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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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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAhttp://www.vancouverchinesegarden.com/

Being a port city on the west coast of Canada, Vancouver is blessed with many cultures, and many people from all over the world. We have a close connection with other countries whose shores are also on the “Pacific Rim”, including China.

If you want to “escape” the rush and bustle of the city while still remaining in it, a visit to the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden will make you feel, at least briefly, that you have entered a little paradise. This glorious Asian garden is what I like to call one of the “Hidden Treasures of Vancouver”. Situated right in the middle of Vancouver’s original “Chinatown”, the garden is a true gem. See the link above, under the first photograph, to read more about the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, which is located at 578 Carrall Street.

On the day I took these photographs, my camera played a wonderful trick on me, and turned everything a beautiful shade of blue! Sometime in the future, I’ll do a blog post about how I acquired my camera, an older Olympus, as a gift from a friend. The gift came with no instructions, so I just learn as I go along with it, which is fun and challenging at the same time. I decided to post my blue pictures, and hope you enjoy them. Blue is such a soothing, peaceful, calming colour!

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Next week, February 16th will be Chinese New Year, celebrating the Year of the Dog.

Gung Hay Fat Choy! Happy New Year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Boat #2

“The Sailing Boat, Evening Effect”, by Claude Monet, 1885

I’m learning that the process of growing older is an art form, and letting go of some things is part of the artistry. When we create a painting, or take a photograph, it’s the empty spaces that help to define the work, giving it balance and making it beautiful, or at least meaningful!

Life is all about dismantling what’s unimportant. Then you can see what’s really valuable.

–Lilo Raymond, photographer (1923-2009)

lilojug

“Still Life with Pitcher”, photograph by Lilo Raymond

It’s never easy to give up certain activities, people, books or objects that we’ve loved in the past. For example, I’ve had to let go of riding a bike, due to certain physical constraints. But I can still walk, thank goodness! I’m in the process of choosing which activities to hold on to, and which to say goodbye to.

Gardening is a blessing, and I’m hoping to follow in my Dad’s and sister’s footsteps, and putter in my garden for as long as I possibly can, as they did.

The luckiest among us drift into old age within the garden. Bones, muscles and sinews may begin to complain, but the passion’s still there: so much still to do, so many possibilities still to explore.

–Des Kennedy, from The Passionate Gardener–Adventures of an Ardent Green Thumb, (Introduction, page 6)

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Dad’s & Lois’ Geraniums (Pelargoniums) on the deck, summer 2017

Every year, in early autumn, I cut back all fifteen to twenty of my geranium plants (Pelargoniums) and re-pot them, then bring them into the house to overwinter until the spring. Even though some gardeners look disdainfully on these plants, I love them! For one thing, they brighten up the deck, and in my mind, add a little Mediterranean colour to the garden. I inherited some of my geraniums from my Dad, and sister Lois, after they passed away, making my connection to these much-loved plants quite sentimental.  Pelargoniums are among the easiest plants to grow. They just have such a strong will to survive! Cuttings will root easily in a jar of water, with no problem.

As I mentioned in the first post entitled “Beautiful Elders—Sailing on an Uncharted Sea”, acceptance of changes is so important as we age.

Here’s a link to the original post:

https://joiedusoleil.wordpress.com/?s=Beautiful+Elders

Some changes we go through are of our own choosing, and some are forced upon us. Accepting what we are not in control of, or cannot change, is not easy, but does aid us in moving on with our lives. This is a quotation from Albert Einstein which surprised me:

I claim credit for nothing. Everything is determined, the beginning as well as the end, by forces over which we have no control. It is determined for the insect as well as the star. Human beings, vegetables,or cosmic dust, we all dance to a mysterious tune, intoned in the distance by an invisible piper.

–Albert Einstein, from: The Wisehart Interview, 1930

And Albert was a respected scientist! What a relief to think that we do not have to try to control everything! And what a relief that we can let go of some of the things we used to do.

The above quotation can be seen as stemming from Einstein’s determinism: the philosophical proposition that every event, decision and action is causally determined by an unbroken chain of prior occurrences. See:

http://www.philosophybasics.com/branch_determinism.html

Don’t look back, you’re not going that way. (as in the title of this post)

–Mary Engelbreit

Dont Look Back

Illustration by Mary Engelbreit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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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