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Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

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This little Iris is an inspiration to me. Every spring, the flowers bravely re-appear, with absolutely no help or special care from anyone! For a small, unassuming plant, it has many names: Iris unguicularis, Iris stylosa, Algerian iris, Algerian winter iris, Winter iris.

Our Algerian iris grows from a gravel bed which is situated in a most challenging spot, nestled in amongst strong bamboo roots. It never fails to surprise me when, usually one day in March, I spot its beautiful flowers coming into bloom. This year, it first bloomed during a light snowfall back in late February, and is still blooming in early April. Never fazed, it is a little gem, and serves as a yearly reminder that spring will soon arrive!

For those of you who like plant details, here are the main points about Algerian iris:

Evergreen, rhizomatous, beardless iris.

H. to 8 in. (20cm)   S. indefinite   Almost stemless, flowers 2-3 in. (5-8cm) across

Flowers appear from late autumn to early spring. Prefers a sheltered site against a south or west-facing wall. (But ours is out in the open, except for those protective bamboo roots!)

 

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Above photo is of a lovely & prolific climbing rose, name unknown. Spring, 2017.

The boulevard grass at our daughter’s place is gradually disappearing, being replaced with flowering herbs, perennials and vegetables. The bees love it, and so do we! People walking by on the sidewalk now see a changing “panorama” of greenery and blooms, all year long. Having a boulevard garden helps to create a feeling of community, providing the opportunity to talk with neighbours and others who happen to pass by when the gardener is out there working. And I get my exercise all during the growing season! I’m very grateful for the chance to work (play) in this great little garden!

All my hurts my garden spade can heal.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Here’s how the boulevard garden is shaping up:

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Chives, Oregano, & Mint growing by the sidewalk. These easygoing herbs attract a multitude of bees, which are such valuable pollinators!

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Pinks, which have a gorgeous, spicy fragrance, and Creeping Charlie, despised by some gardeners, but appreciated by me for its ability to be a freely spreading ground cover, thus keeping out the weeds! As a bonus, Charlie has tiny mauve flowers in the spring, which to my eye are very pretty.

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Sage, blooming in June. I tucked this plant into a bed near the vegetable patch. Sage is such a strong plant, with amazingly “pungent” leaves!

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Newly built planter boxes…squash plants in this one. It’s surprising, and very gratifying, to see how much food can be grown once the grass is replaced with vegetable beds and boxes.

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Hosta blooms. This one is quite imposing!

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Canterbury Bells. (*see note below)

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Can anyone tell me, is this a butterfly on the Aster flower, or a moth? I’m guessing butterfly. Beautiful, isn’t it?

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And finally, a very welcome bumblebee on the Aster plant. The pollinators (all sorts of bees and butterflies) are attracted to these Asters, and to the flowering herbs, just around the corner of the boulevard.

***Please remember not to use insecticides, herbicides, or any genetically modified seeds or plants in your gardens! GMO’s contain hidden pesticides. All of these toxic products are causing drastic losses in the bee and  butterfly populations.  Without these wonderful insects, our ability to produce food will be greatly reduced.

I can enjoy flowers quite happily without translating them into Latin.

–Cornelia Otis Skinner

*Note: Me too, Cornelia! However, the Latin name for the Canterbury Bells pictured above, in case anyone wonders, is:

Campanula poscharskyana, (Serbian bellflower, trailing bellflower), a semi-evergreen trailing perennial. Native to the Dinaric Alps in former Yugoslavia, along the Western edge of the Balkan Peninsula.

Here it is, December 21st, 2017, the Winter Solstice, also known as Midwinter. And that’s a wrap for the 2017 Boulevard Garden Highlights!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Above Photo: Sea Kale (Crambe maritima), flowering in the Spring of 2017.

Sea Kale is a beautiful, hardy perennial which grows in poor soils, and is a commonly seen plant on the shingle beaches of southern England. On the coast of Kent (where my father’s family were market gardeners), it grows in the meager, sandy soil which lies underneath the “shingle”, or rocks, covering the beach. In our daughter’s front garden, the above plant provided an abundance of large, edible leaves all summer long. Similar in flavour to curly kale, the leaves are delicious and full of vitamins and minerals. Sea kale leaves can be torn up and added to soups and sauces,  gently stir fried with onion and garlic and a bit of added water, or simply steamed. Sea Kale is one of my very favourite plants!

