From the garden...

A Garden Story…

This is how it all happened!  As we had no travel plans for this summer we thought we would put some energy into having a small garden plot.  As always, I went to the library.  I found this amazing book:


I’m a sucker for the revolutionary way to do anything, and when I read that the author had been an efficiency expert in his corporate pre-gardening life I was smitten.  The book has tons of great information – I highly recommend it.  I thought we would start with a simple 2×8 box, but Mr.Martini doesn’t do things by halves, and so we ended up with something more magnificent…


This is exactly why I had children – many hands make light work!


This is exactly why my father-in-law wishes he never had children – having a son has earned him a crazy daughter-in-law who finds endless tasks for him in his “retirement”! (He secretly loves it. It gives him great ammunition for his daily rants.)


After digging out our spot and laying down landscape fabric we built an 8×8 frame using two layers of 8 foot long 2×6 planks.

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We filled the frame with four yards of garden soil (compost, sand, dirt mixture) from the garden centre.  Thank goodness Zio has a utility trailer – that would have been many trips otherwise!


Thank goodness for many hands, and for a beautiful evening to rest and appreciate our labours thus far!


Our flower garden was humming along on it’s own this spring with lupins…






…and the very first poppy of the season…


…plus cosmos, some snapdragons…


…and African daisies…


…so we continued to concentrate our efforts on creating a home for the veggies.  Our giant plot would be too big to maintain from the edges so we built a plank bridge right down the middle, creating two separate sections with 3×7 grids.

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The real square-foot gardening method involves a grid plan where the number of plants is calculated by how much growing space it needs and therefore how many seedlings could grow in each square.  We drew ourselves a map to remember what was where, and over the growing season we have referred to it many times – it is surprisingly easy to forget which is red cabbage and which is savoy or how many butternut squash we actually planted when they are all growing enormously large and every which way!  In the beginning they were so tiny, but filled with promise…  Starting in mid-June we had hot weather, day after day, and so we continued to water the veggie patch faithfully.


In the meantime, the flowers continued to grow in spite of our neglect, and made a happy home for birds and bees and ladybugs…

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As we tended the baby plants they continued to grow.  In preparation for the rain that we expect eventually here in the temperate rainforest of the north west Mr. Martini built a support for the shelter we would need…


The little plants loved the sun and heat that kept on coming, and so we watered every day.

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Meanwhile, the poppies continued to bloom…


…followed by the peonies…


…and the ever-present foxgloves…


…and the kiwi flowers came in abundance…


One morning, while leaving for work, our entire family stopped in amazement to see a hummingbird hanging out in our front garden… I knew I let the yucca grow there for a reason!



Then the biggest surprise of the summer so far: our female kiwi tree, covered in more blossoms than ever before (in spite of our constant neglect, and with no male kiwi in sight) began to make actual kiwis.  Amazing!

 Then the absolute best part of having a garden began – those little plants that we had nurtured and watered (and sung to – thanks Miss G.) were ready to be harvested!  None of my hobbies are more satisfying than growing my own food; it creates a great sense of pride and fulfillment to know we can do it.  (Really, the food grows itself!  But I’ll take some credit when I can.)

First came spinach…

  …followed quickly by the broccoli and the early tomatoes…


…then the savoy cabbage which was very popular as a bug hotel.  Lots of washing required…

The beets are not quite ready, but some of them are getting close!

We have more cucumbers and zucchini than we know what to do with.  Today I found a cookbook at the library with six zucchini recipes.  Phew!


There are so many spaghetti squash as well – this first one I picked from our garden weighs over 9 pounds (about the same as G.Jr. when he was born!)

We are still waiting for the peppers, the pumpkins (started at preschool from seeds!) and the butternut squash.  Also, we optimistically planted a cantaloupe… maybe this will be the summer that we actually get one!  As for the little square-foot garden – well it sure has grown.  And we still have two months to go!  If the vines start coming in the house windows we might worry…

From the garden...

How Does Your Garden Grow? (Volume 2)

After a long winter we are just now venturing out into our much neglected garden…  The greatest thing about it is that the garden grows in spite of us!  Each little spot of green is a moment of hope for the new season…

My mom has always loved her garden – I have great memories of her trucking in dirt and digging up holes – but I never knew the joy of the garden until Mr.Martini and I bought a house with a large yard and began to plant our own.  We have been at it for well over a decade already, and still somedays I look out and wonder when we will ever be close to filling up the space.  Patience, the garden whispers.

