Archive for the ‘Raving and Whining’ Category

2008 BC Home and Garden Show report
Andrea Bellamy |

So, I didn’t make it to the Northwest Flower and Garden Show. Although I knew it would be a disappointing alternative, I hauled my pregnant self to the BC Home and Garden Show as a sort of consolation prize.

It’s taken me a while to be able to write about the experience. I’ve needed time to gain some perspective. I’ve needed to simmer down.

When I got back from the show, I tossed a roll of toilet paper to my husband.

“What’s this?” he asked.

“The best thing about the show,” I replied. A free toilet paper sample.

Four days later, I think perhaps I was being a little harsh. But just a little. It was that bad. There’s really no excuse for it, either. A lot of money was put into marketing and executing the event. The show home featured “the latest in sustainable, modular-style architecture.” The display gardens featured a series of “urban decks.”

Then why did I find myself wandering through aisle after aisle of uninspired booths hawking vinyl siding, closet organization systems and gutters? How come so few of the booths were interactive? Why didn’t they offer anything back to the consumer? So many booths were promoting a service – why does that seem to mean their booths don’t have to engage the consumer? Why would I want to learn about a new credit card offering, chiropractic treatment, or newspaper subscription? And why on earth were there four booths selling massage chairs?

So I guess my gripe is both with the vendors’ lack of creativity and effort, and the event organizers for being indiscriminate in their vendor acceptance process.

Now I’ll say something nice.

Juliet Lin patio.jpgJuliet Lin did a nice little patio display using ELT green wall panels. It’s great to see how green walls can be adapted to a small space. Juliet even used edibles in her panels.

gsky.jpgContinuing the green wall trend, gsky Anne Talbot-Kelly Garden Design went for drama with this simple panel featuring black mondo grass (Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’). See Anne’s comment on the thought process behind her design as well as a description of all the suppliers involved.



Gardening while pregnant
Andrea Bellamy |

For those of you who haven’t experienced the (ahem) joys of pregnancy, let me fill you in.

It’s a beautiful sunny day. You decide to get out into the garden. Nothing heavy – you just want to enjoy the rare February sunshine and do some clean up. Which is normally no problem for a fit young thing like yourself, except, this time, you’ve got a beachball fused to your torso.

This… bulge, you see, makes it a tad difficult to maneuver. Reaching between shrubs is a challenge, as is performing the “squat and scoot” method of weeding. And don’t even go near any tender new growth. You’ll almost certainly crush it as you lose your balance (which is a strong possibility, given your centre of balance is way off). 

The other thing that you’ll find challenging is the fact that your arms are now a good six or so inches shorter. Oh, I don’t mean literally. But your reach is certainly diminished due to the fact that you’re working around the bulge. Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop you from straining to reach things that are just barely beyond your grasp… if you could just move the baby out of the way for a moment.

Trust me, it’s not a pretty picture. There will be grunting. And falling over. And your “normal” pregnancy-related backache will be increased – guaranteed. And in the end, you’ll wonder if you should really be doing this. And then you’ll laugh to yourself and think, “Of course I should.” Because really, as ungraceful and ineffective as you may be tottering around your garden, there’s no place else you’d rather be.


Why aren’t more young people gardening?
Andrea Bellamy |

Have you been following the discussion over at Cold Climate Gardening on why more older gardeners don’t blog?

Makes for interesting reading, and links quite nicely into my own personal interest in why more younger people don’t garden. I’m not alone in this query. Hanna at This Garden Is Illegal responded to Katie at Garden Punks‘ comment, “Why aren’t people in younger generations interested in gardening?!” with a post of her own, in which she raises two important points (as summarized by yours truly):

• Younger generations do garden. They’re just not all as obsessed with it as many of us bloggers. That doesn’t mean they don’t “enjoy plants and the act of growing something.” Although…

• They’re not calling themselves gardeners – either because they feel they don’t have the right, or don’t want to be associated with the title. I understand this one – at least the former point. It took me a while to realize that just because I didn’t know a physalis from a podocarpus didn’t mean I wasn’t weeding and planting and harvesting and, well, gardening. 

So there you have two arguments for the well-being of gardening amongst the younger generations, and I’ll add a few more. I tend to agree with Hanna: I don’t know what the stats are, but I think the assertion that fewer young people are gardening is somewhat misleading.

As a “younger” person (at least by gardening standards) who is also a gardening addict, I feel like I straddle the divide somewhat. I’m more into gardening than most people my age, but I’m less into a lot of the things that typically define “a gardener” than the generations of gardeners ahead of me.

