Nurturing Life: In Praise of Gardeners, Keepers of the Earth

Quirky ceramic sign for garden says it all. 2012 Photo by HJEH Becker
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. Pacific Spirit Regional Park. Vancouver BC 2012. Photo by J. Chong
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 along Arbutus bike-pedestrian rail path. Vancouver BC 2012. Photo by J. Chong
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 field on mountain hike. Mount Revelstoke National Park, BC 2002. Photo by HJEH Becker
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 firs. Lighthouse Park, West Vancouver 2005. Photo by J. Chong
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
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
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
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.

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14 Comments Add yours

  1. timethief says:

    Hello Jean,
    I love this post and the images in it. Currently almost all of my rhododendrons are in bloom and the lilacs buds are getting close to opening. I haven’t been able to blog as frequently as I would like to because I’m outdoors doing yardwork (task, task devilish grin). Soon my deck garden will be flourishing too. I love the coastal gardening season, Farmers Markets and outdoor living. You’re right! It really is a Canadian gardener’s paradise here in lotus land.

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      I wonder if I’ve even correctly identified the correct flower name in my last photo in this blog post –of deeper pink large blossoms. Obviously I’m not gardener. So let me know, timethief! Much healthier to be outdoors and muckin’ around in dirt to grow living things than stuck indoors blogging. 🙂

      If one clicks on the title of the blog, the top photo header will change is a floral photo that only appears for this blog post.

      Like

  2. rastelly says:

    I’m lazy and I still garden – never grow enough to mean anything,
    but like seeing how certin plants can attract new life forms to the
    yard. I planted squash only to have it destroyed by a moth I thought
    was a wasp – the plants were visited by nocturnal bees that slept
    in the flowers – things that only appeared when I planted squash.
    For an orinimental look into desert plants – I forget to water these
    only to rush in in a panic only to find them waiting paitiently – if
    your not picky there are veggies and fruits that require little or
    no care – but these are not my favorite foods – I bolt them
    down any way – for there is something about eating something
    you made for yourself. 🙂

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      You are patient with yourself! That’s great that you manage to cultivate something edible and have taken time to understand the patterns of insects/pests that may be causing problems. I just wouldn’t have that type of patience or observation. In our area, squash,beets and turnips grow huge because the air is dry and we get long hours of summer sunlight for these veggies to become big. Sun doesn’t set at peak of summer until around 10:00 pm. because we are further north.

      Like

  3. Hey — got your message in the forum. When I put “I know this blogger” I didn’t mean it literally. I meant I know you from your blog…

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      No problem

      Like

  4. Wonderful post, Jean – I love the tie in between cycling and gardening! For some reason, even though I am “following” your blog, I’m not getting any e-mail notices when you post, something I will try to fix. Anyway, I came across a blog that I thought might interest you, maybe you know about it already – Richard Tulloch’s Life on the Road. Lots of posts on cycling; here’s one I enjoyed – http://richardtulloch.wordpress.com/2009/11/19/green-fields-of-amsterdam-cycling-the-dutch-countryside/

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    1. Jean says:

      I checked Lynn –yes, you are on the blog subscribers’ list at this time. And I will check out the link that you suggested. I heard your latest audioclip on the Breath song and instrumental piece. It’s wonderful and evocative of Nature’s rhythms, of what man forgets.

      Like

  5. beauty of nature 🙂

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  6. Reblogged this on aspiringalmond and commented:
    Beautiful pictures. Gardening is a great hobby and I’m so glad that others appreciate it !

    Like

    1. Jean says:

      Thanks for dropping by aspiringalmond. Gardeners really do want others to enjoy their “artful” results.

      Like

      1. Your very welcome, I like your blog alot! Yes, whenever my plants produce something I get so excited and must show everyone, or when my flower garden blooms I love to take pictures of it. It’s sort of an addiction now haha.

        Like

  7. I love every paragraph. Wonderful descriptions, put well together. We really have a lot in common. I actually have a black thumb. When I eye a plant at Home Depot, I know it’s panicking, “NO! Not me! Her — that way. Augh, please don’t!” They each and everyone die on me. Your absentmindedness with green things that breathe resonates with me for sure. And I can see why you took to flowers, given how your spirit responds to color, shape, dimension.

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    1. Jean says:

      It’s impressive how community gardens have taken off in various areas of North America. There will be another post very soon on more community gardens. I like biking around and admiring the creations.

      Like

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