A Lilac named Katie
Favourite plants ... favourite people
A new Lilac has been planted in my garden named after my best buddy and neighbour, Katie White. “She” is in my yard now, nestled at the edge of the nursery where I will stop and enjoy her scent in the normal May-madness of turning out hundreds of baby plants. The day Katie left us I went to her house & buried my nose in her big old blousy raggety-taggety mauve Lilac bush along her driveway to say “Bon Voyage” and promptly drove to a nursery to buy my own “Katie” Lilac. She has good company next to my double white “Johnny” Lilac for an actor/art museum director from Carmel, California & my Russian blush mauve “Shirley” Lilac for a fellow scent-loving aroma therapist that coincidentally lived in “Shirley” on the way to Port Renfrew … They all feed my soul, like guardian angels in the wings of my life on the farm as I feed them literally to flourish here.
Basil & Zucchinis may feed my belly … and yes, (laughing) … Lavender in my cookies. Yet there are people planted in my gardens too … and you don’t need to be dead to be one of them! So please don’t throw out all your flowers for the food sustainable movement … we need to feed our spirits too. Like gardens themselves … balance is the answer.
Once again I encourage you to tuck Calendulas, Nasturtiums and Cornflowers; all annuals, amongst your veggies as edible flowers … Add Tuberous Begonias as a new choice in the shady bits by the Spinach. Tuberous Begonias are treated as annuals as you must lift the corm before winter. They have a great citrus tang, cut the jewel coloured petals into flower confetti and garnish instead of Lemon juice.
In perennial beds you can tuck in all kinds of Dianthus, Sweet Williams, Carnations and Daylilies - not forgetting a space for “Lady Rose”: again all have edible flower petals. (*Remember to remove pollen bits in case friends are pollen sensitive) … Shock your visiting friends as you meander through your backyard; grazing on Daylily petals, they taste like green beans, no wonder the Bambis love them too!
Back in the veggie patch, add “stinky” Marigolds to attract beneficial bugs, especially around your Broccoli, Cabbage and Cauliflower plants to also deter cabbage butterflies. Some flowers have an important job to do in the veggie beds, even though you would never eat them! A second bonus is the pollinators they attract so you never run out of Zucchinis. … Run out of Zucchinis? Well, how about more Zucchini flowers to stuff with cream cheese or batter and fry? One way to not grow too many green “speed bumps” literally nipping them in the bud … or blossom!
Back in your perennial beds, add any flower that brings you joy and handfuls if not armloads of flowers to pick and bring into your home or others. A small gesture from your garden will be greatly magnified if you deliver it to an ailing friend house bound or in hospital. Even without a Victorian Meaning of Flowers dictionary: they mean “I am caring of you” >>>> the most humble flowers will glow with life in there.
I watch visitors go up to my veggie fence line of Sweet peas, and it never fails to let them pause in the moment for the sheer scent. Their nose “eats” them … Ditto with the old Roses, like Gallicas and Rugosas: though let the bumblebee leave first before sticking your nose in those!
Truly gardens are sanctuaries and even die hard busy gardeners like me make moments to stop. Stop for the memory of a good friend like Katie to say Hi to her newly planted baby Lilac … Stop for the memory of the old lady that shared her Munstead bush 23 years ago that gave me 500 babies and resulted in my first blue sea of a Lavender field. Now I can stand in front of an ocean of blue and purple Lavender each July … Stop for the veggie swaps Cindy and I do every year when we want to try all those enticing squash in the catalogue photos; so she starts some, and I start others, then we trade! Stop for Suzanne who lost her favourite Lemon Scented Geranium and do I still have a bit going? Stop for the newest herbal treasure Byron found; he bought one for Sooke Harbour House and one for Happy Valley! Stop for Deiter sharing some rootstock of his tasty if tenacious Horseradish, to keep tamed in a half oak barrel, and bring him some “home grown” cookies in exchange … Stop to show a child what this small pot of slightly prickly green leafy plant will turn into for Halloween!
No I am wrong: my garden is not a sanctuary as much as it is a thriving community rich with humans and plants alike. Very very much alive and well … we have just forgotten. We never left “the Garden of Eden” it is all around us; we just got too busy playing cars and houses in the sand pile box. If a threatening shortage of food supplies can bring us back to the garden, it also opens the garden gate to a world of abundance, wonder and magic.
If you don’t have a garden, help someone else in theirs. If you cannot physically garden, grab your wheelchair and go enjoy the secret gardens all over greater Victoria: smell, taste and simply enjoy being outside. It is OK to leave the work, weeding and toil to others, keep some enjoyment for yourself. Ask and I will gladly send you home with a bouquet or a cutting … Gardens of any kind need to be loved as much as their dedicated gardeners. Dust off your green thumbs and join in; this is the season it is a joy to be alive!
Originally published in the July 2010 edition of the Metchosin Muse