Ready … Set …

5 February 2018 – And, already, the occasional “Go!” Nature is bursting out from the starting gate, here in Vancouver.

“The witch-hazels are in bloom,” says the ticket-taker, as we enter VanDusen Botanical Garden. “All over the place.”

Indeed they are.

Tawny golden tassels everywhere we look, taking pride of place even though we are in the Rhododendron Walk. Not a spectacular tree, once the leaves take over, but, oh, just look at those blooms.

So loveable. Perhaps because they are such an early harbinger of spring?

The rhodos are not going to take a back seat much longer. All around, big, healthy shrubs, laden with fat buds.

That lot, still closed. Others, much closer to open. This Rhododendron Ririei (Great Bell), for example:

And the smallest species we happen to notice, the Rhododendron ledebourii, in full bloom.

These last two examples are native to Russia’s Altai Mountains and to Mongolia respectively. That may explain their jump-start in Nature’s great spring race.

Then there are sights that have nothing to do with spring. They are just part of what makes Vancouver such a visually striking Rain City.

Moss on bare branches …

and Hart’s Tongue fern gleaming by a mossy rock, in the Fern Dell.

We pass the Maze, guarded from on high by its huge Monkey Puzzle tree …

and a great gnarl of tree boll in a copse.

Finally, as we cross the little zigzag bridge over Livingstone Lake, another mossy tree branch, this one hanging green-angled over its black reflection in the lake below.

Then it’s a peaceful downhill walk to Max’s Deli & Bakery at Oak St. & West 16th Avenue.

Where I have …

oh, go ahead, take a wild guess …

Of course.

Humans, Birds, Food

We already knew, didn’t we, not to feed wild birds? Or we are at least now willing to take the BC SPCA warning seriously?

I was sufficiently taken by that message on the Granville Island ferry dock to include it in my previous post.

What it doesn’t point out is that — along with protecting the birds from our food — we must sometimes protect our food from the birds.

Presumably the Vancouver Art Gallery café grew tired of patrons stomping back inside, muttering rude things about feathered thieves.



Down the Garden Path

15 June 2015 – We’ve often holidayed in Picton / Prince Edward County, but this is the first time with friends. It is also, therefore, the first time with the advantage of additional resources of knowledge, curiosity & day-trip suggestions.

So I’m not showing you more of the County’s extraordinary porches & doorways (though I may yet). I am instead taking you where Chris & Susan took us: to SpindleTree Gardens. It is a 20-acre haven of gardens & architectural quirks about an hour’s drive north-east of Picton, created with love, skill & dogged persistence by Tom Brown & Susan Meisner.

I like visiting gardens, especially ones created by the sheer determination of obsessed individuals over time, and most especially ones that also include what I call ‘architectural quirks’ — old bits of stuff, the flotsam & jetsam of rural life, repurposed.

Like these welcoming pillars among the daisies & poppies & spotted willow next to the farmhouse.

garden nearest the tea room

I’m charmed, right off the bat. Well, I was already charmed, having heard tales from Chris & Susan, who are friends-of-friends of the owners. A preparatory coffee in the little tearoom & off we go, on a self-guiding tour. (Which we choose to do in reverse order, for reasons I now forget…)

Around a first corner, angling our way past the greenhouse conservatory with its gothic church-style windows & stained glass …

the greenhouse conservatory

and into the Pump & Circumplants [sic] garden. First I notice the spike guarding one corner of boxwood hedge …

in the Pump & Circumplants garden

and then the fallolloping spring flowers, happy in the sunshine, with one of the ponds glinting at us in the distance.

spring flowers in the Pump & Circumplants garden

Over the ponds …

bridge over two ponds

and after a bit up to to the Grande Allée of flowering black locust trees.

the Grande Allée

Probably a grander Allée when flowering, but I’m happy to admire the pattern of the brickwork path, and, even more wonderful, the pattern of the black locust tree’s bark.

black locust tree

Plus pods. Don’t forget the pods.

Poppies are at their best, exactly precisely right now. Leslie (another of our group) draws my attention to this one:

poppy next to the Grande Allée

And on down the Allée, and around another corner — and there’s the maze! I hadn’t expected one (not bothering to read my walk brochure), but it’s exactly the right thing to have, in such a garden, is it not?

the maze at SpindleTree Gardens

We each make it to the centre — guided occasionally by muttered “Oops” or “Yes!” from someone around the next bend — where we smack the fleur-de-lys pole to create audible proof of our success, before working our way out again.

