Garden Journal

Entries in Summer (6)


Theme & Variations

The theme, which I started in a previous post, is a day in a country garden; the variations are minor: on this visit, I read more and walked less -- it was too hot for physical movement beyond turning the page. Normally on a long weekend I'd welcome the sunshine, but this year I would have been thrilled with a heavy downpour. Many forest fires are burning in the province today. My thoughts and prayers are with the evacuees and the fire-fighters.

You might sense my niggling feeling of unease behind some of the photos. The summer has been too hot and dry and concerns about climate change temper my happiness about the kitchen garden harvest.


"Winter" and lavender greet me as I pull into my mom's driveway.

"Gardening at the Dragon's Gate"

"Gardening at the Dragon's Gate", THE book on my summer reading list. Make that life-enriching reading list.

Persian Baby Cucumber 'Green Fingers'

Cool as a cucumber in the shade: 'Green Fingers', a Persian Baby Cucumber suitable for containers. We let it grow to more than 15 cm (6 inches) before munching its chilled, crisp, crunchiness yesterday. Very refreshing.

Summer harvest

A small summer harvest -- I'll be consulting my food network (you know who you are) on how to make the most of the flavour and freshness.

Heirloom Sweet Pea 'Cupani's Original'

Heirloom Sweet Pea 'Cupani's Original'
"An especially strong blooming strain of the first cultivated sweet pea. Perfumed, heat-tolerant and beautifully bi-colored in deep maroon-purple and orchid-violet" (Source: Renee's Garden Seeds)

Almost dusk

Almost dusk. I wish I could say this is a completely smog-free sunset but I'm not sure.

I don't want to end this post on a low note. Despite immediate and long-term concerns threats on my mind this BC Day long weekend, I'm still grateful for the beauty, bounty and life's lessons Nature provides in exchange for a little bit of sowing, watering, feeding and TLC.


22 Hours in A Country Garden

Subtract eight hours for restful sleep & you're left with 14 glorious hours to see, hear, touch, smell, taste & simply absorb all kinds of beauty & goodness.

IMG_4563 IMG_4677IMG_4526IMG_4617   IMG_4589 Calendula officinalis 'Flashback' - yellow Calendula officinalis 'Flashback' - apricot

Images (top to bottom):
1. View north from the balcony: neighbouring farm, mountains, sky -- heaven.
2. The tenant in the balcony birdhouse. 
3. A butterfly thermometer -- earlier in the day the dial was past 90 (degrees F). 
4. Antique 'Cupani's Original' Sweet Peas.  5. First harvest of sugar snap peas.
6. Yellow 'Flashback' Calendula. 7. Apricot 'Flashback' Calendula.

It's now midweek, I'm back at work, & already planning the next visit to my favourite bed & breakfast, which I'm determined to stretch to at least 44 hours  -- there's a long weekend coming up soon.

Do you have a country garden or do you visit one regularly? Please share your stories & links to images in the comments.


Calendula officinalis 'Flashback'

Calendula officinalis 'Flashback'

'Flashback' basks in the early morning sun.

Calendula officinalis 'Flashback' #3

Shades of Firefox

Pot marigolds on my balcony? Orangey-yellowy flowers of any kind? Never and not likely used to be my responses. And I probably turned up my nose, too. Then last year I saw Gayla's gorgeous photos and knew I wanted a 'Flashback' glow in my 2009 garden.

Calendula officinalis 'Flashback'_4315

Softer, later, smaller -- the calendulas blooming this week on my balcony.

And then everything goes bee,
sun exploding into green,
the mad sky dive
through shards of diamond light,
earth veering left, then right,
then left, sweet scented,
the honing in,
the buzz,
the yes no dance,
the quantum leap into
open swoon of calendula,
yellow orange delphinium starflower,
ultraviolet milkweed forget-me-not,
caress of corolla carpel calyx....

(Di Brant, from “Interspecies Communication” in Now You Care. I found this poem in "Five Canadian Women Eco-Poets" on Harriet, the Poetry Foundation's blog.


Growing Notes:

  1. Sowed seeds on April 19th. (This was late -- Calendulas bloom best in cool weather so I should have sowed them earlier, ideally in March.)
  2. First seedlings appeared about a week later.
  3. Seedlings grew indoors on a sunny windowsill until mid-May.
  4. On the May long weekend (16th-18th), I transplanted 12 calendula into three large (22- & 24- inch or 56 to 61 centimetre) containers with one established plant from the previous year -- a green Pennisetum or 'Black Beauty' heuchera. (I'm still looking for a third plant -- preferably one that trails. Any suggestions?)
    Calendula officinalis 'Flashback'_4350
  5. My mom's calendulas (top two photos), which get sunlight from dawn to dusk, started blooming about June 24th, 66 days after sowing.
  6. My calendulas are in a hanging basket at the front of my balcony and are about 2 weeks behind Mom's, likely because they get less sunlight. The first blossom opened on July 9th, 81 days after sowing.

Calendula officinalis 'Flashback'_4313 Calendula officinalis 'Flashback'_4355_2


Resources on Calendula officinalis:


Now I'm wondering:  Have you ventured to new regions of the colour spectrum this season, either with plants or pots or both? And what plants ("thrills", "fills" or "spills'), if any, would you combine with calendula in a container?


