Sheltering- Gardening for the Pandemic

Gardening is not for the faint of heart or the weak, This morning (and I apologize to those who know me) my buttocks were stiff and sore. Yes, even though, according to my kids, my butt fell off about 20 years ago, the Gluteus Maximus (or is it Maximi) hurt. My saggy old arms are stiff and a little sore. And I have to be careful not to pull my back, a family weak spot. This litany of aches and pains is not to complain; it’s to report.

What garden activities have I taken part in? Let me count the ways-taking soil out of planters so I can put in fresh, loading bags of manure and potting soil into the truck, digging up a flower bed and working in some fertilizer, raking the garden, planting kale, beets, carrots, beans, spaghetti squash, zucchini, and cucumbers. I have bought and loaded my bedding plants (everything in one trip, I hope. The most dangerous place I’ve been? The greenhouse. Old gals like me get quite excited.) I have watered haskaps and a few perennials that I hope come back. And there are sweet peas along a fence that has never seen planting.

Waiting for the weather…

The containers are yet to be filled with soil and flowers but the weather in the next week doesn’t look nice. I have one more flower bed to dig up and fertilize and the window box under the front room window to get ready. Then there will be hoeing, weeding and watering. The garden and flowers suffer most summers when we go camping. A great neighbour waters, but we can hardly expect him to weed and fuss like we might ourselves. This year we’ve decided camping is out. There are a lot of restrictions and we can’t travel to Gary’s favourite spots in Saskatchewan.

Then there is the supply chain. Perhaps if, instead of being lazy, I can preserve more produce. It’s healthier and you know exactly where it came from. So not camping, canning? I sent a picture to my granddaughter of the little lake where we usually camp together.

“Ah,” she said, “It makes me sad. We can’t camp this year.”

I said, “We will visit eventually and we’ll camp next year.”

She said, “CURSE THE PANDEMIC!”

Gardening is something to occupy time outside and there is the reward of the produce. My garden this year should be “spectacular.” Still I’d rather be camping.

Echoing my granddaughter, I cry, “CURSE THE PANDEMIC.”

The Aga Khan Garden (UofA Botanical Gardens)

Alberta is experiencing late fall weather early with snow, rain, and overcast skies. We could have changed our plan to visit the new addition to the University of Alberta Botanical Gardens, the Aga Khan Garden, but despite the 2 degree Celcius temperature, we didn’t. Two native Albertans and a transplanted Vancouverite are not that easily deterred.

The chill gave us the advantage of being three among very few other visitors. There was a bus of school kids and then it was like we had a private viewing. The Aga Khan Garden is a spectacular 4.8 hectares developed for Edmonton’s region and climate, inspired by Mughal traditions, and made possible by the Aga Khan’s $25 million dollar gift. The Garden has been 10 years in creation and is now open to the public. It is meant as a meeting place; a place to connect with nature, and other humans; it is a symbol of hope, peace and unity.

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This gives you an idea of the size of the Garden, the people to the right were removing dahlias that were mildewing in the damp of the recent rain and snow. Tulips are being planted in the bed for spring.

We thought that the main feature would be the Aga Khan Garden but were surprised at the other elements. First we walked by the Wedding Pavilion, and toward the Patrick Seymour Alpine Garden. At this time of the year, it was a stroll through the woods with squirrels, blue jays and robins. Ponds held huge Canada geese who were quite unperturbed by us going by.

Farther along, we entered the Indigenous Garden which is the only one of its kind in Canada. It features the plants that Indigenous people used for medicine, domestic purposes, and of course, ornamentation. It was too bad that most of the plants were heading to dormancy.

The Kurimoto Japanese Garden is groomed, formal (to me), and designed in the kaiyou (walking style.) There are ornaments, pagodas, and water features. The Garden is named after Dr. Yuichi Kurimoto, the first Japanese national to graduate from the University of Alberta Faculty of Arts in 1930.

After walking through the Japanese Garden, we were excited to come to the Indoor Show Rooms. We chose the Tropical and Bufferfly Room first because we needed to warm up. There were beautiful blooms and as the name says, several types of butterflies fluttering about.

The other two rooms were interesting but not as eye catching. The Arid room held, of course, cacti of many varieties. The Temperate Room had plants we were more familiar with and fewer blooms.

We wanted to have a cup of coffee, and we could have, but hardy as we Albertans are, we said, no, to a cuppa on the patio of the Outdoor Cafe. The heater was on in the car on the drive back.

The day and weather weren’t ideal, but good company, proper jackets, and footwear made it fun. I’m a little embarrassed that although I live so close, I haven’t been to these gardens before. I’ll be back when my “hardiness” is a non-factor and the gardens are in their full glory.