I’m not wearing a white lab coat with radioactive badges. It’s a man’s shirt. The collar is up and so are the sleeves. My gardening trousers developed a left knee problem, so now I have a blue patch in the space where my knee came through. I will not even describe my hands. They must go into hiding when I have company.
Now for my report. No sign of frogs in the water garden. Usually I have around 200. The large toads are not evident and neither is their spawn. Tree swallows did not return, nor the bluebirds. But I have one success, the wrens have returned . Their song lifts the heart.
Another success, the tulip tree, Liriodendron tulipifera, has produced seedlings. These young trees have important germ plasm. The endangered cucumber tree, Magnolia acuminata, is coming into flower. The sight fills me with awe. The flowers are a kind of dove grey with splashes of yellow. They are enclosed in a brown hairy bract which falls off to reveal the upright blooms. I will admit I had a short conversation with the tree. I told it that it, “…was beautiful and to keep up the good work…”
The kingnuts, Carya laciniosa, are stretching up to the sky. And I noticed yet another new botanical fact. The angle of the apical, or top, winter bud is always at a cant of about 30̊ to the stem. It was something I had observed, but all of a sudden, yesterday, looking at these trees, I realized the importance of my observation. This angle of growth ensures that the canopy has a maximum spread to harvest the sun. this means that the nutmeats will have a high essential fatty acid content and the tree’s harvest (plus mine) will be successful.
The vegetable garden is almost in. The parsley, basil and a few other tidbits yet to go. Christian gets possessive about the beans, somehow they must be a man’s food…and all of them are in, the ancient species and the new. We create our own crosses from the rare ‘Painted Lady’ and now we have some very interesting beans planted around the bean castle. This structure is to harvest the beans and to ensure that the humming birds have a royal retreat.
The main fragrance border and the medicine walk got decimated by the mice, voles and other rodents during the winter. An ice sheet developed from melting snow before Christmas and cut off the food supply above ground. Consequently a banquet was had by all. The bulbs, the cambial bark of the fruit trees, some perennials like Siberian iris and clematis were all eaten. In addition, many fruit trees in the orchard exhibit a kind of slow growth stress after this long winter. But the Hogge Pears that I bred to withstand the extremes of climate change, look good. They seem to have an internal adaptability to the solar clock in their makeup which is tied to hardiness.
I have also some interesting results from an apple experiment. I grow late apples to dodge the early spring diseases. One lot I subjected to Phytophthora fungi. This is a plant pathogen which is naturally occurring, but is increasing in its strength with global warming. From my experiment I have selected resistant strains of apples. These small seedling trees will be ready for planting out into the research orchard in the spring of 2015. Some will go to Hidden Harvest, to Katerina Siks for planting in the City of Ottawa. The food will be for everyone.
I have not had a spring open to me in years. I’m either editing to a deadline for publication or traveling for cloning the global forests or lecturing or something else. So I’m delighted to be able to push the wheelbarrow about and use my shovel. Mind you, I do keep an ear open for Jeff McKay, my director, who is slaving away editing and generally painting a picture with film. Soon I know I will get a call and I will have to attend to business. In the meantime I’m enjoying the glory of gardening. And I can hear Christian chopping vegetables in the kitchen. He will make a Chinese dish of marinated pork with black bean sauce and bok choy; it always tastes better than mine!
A relaxing evening unfolds in front of me to the tune of the whip-poor-will out on the edge of the flagstones of the water garden. I am always grateful for this powerful evensong.