If you think of “a gardener” in the traditional sense – as in, one who tends a garden – yes, fewer youngins are doing it. First of all, and this is obvious, but younger gardeners are less likely to have a yard or outdoor space in which to create said garden. So they may not have a garden, but that doesn’t mean they’re not gardening. This brings me (finally) to my first point.

• Younger generations do garden, but their gardens may not be recognized as such by those expecting lawns and perennial beds. Their gardens may be the pots of herbs on the patio, the rampant collection of houseplants, or the scattered seeds left at a bus stop. So yeah, I believe gardening is alive and well amongst my peers (the under-35 crowd, though I think it has more to do about life stage than age). It may just look different than our parents’ ideas of gardening.

We’re also getting into gardening for different reasons. Here’s what I think is driving interest in gardening among the younger generations:

• Interior design and, to a lesser degree, the DIY/craft movement, has gone mainstream, and that’s carrying over into the garden. Many people in their 20s and 30s are often looking to move away from college-style decor and create a great living space – their patio or garden space, should they have one – is part of that.

• They’re interested in building community, and gardening, through a community garden or otherwise, is a great way to do that. Xris called it “community through gardening” — I love that. Many of the gardeners I meet are through my guerrilla gardening and social activism networks, and a desire to create community is what we really have in common. Many of these people – young or not-so-young – wouldn’t necessarily call themselves gardeners. But they’re helping to build community gardens and throwing seedbombs — I say they’re gardening.

Food security issues. This isn’t a new idea – many people in my grandparents’ generation gardened in order to provide their families with food – but it certainly wasn’t as prevalent in the subsequent generation. I see a resurgence of interest in growing your own food as a means of empowerment through self-reliance, often as a response to the issues surrounding peak oil and its effects on the global distribution of food.

• In a related way, environmental and sustainability concerns have also hit the mainstream, which has more young people realizing that gardening is a way to better their relationship with the earth. They’re reducing their production of waste through composting and they’re growing their own organic vegetables, for example.

If we expect to see younger people fitting neatly into the definition of a gardener as defined by mainstream media and marketing, of course we’ll see a decline. They’re not flocking to garden shows and botany lectures, or buying lawn fertilizers and fiberglass water features. But they’re out there. Slowly changing the definition of gardener forever.


Oh Canada

So, Al Gore is calling Canada’s climate change plan (Clean Air Act) “a complete and total fraud…designed to mislead the Canadian people,” while David Suzuki says it’s “a sham, and a complete abdication of our international commitment.” Meanwhile, in Nairobi, Canada “won” the international “Fossil Award” for “misleading” the world, “repudiating” the Kyoto Protocol and “flagrantly … washing its political laundry on the international stage.”

Canada? Misleading and fraudulent? Surely not my Canada.

Sadly, it’s true.

I didn’t really expect a whole lot from our uber-conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper in terms of climate change action. But I did expect that he wouldn’t try to fool us with a false plan. Let’s show him he can’t.

In our favour is the fact that it’s an election year in Canada, and Harper has a minority government. Let’s tell him we want a real strategy for climate change – one that doesn’t put Canada almost 20 years behind schedule on the Kyoto treaty targets.

Even if you’re not Canadian, send an e-mail and voice your concern. Do it now.


Which plants do you hate?
Andrea Bellamy |

Juniper: misused and almost universally hated.

I’m feeling kind of bitchy today, so I happily succumbed to the three pages of ranting on the You Grow Girl “Plants you hate” forum. Heh heh.

YGG top offenders include:

Cilantro (more for the taste than appearance, it seems)
Impatiens, begonias, petunias and other bedding plants
Spider plants
Shrub junipers
Pampas grass

Gotta agree with the above – except cilantro! I have never successfully grown it, but I love the flavour. Mmm… homemade salsa.

An excerpt from the forum that made me giggle:

“I wish I could hybridize a plant that was as bland, unattractive and redundant as the Stella de Oro daylily. I would then become filthy rich because everyone and their mother has these plants by the dozens. I also think the foliage is dreadful, and the plant pisses me off with its lack of originality.”

As for me, I resent the tyranny of cedar hedging. I strongly dislike rhododendrons and azaleas, probably because they’re often overused and abused in Vancouver. And finally, I don’t really understand the way “bedding plants” are normally used – all stiffly lined up like soldiers, only to be yanked out come fall. But that’s just me.

