Sunday, May 2, 2010

Looking back: My First Garden

As a young married couple, we lived in an unexceptional wooden townhouse built sometime in the 70’s. When we moved in, the house had a tiny fenced yard with an uneven a patio of concrete pavers that bordered by scrubby grass. A lonely, common lilac bush was the only claim to the yard’s questionable status as a “garden.”

Our first summer on Falconer Drive, we levelled and extended the patio to a a size that would more comfortably permit a table and chairs. We added topsoil to level the ground and added two steps leading down to at narrow gate that opened up to a common area behind our small townhouse.

I ripped out the grass and crammed every perennial could into the narrow 3 foot beds that I created to frame the new patio.

Lack of space was a constant frustration. When I ran out of horizontal space, I went vertical with climbing roses and vines. Among these was a wisteria vine that I planted near the back door. It expressed its own exasperation with the lack of space by twisting back on itself. Its woody trunk crushed the wooden arbor that supported it.

Acting on a romantic whim, I bought several antique roses including the delicate “Félicité et Perpétué” rose.

Its compact white blossoms opened as a subtle shell pink 
that faded to white in the bright sunlight.

I found it disappointing however, that the rose’s scent was faint and the spent flowers petals did not fall to the ground, but shriveled and went brown on the stems. Brutal Canadian winters took a tragic toll on its delicate French sensibilities, leaving lifeless canes each spring studded with spiky thorns that put up militant resistance to my attempts to prune them.

“Félicité et Perpétué” greatest virtue however was its persistence in the face of the harshest conditions. One could only but admire the exuberance with which it sprang to life each spring. Warm sunny days brought fresh canes which shot up 15 feet, weaving in and out of its supporting trellis. The fine upper most sections of the canes, which reached beyond the limits of the trellis, fell backward to rest on the maize of older established canes in a sort of mutual support society. This backwards swan dive created a waterfall of oval shaped leaves and tiny roses that made you want to forgive the rose's character flaws.

While “Félicité et Perpétué” with its spectacular heft may have attempted to steal all the attention, my favorite rose was its well mannered neighbour the “Ballerina” rose.

With sweet pink roses that resembled apple blossoms, it had a light scent that caught on your hands and scented them with its delicate perfume. I loved the purity of the flower’s simple shape and it remains as one of my all time favorite roses to this day.

After 12 happy years on Falconer Drive, we decided we were ready for a change. There was little that I could still add to my townhouse garden. I was plain out of room!

I wanted a garden without the limitations of our cramped, tiny outdoor space. It is no wonder that I got so excited when I saw the comparatively large property in Huttonville, were we now live.

1 comment:

  1. Well, you did a fantastic job, even if it was a small space! I bet you had mixed feelings about leaving this behind. Hopefully the new owners love perennials.


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