Friday, February 22, 2013

look ahead ..

hamamelis mollis 'pallida' ..

one of the things phil taught me when we were gardening together was to look ahead .. he didn't say "jane, you need to look ahead when you're gardening" .. it was far more subtle than that .. he showed me how to look ahead .. by example .. it's a bit ironic considering the short time he had left on the planet by the time i met him .. later .. after he passed away .. i realized that his ability to look ahead was exactly what makes this garden work so beautifully .. for instance, the witch hazel above was planted .. more than fifteen years ago when it was about three feet tall .. at that time it looked like a twiggy thing someone has plunked in the middle of the bed .. now it reaches out gracefully filling its alloted space .. happy ..

skimmia 'reevesiana' ..

before phil planted anything in his garden he thought a great deal about it .. he'd have an idea .. or be inspired somehow and he'd start gathering information from the select few gardening reference materials he kept within easy reach of his chair by the sliding glass doors .. these constant companions covered every aspect he was interested in as far as the creation and design of his garden was concerned .. 'winter blooming plants' .. 'shade loving' .. or 'shade tolerant plants' .. his favourite .. Taylor's Guide to Shade Gardening .. held a place of respect at the top of the pile .. The Gardener's Guide to Growing Hellebores and The Colour Dictionary of Garden Plants were also always close by .. pages of photocopied information from the Cyclamen Society on how to grow different cyclamen were tucked between the books .. a neighbour had brought them by thinking phil would find them  useful .. he did .. there were also several dog eared copies of seed catalogues .. some new .. some years out of date .. which came from nurseries as far away as heronswood in washington .. from fraser's thimble farm and the plant farm on saltspring island .. and from brentwood bay .. a lovely nursery not far from victoria's butchart gardens .. all appropriate to our general environment ..

vibirnum bodnantense 'dawn' ..

these 'bits and pieces' of gardening lore provided phil with the guidance he needed to make decisions about what would .. or could .. work in this garden .. there he'd sit .. poring over page after page for hours .. he'd scribble valuable tips and directions on scrap pieces of paper .. he'd mark pages and underline pertinent notations .. all of which eventually would be carefully culled and made into lists .. which he handed to me .. with instructions to 'bring home one of these or, three of those' .. i think the most of one plant i returned with was five .. five 4" pots of cyclamen .. a few weeks later i'd be sent after five more .. i learned .. again, later .. that phil knew with one .. or two .. or three of any plant he had access to hundreds .. and he wanted hundreds .. even if he wasn't going to be here to see it happen .. he knew they would spread .. or be spread accordingly around the garden .. over time .. especially cyclamen .. i think, in his mind's eye, he saw them happily scampering from one end of the garden to another .. and so we bought extra to help them along their way ..

cyclamen coum ..

hellebores were started from the seedlings spit out by the half a dozen 'mother' plants accummulated earlier in the garden's life .. i'd gather seedlings up with a trowel .. plant them in gallon pots .. and place them in the 'nursery' phil and i had created in the back yard .. i think at one point we had forty three gallon pots encircled by branches i'd found on the property .. these hellebores lived in their little nursery enclosure until we deemed them old enough to take their places in the garden .. this could take two or three years of growing in the pots, depending on the age of the seedling when they were gathered .. we didn't care, on the one hand, how long it took .. hellebores were also a favourite that we delightedly spread around the garden ..

helleborus orientalis .. 

all the decisions phil made created the garden that i continue to have the pleasure of caring for thirteen years later .. all the plants that were brought to this garden were placed according to their future potential size .. each and every plant we put into that soil was given the space it would need to flourish and grow .. in time .. over the  years i have had such pleasure watching those spaces fill in .. seeing plants that were once to so small .. or that had been placed seemingly so far apart .. gradually spread and grow into the space that phil gave them ..

since phil passed away .. and because i've been given the privilege of continued work in this garden over many years .. i've come to greatly appreciate this gift of spatial awareness he passed along to me .. as i walkabout the winter flowering shade garden i am able to look ahead .. and watch a dream unfolding in time and space ..

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