It was simply a lovely and typical spring day in Iroquois last week.
A brisk snow was falling.
The sand trucks and plows were already on the road.
Ice rain was due to start in two hours.
In short, all the wonderful signs of a Canadian spring that inspire you to stand outside, and to contemplate just what to do with your garden this year.
As I adjusted my coat, mittens and wool scarf, I kicked a few drifts aside to examine the remains of last year’s garden.
Now, I understand there are people out there who actually “clean up” their gardens as fall approaches. These are people who dig out the old growth, cut back the shrubs and wrap them, mulch and rake and strip away dead flowers and plants.
I, on the other hand, like to think that I take a much more eco-friendly approach to gardening.
My policy is to let everything in my garden rot healthily away in place, utterly untouched – all those twigs, those weeds, those dead leaves, those Tim Horton coffee cups – with absolutely no interference.
I call this ‘going back to nature.’
(Apparently a couple of my neighbours call it something else. In October I found that a small sign had been erected in my front garden. It said RIP Mother Nature.)
The difficulty is that I haven’t always had the best of luck with my planting endeavours.
One year, full of gardening zeal, I actually dug up a flower bed, carefully raked and hoed out every untidy clump of dirt, got rid of every rock. When I was done, that soil was flat, even, perfect.
You know, I got fond of it that way. Seemed a waste, somehow, to put a lot of plants in it that would probably die anyway.
As a friend remarked later, I had the tidiest and nicest looking dirt plot in the whole village.
The next summer, however, I was shamed into actually planting something in my flower beds. But I was smart enough to know that I needed foolproof plants, flowers that were absolutely guaranteed.
Off I went to a local store where I bought two of those packages of anonymous brown bulbs marked “mixed blooming flowers.”
Plant and enjoy a garden of delightful and colourful flowers within three weeks, the packaging read. No fuss, no bother.
When I got the seed thingies home, I noticed that one end of each bulb was rounded: the other end was sort of pointy. And both ends seemed to have whiskery tendrils.
I studied the package carefully. No diagrams indicating which end of the bulb went down, which end up.
Well, I thought to myself, just put them in the ground. It’ll all work out. They’re guaranteed. Toss on a little water and get ready to sit back and thoroughly enjoy that garden of “delightful and colourful flowers.”
Three weeks passed.
Not even one tiny green blade. Not a sprout. Nothing.
Great looking dirt in front of my house that year too!
I got fanatical.
Something I planted had to grow.
I began haunting greenhouses, flower farms, private homes with gardens I admired (leading to an unfortunate incident or two.)
One time I actually found myself in the aisle of a feed store, deeply engaged in a long and serious conversation with a local farmer.
The topic? A debate about the relative merits of what pigs, sheep and cattle produce from the end that doesn’t oink, baa or moo.
I bought hardy annuals. I sought out Canadian bred perennials. I purchased plants that were guaranteed to withstand Arctic gales, searing heat, plagues of locusts.
I watered (well, a lot of the time), I weeded (mostly when I remembered), I fertilized (I favour sheep.)
It was all to no avail.
My plants kicked up their roots, turned black and departed to that big Garden in the Sky.
Finally a friend gave me some hastas.
“Hastas are indestructible. You can’t destroy them. They grow anywhere and survive everything,” she assured me.
I planted them.
Five weeks later, my neighbours erected another small sign in my garden.
Hasta la vista.
This year, this year for sure, something is going to grow in my garden!
Just as soon as the spring weather comes, and the snow finally clears off, I’m going to get out and get gardening.
I figure that will be some time in late July.