Sunday, May 18, 2008

Green Thumbs

The third Monday in May is a national holiday in Canada. It is a celebration in remembrance of England's Queen Victoria. In the southern areas of the three prairie provinces, the Victoria Day long weekend is traditionally seen as the first time it is safe to start putting out bedding plants and planting gardens as the risk of overnight frost is almost gone. Gardeners of all types will be busy working in their yards and going to the gardening stores to select the perfect plants to compliment their surroundings.

As you know, I grew up on a farm. My maternal grandpa was an Agricultural Representative from the 1920's through to his retirement in the late 50's. My paternal ancestors were farmers.

Our farm yard is large and my mom and dad spent countless hours making it into a paradise of green grass and floral rainbows of colour. In late March, my did would start hundreds of bedding plants in the sun room. He'd start by "baking" the potting soil. He never bought fertilized soil. He used dirt he'd saved in the fall, then "bake" it in the oven to remove any bugs. (Mom always cleaned the oven after dad was done.) The smell of dirt baking was disgusting, but it was a quick and simple way to clean the soil. After it cooled he would add various nutrients to the soil and carefully plant the seeds. He hung grow lights to help the plants along. He watered, and nurtured those baby plants till early May. Then he'd move them and the grow lights to his small green house that he'd built using old wood and windows. Dad turned on a heater at night to keep the plants from freezing.

If all went well (and it usually did), by the May long weekend dad would have somewhere between 1,000 to 1,500 plants ready to be transplanted to the prairie soil. There were Salvia, Marigold's, Snap Dragons, Petunia, Geraniums, Zinnia's and numerous other flowers. There were also the bulbs that he'd saved or bought such as Gladiola's that had to be planted. Dad even started all his tomato plants

Mom and dad spent hours planting, flowers and vegetables. The yard had several rock gardens that they had created and each one would take on it's own unique colour scheme every year. The yard was their pride and joy and a real showplace for many years. Even the house was full of plants - close to 80 at one point. Mom even has a Christmas Cactus that is older that I am and blooms several months a year!

As my parents aged, they always said "This is the last year!" but they kept going until my dad started getting sick in 2002. That was the last summer that dad worked in the yard. He died in late 2003. My mom has not been able to do yard work for several years. My brother does all the mowing and cleans up around the shrubs and perennials. A long time family friend has taken it upon herself to do the spring planting for several of the flower beds. She loves to garden and brings bedding plants every spring. She comes every week or two through the summer to weed and also to bring mom produce from her garden. In the fall she comes and cleans up all the flower beds.

All three of my siblings have green thumbs. So, you'd think I'd have a green thumb wouldn't you? No such luck! In elementary school, we tried growing green beans in science class. Mine was the only one that died. Supposedly, one of the easiest plants to grow is an Aloe Vera. They say it's almost impossible to kill one. Want to bet? I've killed three!

I've over watered, under watered, and accidentally pulled actual plants rather than weeds. It really isn't safe to let me in the flowerbeds or vegetable garden - unless of course you want your plants to die!

My thumbs aren't green. My thumbs are brown. Not just because I kill plants but because I can bake and cook.

So brown thumbs of the world unite and be glad you don't have to get down on your hands and knees to take care of all those delicate beauties and harbingers of bountiful produce. Our talent is in the kitchen.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it!



leelu said...

I'm with you on this. I've lived here 8 years and have tried my best to create a garden.... This year is the first year I have 7 HEALTHY rose bushes! The only catch: only about 2 plants will bloom at a time. We drive around town and see how everyone (and I mean everyone) else's roses are all in full bloom this time of year, and mine choose to bloom in random tandem. A few weeks ago my gardener offered to tear them out! Aaagh! Oh, how I wish I had a green thumb. ;)

dnsyl57 said...

OUCH - even the gardener is against you!

That's okay though as you and I have MANY other talents!!!