Yesterday, I was ensconced in front of the fire in my usual corner of the couch, listening to the wind howl and watching the sleet bounce off the window.
I dream of a rose covered cottage on the site of this later, concrete foundation, to the right of the older one. — Photos by Janice Wells/Special to The Telegram
I started daydreaming, and was reminded of an email I was pleased to get a while back from John and Barbara Ivany, updating me a bit on their gardening progress:
“We read and enjoy your Telegram article and photos every week, especially this time of year to see the great scenes of summer. We sent you some photos which you printed of our place in New Chelsea, the root cellar, etc., when you were looking for a place in Conception Bay. We are continuing to develop both vegetable and flower gardens and had good results so far. Just curious about your Heart’s Content dream, as you haven’t mentioned it for some time. We can certainly appreciate the time and labour as we get older and expect to do the same as we always did, and this fall sold our house in Topsail and moved to St. John’s and bought a house with a smaller garden, so we can put more energy into New Chelsea.”
They’re right about my Heart’s Content dream and their next sentence, about “time and labour as we get older and expect to do the same as we always did,” strikes to the heart of the reason, no pun intended. Also, if you write about your dreams, people sometimes expect you to make them come true.
In my dreams, I expect to do a whole lot of things that I probably won’t get done. I have plans to build a getaway out there this year.
There won’t be much gardening done while that’s going on, and I’m not the kind of person who can definitively plan a garden around a house that isn’t there yet. Oh, I could, but I’d probably end up changing my mind about everything because I really like to “eyeball” everything.
There is one area, though, that I am pretty sure about: the crumbling stone foundation of the old house. I picture a garden there, after I’ve saved all the beautiful old rocks and added soil, with the perimeter planted with a hedge of some sort of rugosa roses (inspired by one I have long admired in Gooseberry Cove).
Like everything I do, it will be very relaxed and probably contain a few bits of “old stuff” that Newman would have thrown away if I didn’t keep a close eye on him.
I am determined to plant only things that will thrive and look after themselves in a coastal setting. Outside the sheltered garden, I picture some of the beautiful waving grasses left natural and unmowed, some naturalized pockets, some shrubs and maybe another tree or two.
Yesterday, I dug out a list of plant possibilities I’d made and wished I had more books on seaside gardening in our zone. I know I can find all manner of advice online, but I’m a curled-up-with-a-book type and a smartphone or tablet just doesn’t do it for me.
Today, I’m at the computer and interrupting my writing every now and then to Google things like “salt tolerant plants” and “Zone 4 seaside gardens.” I know we’re officially Zone 5, or even 6 depending on what chart you look at, but I figure Zone 4 is really on the safe side, factoring in exposed location.
There are so many sites that lead you other links that I could sit here all day long for weeks, and it is fantastic, but I still love the thrill of turning the page.
In a way, I have something even better than books; I have you. I have readers who can tell me what has worked really well in their exposed spots and what hasn’t, perhaps even send pictures.
There are so many choices. It’s OK to think rugosa roses, but which one will make the best hedge? I’m really looking forward to learning about your favourite plants for seaside/harbour/bay/saltwater gardens. As my mother would have said, it’ll help “to keep the devil out of my mind” on winter days.
Janice Wells lives in St. John’s. Her latest book, “Newfoundland and Labrador Book of Musts,” was published October 2010 by MacIntyre Purcell Publishing Inc. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Note to readers: please do not send thumbnail-size photographs, as they are too small to publish.