THE MOST GLORIOUS OF GARDENS . . . CONTAINERS IN THE GARDEN

The fragrance of flamboyant lilies hang heavy in the garden. It drifts though my windows. Their exotic perfume so compelling, so exotic. These majestic flowers grow beautifully in containers. The secret to spectacular container gardening. It’s all about single plant species.
The lilies have just begun to bloom. They will put on a show for several weeks. The cosmos are shyly putting out early flowers. This short variety of easy to grow cosmos were started indoors. They are planted densely for the biggest flower show. With regular dead heading they will bloom to late fall.
Outrageously showy! Cracker Jack saucer sized dahlias slip into place behind the cosmos. Hot summer colours for a spectacular show. Dahlias ask for only two things water and rich soil and they will reward your wildest gardening dreams.
When lilies fade their slender spikey stalks are the perfect background for late summer dahlias. The row of orangery red dahlias will bloom until the first touch of frost. Cosmos are full glorious bloom. Monet’s garden always features bright spots of white flowers. All flowers look all the richer for this artistic accent.
A romantic David Austin rose (Lady of Shallot). Her perfume with lingering notes of vanilla anchors one end of this front of the house flower show. This rose blooms lavishly all summer long right into the cool days of autumn.
A long drift of deep pink impatience warms the river stone facade. The The Wave petunias are accents colours. They dream in the sun close to the umbrella sitting area. The old fashion fragrance of the petunias a childhood memory.

There’s a coolness in the air. Twilight and in that half way time flocks of geese honk their way through the sky above our home. The geese are gathering for their epic journey south. The single planting of hydrangeas are changing colour. Sapphire blues bruising to rich purples and violet.
The front door herbs. To be shared. Planted in containers they welcome you to our home.
Run you fingers through delicate thyme. Stroke the velvet sage leaves. Nibble on a basil or a mint leaf. Then gather a bouquet of rosemary for remembrance.

ZEN AND THE ART OF GROWING SWEET PEAS

This is how a dream begins. Pouring over a seed catalogue on a gray and dismal winter day I discovered a variety of sweet peas called “Cuthbertson Blend”. My grandfather was an avid gardener. He imported his seeds from Cuthbertson in England. His sweet peas regularly took first prize at the Prince Albert Horticulture Show, and in recognition it was named for him. The Fred Henderson Sweet Pea Cup.

I have been rather casual about planting sweet peas. I plant the seeds directly into the garden a week or so after the last frost. It is a bit of a hit and miss affair. Some seeds don’t germinate and others suffer an early death as insects and birds enjoy their oh so tender leaves. I thought of my Grandfather and how he would start has plants indoors. He didn’t have a lot of space and spring in Northern Saskatchewan is one of bitter cold and frequently snow. Growing plants indoors was a challenge.

I bought the Cuthbertson sweet peas. They promised me heavenly fragrance and flowers the colours of dreams. I nicked the hard coating of the seeds. All 68 of them. I mixed the potting soil. I planted the seeds and calmly, quietly and patiently I waited for them to sprout. The first sight of a tiny green shoot was pure joy. I was following my grandfather’s footsteps.

I remembered my Grandfather always planted two seeds. The weaker seed to be nipped off. It was difficult for me to do this. I had been nurturing these sweet things and I left a few pots to see how these double plants would grow. I counted the leaves on the stem of the sweet pea and when the fourth one made an appearance I nipped part of it off. The plant would slow its spindly growth and spout side leaves. I planted the seeds March 6th. It is April 26th. The lack of sun shine is evident in these spindly plants. They are growing in south and west windows but it is clearly not enough. Here on the West Coast of British Columbia I do not have the brilliant clear skies and endless days of sunshine of Northern Saskatchewan. This is the zen of gardening. A learning experience. Patience. Understanding. Acceptance.

In a few weeks these plants, tenderly cared for, will be ready to set out in the garden. They will climb towards the sky filling the air with their fragrance. I will continue to care for them. Rising early in the morning to water, weed, and dead head flowers. Then to cut glorious bouquets to fill my home with their beauty.

This is the zen of garden. It is not always perfect but these past two years have required one to remain calm and take the happiness each day as it is given.

