Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous’ Category


Make note
Andrea Bellamy |

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Do you keep a garden journal? If so, what do you use it for?

I have kept a garden journal in the past, but really, it’s far too organized of me – I abandoned the exercise a couple of years ago. I did use mine for recording the varieties of seeds planted – and their success or failure in the garden – as well as sketching out design ideas. One thing that worked well for me was to include a rough site plan, with existing plants and trees marked, and then whenever I acquired a new plant I’d mark it and glue in the plant label. See – far too organized!

Photo from House & Garden: Eden Personal Organizer from Kate’s Paperie.

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Welcome, spring!
Andrea Bellamy |

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Yesterday, the first official day of spring, I went for a late afternoon walk around my East Van neighbourhood. The wind was still rather cold, but the sun was low and creating some great light, so I tried to capture what I think is the unique quality of the ‘hood: the juxtiposition of commercial and residential, old and new, fresh and grungy. And of course, I went all paparazzi on the flowers I happened across.

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You can view more photos here.

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Paris? Oui, oui!
Andrea Bellamy |

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C’est magnifique! Heavy Petal is going to France.

Ben and I booked our flight to Paris for May 10. We’ll be gone for over two weeks, one of which will be spent in Paris getting the insider’s tour from my sister, who has lived there for nearly two years. Top priorities include wine, eating, and shopping. (Hey. I’ve done the Louvre, Notre Dame and all the museum/art gallery stuff before. I’m allowed to avoid any sort of self-improvement activity.)

The second week… well, we’re not sure yet. The Loire Valley, perhaps, or the Languedoc. Top priorities for this half of the trip include wine, eating and, of course, gardens. Any suggestions? Any gardens I absolutely must visit? Helpful websites you’d recommend?

I’ve already been busy devouring French Gardening, which is full of good stuff, and from which I “borrowed” the above photo (check out their Paris Postcard – weekly tales of life in France).

And I’ll be updating regularly from the road – so you can come along for the ride!

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Looking for love? Plant a peach tree.
Andrea Bellamy |

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Happy Chinese New Year! It’s the year of the Golden Boar (or Fire Pig, which just doesn’t sound as catchy). It’s supposed to be an extra lucky year.

Chinese New Year in Vancouver is huge. Because of our large Asian population, there are events and celebrations everywhere you go – even the Safeway had a dragon dance in progress when I stopped to pick up some groceries. The Year of the Pig is supposed to be a good time to have babies and make money. Unlike the Western perspective of pigs, the Pig is one of the most generous and honorable Sign of the Zodiac. (I’m a dragon. What are you? Find your Chinese astrological sign here.)

From a gardener’s perspective, I’m interested in the symbolic values attributed to plants by the Chinese. Some of the meanings are quite amusing to me (the maple tree, for instance). For example:

* Chrysanthemum flowers symbolize a strong life. It is good to give old people chrysanthemum flowers because it means strong life. However, only red ones would be good because white and light yellow ones are used only at funerals. Lovers do not give chrysanthemum to their loved ones.

* Narcissus, lotus flowers and orchid are flowers which represent high virtues and elegance.

* Orchid blossoms in spring and it brings an air of high class respectfulness.

* Narcissus blossoms in winter. White flowers of five pedals and yellow stamen grow in pure water. It represents a sense of purity.

* Lotus flowers grow in pond water. Its roots are edible. Its flowers blossom in summer and are either red or white. The seeds are also edible and are often used as medicine. Almost every part of a lotus plant is useful though it grows in muddy pond water. That is also why it is compared to people who manage to achieve success in life though they come from a less prestigious background.

* Azalea flowers represent elegance and wealth. You can find azaleas on the Chinese one cent coin.

* Peach flowers represent beautiful girls. In Chinese tradition at Chinese New Year, people who want to find love will usually buy a whole plant and put it home because this will bring them luck in finding love in the coming year.

* Pomegranates gives very beautiful flowers. Its fruit is sour but contains a lot of seeds inside. In Chinese tradition, people put this fruit on the beds of newlyweds so as to help the newlyweds to make many babies.

* Maple trees in China represents old people who don’t admit that they are old because these trees blossoms in autumn which is near the end of a year.

* Lilacs in China represents modesty, which is one of the virtues that Chinese people value.

Via Chinatown Connection. Photo stolen from the Delaware State flower page.

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Book review: Tulipomania by Mike Dash
Andrea Bellamy |

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To call me a bookworm would be a pretty accurate statement. My heart races when I enter a library or bookstore; I have more books than I have space to house them; I was an English major in university. Reading pretty much rivals gardening in my world (rather, they compliment each other very well as far as hobbies go).

But I’ve never been one to pick up – what do they call this? – non-fiction/history. Mike Dash‘s account of tulip mania in his book Tulipomania: The story of the world’s most coveted flower and the extraordinary passions it aroused might be enough to make me rethink that position.

We’ve all heard about the tulip frenzy of 17th century Holland – it’s used, often scoffingly, in textbooks to illustrate the term “economic bubble” – and even gardeners wonder how the Dutch could have paid the equivalent of hundreds of thousands of dollars for a single bulb.

