When children are small they are always tugging at your arm. They simply can’t get enough of you. Now that they are grown I can’t get enough of them. My older daughter returns to Edmonton only two or three times a year with one visit being in the spring – just as her courses end. That’s why I bought this Princess Kay Plum. It’s a double blooming, spectacular tree that portends her arrival. It’s planted in front of the house right outside her now empty bedroom window.
My mom ended up in the same seniors’ facility as her long-time friend Mr. Raymond Pierzchajlo – the man who gave us these primroses. An Auschwitz survivor, he is one of the most admirable men I know. As we sat drinking coffee in the atrium he told me of an incident that happened right after the war. He was boarding a train when he saw a woman caught between train cars. Risking his own life he pulled her out to safety. It turned out the woman was pregnant with her first child and her husband was a prominent Nazi. Out of immense gratitude the family asked Mr. Pierzchajlo to be the godfather and he consented. Every spring when these primroses bloom, so tiny and delicate, I think of the immense strength of kindness that he brought to this world.
One of the reasons I love gardening is that it makes other people happy. We live on a busy street and almost every summer day I see people stopping to look at my garden. Even the back of the house gets a lot of traffic. My daughter has fire pit parties there all summer and for a while her best friend lived with us. It was wonderful to come home and see the two of them in the back yard. The table behind the nanking cherries was bought especially for them. I still see them sitting there, studying and talking with pink fruit drinks in hand.
Our crabapple tree must have been here since the house was built. That makes it seventy one years old. It’s so gnarled and unsightly – due to the previous owner’s heavy pruning – that we were tempted to cut it down. It’s a good thing we didn’t as it has become our favourite tree. When the buds open in the spring they are an orange colour like in this photo. Then the tree turns Barbie pink with blossoms that gradually fade to white. In the fall its crabapples turn into a crazy red that I have never seen in nature. That’s a lot of colour for one elderly tree! There must be a lesson there for me somewhere.
I must be the first person in Edmonton to buy annuals. Every year I go out with packs of pansies or violas and plant them into pots scattered around our house. It’s a rite of spring I look forward to all winter. My one trepidation is that someone always stops to say that it’s far too early and the plants will surely die. This year an elderly Chinese lady came by amazed to see anyone planting in April. Yet my plants have defied warnings. None of them have ever died. Pansies survive even -5 C at night. I guess defying the unbelievers is just another rite of spring.
It’s probably hard for anyone who lives south of the Canadian prairies to understand the excitement of spring in Edmonton. Our spring usually starts mid April and fall ends in October. This means only five months of warm weather – even then we can get snow in May. Now that the first tulip is out it’s like a national celebration. I think that we will take out champagne.
Lilacs are probably the most common bushes in Edmonton. They grow in back alleys, mostly abandoned and often covered with dust from cars. There is nothing exotic about them. That’s why this bud seen through a macro lens is so striking to me. Just slightly closer than the human eye can see – or at least my middle aged eye – and it’s like a jewel.
Well, this may well become an obsession. My husband and I bought an Olloclip macro lens and have been photographing everything in and around the house. The above photo is of false spirea bush buds. It was taken at the lowest magnification. The buds of this plant come out as early as February. Everything around is still cold and dreary while these buds emerge as alizarin red. It’s wonderful to see this brilliant colour form amidst brown and white surroundings.
Sorbaria sorbifolia or False Goat’s Beard comes from Asia, including northern China, Siberia and Korea. It’s a resilient plant that has happily grown in my garden during very wet and dry, sunny summers. Nothing seems to bother it. The only problem is that false spirea is very invasive. I had to dig it out from its original spot and have since learned that it’s used primarily as ground cover. It’s spectacular in the spring when the leaves open but turns a very ordinary green for the rest of the summer.
I have coveted this fern leaf peony for years. It grew in front of a delapidated house down the street. The house was rented for years but the original owner must have loved gardens. Some lovely plants still survived between the weeds. This peony was the queen of the abandoned garden. Its bright red flowers and delicate leaves hovered above the weeds like exotic specimens. I tried to speak to the renters about this plant but never managed to meet them. Then, late last fall, I was driving by and saw workers tearing down the house. I stopped my car and ran up. They were very kind to this strange, overly excited lady. They stood around the peony in a circle helping me to dig it out. Well, here it is this spring! It’s looking remarkably healthy. I only wish I could share my joy with the original owner.
Paeonia tenuifolia comes from the Caucasus Mountains, north of the Black Sea in the Ukraine as well as Romania an Serbia. Apparently it only grows best for several years but this plant has survived at least a decade of total neglect. It’s a long loved plant that was grown in German gardens already in the 16th century and introduced to America in 1806. It likes an arid climate like the prairies, cold winters and hot summers. It’s amazing that we don’t see many more of them in Edmonton.
These are the tulips my friend Basia gave me last Easter. They came in a spring planter as indoor plants so I didn’t expect them to survive through our winter. But here they are, almost ready to bloom. It’s endlessly exciting to see flowers open. Funny how some things never get boring. I wonder if watching flowers unfold will still be exhilarating at eighty. Here is a lovely time lapse video from the internet: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LjCzPp-MK48&list=PL9UxSNwA4JobnA1Gcz8JFX4FEtPsiIuLl&nohtml5=False