PATCHING A MEMORY . . . HOW TO RESCUE A WORN SWEATER

It was a cashmere cardigan. Rose petal pink. A sweater with an important provenance. It had belonged to my daughter and now it showed my years of affectionate wearing. The elbows worn and thread bare. I had darned it several times attempting to matching the wool but it was now beyond redemption.

I was taught to make repairs on clothes as invisible as possible. It was not going to be easy to match this colour and make a comfortable repair on the sleeve of the sweater. A bolder move was called for. I searched through my collection of left-over sewing fabrics and found enough silk to make two large patches.

A rolled up magazine keeps you from sewing the sleeve together as you baste the fabric in place. I used a light coloured thread and sewed loose stitches to allow for the stretch of the knit.

Once the fabric was basted in place I sewed around the edge of the fabric. I chose a deep pink embroidery thread using a loose running stitch. I deliberately emphasized this as “repair” work. Not sloppy work but a labour of love. One should proudly wear beloved garments that have been repaired to continue to give warmth and happy memories.

Before you discard clothing that can be repaired try your hand at mending. If you first attempt is not perfect you haven’t destroyed something you were going to discard. It is not expensive to gather the supplies you require. Needles and thread from a Dollar store. And the mother-lode for material – a thrift shop. Scarves, men’s shirts and blouses give you enough usable material for patching. You don’t require a sewing machine – just your imagination,

C.S. LEWIS AND HOW TO PULL YOUR SELF TOGETHER IN THE TIME OF COVID

In 1948 C.S. Lewis wrote the following words.

“In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. ‘How are we to live in an atomic age?’ I am tempted to reply: ‘Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.’

In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors—anesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.

This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.”

A FRANK CONVERSATION WITH OSWALD GENTLEMAN RABBIT.

I woke this morning to a scattering of snow. Just enough to catch the heavy boughs of the cedar next to my patio. Just enough to catch and hold the footprints of Oswald Gentleman Rabbit. The cedar bush is Oswald’s burrow. Oswald was home and preparing for the Winter Solstice.

I dusted the drifted snow off the Victorian bed. It has become a favourite place for my friend Oswald to take the occasional naps. Oswald often joins me on this secluded patio. In the summertime it is a place to enjoy a glass of wine and good conversations. This morning it is steaming coffee and mince tarts.

“We were promised two billion trees. 8.5 million just isn’t good enough”. Oswald is no rabbit to mince words. “30 millions trees were to be planted this year. Do the math!” Oswald stomped back and forth aggravating the pristine snow . “Those horrific mud slides on the highways. People died. We rabbits couldn’t plant enough trees.”

Oswald tided his rumpled whiskers. Straightened his large rabbit ears. Calmed his ruffled fur. “Tomorrow all rabbits will celebrate the solstice. The war has just begun. We shall fight them on the hills . . .”

“Oswald, did you just quote Winston Churchill?”

“Well, yes. We were good friends. Those gardens at Chartwell – work of rabbits, of course.”

Dear friends, once again the story of the rabbits Winter Solstice party. Read it again and believe in miracles.

THE DOLL HOUSE WHO FOUND CHRISTMAS

Once upon a time. The best Christmas stories, with the happiest endings, always start with once upon a time.

Once upon a time there was a doll house. A doll house covered with forgetfulness. Empty of happiness. Forsaken and unloved. The doll house needed someone to care for it again. As this is a once upon a time story the house’s wish came true, not only at Christmas but every day of the year.

The doll house was not packed away with the Christmas decorations. It sat high and proud on its own table. A cow costume clad for Halloween welcomes you at the front door. Japanese pillow dolls dream the nights away. A benevolent Buddha stands watch. Everyone is welcome. It is lovely to revisit past Christmas stories. THE FORGOTTEN DOLL HOUSE is one of my favourites.

SURPRISED BY JOY . . . a Siberian cat becomes part of our life

It began with a phone call from a dear friend. Would we foster a senior cat until arrangements could be made? Her mother was ill and could no longer care for her beloved companion of eight years . We were happy to have a cat in our home once again.

