My garden was carved from the unlandscaped clay around our house. The house was in a great neighbourhood but the house itself was a blank palette, the ten year old walls still white with original paint primer. The yard was covered in pea gravel and slate by a previous owner that hated mowing, leaving no soil to turn, no grass to lay upon when one needs to lay down to watch the clouds pass by.
I’m not sure we understood how much sweat it takes to turn a graveled yard into a garden. My brother and his wife visited and we cleared gravel, creating the first flower bed, edged with the slate that had also been removed. Over the next six years, we worked steadily but slowly. Jay cleared a sick poplar tree, and we brought in soil and sod. We wanted a tree for birds, and the excitement of the anticipation of flowering perennials every year. The pear tree was brought in through the narrow walkway with the help of our neighbours, and it has delighted the local birds (and the squirrels!). Note: Ure Pear trees have very long, very pointy thorns. Our neighbours have forgiven us for their injuries, we hope.
Our large composter came from friends that no longer wanted it, so I placed in a sunny part of the yard, and a neighbour supplied a bucket of his warm bacteria-loving compost to help kickstart mine. We love lilies and roses, and we prefer both rooted into the ground rather than cut and dying in a vase, so we began to scrounge for varieties that might survive. Jay’s Alberta Wild Rose greets our visitors at the front door, while my Hope for Humanity red roses greet those on our deck. The asiatic lilies are in every little nook, and we host Saskatchewan’s flower, Tiger Lily, to remind us of our prairie roots. I also desired to have parts of my garden host to my mother’s daisies, my grandmother’s columbines, my uncles’ poppies, and so many more. I wanted to look around at the garden and see everyone that we love in each bud and bit of greenery. The plans evolved year after year as I discovered that many of the plants that I love do not love the Alberta climate.
The photo above is one of the first plants to bloom in my yard every year, a Lily of the Valley that my friend Teri and I dug out from her yard during her last summer in Calgary. She was needed by her family Far Away, and she needed to leave. Every spring, she may be 4500 km away but she is also here, in our garden reminding me of love and friendship.
Karin’s Irises have just blossomed as well, surprising me this year with their early start. Karin is kind, laid back, and always ready to visit. Our neighbourhood brought us a home, a garden, and also new friends that we treasure. Her irises bloom and I’m reminded of “The Village” that we have here now, caring for each other’s children, gardens, and each other.
Walking through the garden to get to my studio often leads to a few minutes of trimming, tacking, or simply enjoying the changes to our little ecosystem. It’s my inspiration during the dusky evenings, and I long for the blooms throughout the cold winter. As the familiar blooms emerge, I’ll share them here.