Which plants do you hate, besides so-called weeds or other invasives? Stuart at Gardening Tips ‘n Ideas has already weighed in, as have the folks at Garden Rant (at least once or twice), and there’s another discussion going on at GardenWeb.

What I really find interesting is the basis of our dislikes. It seems that the ubiquitous, the misused or abused, and the out-of-place tend to be the most hated plants. And what is coveted in one corner of the world is the bain of someone else’s existance.


January blahs
Andrea Bellamy |

I’ve been feeling a little meh lately. Part of it, I know, is feeling cooped up; the weather has been terrible (it’s supposed to snow again tonight!) and like many gardeners, I’m experiencing serious garden withdrawal. A few weeks ago, I was all “spring is almost here!”… and now I’m as cranky as a wet cat. Like I had such high hopes for 2007 and it’s failed me already. Oh my, I’m starting to annoy even myself. How much longer ’til spring?


Don’t. Just don’t.
Andrea Bellamy |


Don’t do this. Don’t nurture tomatillos, zucchini and fennel from seed only to abandon the adult plants when you realize that your balcony, which isn’t equipped with a water tap – oh, they’ll put in an electrical outlet, sure, so you can string fairy lights or, say, blow dry your hair, but nothing as advanced as RUNNING WATER, crazy girl, what do you think this is, a developed nation with the world’s largest freshwater supply? – gets super hot during the day even though it’s only east-facing, so that the pots need watering twice a day even though you put a moisture-retaining soil additive in when planting them up, and you have to carry the full watering can up two flights of stairs everytime because your Haws won’t fit under the tap in the upstairs bathroom and you can’t evacuate the pots from the balcony because soil-in they weigh a million pounds at least and you already hurt your back lugging that bloody watering can upstairs everyday and then you finally realize that you’re not going to get any tomatillos or zucchini and you’ve already harvested the two fennel bulbs that were worth eating, God bless ’em, because the heat and lack of water is stressing the plants to the point that they just aren’t going to fruit so you finally just give up and stop watering even though everytime you step out onto the balcony, which you now avoid doing, they scream (albeit weakly) at you, “How COULD you? There’s still time – save us!” and you’re wracked with the guilt and embarrassment of it all (since you’re supposed to be a gardener and gardeners just don’t do that to plants!), well, it’s enough to drive a girl mad. So take my word on this one. Just don’t.


The best pick-me-up ever

Last week kind of sucked, for no particular reason. By Thursday, I was feeling stressed and depressed, and just wanted to crawl into a hole to hibernate for a while. Then on Friday I received a small package. It was an unexpected gift from Terra Nova Nurseries.

Wow. What excitement. I opened it as carefully yet quickly as I could, peeling back the layers of packing to discover 18 delightful plants huddled together in a little tray. Talk about a pick-me-up!

Included were:

Agave virginica ‘Spot’
Athyrium ‘Burgandy Lace’
Begonia ‘Benitochiba’
Camanula ‘Pink Octopus’ (shown below)


Coreopsis ‘Autumn Blush’
Coreopsis ‘Pinwheel’
Coreopsis ‘Snowberry’ (shown below)




Goodbye Heronswood
Andrea Bellamy |


Goddamn it. The bastards have closed Heronswood.

Corporate-giant Burpee has closed the beloved Northwest-Washington nursery after purchasing it six years ago. Burpee’s president George Ball says, “We tried for six years and it just wasn’t profitable.” I’m sorry, but how did Dan Hinkley manage for the first 14 years while sliding deeper and deeper into debt? I mean, it wasn’t profitable! This makes me so sad, and more than a little angry. What is profit? Making $100? $100,000? $100,000,000?

Thanks to Amy for the heads up, and the fantastic post. I’m too pissed off right now to say any more without the further use of inappropriate expletives. Besides, Amy pretty much says it all.


Garden aesthetics


So I bought this raised bed kit from Lee Valley Tools for my roof-top veggie garden. I was hoping that it would look as passable as it does in the above photos, but, when I got it home and assembled it, it looked like I had nicked a curbside recycling bin. In short: it’s ugly.

But, I reasoned, no one will see it but Ben and me and our occasional guests. But Ben wasn’t having any of it. “How am I going to be able to relax on the deck with that thing,” he complained.

Which brings me to my rant: why is it so hard to find garden accessories that are sleek, modern and affordable? I can’t be the only one who doesn’t want – or who’s home doesn’t suit – rustic chic or “Asian inspired”?

Hmm. Maybe there’s a business idea there somewhere.


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