The Leaside Gardener: Springtime’s for garden gabbing!


Flowers in the snow

“I did then what I knew
how to do. Now that I know
better, I do better.”

Maya Angelou

Ah springtime!

No other season stirs my imagination with such hope and anticipation. Each day brings fresh sights and sounds as one after another, plants wake up from their long deep sleep to greet us. From the early bursts of tiny bulbs to the explosion of flowering trees and shrubs, spring can open your heart and make you smile. With so many stars, it’s hard to pick a favourite and with so many to mention, it’s pointless because a spring awakening is a celebration of blooms…all the blooms, when every colour appears cleaner and brighter with the new angle of the sun.

This is what spring is in Leaside, a spectacular time of awakening and a time to witness rebirth and renewal at its very best.

Mother Nature puts on this big performance for us every year and every year the storyline is a little different. If you garden, then you’ve been paying close attention because the reviews will depend upon what made it through the winter and what didn’t.

Did you happen to see those iris leaves poking out of the ground in February? They weren’t alone; with little snow cover, you could find other early risers during our strange and lengthy warmup. Plants that break dormancy too early (as they did here in Leaside) and then shut down because the temperature suddenly drops back to below freezing, can put our plants under enormous stress. Some bounce back, some barely make it through and others will just give up completely. We need to notice this activity because these wild weather swings are making it difficult for us to understand our plant hardiness zone.

That old saying, “You know what you grow,” is a great one, but like all gardeners, I’ve made my share of mistakes. I chose many plants because I was intrigued by their beauty instead of their compatibility or contribution. Planted a few invasive species too that I will always regret and wasted tons of money trying to change my ecosystem rather than working with it.

When I started, I knew exactly how I wanted my gardens to look. I had everything removed to begin afresh with a blank slate. I consciously chose every single plant in my little paradise. Or so I thought. Some 30 years later, I still have no idea where that lily of the valley came from. It just showed up one day and now it’s a glorious mass that I adore. The same goes for the violets, the periwinkle and so many more surprise additions…all compliments of the universe. Let’s not forget about those squirrels. I know they’re responsible for transplanting more than a few of my things without permission. What’s most upsetting is that some of the spots they pick are better than mine.

My point is, we may think these are our gardens, but they are simply pieces of the planet, constantly changing and evolving. That’s the good news, but here comes the other. Changes can occur that are not so positive. Extreme weather can bring down a favourite tree, scorch evergreens, waterlog soil or dry it up like sand. All of that can happen in a single season now. Last summer was the hottest and driest on record. February 2016 was the coldest and this February the warmest. Our climate is changing, and out of necessity, so will our gardens. We may need to embrace different kinds of plants in our landscape – tougher ones that can tolerate these rollercoaster extremes and prolonged periods of drought.

Fear not, my garden lovers, my friends of green, my stewards of nature, this is a time to experience the love and need of gardens in a new and important way.

Let’s make this a healthy, green place for all living things, right here in Leaside.

About Debora Kuchme 65 Articles
After a 30-year career as a fashion designer, Debora worked at Horticultural Design for over a decade. Now with her concerns about climate change, she hopes to help local gardeners find positive solutions for a greener and healthier neighbourhood. As a board member of the Bayview Leaside BIA, she created the Bayview Pixies, a volunteer group introducing sustainable gardening practice to Bayview.