In the garden beds, where the front lawn used to be, Nonno (Grandpa) grew a great variety of vegetables this past year. (see my previous blog post about the beginnings of this lawn conversion: “Urban Garden Harvest”, posted on October 6th, 2016):

https://joiedusoleil.wordpress.com/2016/10/06/urban-garden-harvest/

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Above photo: Spring 2017 Organic vegetable beds, where the front lawn used to be.

For all things produced in a garden, whether of salads or fruits, a poor man will eat better that has one of his own, than a rich man that has none.

–J.C. Loudon, 1783-1843, Scottish botanist and garden designer.

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Above: Snow Pea flower, Spring, 2017

This gardening adventure is taking place in our daughter’s front yard, and along the outer boulevard. She discovered the materials for this up-cycled greenhouse for free,  online and in the back lane. Our husbands designed and built it, with her input.

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Building this little greenhouse prevented the vintage windows from ending up in the landfill. Now that’s “sustainability”! Besides, I think it’s cute, and so original!

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Garlic Bed…we do use a lot of garlic in our family!

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Summer ’17 Vegetable Beds

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Raised veggie beds…no bending required here! Easier on the back.

During the summer of ’17, a neighbour walked by and asked, “Are you farming here?”

I laughed and replied, “Well yes we are, actually!” Organic farming all the way. No chemical fertilizers, no pesticides or herbicides, but lots of composted soil and good old-fashioned hand-watering, weeding and regular care by Nonno. What a bounty of delicious vegetables were harvested all summer long, and well into autumn as well.

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Veggies in afternoon shade.

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Tomatoes and Basil.

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Garden tomatoes & lettuce, (with dried cranberries added…:)

He who shares the joy in what he’s grown spreads joy abroad and doubles his own.

–Anonymous

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Lichen & Moss on Sycamore Maple tree branch, VanDusen Garden…July, 2017

(Sycamore Maple: Acer pseudoplatanus cv Atropurpureum)

About Lichens:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lichen

http://www.lichen.com/biology.html

Mosses & Lichens:

https://www.google.ca/search?q=Mosses+with+Lichens&lr=&as_qdr=all&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjotrCtlrLVAhXollQKHZ0HDeQQsAQIQg&biw=1247&bih=641#imgrc=qDdAtuP6nymVUM:

All of the above information for such a simple photograph! It is interesting to me, though, the symbiotic relationship between the tree, the lichens, and the mosses. All of them co-operating and supporting each other! If only humans could learn that lesson.

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”

—Albert Einstein

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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One of the places we love to visit on our “Urban Trekking” outings in Vancouver is the wonderful VanDusen Botanical Garden, located on Oak St., at West 37th Avenue.

At one time, all of what is now Vancouver was a rain forest, part of the Indigenous Musqueam Nation’s land. Then “the settlers” came, in the mid to late 1800’s, and the logging began. What is now the VanDusen “property” was turned into a golf course, but in 1975 the Vancouver Park Board took it over and created this beautiful 55 acre (22 hectare) botanical garden.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VanDusen_Botanical_Garden

http://vancouver.ca/parks-recreation-culture/vandusen-botanical-garden.aspx

Recently we “trekked” there, and focused on trees and greenery, rather than specifically on flowers. Here are a few photos from that day:

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Sedums in bloom at entrance to gardens.

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Grasses blowing in the wind….

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Sedums growing on a huge boulder, with no soil! Beautiful.

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Golden Japanese Cedar tree. (Cryptomeria japonica “Sekkan-sugi”)

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Lilies…the white ones seem to have the loveliest fragrance…

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Trident Maple tree. (Acer buergerianum)

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Giant Sequoia tree, (Sequoiadendron giganteum), with Western Sword Fern (fern native to this area)

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Dalmatian Cranesbill (Geranium dalmaticum)

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Masterwort (Astrantia)

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Succulents in concrete containers on the patio.

“What was Paradise but a Garden?”

—William Coles

 

 

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“The autumn wind blows through

Little Pines-a lovely name-

Bush clover and pampas, too.”

–Basho, 1644-1694

The weather of autumn and winter 2016/17 has been more like it used to be in the old days here in Vancouver. Before climate change brought warmer winters, we had more snow and ice, and more pronounced seasons than we’ve been experiencing for the past few decades.

Here on the south coast of B.C., this past autumn and winter have been different, starting with a cold snap in early November of 2016. We’ve had three notable snowfalls during this exceptional winter. It seems that “climate change” does not necessarily signify warmer weather all the time, but it does mean unpredictability and changes in climatic conditions. It was unseasonably cold from November right through until early February, and our heating bills can attest to that fact! We’re back to milder weather now, and spring is on the way.

