Common Ground


“My gardening year begins quietly in January, pleasantly anticipated as I shovel snow or cut firewood….”        Bob Thomson — The New Victory Garden

January is the perfect time for armchair gardening and for looking forward to the season that is still many months away. The days are a little longer now and the coffee table is covered with those dream books of winter the new season’s seed catalogues.

As well as lots of seeds, I have ordered a bunch of new tub trugs. These large plastic tubs are roughly the same size as a bushel basket (but a whole lot more durable) and are really useful in the garden. They’re also great for bringing firewood into the house.

I’m going to try again with the sweet peas which I grew last year for the first time. They weren’t a roaring success in spite of all the rain but I’m not giving up. I’ve optimistically ordered three different varieties so we will see what happens.

I am wondering if the glory of this past spring, forsythia, will be affected by the extreme cold that we’ve been having. Forsythia tends to not produce a lot of flowers and sometimes goes straight to leaves when the winter has been harsh. It won’t bother me too much if it isn’t great since it was the best I have ever seen it last year.

And as for my perennials, I’m hoping there’s enough snow cover to protect them.

I have already looked up the list of speakers for the Peterborough Garden Show (April 13, 14, 15). It looks interesting this year. Something to look forward to while we are in the deep freeze. The cold does protect us from a lot of pests and plant diseases that are problematic is warmer climates. I know that no one wants to hear that right now when we seem to have had our own polar vortex hovering over us.

After visiting California in 2016 I thought a lot about the idea of the tropical paradise with palm trees. And, of course, no winter.

Reality caught up with paradise recently, though, and my friends in Santa Barbara had to leave their home when they were threatened by the Thomas fire. They fortunately didn’t lose their home but have a lot of mess to clean up.

Also spared from the Thomas fire was Ganna Walska’s eccentric version of paradise, Lotusland. Given that Lotusland has rare plants that are now extinct in the wild, I was happy to see it spared from the conflagration.

So much for paradise.

I return again to Bob Thomson whose quote begins this column. The New Victory Garden is one of my favourite gardening books that I go back to again and again. From this book I learned the handy tip of putting cheesecloth over carrot seeds so they don’t wash away in heavy spring rains. I love the sensible well organised New England style of his garden. It looks great and there is nothing extra that doesn’t belong there. The book  makes for great winter reading when it’s too polar to go outside.

I’m sure it’s long out of print but you might find a copy in a second hand book store.  Happy 2018 and happy armchair gardening.

By Jill Williams

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