April 13, 2010
It has taken twenty years for me to discover the beauty in my own neighbourhood. All of this happened because I (we) am the lucky owner of an incredible new dog ! ‘Corona’ is a nine year old German shepherd x Lab cross that we met in Langley. His previous owner rescued him from a ‘Grow-Op’ , where he was too gentle to be of any use as a guard dog. ‘Corona’ is the nicest dog I have ever met. He is amazing. Being a dog owner means going for walks. This is good for me, too.
Luckily, the nursery is in a magical country-like location, right in the city . I knew this , but never bothered to explore my equestrian neighbourhood. I often drove around, checking out the new houses, or making a delivery, but it is sure better walking ! Today, I remembered to bring my camera and took these pictures . I could have taken thousands more . I only ventured four blocks in any direction from the nursery, as ‘Corona’ gets pooped out by then. Every month brings change. Lots of new houses are being built, some very tasteful . The styles range from Old English to uber-modern/community centre look-alikes. All are in the millions of dollars and sit on very large lots or acreages .
April 5, 2010
I drove by our old house the other day….
April 4, 2010
April 2, 2010
Some people might know that we ( Brent and I) sold our well-published and much visited Spanish/Mediterranean style home in Vancouver, BC, in 2008. For those who didn’t know this, it was a case of realizing that it was the right time to leave. Home prices in Vancouver were at an all -time high, and the garden, which we loved, was simply no fun anymore. The best way to express this is by using my good friend (and Dublin-based garden superstar) Helen Dillon’s phrase : we were tired of curating, not creating. The succulent/echeveria thing was over for me. The garden was actually very small, and after 20 years, it was full.
The fact that one of the very few nice neighbours had moved the year before did not help. We were left in an unfriendly Peyton Place of indulged monster-children, alcoholic party- seniors and aesthetically blind millionaires. People planted trees and refused to prune , specifically to block other people’s views . Saying ‘Hello’ went unreturned. We planned our escape.
In 2006, we started looking around… thinking of options. We have always loved Portland, Oregon, and could live there legally for 6 months out of the year….our favourite house there was for sale…. at a ‘bargain’ compared to Vancouver prices.
We also have great friends in the Seattle area… but decided that the border hassles etc were just too great. After a year of working with a terrific real estate agent, we decided on South Langley, B.C.
We looked at many properties (about 75), and finally knew when we found ‘the one’ . We originally were looking to find about five acres, hopefully with trees, at least. We ended up buying a twenty acre farm with incredible potential. But, I don’t want to spill the whole story here all at once. There is a whole book in what has happened since then…….
Moving meant leaving behind many fabulous plants. Whole clumps of cypripediums (hardy orchids), patches of double-flowered bloodroot (sanguinaria canadensis forma multiplex ‘Plena’) , choice magnolias, ferns and hundreds of treasures I will probably never find again . I did lift my favourite podophyllums, martagon lilies, hellebores and daylilies.
I decided that to create a new garden meant leaving most of the old garden behind……
Tackling a huge project like this is like a drug. We are taking it slow, and letting the vision create itself. It seems to ‘just happen’.
I have never used drawings or blueprints, preferring to squint at a space and see what pops into mind. I thought an olive grove would look good in one very open area. But, real olives aren’t very hardy here, so I planted 12 silver-leaved weeping pears (pyrus salicifolius Pendula’) in a random grove. They are very hardy, and will form a dozen lovely silvery ‘haystacks’ in the sun. Underneath them, I have planted random dabs of the lovely small and special peach narcissus ‘Katie Heath’. I also scattered in some pale denim blue muscari ”Valerie Finnis’. I envision the three colours (silver, peach and pale blue) creating a living, walk-through Monet painting every spring. Brent slaved for months fighting blackberry haystacks , creating pastures and lawns . Existing trees suddenly became ideally located once clearly visible ! Crumbling fences and corrals were demolished, and two abandoned llamas were given away to a good home , with a bit of the movie ‘Witness’ thrown in…..
One of the first things we did was to erect a 600′ long split -rail cedar fence along the entrance drive. A local company that recycles old telephone poles (by splitting them into quarters and cutting them into 10′ lengths) supplied the rails. The guys erecting it managed to puncture the only (one inch in diameter) natural gas line with a piece of rebar. Incredible, considering there are twenty acres…. big drama as the gas company cordoned off the entire street.
I have planted a few purple-leaf grapes (vitus vinifera ‘Purpurea’) here and there along this fence, as well as the odd climbing rose (I chose the lovely ‘Royal Sunset’) in a terra-cotta peachy tone. Along this drive, I also randomly planted small-flowered white narcissus in a naturalized fashion. I chose ‘Toto’,'Trasemble’ and ‘February Silver’. They are lovely , easy and more ‘wild -looking’ than the yellow ones I see all over. I planted 1500 in total. My quick, easy way to plant these was to dig with a normal, full-sized shovel. I actually didn’t really dig… I just tipped the shovel forward, poked in three or five bulbs, and stepped the sod back in place. Easy.
Spring is now a vision of fresh green grass, dappled shadows from the big old trees along the drive, and these little white beauties. It seems complete. Now, only 19.5 acres left to play with.