Sunday morning on the balcony

 Squeezed in between the pots...


...we spent half the morning doing mundane gardening tasks: watering, tying tomatoes, squishing aphids, dead-heading spent blossoms, emptying the containers of bolted lettuce, sifting old soil and moving pots either to follow or avoid the sun, depending on the plants' preferences.

And we spent half the morning -- ok, more -- just observing:

Nasturtium, 'Cherries Jubilee'

Nasturtium, 'Cherries Jubilee'

Nasturtium, 'Cherries Jubilee'

Nasturtium, 'Cherries Jubilee'

Eggplant flower buds

Eggplant, 'Millionaire', flower buds

Teeny tiny cucumbers

Persian baby cucumbers, 'Green Fingers'

Cherry Tomatoes, 'Sungold', 'Sweetgold' or 'Supersweet'

Cherry Tomatoes, 'Sungold', 'Sweetgold' or 'Supersweet' (I lost the tag)

Cherry Tomatoes, 'Sungold', 'Sweetgold' or 'Supersweet' (I lost the marker!)

If only tomato leaves were edible.  I do love the scent they release when you brush them with your fingertips.

Before Piper & before my camera, I did not take time to observe -- it was just work, work, work, and no play.

How did you enjoy your garden  -- and I hope you did -- this weekend? How do you make sure you take a well-deserved break, even for just a few minutes, from the work that is never done. Like me, do you find it hard to ignore the messy bits -- the parts of your garden that never appear in photos?


Sweet Peas for the Balcony Garden

I spent a little more time with my sweet peas & this post today so I've republished it with some minor changes.

 Sweet Pea, 'Color Palette Cupid'_4167

Anticipation -- The sweet peas are blooming

Sweet pea appreciation -- a necessary respite today yesterday after spending my lunch hour running errands on foot in the urban milieu of heat, dust, rush, noise, exhaust fumes and traffic congestion. When I got home, I dropped the groceries and mail on the hallway floor, kissed the top of Piper's head, and then headed out to the balcony for sweet {pea} relief.

I have an embarrassing confession to make, though. Two weeks ago I considered pulling out the still unblooming sweet peas. In a brief, insane moment when I thought I was being practical and rational, I deemed them dispensable luxury plants taking up valuable real estate that could be used for tomatoes and cucumbers. (I did not get a community garden plot so I'm even more space-challenged than usual.) Thankfully, my sober second thought was to remind myself the garden is also for the "eye and heart" (1).

Maybe planting sweet peas hasn't been the most practical gardening decision I've made this season, but I have no regrets. And I mentally cringe to think what I'd have missed if I'd pulled them out.

In the rest of this post I'm going to share my gardening notes and favourite sweet pea resources.

Sweet Pea, 'Heirloom Cupid'_4183

Growing notes

  1. Why grow sweet peas?
    #1. For beauty (the eye reason) -- I love the colours, scent and butterfly-like shape (2) of Lathyrus odoratus blooms.
    #2. To connect with the past (the heart reason) --  My mom grew glorious sweet peas along the east side of our Manitoba home and they were the background for many Kodak moments.
  2. Seeds: Renee's Garden Seeds, two varieties: 'Heirloom Cupid' & 'Color Palette Cupid'.
  3. Indoor sowing date: April 1st after overnight soaking in room-temperature water.
  4. Germination: First seedlings appeared on April 11th.
  5. Transplanted outdoors to 25cm (10-inch) glazed ceramic pots (3) in late April. Spacing: 4 plants per container at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o-clock positions. Here's a seedling 33 days after sowing.
  6. Soil: the usual organic potting soil mix amended generously with vermicompost.
  7. Location: balcony's south-west side, front corner. The walls on the east and sides and the overhanging roof limit the amount of direct sunlight to about 4 to 5 hours from April through early July. I've been putting the pots in partial shade at mid-day this past week as it's been very hot.
  8. First blossom: the first flower, a pink 'Heirloom Cupid', bloomed on June 29th. I see plenty of buds this afternoon so I'm hoping for a cascading display of pink flowers.
  9. Scent: Well, this has to be experienced first-hand and nose-first. I simply don't have words to convey the fragrance -- think soft, sweet, fresh. If the colour pink had an aroma, this would be it.

Sweet Pea, 'Color Palette Cupid'_4176


The Sweet Pea Book by Graham Rice. The Google Books preview includes excerpts on dwarf sweet peas (page 27) and growing sweet peas in containers (page 31).

Renee's Garden Seeds articles:


If you aren't too busy in your own gardens, I'd love to hear about your sweet pea memories and experiences. Which varieties are you growing this year, either in the ground or containers? Which ones have you found to be most heat-tolerant?



(1) "Flower treasures for the eye & heart" is the phrase on Renee's Garden flower seed packages.

(2) See Brian's Johnston's excellent online article "A Close-up View of the Wildflower Sweet Pea" (Lathyrus latifolia) for photos and a description of the perennial sweet pea's structure. It is cousin to the annual sweet pea, Lathyrus odoratus.