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Gardens

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For the past twelve days the Georgia Strait and surrounding areas have been enveloped in a miasma of smoke from the wildfires (to which I made reference in this earlier post) which are still ablaze in the BC interior. The image at the head of this missive (and at the top of my last post) give an idea of the impact that this effluvium has had.

There have been mornings on which my customary first gaze out of the windows has given the rapid impression of a seriously hazy day, only for the realisation to dawn that the layer of vapour was not the result of any early morning micro-climatic condition, but rather a dense layer of smog lying immovably atop the sea.

The more northerly view from our deck normally reveals Moresby Island, with the higher Pender Island pair behind. On a clear day we can see further – all the way to the mountains behind the Sunshine Coast north of Vancouver. The more southerly view stretches out across Sidney Island to the American San Juan islands beyond – and then all the way to distant Mount Baker.

For the last several weeks it has been just about possible to make out Sidney Island, but even Moresby has occasionally disappeared into the murk, leaving only the Little Group visible in the immediate foreground.

It really has all been quite depressing.

The reason that this cloud of noxious fumes has hung low over the sea (and of course over Greater Vancouver and beyond) for so long is that a ridge of high pressure became wedged over the BC coast – depriving the region of the usual cleansing zephyrs that should have dissipated the pollutant.

Finally, yesterday (Saturday), the weather system began once again slowly to move, the winds changed direction and – as if by magic – the banks of smoke dissolved, leaving ‘not a rack behind’. The sun renewed its efforts and Mount Baker became once again illuminated by the late afternoon glow.

Then, as an evening of croquet and good cheer in the garden with our dear friends from Saanichton entered its twilight phase, the first rains for nearly two months began gently to fall.

Today the world (this part of it at least) is a different place!

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I am always quick – when friends or acquaintances make appreciative observations concerning our garden (yard!) – to sing the praises of the previous owners of this fair domicile, who clearly knew a great deal more about gardening than do I (though it must, of course, be pointed out that that is not difficult!).

Yet – even though I make reference to the fact that there is scarcely a week during the spring and summer months when there is not a riot of colour and activity somewhere within its boundaries – I still find myself surprised that – just when it looks as though the display is about to peter out – some fresh wonder bursts forth.

All this by way of making apology for yet more photos of plants!

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid

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I wonder if some kind soul out there might be able to assist me with the identification of some plants (whose images appear below) that seem to be all too prevalent in our garden (yard). I have endeavoured to ascertain their particulars but thus far without success.

Should the gentle reader be tempted to advise me simply that they are ‘weeds‘ – then my gratitude might seem somewhat muted. That much I already know!

Thanking you in anticipation…

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid

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Greater abundance?… Further abundance?…

Hey ho!

Pictures of flowers in the garden…

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid

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Photo by Andy Dawson ReidContrary to popular wisdom – or at least to the wisdom of popular song – the first cut is not always the deepest (ho, ho! – see what I did there?).

As you may gather from the accompanying image my subject here is cutting the grass (or mowing the lawn, should you so prefer). More specifically it concerns that all important ‘first cut of the year’.

The Royal Horticultural Society has this to say on the matter:

“For the first mowing in spring, set the cutting height to the highest setting. Thereafter, gradually reduce the height of cut until the desired height is reached. For fine lawns, this will be 6-13mm (¼-½in). For ordinary ornamental lawns this will be 13-25mm (½-1in) in summer and up to 40mm (1.5in) in spring and autumn.”

Now – in no way does our lawn aspire to the ‘fine‘ designation nor perhaps even – should one be perfectly honest – to that of an ‘ordinary ornamental lawn’ (the ‘ornamental’ being the debatable point here) but there is surely no harm in harbouring such ambitions on behalf of our (half) acre(s)!

Country Living magazine adds this:

“When cutting your lawn for the first time, you should always follow the one third rule: never cut more than a third of the blade of grass in one go. This is because cutting more than this can stress the grass. You should gradually reduce the grass length over a number of weeks to reach the desired length. Cutting the grass too short, too fast, is known as ‘scalping’ which can lead to disease and weed infestation.”

