Quirky ceramic sign for garden says it all. 2012 Photo by HJEH Becker. Note: Butterfly was a battery operated garden bling.
As a non-gardener, I couldn’t help giggling at a tiny stand of flower pots for sale when we stopped by the University of British Columbia’s Botanical Garden Shop, during a bike ride last month. One of the pots had a garden ceramic sign emblazoned: Grow, damn it! Do expert gardeners lose their patience too?
Respect for Gardeners’ Sweat Equity
I admire gardeners who risk hours of sweat equity to seed with great hopes of bountiful gardens with bright flowers, greenery or edible veggies and fruits. Previously, I have written several blog posts on community gardens. It’s a fantastic use of local vacant land.
Magnolia tree blossom spotted along a bike ride. Pacific Spirit Regional Park. Vancouver BC 2012. Photo by J. Chong
I couldn’t garden happily: I need do-it-yourself hobbies that produce long lasting results –a tailored garment or a little oil painting. Even a calligraphic poster. Yes, even a blog.
Recycled bike serves as garden seat in Cypress St. community garden. By Arbutus bike-pedestrian rail path. Vancouver BC 2012. Photo by J. Chong
My gardening efforts were often absent-minded failures. My only plant, a sturdy basil died last month simply because I forgot to water it generously before going on vacation.
Gardening: No Longer For Just the Elderly, It’s Chic Dirt Digging
If it weren’t for the local food movement, or cycling while surrounded by Mother Nature, I would have blasted by cleverly crafted gardens and the disheveled wilderness.
Probably like many people, I used to associate gardening with doddering, elderly people pruning, watering or talking to their plants while they had their cup of tea and scones.
Now, gardening or digging your hands in dirt and compost, is becoming chic –a refreshing attitude for gardeners and farmers. After all, what person wouldn’t want fresh fruits, veggies and grains?
Wild alpine meadow flowers on mountain hike. Mount Revelstoke National Park, BC 2002. Photo by HJEH Becker
Appreciating Plant Life from Ontario to British Columbia
My appreciation of gardens, particularily botanical and artistic in design, was a slow osmosis of feeding my need for visual play of colours, shapes and textures in well-tended gardens during some of our cycling trips and vacation spots. As a kid, I only casually noticed the tulips, crocuses, hyacinths, snowdrops and forget-me-not flowers, growing around the house. After all, most of these plants were already planted before my non-gardening parents bought the house.
Nature’s own garden among old growth Douglas fir trees and ferns. Lighthouse Park, West Vancouver BC 2005. Photo by J. Chong. A temperate rainforest in the city.
Spring time to me in southern Ontario, was while cycling, marked by these annual flowers as well as the purple bunches and smell of lilacs and yellow brilliance of forsythia bushes. Once we cycled a 120 km. trip between Toronto and Hamilton’s Royal Botanical Gardens, where there was a large demonstration area of a wide variety of lilacs.
Rich Year-Round Plant Diversity on West Coast
Then when I moved out to Vancouver, I became far more aware of plant species unique to the northwest Pacific coast, as well as up in the alpine mountain areas and in year round moist green temperate rainforests. Here was an area in Canada, where there was greater diversity of thriving floral species, bigger and brighter flower heads, thicker leaf undergrowth, plus the bonus of sea life thriving by the shoreline and in the Pacific tidal pools. It really is a Canadian gardener’s paradise.
Wonderous succulent tropical flower with buds. Botanical garden, Big Hawai’i Island 2002. Photo by HJEH Becker
In Hawaii, I was blown over by astonishing brilliance and fecundity of tropical flowers both cultivated and wild – wild ginger, birds-of-paradise and orchids, just to name a few. I returned to Vancouver’s florist shops and noticed the same cut, sometimes potted flowers, but at a price.
Painting by Cypress Community Gardens entrance. Vancouver BC 2012. Photo by J.Chong
Cycling Awakens Respect for Mother Nature
As a long time cyclist, one must bow to the power and occasional weather fickleness of Mother Nature. I am not a mountain biker, spin jumping among forests and hills. But inevitably, there is a noticeable difference between cycling surrounded by only cars and buildings versus on paths with nearby forest, mountains, fields and bush in sight. Even cultivated garden plots here and there along the way, count for visual relief.
The hardest part during our casual, Nature fandom bike rides, is stopping too often to snap photos of a flowering tree or a cunning bunch of bleeding heart flowers. Spring comes every year for a short spell. So, we revel in budding gardens, quirky art work and wake-up blossoms of bushes and trees.
*This post is in faithful memory of a sister who passed away in fall 2010.
Azaela flowering bush. Queen Elizabeth Park, Vancouver BC 2012. Photo by J. Chong
More Interesting Reading and Photos:
Chong, Jean. City Hall’s Community Gardens and Citizen Outdoor Mandala Art. In Inside Vancouver Blog, Jun. 11, 2011.
Chong, Jean. People’s Oases: Community Gardens. In Cycle Write Blog, Apr. 9, 2010.