Monday, April 24, 2017

The Garden as Book: Turning the Pages of My New Urban Terrace

I love the way the weather has blasted a rust stencil into the old Doukhobor church bench I picked up years ago to celebrate having successfully passed my doctoral comprehensives. The stencil itself was bought about the same time -- I think it was intended to be hung in a garden, but instead I had it on a kitchen wall in our island home, so this is the first winter it's revealed its inherent dynamism of decay. . . Not sure what I'll do about this going forward, but for now I quite like the effect....

When we moved into our new urban condo last fall, my sadness at having left my island garden behind was somewhat assuaged by my pleasure in our city oasis, the fountain tinkling its liquid camouflage over the sounds of traffic at the busy intersection just a block away, the lush foliage and bright colours of late summer soothing our two-moves-in-one-summer jangled nerves. The garden had played a large part in convincing us to buy the condo, and although we only had a few weeks before leaving for three months in Europe, we went out that first week and bought a decent sectional -- enough to seat four or five, cosily, and a big coffee table.

We also bought weather covers, of course. We're not naive, and we were too busy, then ill, then busy, December, January, and into February, even to think about taking the covers off to sit on the terrace. But by March, after a relatively cold and miserable winter, we began anticipating an afternoon in the weak but welcome spring sunshine, albeit with a fleece blanket to cut the chill. March, however, was the rainiest March Vancouver's seen since before I was born, I believe (and that's saying something, given our situation here in what used to be a Temperate Rain Forest).

Impatient, disappointed, even occasionally disconsolate . . . . we comforted ourselves with some urban terrace bird-watching and with little forays to see what might be poking out of the ground and trying to remember what perennials must be waiting to emerge in which containers and what leaves might appear on the bare branches of shrubs we couldn't yet identify.

I posted a few photos of the shoots and blooms and the leaves just barely, grudgingly, ever-so-slowly releasing outwards from their tightly folded positions against the branches they were expected to fling themselves away from, towards the sun when it eventually made closer, longer arcs above us all. . .

And on one of those postings, a sweet friend commented that it "will be so fun watching that garden unfold like an unread book." I love this analogy! In fact, my first thought was that I should have started at the beginning of the year, or even the beginning of our life here, to write what I was reading in that book. I should have begun one of those garden journals and kept track of when the hostas first poked green snouts through their container's soil, and how many of the crocuses were blind and how many bloomed, and how long the Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes kept hanging on the plants.
 The truth is, though, that there are already too many "shoulds" in the world, aren't there, and perhaps I was simply browsing that book until I was ready to sit and read it. Almost there now 'though,  and I'm going to try to post a Garden Observation and Progress Report every week or two. I'd love to get 'round to keeping an Illustrated Garden Journal as well, but let's be realistic!

Next Garden Post, then, I'm going to try a very quick inventory of the plants, shrubs, and trees the former owners left for us, and I'll tell you about a rather significant concern we have going forward as we assess the conditions of our Rooftop/Terrace Garden (hint: that crane in the background might give you an idea). Until then, though, perhaps you'd like to tell me what you know -- or would like to know -- about gardening on a terrace in a city condo. Or about big changes you've made, voluntarily or otherwise, in your gardening life. I know that some of you may not be interested in gardening at all, but I hope that you'll continue to find enough else of worth here that you might tolerate the occasional garden chat among the rest of us.

And for those with scant interest in gardening, I've got permission to share a few photos of my daughter as a beautiful bride, so that's next up here. . . .


18 comments:

  1. I'm fascinated by your terrace garden. That fountain! I'm not sure which way you are facing, but is your concern with the new building the shade it will cast? This crosses my mind from time to time as I live in an older neighbourhood where new homes are now replacing the old...they are so tall, and big for the lots...that solid shade...no point stewing over it in advance though.

    May I ask about the weight issues for a terrace garden? Does the condo board (is strata the word where you are?) communicate requirements to you? How do you know the weight of what's already there, and of what you might add?

    Bring on the gardening posts! (Although weddings are good as well :)) We had a taste of summer last week, but it is going to snow today...10 cm. Ugh. It won't last long as temps are above freezing but it is dreary.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, we wonder how much shade that building will cast, whether the plantings will have to change, whether we'll still have spots that have at least a half day of full sun (we face west).
      We're still trying to figure out what the weight issues are here. The strata has a handbook, but it doesn't address our unit which is one of a small percentage of the units. Our terrace is actually a rooftop -- it's not cantilevered or extended in any way from the building, and apparently the previous owners (and he was an engineer) checked during the construction process and were told the fountain was no problem at all. We're requesting more information from strata council and building management before adding much more, but across from us is a terrace with a 12-15-foot magnolia. . . I hope your snow's gone by now, almost (my niece is in Northern Interior BC and they made a brilliant Snow Bunny for Easter with their fresh snowfall.

      Delete
  2. I'm looking forward to seeing your garden reveal itself during the seasons.
    I can relate to this post on so many levels. After 40 years in one profession, unexpectedly I left my career last week due to unforeseen health reasons, just when I thought I had all of those issues under control. With medical support I expect to be back in the saddle in a few months time, full of vigour and vitality, but what about now? Like you, it will be my garden - my green meditation - on which I will lavish my spare time because I haven't given it the attention it deserves.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm so sorry to hear this, Elizabeth. What a setback! But yes, green meditation is probably going to be your best antidote, and I hope you're able to enjoy the unchosen opportunity as a gift....