Here, here – say I! And so the lawn was duly mowed – with great care and consideration so as not to stress the grass!

Actually – the subject of this post is not the cutting of the grass itself so much as that with which it was effected – and of the great kindness and generosity of dear friends. When first we arrived upon these shores and moved into our splendid ocean-view residence we abruptly found ourselves in charge of an estate of just shy of half an acre – much of which is laid to grass. Grass which was growing vigorously!

As ever in moments of need I turned to our dear landscape-gardening friends in Saanichton. The head honcho duly promised to look out for a second-hand machine for me and in the meantime lent me a mower from their fleet to tide me over. I have had that mower now for a year and a half!

Well – no more. Our friend finally found me a splendid Toro (The Bull!) mower – in excellent nick and a considerable bargain to boot. I have gratefully returned his machine and now find my self (somewhat to my surprise for the first time in my life) the proud owner of a proper lawn mower.

We are, as ever, overwhelmed by the generosity of friends and to them extend again our grateful thanks.

Now all I need is a gas trimmer…

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Woo hoo!

Today was the first day of the year on which the climactic conditions were conducive to getting down to a little ‘yard work’ – or ‘garden maintenance’ should you prefer. The temperature reached a balmy 9 degrees Celsius, the sun did its best to warm one’s weary shoulders, the breeze was persistently no more than playful and any precipitation that might have been lurked in the vicinity had a change of heart and took the afternoon off. As the forecast suggested that this would be the best day of the week I girded my loins (ooh-err!), pulled on my wellies and ventured forth.

The garden (for garden it shall be, ‘yard’ fans!) is in sore need of TLC, being as it is covered with a veritable layer of winter detritus. I am certainly not going to post any pictures of it at this stage, but will do so (weather permitting) in a couple of weeks when I have knocked things into shape.

Actually, I am posting one photo… that which appears at the top of this missive.

Living as we do in the wild northwest we are naturally accustomed to the indigenous wildlife apparently being of the opinion that it is we who are the interlopers. I regularly look out of the window to see two or three deer using the back garden as a thoroughfare, stopping for a chat and a snack en route. Canadians don’t really do boundaries (fences, hedges, walls and suchlike) in the way that the Brits do. This is probably a good thing because should a deer (or a bear or a cougar) decide that some barrier is blocking its preferred path it is most likely simply to demolish it.

Today, as I ventured outside, I came upon a big fat raccoon ambling across what passes (with a great deal of work) for my croquet lawn. I don’t know how the raccoons get to be so fat at this time of year, but ‘Googling’ “fat raccoon” shows that this particular one was not that exceptional.

As I worked away in the garden I heard an unusual bird call above my head. Looking up I saw that an eagle had alighted on a branch of one of the pines. A steady rain of downy fur-balls revealed that the bird had caught something and was in the process of preparing it for its lunch. I tiptoed inside get my camera and fired off the shot above, the which you will probably need to enlarge (by double-click thereon) if you are to make out any detail.

The eagle felt about being photographed whilst taking its repast much the same as would I and departed for a more secluded spot (with its lunch dangling from one talon) before I could get a better picture. I don’t blame it!

What you can’t see in the image above is the big black crow sitting just out of reach on a slightly higher branch. When the eagle flapped away the crow followed it. ‘Trickle down’ clearly does work in the animal kingdom!

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There is so much to see at Butchart Gardens that I thought the gentle reader might indulge me were I to share another batch of images from last Saturday evening. Hope you don’t mind…

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid

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Photo by Andy Dawson Reid“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good lawn must be in want of a croquet set

Oh dear! Not only should I apologise for carelessly bastardising the sainted Jane, but very definitely also for choosing such a tired and inappropriate gambit with which to open this post in the first place. In my defence (should such be possible) it is a blazingly sunny early June day and I am simmering gently the summer’s cauldron (thereby also misappropriating XTC!) that is our glorious garden (yard – whatever!) and frankly it is just too damned hot to come up with anything better!

Where was I?

Oh, yes! Croquet!

For reasons that are simply too tiresome to go into now we arrived from England last year in possession of a box of composite croquet balls. No mallets! No hoops! No stake… In fact none of the other essentials of the noble game whatever.

