“In a garden… growth has its season. There are spring and summer, but there are also fall and winter. And then spring and summer again. As long as the roots are not severed, all is well and all will be well.”~ Jerzy Kosinski
You know how a garden must rest, either over the winter or when you let the ground lie fallow for a while so it can rejuvenate itself? That’s what I’ve been doing with this blog.
I first started Yesterday’s Gardener six years ago, when I was missing my work in the heritage gardens at Surrey’s Historic Stewart Farm. I had to let that job go when my other job as a communications coordinator for Surrey’s museums became a full time commitment.
But a year later, the loss of a friend to cancer combined with the heavy creative demands of my job meant I had no energy left for the blog at the end of the day. I let Yesterday’s Gardener go fallow for the time being.
I’m back now, only transplanted to an entirely new region and climate. We were tired of big city living with its crowds, traffic and high prices. It was also time to leave my job of 23 years – I had done it for so long I had nothing left to give. In June 2017 I bid my 25-year old garden a sad goodbye and moved my family 300+ kilometres northeast to West Kelowna, British Columbia.
We’ve now been living in the heart of BC’s beautiful Okanagan region for five years, and are enjoying its gorgeous lakes, non-stop vineyards and orchards, and the semi-arid climate (well, we actually have a love/hate relationship with that climate, but it’s fine for now). There has been fresh territory to explore, new gardens to create, and unfamiliar plants and techniques to try.
The hotter summers and colder winters of this new climate have meant my gardens look quite different from the lush cottage-style garden I had near Vancouver. I haven’t been able to grow many moisture-loving plants like ferns, hostas, or astilbes. Water is dear here, and I think it’s always prudent to grow plants that will thrive in the available conditions.
But I’m not complaining (much) – this is paradise for plants such as lavender, sage, echinacea, succulents, rudbeckia, bearded iris, Russian sage, creeping thyme and more. .
Many of my beloved plants migrated along with me – my favourite iris “Loreley“, daylilies, purple sage, dianthus, thyme, rudbeckia. They are hardy plants that have mostly thrived here. But I’m not gonna lie, it has been quite a struggle, almost like learning to garden all over again.
I inherited a back yard with curvy raised block beds full of concrete-like soil, weeds and generic plants added by a landscaping company hired by the non-gardening previous resident. It was all mulched with large gravel, rendering it impossible to dig with shovel or pitch fork. I have literally had to chisel weeds out with a mallet and crowbar, and the bland bushes have been pulled out by my husband with a comealong. A gardening nightmare! (Well, my worst nightmare is snakes, and the Okanagan is home to Pacific rattlesnakes. Honestly, this was a consideration to move here!).
I have looked for the gardening heritage of this area, and haven’t found much evidence of it. There are few archives and no preserved or restored old gardens that I can find (yet). The Okanagan does have an extensive fruit-growing history, which goes back well over a century. The apples, cherries, peaches, apricots and more grown here are legendary and shipped all over the world. I don’t know that much about fruit heritage, so over time I’m going to put on my detective hat and share what I discover with you.
It has recently occurred to me that I’ve wasted a few years lamenting the lack of gardening heritage here, and missed out on what was right in front of me: the glorious profusion of small farmers in the 200 kilometre-long Okanagan Valley. I’m discovering some of them specialize in heirloom varieties of vegetables and seeds, and they sell their produce at the many farmers markets found in every city and small town along the valley. I’m looking forward to getting to know them and sharing what they are passionate about with you.
I’ve also realized in the past year there are many kinds of gardens, so even though I can’t grow the kind of garden I am used to, I am getting creative with the bleak, weedy hard-packed gravel strip down the side of our house (a former dog run). In the part shade portion we built a six-square raised bed out of stacked pallets – so far it has been perfect for growing lettuce, spinach and peas. Further along in full sun, I’ve situated another small raised bed built from more pallets to grow potatoes (my desert island vegetable). This year I started massing large containers that will overflow with flowers, herbs, cherry tomatoes and beans. I am excited about gardening again instead of focusing on what I didn’t have and couldn’t do!
Stay tuned as I face and solve the challenges of these new garden spaces, search out heirloom veggies at the farmers markets, visit gardens like the Summerland Ornamental Gardens, and sharpen new gardening skills. I can’t wait to share my gardening journey with you!