My love of winter is giving way to my longing for spring. Like so many, I’m looking forward to the bursting of forth of colour and new life that follows blue skies and warmer temperatures.
As the snow recedes, I’ll begin the annual tradition of searching for signs of life around the yard. Buds will appear on the lilacs. The snowdrops and crocuses will poke through the snow. It will be some time before the tulips make their appearance and even later before blooms appear on the pear tree. With any luck, the espalier style plum trees fanning against the cedar fence, are preparing to bear fruit this summer. The garlic shoots will already piercing the blanket of mulch still covered over by snow.
My surname hales from the Netherlands. Tuinman means gardener in the Dutch language. As our name suggests, we do enjoy gardening and were inspired by the creative landscaping we encountered during out travels in Holland a few years ago. Flowers and shrubs fall to my husband — these are his department. He grows nearly all of our flowers from seed and takes great pleasure in planning out new spaces.
The vegetable garden is my domain. It began as a little square of dug up soil that looked randomly plunked down along the fencerow. But now It’s Complicated. I’m referring to the Meryl Streep movie that is worth watching, if only to be convinced that vegetable gardens are landscaping opportunities.
Each summer brings change. The awkward little patch has evolved into two raised beds, two squares, and two larger rectangles — all divided by wood chip walkways. These designs are the influence of gardens we’ve seen at inn’s and wineries. Last year’s addition was a potting table–a mother’s day gift built by my husband. I’ve dabbled in companion gardening, the strategic pairing of plants. Our pear tree has special significance but that story is for another day.
Our gardens take on the flavor of our travels. Kitchen gardens of historic Fortress Louisbourg, Nova Scotia and Ferryland, Newfoundland inspired an herb garden. Even adventures of the palette are reflected here. I cook a lot of Mediterranean and Indian dishes which means that the addition of a garlic patch was prudent. Two words — scape pesto. Nothing matches the smell of garlic you’ve just pulled from the soil.
The Irish garden shed was a labour of love, constructed during a blazing heat wave. Ingredients included huge timber, creosite, lime, sawdust, sand, cedar shingles, logs, a chain saw, and patience. The only nails used were the ones holding down the shingles. Next to the shed is a tall cedar shed from which the children have retrieved countless badminton birdies and baseballs.
A Japanese maple stands in the centre of the yard in memory of my brother in law, Leon. There are reminders of him in the cedar fencing he helped us to build also. You’ll also find a Japanese influenced rain chain and a Buddha — my ode to the practice of yoga and meditation that is central to my life. There are other clues that paint a picture of who we are — a butterfly garden, a shade garden, a rain barrel, a composter. Peeking through the foliage of various gardens are ornaments purchased over the years on anniversary weekends away.
My garden is a scrapbook of nostalgia that continues to grow with us. When I stand in its midst, I am surrounded by our history. Perhaps it is the connection to these memories I crave — and not only the warmth of sunny days.
March 7, 2014 at 8:19 am
Lovely how you’ve incorporated all your travels and background into your garden.
March 7, 2014 at 8:31 am
Thank you. We try to bring back a piece of the world — more often an influence than an object. I’ve been meaning to ask if you’ve ever travelled to Holland. You would surely love the bike culture.
March 9, 2014 at 8:32 am
you have a beautiful garden and home!
March 11, 2014 at 2:29 pm
Chi Miigwetch! The garden invites a lot of birdsong to the backyard. Great for meditation and yoga.
July 10, 2018 at 2:57 pm
Ik kan je liefde voor de tuin goed begrijpen. Gwen. Ik ben ook een echte “Tuinman” en houd ook van mijn tuin. Alleen ik kan het niet zo goed beschrijven als jij dat doet en zeker niet in het engels. Groetjes en liefs ! Tilly
August 15, 2021 at 6:07 pm
This resonates with me. I live on the coast of Maine in the woods. After 30+ years at my garden it also reflects the stages I’ve gone through with my design and environmental interests. I too have plants to commemorate people or events. I have run out of room now and I am at the culling stage but that is hard. Some plants I thought were native, are now considered invasive. We live and learn. A scrapbook is a useful analogy.
August 17, 2021 at 11:49 am
Hello Becky. Thank you for taking the time to write. I’m so glad this resonated with you. Your home in the woods sounds enchanting. Being surrounded by greenery, flowers and the sound of wind in the trees is priceless. I know just what you mean about invasive species. We’ve planted hops, honeysuckle and different types of grasses, for example, and they shoot up all through the property. Do you have maples in your woods that you can tap for syrup?