Thursday, April 25, 2013

Winning Essay # 4: Burnt Casseroles

Back in November of last year, I sponsored an essay contest. The best entries submitted had a chance to win one of my handcrafted bracelets. Today, I am delighted to share the fourth of those winning entries with you.

Sheryl is a writer and gardening enthusiast from Calgary, Alberta. She spends an inordinate amount of time at the public library...mostly because she works there. She blogs about plants and gardening on her blog Flowery Prose.

It is my pleasure to share Sheryl's winning essay with you here and illustrate her words with my pictures.

Burnt Casseroles

by Sheryl Normandeau

In many ways gardening is a lot like cooking: you learn as you go, and it's a lifelong process. I think my Mum is still laughing about the day I phoned her and asked how to "halve" an egg. (I was shrinking a muffin recipe and panicking at the thought of having to achieve such a complex method of egg separation.)

As someone who is still navigating the "burnt casseroles" of gardening, I'd like to pass along some nuggets of wisdom (if you want to call it that) to neophytes and acolytes alike. I certainly wish I had known this stuff when I first started to garden!

1. Never, ever take ownership of your perceived lack of a green thumb.

Blame the weather anytime something goes wrong- or, if for some hitherto unknown reason you can't, loudly proclaim the inaccuracy of plant labels.

2. Never go to the garden centre on pay day, or when the trucks arrive from the growers.

A trip to Vegas is far cheaper, plus there are slot machines!

3. Learn some botany. A little grasp of science helps you to understand how your plants grow, and by extension, how you can better care for them.

Plus, it may keep you from snickering like a 12 year old boy every time you hear the world "peduncle".

4. The grass is always greener on the other side. No, really it is. But, you can always fall back on Nugget #1.

5. Pleading ignorance is your best defence when your significant other questions why you've brought home yet another plant from the garden centre.

"It leaped into my shopping cart" doesn't work though- you'll have to come up with something a little more convincing.

6. Don't believe those list you find all over the Internet, the ones that tell you about all the deer/rabbit/squirrel-resistant plants to grow. 

I once transplanted half a flat of "rabbit-resistant" sedums, only to turn around and see a rabbit watching me intently. He was licking his chops and rubbing his front paws together with glee. 

When someone asked me about the decimation of my new plants, I blamed it on the weather.

7. Gardening advice is just that.. advice. You can choose to follow it or not, with varying results. (But if I wrote it in my blog or in a magazine, it simply cannot be disputed...right?)

Remember, as in cooking, a little common sense goes a long way. That being said, spontaneous moments of complete irrationality can sometimes bring about the most interesting possibilities.

Just...keep it legal.

8. Always have fun! If, for some strange reason, gardening gets to be a slog, immediately initiate Emergency Treatment: Drop your shovel or rake, back away slowly, and head to the fridge for a nice cold beverage and a snack.

Then find a warm, sunny spot and curl up with a good book until the perceived misery passes.

9. Don't get bit by any of the following: spiders, snakes, scorpions, mosquitoes, black flies, or plant lust.

The first five can be physically painful, and the last one is another reason to book that trip to Las Vegas pronto.

10. Finally, be creative and don't be afraid to experiment. Reuse, repurpose, recycle, reinvent, rethink, redo.

You can't possibly fail- remember Nugget #1.

More Information and Links:

You can read more of Sheryl's fine writing by visiting her blog Flowery Prose.


  1. This is wonderful, Sheryl, and as always, Jennifer, your photographs are just beautiful.

    Thank you so much for sharing here, and have a wonderful weekend!

  2. That was fantastic! I loved it all especially the foxgloves and the rabbit and the canada goose!xxxx

  3. All true! All true. I enjoyed nodding my head in total agreement with each nugget written here : )

  4. Wonderful! So true! But I'm not much of a Vegas person. I'd rather go broke at the garden center and offer no explanations for my purchases. I have a garden and am a gardener. All explaining after that is redundant. :o)

  5. Thanks, Sheryl, for sharing these words of wisdom! I still wind up having a lot of burnt casseroles:) Jennifer, your photos are beautiful as always and provide the perfect illustration for Sheryl's great essay.

  6. Thank you for sharing this with us Jennifer. It was such fun to read and the pictures just wonderful. I like the sweet rabbit, aaah let him snack in the garden, the foxgloves, the gardencentre, pansies and the lovely arrangements. An now I go to Flower Prose.

  7. Enjoyed that ! Text + photos ! I shall keep the advice in mind !

  8. A very wise essay. My only reservation: I know a bit about botany, but still snigger when I hear "peduncle".

  9. What a great essay! I guess all of us have had a few 'burnt casseroles' in our gardens. I usually blame the plant, but from now on, I'll blame the weather! :) The photos are amazing, too!

  10. laughed by butt off at these. Vegas would definitely be cheaper by far! and glad to see there's somebody else out there who often finds themselves just backing away to go have a sit somewhere with a glass of lemonade. Now I'm off to visit this lovely lady's blog!

  11. Preciosas todas las imágenes, hermosas flores y colorido!
    Abrazos y feliz fin de semana.

  12. Ha,ha! I love #8 'Emergency Treatment'!
    Congrats, Sheryl!

  13. Absolutely love it .....I can relate to #6...I would go around the garden and say. "but they are not supposed to like that plant"....of course my hubby would say, "well apparently they don't have our rabbits, deer etc."

  14. Wise words indeed and even though we gardeners all go through it - it is hilarious to see if all written down - proof, if any were needed, that gardeners are great people.

  15. I smiled and chuckled all the way through the wonderful essay! Bravo Sheryl! And thx for the excellent photos Jennifer.

  16. Your photographs are always so beautiful, Jennifer! Thanks for the smile. :)

  17. divine photos Jennifer, and cute and funny and true words in Sheryl's essay.

  18. Fantastic tips!! So glad that I found your blog from Tootsie''s so inspiring and entertaining :-)


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