Getting anything done in the garden is difficult when the roses are in bloom. This past week, it's been a treat to roam around with my camera at the end of the day and pass over every bloom with an admiring eye.
Did my care of them make any difference? Aphids loved the wet and chilly spring and queued up in grotesque formation to suck the juices from growing shoots. I did my best to wash them off with soapy water and it kind of worked, but maybe I harmed beneficial insects in the process. Leaf-rolling caterpillars settled into their comfy nooks, laying there eating and making frass; I cut off dozens, leaf and all. I don't know if my actions resulted in more roses or better blooms. There was no time to set up any kind of scientific study, nor was I willing to risk doing nothing. I made biased observations and moved on. Every decision has its trade-offs.
My thorniest rose bush produces the most fragrant and intensely-coloured flowers. They last in a vase for about 72 heavenly hours before shattering into a pile of perfect petals. I'm not surprised. Again, trade-offs.
Yesterday evening, taking these pictures was my very last task (I'd already told myself "just one more thing" too many times). When I was done, I slumped down into a patio chair missing its cushion, holding my camera in one hand, and a pair of clippers in the other. I knew then how mindlessly I'd been going about my day, as I suddenly became aware of my body again and how incredibly tired it was. It's not an unpleasant feeling unless you know you have to be somewhere, doing something else. I asked my husband to take a picture of me like that, out of curiosity. If you've ever looked at yourself in the mirror while ugly-crying, the motivation was similar (I'm not ashamed, I bet plenty of people have done it... although if you think it's vain and dumb, my husband agrees with you). Anyway, the picture was not worth posting here, but I'll tell you I was wearing a dirty, sweaty sun hat, an oily face, and red socks pulled up over the cuffs of my saggy-bum pants (the socks help keep the top edge of my rubber boots from chafing against my shins). Wait, I had a point to make... oh yeah: trade-offs. I had worked outside all day, and probably didn't take enough breaks or eat enough, so today I'm indoors with so much to do, but feeling catatonic. And nobody to blame but my own damn self.
But since we've got these pictures of roses to look at now, and since I'm really good at rationalizing my choices, I say - totally worth it.
Till next time, Posy Gang.
May is my favourite month. The season is still in flux, but can you feel it starting to gain momentum?
It poured yesterday, and all the weather websites are calling for more rain in an hour or so. I'm only halfway through my garden chores but I want to take pictures. I run in to grab the camera and begin stalking the grounds for subjects.
The scent of wet earth is on the air.
I have many memories tied to this scent, but what comes to mind first is a school-aged Allison, hastily shutting the front door and running out to the car in the morning just after it's rained. There is no time to take in my surroundings but that lovely muddy smell hits me anyway. It's 8:11 AM and homeroom begins at 8:50, several stop signs and ten subway stations away. I can see through the windshield that my mom is already gripping the wheel with both hands. I feel a little guilty. She always seems to be in more of a hurry to get me and my brother to the subway than we are...
If somebody is selling this scent of mud, I'll take a few bottles. FYI my chemist friend tells me the scent is called petrichor and is made up mostly of geosmin molecules. Hm...!
Suddenly another scent hits me. It's lilac season. I'm delighted to host a white-flowered tree in my space, but my neighbour's mauve flowers have the heavier fragrance. I inhale deeply while casting longing looks at those luscious blooms just on the other side of the hedge.
Loud rustling from within my compost pile breaks my reverie. A robin emerges with a long piece of straw in her beak. If this is the robin I think it is, then I'm cheered to know she's building again. She made her first nest under my eaves, but she abandoned it last week, around the time I found a blue, broken egg on the ground. Did I disturb her too much?
A grackle lands on the roof, hops to the edge, and peers down at me.
The compost heap looks rather inviting today. I feel compelled to lay down upon it and recite The Lady of Shalott. LOL. I think I have Anne of Green Gables on my mind. See how nostalgic I get, enveloped in a cloud of petrichor and lilac perfume?! That said, even if I were eleven again, the thought of slug slime and sowbugs all up in my hair would probably be too much to overcome.