Her name is Pepper. The biggest, most beautiful, magnificent and angriest of cats stepped our of her carrier into our dear, sweet home. This was her second foster home and we were told she could be difficult. Pepper was Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde reincarnated as a cat. By day she snarled and growled, scratched,slashed and bit and challenged anyone who dared to pat her. But at night she became a different cat and snuggled close to me. She purred, nuzzled into me and covered my fingers with cat kisses as I stroked her silky fur, and at night Pepper slept at the foot of my bed.

The weeks passed. She seemed to improve. She asked for more attention. But she couldn’t be trusted not to strike out at you. I Googled SIBERIAN CATS. We needed more information to help us understand Pepper. In the domestic cat world Siberian cats are considered the largest cat (18 to 22 pounds). The most intelligent of all domestic cats. They are cats that require stimulation, entertainment, play. They dislike being left alone for any length of time. They demand respect. They mature slowly remaining kitten like for five years and living up to 18 or 20 years. They enjoy being around people, children. dogs and other cats. They frequently mate for life. They are intensely loyal to their owners.

I had my answer. Pepper had been taken away from the person she loved. She was remaining loyal to her. In her foster home from necessity Pepper was left alone all day. She didn’t have an opportunity to bond and replace her loss. We asked Pepper’s owner that we become the forever people in her life.

It has been seven months of Pepper understanding us and we in turn understanding her. We know she requires respect. She doesn’t like to be disturbed when she is sleeping, and she doesn’t always want pats. She signals her wishes with a twitch of her ears or a turning of her head. We are very careful to be mindful of her and she in turns watches us. We are getting to know each other.

Pepper has become entertaining, loving and quite funny.. She likes to play and expects us to participate with her. She is respectful of us. She asks permission to sit on our laps or jump on my bed. Entering a room Pepper comes to each of us and acknowledges our presence. She is no longer angry. We believe she is happy. And I am so happy we did not give up on her. She has surprised us with joy.

CARROT-COCONUT SOUP . . . SIMPLY SUPERB

Every once in a while one encounters a recipe that completely captivates you. You find yourself thinking about it again an again. This soup recipe is all you can imagine and then more. You’ll find yourself savouring again the luxurious richness of each glorious spoonful. Enjoying the earthy flavour of the carrots. The lushness of the coconut milk. The ever enticing exotic flavour of red curry paste.

This recipe is respectfully easy to prepare. Even the shopping is simply. All the ingredients can be found in most supermarkets. Look for the coconut milk and the red curry paste in the Asian Foods Section. Add carrots, onions and chicken broth and you are good to go.

Of all the soups I make this is my number one favourite. This recipe is wonderful to serve to friends and family when you want something impressive, completely different and absolutely delicious. The recipe is beautifully spicy but you can easily adjust this by the amount of red curry paste you use. The recipe is easily adapted for vegetarians. Simply replace the chicken stock with vegetable stock. Join me in MR.BUTTERFINGERS kitchen for the recipe.

OLD FASHIONED MEYER LEMON NUT BREAD . . . hold summer in your hand.

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When you harvest fresh fruit from a Meyer lemon tree in the dark of winter you hold summer in your hand.   The fragrance of the blossoms.  The glossy leaves shining in the gray light.  Your fingers caressing the finely textured skin.  Then the heavenly taste of the juice –  at once sweet and sour.

You can do many wonderful things with these delicate lemons, but I was  yearning for something classic,  simple,  old fashioned.

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I have a cookbook that is a particular favorite.  I have been baking out of it for more than forty years.  A World Of Baking by Dolores Casella has provided me with dozens of quick and yeast bread recipes.  The ingredients are readily available.   The instructions are always brief.  It is expected you already know the basics of baking.

Meyer Lemon Nut Bread  has a fine crumb.  It’s rich tasting,  studded with walnuts and finished with lemon syrup.   When Meyer lemons are not available regular lemons are more than acceptable..  Be lavish with your lemon rind.  This old fashion recipe calls for just a teaspoon but I scrape every bit of rind from the lemons into the batter.

You’ll find the recipe in MRS. BUTTERFINGERS kitchen.