“A garden is a grand teacher.  It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift; above all it teaches entire trust.” (Gertrude Jekyll)

Plant by plant the garden starts to grow into the light.  First there were the snowdrops…


…and then came the crocuses…


“First a howling blizzard woke us,
Then the rain came down to soak us,
And now before the eye can focus —
Crocus.” (Lilja Rogers)

Next came the daffodils…


…followed by flower after flower in a tumbling symphony of colour and light.

“Spring makes its own statement, so loud and clear that the gardener seems to be only one of the instruments, not the composer.” (Geoffrey B. Charlesworth)






“Everything is blooming most recklessly; if it were voices instead of colors, there would be an unbelievable shrieking into the heart of the night.” (Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters of Rainer Maria Rilke)




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“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.” (Anne Bradstreet)



“Every spring is the only spring — a perpetual astonishment.” (Ellis Peters)







…and gorgeous double cherry blossoms (hand grafted to wild cherry stock by Nonno – the garden whisperer…)


“April is a promise that May is bound to keep.” (Hal Borland)

…and my favourite (of course!)… the tulips:

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The way the dirt smells, the way the wind blows, the way the garden creatures begin their scrambling explorations of the  hidden garden places… all these things inspire me and remind me that the garden grows green and new each spring – and so can we.  (Patience!)

“Hope is a roving gypsy
With laughter on her tongue,
And the blue sky and sunshine
Alone, can keep her young;
And year by year she lingers
Under a budding tree…”
(Dora Read Goodale, “The Chorus,” in Country Life in America: A Magazine for the Home-maker, the Vacation-seeker, the Gardener, the Farmer, the Nature-teacher, the Naturalist, April 1902)

From the garden...

Stopping to Smell the Roses…

A new work week is only hours away – it promises to be action-packed as usual. Thank goodness we had some time today to stop and appreciate the almost-summer around us…

…particularly, the roses!








Today we saw our first backyard butterfly, times two! They were twirling around and playing tag in and around the garden. So much fun to watch! There are a few other flowers here and there to catch the eye of a butterfly…


The irises…




The dahlias…


The African daisies…

We are so lucky to have the space to “garden”. We have learned so much along the way about what works in nature, and about ourselves…

While I’m on the subject of gardening… at the grocery store this morning we found a treasure in the bargain books bin:


I remember finding this in the bookstore a few years ago (it was published in 2009) and adding it to my “list” but somehow it never made it home. I was thrilled to find it again today… It is as meaningful as ever. A little boy lives in a city that looks like this:


…becomes inspired by a tiny dwindling garden, and finds his city turns into this:


Not everyone will make a large difference, but every little difference is made by someone. Maybe, this week, it will be me. Until then, I am going back out to my garden!




Prayer in a Garden…
“Today the world seemed cruel, but evening hours
Were filled with perfume from forgotten flowers.
I saw again familiar filigree
Of moonlight through my lacy Lilac tree;
I heard the robins stirring in their nest;
And saw the path that fairy feet had pressed;
Reflected stars were in my garden pool;
On my warm face the breeze was kind and cool.
The silence seemed to speak, my head was bowed,
Then ramblers that had grown into a cloud
Lifted my eyes that, tear-washed, now could see
The beauty that today was lost to me.
Dear god, who is so near to flowers, and birds,
Be nearer still, as I shall search for words
To thank Thee for the blessings night revealed,
Which through the day discouragement concealed.”(Eva Sparks Taylor)

From the garden...

Planting the Seeds

I have been having a wonderful week. The sun is shining, the garden is growing, and I have been completely charmed by one small child after another during the pre-kindergarten assessments. Being a teacher has many challenges, set-backs, frustrations and disappointments, but all of those things disappear in the moments of joyful learning that we share!

This quote came up on my calendar last week, and was echoed beautifully in an email from a mentor teacher that I received today:

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.”

A lot of teaching is about planting seeds. We may never see them flower, or even sprout, but the joy can be in the planting.







Isn’t it coming along beautifully? Gardening, for me, is as gleefully fun as working with children full of enthusiasm. Here is my favourite poem on the subject… I’ve shared it before, but you can never have too much Emily Dickinson!

