Bridal Wreath Spirea


My mother’s friend is an eighty year old lady who is eternally positive and endlessly generous. Her attitude to life belies a terrible past.  She was one of the blonde Polish children removed from her family by the Nazis and put into a camp to turn her into a good German. Her memories of that time are excruciating. Yet, despite it all (or maybe because of it) she takes pleasure in every small thing around her. On one of her annual visits to our house, she saw this spirea and was overjoyed. Now, every time I look at the bridal exuberance of this bush, I think of this lady and of the happiness she brought to everyone whose life she touched.

Leopard’s Bane


Moving into a new home brings all kinds of expenses you never expected. By the time we paid for renovations there was nothing left for the garden. So what to do? A solution was sitting under the bushes in the abandoned house next door. There, among the roots, I found dozens of dwarfed shoots of what seemed like leopard’s bane. I took a chance and planted tiny clumps of it down all the walks. This plant – hardened by many years of neglect – grew by the day. It now surrounds the house in a sea of yellow. Not bad for few weedy shoots clinging to life between the weeds.

Purple Iris


Every crisis I have ever had has brought moments of intense and unexpectedly wonderful connection with people. Eight years ago, my mom developed Alzheimer’s.  Seven hundred dollars worth of water spilled onto her lawn, a fridge filled with a fascinating collection of mold that she refused to let me throw out, and all manner of misadventures would not drive her out of her house. I braced myself for a novel disaster every time I visited. My one solace was that I often ran into her next door neighbours who were kind and willing to help. One of the gifts they gave me during our over-the-fence chats were these purple irises.Every time they bloom I remember their kindness. The smallest thing given at a time of need means so much for so long.



I have never seen Edmontonians so ecstatic about a rainy long weekend. Normally this  time marks the beginning of planting but in the past two days we have had more cm. of rain than in the last six months. This would normally be cause for much communal complaining.  As I drove around running errands today almost every cashier beamed and commented on how great it is that it’s cold and wet. Even the snowfall warnings in parts of the province delight us. It’s not just people, there is almost an audible sigh of relief coming from all the plants.



Before we moved to our current house we lived in a neighbourhood where older homes were being replaced by monster homes. My plants, if they bloomed at all, had few flowers and often died after one winter. I thought I lacked a green thumb. Since we moved into this new location everything thrives. This thyme was a small Home Depot six pack but in two seasons it’s crowding out paving stones. It’s amazing what sunshine can do for flowers. I have decided to join them and set up a chair right outside the kitchen door. If sun is so good for plants it probably feeds our bodies and spirits as well.

Thyme has a lot of health benefits as well as being hardy, fragrant and beautiful:



Going to visit greenhouses is like being a child in a toy store again. I want one of each please! Two years ago – as part of moderation efforts – I decided to go to Greenland Nurseries but only buy discounted plants. All they had were stacks of half dead veronicas at 50 cents each. I put two into my basket. My husband, who usually has limited interest in plants, insisted I buy all of them. It was a rare moment of gardening inspiration.We planted the pitiful clumps along the front walk and hoped for the best. Now, every spring,  a long ribbon of lavender leads visitors up to our front door.

Greenland Graden Centre has gourmet coffee and a lovely lunch room amidst flowers!

Border Primrose on Steroids


What’s in this soil and how can I get some? This border primrose had one measly stalk with flowers last year. This spring it began to bloom in April. Now it’s mid May and it hasn’t stopped. The old flowers are hanging in there so it’s a ball of yellow on the north side of the house where little grows – not even weeds want to take root there. It’s one of those little miracles  gardening books don’t cover. It reminds me a lot of child rearing advice books. As my husband is fond of remembering, our daughter was a footnote child. She didn’t do anything texts suggested except in side notes with exceptions to the rule. I guess this primrose is a footnote flower.



The original owners  who built our house in the 40’s were connected to the University of Alberta landscaping department. Maybe that’s why I keep finding wonderful plants in-between bushes. These anemones looked tiny and miserable as they grew by a tall fence in the back of the garden. But such plants have immense survival “instinct”. As soon as I gave them better conditions they bloomed profusely. I wonder how true that is for people. Would any of us panhandle without the conditions that help us thrive? Would Lenoose, a homeless photographer I befriended briefly before he passed away have been a renowned artist?