me? I am forty-three years-old and about to pick up my first prescription glasses! It is only small print reading that has gotten away from me: this still amounts to excellent vision, doesn’t it? It is alien to me and the optometrist I consulted was neither sensitive, reassuring, nor clearly informative the way I needed. However I have heard that vision can literally be corrected and restored. I think the function of glasses is not merely a magnifying glass to boost what you see. I think they make sure that our vision strength does not dip anymore and might indeed restore what you had; even if I have additionally heard that this does not pan out for everyone.
June will be special doubly: for McCartney and Father’s day and because it will mark a full year of survival since Mom had bypass surgery! She thought that she would live many years longer if she got through this year and she is doing that. My parents had a very nice Mother’s day here, with our vegetarian home-cooked food and our vista of spring. I believe that we are going to be treated to a year in which our plants will not perish without all the time they need to grow and bloom. It had been my dream to see all of them finish growing and we succeeded last October and November, with a late winter and our blankets against cold nights. This year we have an exceptionally good head start. I will sign off to finish those flower baskets and boxes, hoping you enjoy my update and wishing all of you a joyous spring!
A post about this year’s four reading groups will be coming. I enjoy sharing our progress and reassuring members we remain active. On a separate subject: I express sad condolences to the numerous citizens of Fort McMurray, Alberta for losing their homes to an awful forest fire! I pray your entire families of people and animals are safe but personal possessions and sanctuaries are no small things. I imagine plants are the last things on your minds. If seeds were wanted, my prairie cousins need only ask. Caddy Lake and Westhawk Lake, Manitoba: I am sorry you were threatened by a serious and frightfully close fire. I am glad to hear your homes, cottages, and you are safe. Prayers, healing, and relief to all of our rattled Canadians.
Do you garden? I started with apartment plants. My parents gardened, which they are reprising shortly. Mom’s living room is full of plants and we exchange. We kept African violet shoots for at least thirty years, from her Mother! I will write again to converse about what we are growing. Food prices are a concern, thus we are glad we circumvent that for at least half of each year and share our produce with family. Yours sincerely, Carolyn.
* I am eager to get this new post out but will add pictures soon. Early bird visitors, please return to view them. :)