Blame it on the chemo fog

Janice Wells
Published on July 26, 2014

My doctor says there is a very real condition called chemo fog. And that it may last a few months after chemo treatments are over.
All I can say is, “Thank God.”

I was starting to worry there for a while, especially when I failed to recognize one of my favourite native plants in a picture sent a couple of weeks back.

The initial shock came from Shirley Rooney when she wrote: “It looks to me like what we always called chuckley pears and we always ate them as kids growing up in what is now Pippy Park. I looked it up in Todd Boland’s book ‘Field Guide to Trees and Shrubs of Newfoundland’ and it is a member of the rose family and called service berries.”

“There are five species common to Newfoundland. If I was starting a new garden I would definitely find lots of room for these wonderful hardy flowering shrubs,” Rooney wrote.

I actually have Todd’s book but, in true form, can’t find it, but right away I knew she was right. We had one in our garden in Corner Brook. Daughter No. 1 always got the lion’s share of the berries, straight off the tree, and I loved the delicate blossoms but I have no recollection of the bronze leaves.

Then this email from Heather Reeves gave me some consolation: “I am afraid that I have your memory for the rose-like flowers. I have seen it but am not able to bring forth a name. I don’t know the one on the bottom left with the long, heart-shaped leaf, but the top one looks like chuckley pear, a native tree/shrub that grows across Canada (Indian pear in Cape Breton, Saskatoon berry on The Prairies). I have also seen it in Pennsylvania in the mountains as a tall tree.

The open flower and the bronze leaf give it away, the bronze varying in intensity in different specimens. The berries do have a pear-like taste, and are good to eat off the tree, to make jam and to make pies.

“Its Latin name is Amalanchia. I transplanted one from the wild for my previous garden and it is now quite tall. I never got enough after eating them off the tree to do anything else with the berries.”

Instead of giving it away, it was the bronze leaf that threw me off, and it was interesting to learn that there were different species.

In fact, there are about 20 species, one of our Newfoundland ones most likely being Amelanchier canadensis. Our tree in Corner Brook was about the size of a medium lilac and while the leaves may possibly have turned bronze in the fall (even though I think they were yellow) they were definitely green during the blooming and fruiting season.

When I read Shirley’s observation about finding room for these wonderful hardy shrubs if she was starting a new garden, a light bulb went on in my head. Duh! I’m starting a new garden and hadn’t even thought about chuckley pears.

The woods around the Veteran’s Memorial highway are full of them and I have enjoyed them so much over the last few years, but having missed the whole blooming period this spring and early summer, I just hadn’t thought of them.

That’s why garden planning is such a fluid thing; there’s always an old something you haven’t thought of, and there’s always a new something you haven’t heard of.

There’s also the little thing called Murphy’s Law, which is why all I’ve added to my new garden so far this year is a cast iron bench and a free-standing hammock scored at yard sales last weekend. I haven’t even managed to plant the lilacs, hydrangeas and roses I bought when I was still in my former body and right mind.

I know I said I was going to hire somebody to do the physical work in the garden, but first the wee house has to be finished. All in good time.


Janice Wells lives in St. John’s. Her latest book, “Newfoundland and Labrador Book of Musts,” was published in October 2010 by MacIntyre Purcell Publishing Inc. You can reach her at Note to readers: please do not send thumbnail-size photographs, as they are too small to publish.