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Old friends, old gardens
Andrea Bellamy |

An unexpected e-mail from an old friend and former roommate (hi Tara!) has brought back memories of one of my first gardens. I was living in Victoria at the time, just across the Georgia Straight on Vancouver Island (and, Nelumbo, an incredible Zone 9 because Victoria is further south than Vancouver). Tara and I had been living in a cute-but-crowded attic apartment and she harboured Martha Stewart-esque fantasies of a Real House. She found what she wanted – a big yellow house with a big yard – and we moved in, gaining two roommates in order to afford the rent.

It was the Garden of Trial and Error – and there were many trials, and many errors. Starting with our choice of roommates: two very attractive but emotionally unavailable and – it turned out, mentally unstable – brothers. The house was situated smack in the middle of the lot, with a narrow bed against the foundation that lacked foundation plantings. There was a big raised bed in the back that had once been a vegetable garden but was almost entirely overgrown with weeds and strawberries.

I learned several things through trial and error in that garden – for example, that mint is invasive (good thing it was a rental!) – and I always think of the lessons learned whenever someone claims not to know how to garden. Trial and error is always a good way to learn, as long as you’re not using expensive plants. And since it was a rental, nothing I bought was expensive – from the clearance-priced clematis to the wildflower-and-herb seed mixtures (still the only time I’ve been able to grow dill from seed).

What are your memories of gardens past? What’s the best lesson you’ve learned via trial and error?

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Power equipment lust
Andrea Bellamy |

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Not only do I have no real use for the Garden Groom Rotary Blade Hedge Trimmer, it also goes against all my basic gardening principles. You know, environmental sensitivity, sustainability – little things like that. I mean, I use a push reel mower – why on earth would I need this? But despite all that, I inexplicably covet the Garden Groom. It was featured in Popular Mechanics magazine’s Best of What’s New! It was the recipient of the UK government’s Smart Award for safety! It has rotary blades that spin at 2,400 RPMs to quickly cut hedges and then shred clippings for easy disposal! It has a built-in accumulation receptacle that captures the loose clipping shreds for convenient waste management! But mostly, just think of the hedges you could shape with that puppy!

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It’s kind of like my love of the Power Sander. Again, not so much need for it – I don’t refinish furniture or hardwood floors very often, but it’s just so, well, fun. Perhaps I have excess testosterone.

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Mobilier à jardiner

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In the what-will-they-think-of-next department, Mobilier à jardiner by 5.5 Designers for bton design is an outdoor furniture collection that, like the Topo Table and grass chair, incorporates the plant kingdom into its design. Products include a bench and chair in which you plant your seatback – with shrubs or other plants – and a coffee table with a grass table top.

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Via MoCo Loco.

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There is a Season
Andrea Bellamy |

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At one point, I suggested I might start a list of books gardeners might like. I’ve found a book worthy to add to that list in There is a Season by Patrick Lane – a beautiful, moving, and sometimes disturbing book. Part memoir, part naturalist’s notebook, part love letter to a garden, There is a Season is a must-read for gardening bookworms.

Lane hails from my corner of the globe, and in fact, he taught the poetry writing class I took during my first year at UVic. He terrified me at the time – physically intimidating, opinionated, fierce – he was alternately growly and quiet, and wrote poems of despair and sadness. The one that stands out in my mind, for obvious reasons, was about witnessing a Tijuana back-alley stage show during which a woman and a mule had sex. Talk about impressing 18-year-olds!

Anyway, it turns out that he was, at that time and for the 25 years previous, an alcoholic and cocaine addict. In 2000, he went into rehab and, in the first month of the new century, returned to his beloved garden, shaky but alive. It was then that he started writing There is a Season:

“In his memoir, Patrick Lane takes readers on the roller-coaster ride of his first alcohol-free year, expertly weaving memories of his hard early life in the interior of British Columbia with wondrous descriptions of the activity in his garden – his own and the lives of the plants, animals, and insects that also inhabit it. Lane has gardened for as long as he can remember, and his garden’s life has become inseparable from his own. A new bloom on a plant, a skirmish among the birds, the way a tree bends in the wind, and the slow, measured change of seasons, invariably bring to his mind an episode from his eventful past.” – McClelland & Stewart

Here is an excerpt:

Grasses, their stalks flattened and flung by the winter snow, lay like fallen hair upon the earth, and their new green spears caught the wind with frail hands. A mountain meadow and a boy in the long-ago of the last century. Did I know then it was a garden I looked out upon? Had I been asked I would not have understood the question. Garden? Wilderness? I gave the meadow no thought. Had someone asked me if what I saw was beautiful I would not have known what he meant. A boy is a boy and he is the place he inhabits. He is what surrounds him and the boy I was remains with me in the image of yellow lilies and creamy anemones among the grasses and scattered stones.

The book has been selected for One Book, One Vancouver, our citywide book club. It is available here.

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The grass is always greener

I stumbled upon Greener Grass Design today, and while it’s not strictly garden-related, the Houston-based design and decor site carries lines by some fabulous designers.

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I love the idea behind this Shadylace Parasol by Chris Kabel for Droog Design. It’s a waterproof lace parasol with a leaf motif, casting shadows of branches and leaves. In green or white.

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The Carl Mertens tabletop fireplace consists of two stainless steel oil lamps anchored to a slate base. So hot.

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And the Nananu chair by David Trubridge, made of untreated steam-bent ash and hoop pine ply – stunning.

Much more online, including wicked pet and baby stuff.

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