      Delete
  3. I am interested in gardening posts about your beautiful terrace-although I'm horrible,ignorant gardener-shame on me- (and the only thing I could maybe keep alive is your fountain).
    Georgia's questions sound very wise to me (and the part about tall buildings and shade as well)
    Dottoressa

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha! I bet you've got a very green Fountain Thumb ;-)

      Delete
  4. I love this topic! I haven't had a terrace up high but I have had a small garden in a colder climate. Maybe they're not as different as you'd think. The smaller space is a delight in its own way and I'm not just saying that! If you put me in 2 gorgeous gardens and one is big and the other small, 8 times out of 10 I prefer the smaller one. You have to be more creative in a small space - particularly a terasse. It's so easy to overdo or to try to get big when really simplicity is where it's at. And lighting! I also think this project is like an unread book. But it's also a way for you to express your artistry. Who will you become as a gardener? Will this space reflect yours and your husband's styles? Or are you the creative boss and he's the happy follower?

    Gardening is the perfect merging of ground (and everything it symbolizes) and the heady joy of design.

    I'm going through the ultimate garden change right now, of course, because it has been killed (for the most part) by construction. It's very sad, in some ways. That space was very beautiful in my estimation but my landscaper actually got me through it. (Note - she and I are a team as far as gardening goes but the vision is mine.) She said: When a plant dies, you plant a new one. You take a moment, say goodbye with gratitude and find a new green thing to commune with. (See - we lose lots of plants in this climate so she has a hard won perspective on it.) So I may not have my old friends (and they were dear, dear plants) but there are new ones that will be as beautiful in some ways, more beautiful in others. They'll be the canvas of my next years. And I'll get to plan a new design and learn about new flowers. So I guess that's my (endless) take!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love your landscaper's attitude! I've always been impatient with people who deliberate overly long on introducing a potentially delicate plant that they really love. Even if it dies in a couple of years, the price, amortised over that period, is generally low for the enjoyment I'd get from it (just wait to watch me eat my words re the new Daphne Odora I'm taking a risk on).

      We lost quite a few to a similarly huge renovation years ago and then a few years after that when we re-hardscaped an area (yeah, they're right all those smarties who say you should get the bones in place first, I know, I know). You'll have learned so much about gardening that you didn't know when you made the plunge a few years ago -- it's going to be fun redoing it to suit your fabulous new home.
      As for the small space vs. our earlier wonderful garden -- I caught myself looking out the window the other evening as we vegged on The Affair (Boo Noah Solloway!) and saying to Paul how funny it was that I could be so intensely thrilled by the maple's golden dance in the wind and sun. I think because there was always so much to see in the big garden that it was easy to miss out on the focused, micro perspective. Or something.

      Delete
  5. One year I took pictures on the first of each month from several garden perspectives; it was fascinating to compare January to May to August, etc......I suspect your garden posts will be similarly in engaging.

    And yes, losing a plant is hard, but if none of them had ever left me my little plot would be even more jungle like than it is now. In fact, as I puzzle how to squeeze in one more thing (I NEED a camellia) I have been wondering what seems less healthy.

    ceci

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Way back (2008? for a few years there) I used to participate in the Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, and it was fun to compare from year to year as well as from month to month.
      Yes to the consequences of losing a plant -- you and K-line and I could chat about this on my terrace over Prosecco!

      Delete
  6. I'm looking forward to reading about your progress on the terrace. Container garden can have its challenges but I'm sure you are up for it. One good thing is how you can move things round so easily. I will be intrigued to see what grows well for you. That honeysuckle is already way ahead of ours despite your awful weather. Good luck :). B x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Luckily, we did a fair bit of container gardening back on the island, on the various decks and patios. Still, I'm ordering a bunch of books at the library to glean some pointers, and perhaps you readers will let me crowd-source problems from time to time. As for the honeysuckle, it's new from the nursery, so may well have been coddled into early bloom.. ..

      Delete
  7. Yes please to gardening posts. The older I get the more gardening fascinates me. Some say it is because middle aged women, lacking youngsters to boss about, take to telling plants what to do instead. Could be something in that (and I'd throw in nurturing too) but I prefer to think of it as a patience and a watchfulness that comes with passing years.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've got to dig out my Diana Athill -- in one of her later memoirs, she says something about ageing and gardening that's apropos, but I think that patience and watchfulness must be a big part of our suitedness at this stage. The awareness of a longer narrative arc, so to speak. . .

      Delete
  8. Another gardener here . It sometimes feels like therapy these days , with all that's happening in the world . At the very least it teaches you to be philosophical & cope with what life throws at you . It will be interesting to see how you develop your terrace garden . Will wind be a problem if it is raised up ? At least you won't have our wild rabbits to struggle with .
    Wendy in York

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is therapeutic, and an act of faith, somehow. Wind might be a problem although the previous owners have done well over the five years since the condo was built.
      No, no wild rabbits, and I don't imagine the squirrels will find their way up her (fingers crossed!)

      Delete
  9. Yes, and another. I post monthly about my garden and join two memes. (Garden Bloggers Bloom Day is too popular for me to keep up with the courtesy visits but) I do Wildflower Wednesday and Through the Garden Gate.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'll have to pop in for a peek at WW and TtGG. Like you, I find those Link-Up Memes tough to participate in reciprocally and it doesn't seem right to post and then not make the visits and leave the comments. . . But we can't do it all, right?

      Delete

I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...