There is a small pond just a bit farther on, covered in duck weed (or somesuch), except for the perfect oval of clear water created by the bubbler beneath.

small pond at SpindleTree

More happy plants, with (cross-reference to my previous post) what are surely happy rocks to keep them snug in their beds.

beds of peonies

Some native bleeding hearts, just as we round our way back to our starting point — all the more wonderful because, unlike hybrids, their bloom is so fleeting.

native bleeding heart

Some final found objects to bid us farewell. (“People see stuff here & bring him more stuff,” says Susan.) Some old sections of fence, maybe-perhaps, but just as likely to be sections of some old farm implement. Maybe-perhaps.

fence? farm implement?

And beavers.

ornamental garden post

At least I can recognize a beaver!




Instant Summer

6 March 2014 — Even a confirmed winter-lover eventually looks for signs of spring. I identify with neighbourhood cats  like this guy, peering out hopefully through the curtains, and still seeing only snow.

cat looking for spring

Phyllis and I are luckier than he is. The Tuesday Walking Society is on the march, out for a hit of instant summer.

Not by hopping on a south-bound plane, either, leaving a big old carbon footprint on the stratosphere. We’re just hopping down a street or two, leaving nothing but neat little bootprints in the snow.

Destination: Allan Gardens. (Here, with a glimpse of the striking “All My Relations” mural painted by First Nations artists to beautify the hoardings around a big water mains project that runs through one corner of the park.)

Allan Gardens, view from S/E

Politician & cultural leader George Allan donated the land to the city in 1858, and the site has been a botanical resource ever since. Today’s complex, built in 1910, provides 16,000 sq. ft. of  space in its various greenhouses — the Tropical House, the Cool House, the Cactus House and more, all clustered around the imposing central Palm Court.

dome of Palm Court, Allan Gardens

Everyone pauses here, partly in delight and awe at the soaring bamboos and banana plants, the Screw Pine, but also to adjust to the dramatic change in climate. We fumble with mitts, toques and zippers, hampered by the humidity that instantly mists our glasses.

Into the Tropical House…

intro Tropical House, Allan Gardens

Warmth, colour, and the pungent smell of earth and plants and growth. Great tangles of plants, such exuberance…

in Tropical House, Allan Gardens

Pathways through the room, long pauses to sniff and (gently) touch, read some labels, drink it all in.

Tropical House, Allan Gardens

Then push through another door, into the Cactus House. I’m so happy with the current state of this room. For a long time it seemed to contain particularly scarred and ancient veterans of the cactus and succulent world, but now, look, it’s a joy.

Cactus House Allan Gardens

A young couple enter the room along with us. They’re chattering to each other, I have my curmudgeonly moment of wishing they’d just (how shall I phrase this) shut up… and then… they do.

They sit side by side, compose their bodies, droop their eyelids, and begin to meditate.  Phyllis and I move quietly, speak softly.

Golden Barrel cacti

I knew the nickname Golden Barrel; I could not have reeled off the scientific name, Echinocactus grusonii; and I most assuredly could never have guessed that it in turn is derived from the Greek “echinos,” for hedgehog. I’ll think of them as Hedgehog cactus from now on.

Not just big, dramatic cacti to call our attention, but delicate tiny succulents as well. Equally sculptural, mind you.

succulent in Cactus House, Allan Gardens

And others, even tinier, tucked into a mossy wreath.

detail succulent wreath, Cactus House

“Sculptural,” I was saying. How about this?

succulent in Cactus House

Those arched, waving arms. I think of octopus tentacles .. and then, no, of ballerina arms. Yes! that’s a much better image.

We walk through the Cool House, with its waterfall, and citrus trees, and a pond. And — Phyllis nudges me, points down — turtles.

turtles in Cool House pond

Then it’s time to button up the coats, pull on mitts & toques, and head out again.

Past armloads of tulips and narcissus at the doorway, harbingers of spring.

spring bulbs, Allan Gardens

And back to winter.

tree in Allan Gardens park

But… isn’t it beautiful?


    "Traveller, there is no path. Paths are made by walking" -- Antonio Machado (1875-1939)

    "The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes" -- Marcel Proust (1871-1922)

    "A city is a language, a repository of possibilities, and walking is the act of speaking that language, of selecting from those possibilities" -- Rebecca Solnit, "Wanderlust: A History of Walking"

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