lead garden pic

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.

Edam, Netherlands / Photo credit: Gwen Tuinman
Edam, Netherlands / Photo credit: Gwen Tuinman

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.

"I'm in the garden" written in Dutch. Holland's affection for the hydrangea (left) can be seen in our garden (right).
“I’m in the garden” written in Dutch. Holland’s affection for the hydrangea (left) can be seen in our garden (right). Photo credit: Gwen Tuinman

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.

Plum trees grown espalier style/Vegetable garden/Pear tree
Plum trees grown espalier style/Vegetable garden/Pear tree
Photo credit: Gwen Tuinman

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.

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Irish Garden Shed / Photo credit: Gwen Tuinman

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.

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