Having – however – a lawn of appropriate dimensions (albeit one that has a distinct slope to one side and whose surface comprises rather more moss than it does grass) meant that the urge to be able to play a round or two grew slowly but steadily to the point at which it could no longer be denied.

Warned off by the (occasionally) helpful pundits on the InterWebNet I chose not to purchase a cheapie croquet set from Canadian Tyre, but instead did my research and located a source of ‘decent’ (if expensive) mallets and other accessories. Forthwith did we then invite friends from near and far to spend the day with us, with a view to engaging in a little light barbecuing and the christening of our croquet lawn.

The gentle reader will hardly need me to report that when came the day in question we were subjected to the one twenty four hour period of foul weather that has been experienced in these parts for the last several months. Rains deluged upon the lawns – winds whisked detritus from the trees and deposited same all over my lovingly prepared greensward.

“Ah!” – you cry (particularly should you hail from merrie England) – “But surely you didn’t let a little thing like the weather put you off?”

Of course not – don’t be silly! Croquet was played and – at the risk of immodestly blowing one’s own brass instrument – the honour of the home team was well and truly upheld.

The following day the sun returned to its rightful place in the cloudless skies and all was again well.

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Photo by Andy Dawson ReidIdioms

“Everything in the garden is rosy”

(British English, saying)everything is fine”

Oxford Learners’ Dictionary

A couple of weeks back I posted some snaps of the pleasant surprises that our recently acquired garden (yard!) has been bestowing upon us.

Sadly, not quite everything in our little corner of paradise was as gorgeous as those images may have suggested. There was one rather sorry strip just below our patio – about thirty feet wide by ten feet deep – that could only be described as ‘scrubland’.

This patch – which incorporates a fire-pit – may at one point have been graveled. Much of that covering had long since disappeared and whatever it was that remained clearly provided the perfect habitat for every possible variety of weed and couch grass known to man (and a few others for good measure).

As the spring progressed the presence of this eyesore became increasingly irritating until even this minimalist gardener could stand it no longer and decreed that action must be taken.

I spent a considerable portion of two days earlier this week removing the top surface of this blasted heath and winkling out as much weed root as I could bear to do. I discovered that not only was a fair chunk of our garden irrigation system just under the surface of this patch, but that it had several leaks, a couple of redundant spurs and was not laid in the optimal locations. All this was speedily remedied before I levelled the area and laid and pegged down a porous membrane across the whole patch – in the hope of at least keeping some of the weeds and grasses at bay.

Then it was hotfoot to my local supplier of aggregates – Peninsula Landscape Supplies – to order three yards of half inch clear crushed aggregate. I did this at around one o’clock on Thursday last and was delighted when it was delivered to our door shortly before three o’clock that same afternoon. Splendid service!

The dump pickup dropped the load as close to the patio as possible, but that was a good twenty five yards away. It was then down to me – armed only with a plastic wheelbarrow, a shovel and a rake – to transmute the resultant mountain into the rather splendid gravel strip that can be seen in the attached photo – and all before the Kickass Canada Girl arrived home from work!

If I tell you that three yards of aggregate weighs in the region of four and a half tons, you might understand why my body feels today rather as though it has been hit by particularly large truck.

I suspect it would have been considerably worse had I not been attending weights classes twice a week since September last. I knew that there was a reason for so doing…

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 “The only real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes'”

Marcel Proust.*

For each ‘new’ garden (Canadian: yard!) that one inherits there is a marvelous, scary, joyous voyage of discovery – lasting a year – during which time is revealed all that lies concealed within. This earlier post told part of the story of our garden; the images below testify to the fact that there is never (thus far at any rate) a dull moment therein.

* What Proust actually wrote was:

“The only true voyage of discovery, the only fountain of Eternal Youth, would be not to visit strange lands but to possess other eyes, to behold the universe through the eyes of another, of a hundred others, to behold the hundred universes that each of them beholds, that each of them is; and this we can contrive with an Elstir, with a Vinteuil; with men like these we do really fly from star to star.”

Photo by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson ReidPhoto by Andy Dawson Reid

 

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