“If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.”
(Emily Dickinson)

It’s all about the helping. It’s all about the small gestures. It’s all about the…planting seeds.







(I was thrilled to discover that I have four different colours of lilacs growing!) Here is my favourite garden moment today:


(Every yard needs a tractor.)

We are looking forward to spending our long weekend in the garden. (Waging war on dandelions and buttercups- they are taking advantage of our patient nature!) One seed at a time, we are planting a new tomorrow…

From the garden...

How Does Your Garden Grow?

I have always found gardens beautiful and restorative places to visit, but I didn’t know how much I would love gardening until I owned a little piece of land with no garden at all. Mr Martini and I bought our house together just eighteen days after our wedding in very late fall and began to work in the garden the following spring – the large empty space called out desperately for plants.


My mother has always been a gardener but I never had cause to pick up a shovel until I had a garden of my own. When faced with so much space and no garden at all, I threw myself into the challenge of learning something new.


Being a book person, I started at the library. My love of words made the discovery of Latin plant words thrilling. I repeated their names like little poems to myself as I wandered the aisles at garden centres from one end of my city to the other. I still say them like chanted prayers as I dig them into the dirt and wish them well as they grow. (If it wasn’t for Mr. Martini, my first born may very well have been named Strelitzia, but that’s a story for another day.)


I learned a lot from my mother and father-in-law. They are both gifted plant people. My mother-in-law has been known to transport seeds thousands of kilometres in a sock for safe keeping; my father-in-law is a master grafter, once growing five kinds of apples on just one tree. They found my ignorance about the plant world they know so well to be a little bit amusing, but my curiosity and enthusiasm have almost won them over, and they have been generous with both advice and with plants over the years, so that my little garden has flourished into a wild and overgrown refuge for people an animals too – just the way I like it.


Do not think this means I am good at gardening. Just gleeful about it. The best part is the sheer joy that digging, planting, weeding and pruning can bring. I have found myself filthy, scratched, sweating and exhausted but grinning from ear to ear! The satisfied happy feeling of making/tending a garden is a gift in my life, and I am happy to share it with my own children. Playing in the dirt is now enjoyed by three generations of our family, and we are all the better for it!



(Dicentra – Bleeding Hearts)

(Antirrhinum – Snap Dragons)

(Aquilegia – Columbine)

(Helleborus – Lenten Rose)

A trip to the green house is a whole day affair.  So many plants, so hard to choose! This is what we came home with today:

Early girl tomatoes, hot peppers, snap dragons, basil, strawberries, cosmos and heliotrope (because nothing smells better on a summer evening patio…). Pumpkins and zinnias were not ready – maybe next week. Now it’s time to excavate the shovels from their winter storage and dig in…


My children love to “help” in the garden. Making something grow is incredibly satisfying!

The words of the garden are a natural choice for poetic use… Thinking about poetry month – the Latin variety lends itself easily to an alphabet poem. Children love this style of poetry because the structure is concrete and simple to follow; the lines themselves can be as simple or complex as the writer would like.

Aquilegia, Buddleia, Cosmos, Dicentra, Echinops, Fritillaria, Geranium, Helianthemum, Impatiens, Jovibarba, Knautia, Lonicera, Muscari, Narcissus, Oenothera, Papaver, Quince, Ranunculus, Salvia, Trifolium, Utricularia, Veronica, Weigela, Xanthium, Yucca, Zinnia…

I hope your week is full of life and growth and inspiration. If nothing else works, get your hands dirty!

From the garden...

Spring Fever

The first crocus of Spring! After all the snow and rain and weather of late winter it is a sudden joyful shock to see the resilient bulbs of spring opening faithfully to the promise of sunshine.

I caught this spot of violet crocus poking through the winter debris in my front garden on the weekend – it inspired a search for glimpses of spring to tide me over until the real thing comes to life all around us!



We pulled the winter greens and holly out of the planters and stuck in pussy willow and forsythia instead.

The first bee of the season – just basking in the sun to warm up like the rest of us…





” I thank you god for this most amazing day; for the leaping greenly spirits of trees and a blue true dream of sky: and for everything which is natural which is infinite which is yes.” ee Cummings






“It’s spring fever… You don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so. ” (Mark Twain)