Here’s a retrospective of photos taken from October 2016 to early February 2017.

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Blue Pumpkin with Spanish Chestnut & Hazelnut…Cotoneaster berries in vase…Canadian Thanksgiving, October 2016

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Japanese Maple tree, Autumn colour, 2016

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“Every leaf a miracle”…

–Walt Whitman

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Schizostylis (Crimson flag), Autumn 2016

“To create a little flower

is the labour of ages.”

–William Blake

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Super Moon & Clouds over Vancouver, November 14, 2016…the closest the moon has been to the Earth in 68 years. Photo taken from Trimble Park, W. 8th Ave. & Discovery St.

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Winter sun & shadows…

“Beauty lies not in objects, but in the interaction between the shadow and light created by objects.”

–Junichiro Tanizaki, in his essay “In Praise of Shadows”. (1933)

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Blue sky, white clouds & Blue Atlas Cedar tree…December, 2016

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And then it snowed. Three little trees at the edge of Pacific Spirit Park on West 16th Ave.

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Hollyburn mountain, West Vancouver housing developments, freighters visible in Burrard Inlet, all seen over the rooftop of West Point Grey Academy, next to Trimble Park, (aka West Point Grey Park).

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Grouse & Seymour mountains at sunset. Stanley Park is visible, stretching out into Burrard Inlet.

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Snowy West Point Grey sidewalk, December 2016

“Snow had fallen, snow on snow,

Snow on snow,

In the bleak mid-winter,

Long ago.”

–Christina Rossetti

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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When our daughter and her family moved to a new home last year, the front lawn had to be dug up in order to install an improved drainage system. They decided to replace the grass with a vegetable garden, and Nonno (Grandpa) dug right in!

Today’s quotation:  “Lawns, it seems to me, are against nature, barren and often threadbare–the enemy of a good garden. For the same trouble as mowing, you could have a year’s vegetables: runner beans, cauliflowers and cabbages, mixed with pinks and peonies, Shirley poppies and delphiniums; wouldn’t that beautify the land and save us from the garden terrorism that prevails?”

–Derek Jarman

from: Derek Jarman’s Garden

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“Before” photo of the lawn…

We are a (mostly) vegetarian family, and prefer organically-grown vegetables and fruits. No pesticides, no herbicides, no GMO’s, no chemical fertilizers, just lots of home-made compost and sea soil, and lots of tender loving care from Nonno.

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Where’s the lawn? Remay cloth covering Swiss chard and kale to protect from aphids.

Being totally hand-watered with an old-fashioned watering can and a “wand” attachment on the hose allows the gardener to get up-close and personal with each plant. It also saves water. Although Vancouver is on the edge of a rain forest, we still have watering restrictions for the entire summer, due to a lack of rainfall from spring to fall.

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A forest of kale! Pea-supports in background. Squashes to right.

Kale, Swiss chard, pole beans, radishes, peas,lettuce, parsley, basil, arugula, tomatoes, cabbage, zucchini, winter squash, carrots, beets, cucumbers, hot peppers, green onions, leeks, garlic…so good!

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Most seeds were sown in pots, then transplanted into the garden. Feverfew plants helped to keep the aphids at bay, as did some nasturtiums and the remay cloth.

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Beautiful Swiss chard, sharing a bed with carrots and beets.

As an added bonus to working in the garden every day, the gardeners get to socialize with passers-by, creating a sense of neighbourliness and community. So many people who would usually just walk past a house will stop to chat, talking about everything from plant varieties to the weather.

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Easy Kale Recipe: (serve with rice or pasta)

1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil in large heavy pan on medium heat

Add 1 medium onion, sliced, 3 cloves garlic, chopped, 1/4 cup water and saute gently, lid on, until onion is limp.

Wash and tear off leaves of large bunch kale. Chop or tear into smaller pieces and add to pan. Mix it in. With lid on, cook gently 5 minutes or longer.

Add 1 medium tomato, chopped, and cook a few more minutes, lid on.

Tamari sauce with the rice, or parmesan cheese with the pasta….(unless you’re vegan, of course!)

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Pole beans beside the raised vegetable boxes.

We enjoyed lovely, healthy veggies all summer long, and also saved a lot of money!

This is “sustainable” gardening….and now that Autumn has arrived, it’s time to plant the crops for over-wintering, but that’s another story!

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