By the way, that hosta growing at the top of the pile came from a yard waste bag I filled last fall while dividing perennials. Hostas are tanks.
Okay, let's go look at what I'm growing now.
The roses are leafing out and aphids have been snacking on their tender shoots. I've been trying out Ed Lawrence's spray bottle remedy. It seems to have worked. The aphids are not completely gone, but I think I can keep their numbers low this way. Recipe: 1 part liquid soap in 40 parts water sprayed all over; left on for 10 minutes; rinsed and repeated 3 times over 10 days.
More hostas. The one on the left is a giant. I love them best now, as they unfurl, and before the slugs begin their season-long feast.
Oooh, these are hybrid and tiger lilies. New soundtrack for the remainder of this post: Eye of the Tiger (the Jenn Grant cover, not the original).
I was in the middle of planting these dahlias when I started taking pictures.
It's getting a bit dark and drizzly out here now - let's finish up quickly on the far side of the house.
Holly bushes make flowers! I'd never thought about it before, but of course they do! And based on those central green nubbins (ovaries?), I think this one's a female. Despite having no space for anything else, I consider finding her a mate so she'll bear those bright red berries. They would certainly make my winter wreaths more colourful...
Oh no, rain's falling heavier.
Decision to buy male holly deferred.
Okay, gotta run inside now to save my camera..............!
Japanese maple, how do you stay so zen?
Talk soon, Gang!
So Saturday was my first Toronto Flower Market, and I really want to tell you about it.
Two words come to mind: intense and incredible. Thank you to everyone who came out and made the whole market such a success! A bunch of vendors sold out - I know I was down to my last bouquet by 1pm! It's a good thing I physically couldn't have made or stored more, else I would have been mad.
I think my favourite thing about the market was how I got to give many people their first experience of scented geraniums. Strawberry, apricot, and chocolate mint, yes please! I love how people put their heads together and leaned in to sniff - then looked up with delight when they'd caught the scent. It never got old. "How did you DO that?!" was a common refrain. It wasn't me, I swear! I really wish I'd caught one of these exchanges on camera. I'll have to make do with my mental snapshots.
My other favourite thing was when my family and friends - some of whom I hadn't seen in years - came to visit me. I felt so loved! My only regret is that I didn't get a chance to visit any of the other vendors. I was suffering from a major case of tunnel vision.
The hours passed in a flash. Sometimes I'd look up and there would be a wall of people in front of us where there had been none just the moment before. Truthfully, I often feel very shy, and there's no doubt I'm an introvert who likes to spend lots of time alone. But when I'm facing happy strangers and I've got flowers to show off, then I sure do relish a performance. I think it's my Cancer-Leo cusp showing.
When it was all over, I was giddy with relief and fatigue, feelings which were quickly supplanted by weepy gratitude, for all the help and encouragement I've been so privileged to receive. Hey, while I've got your eyeballs here for another moment I'm going to take the opportunity to name a few very important people.
Sas of Floralora Flowers, who gave me my first taste of flower farming last spring and who continues to be an inspiration and great support. Also, as far as I'm concerned, she is the Tulip Queen of the world, and she supplied me with gorgeous blooms when I ran out of my own.
My parents, who mostly took it in stride when I told them I was going to start a flower business, and who I know just want me to be happy and healthy and safe.
My husby, who routinely gives up his days off to help me dig soil and transport fridges, and who indulges my dreams and generally takes good care of me (of course, I take care of him too).
And perhaps most of all, my sister-in-law who said yes without a second thought when I asked her to help me sell bouquets and plants alllll day long. She memorized every selling point and morsel of plant info I gave her. She is such a pro salesman, and a very, very good Unni indeed. When I think about it, I suppose many sisters are game for at least one flowery labour of love, but I don't think I will ask her to do it again. It was a lot. So now watch me pamper her real good.
I'm also realizing that even though I was able to pump out several dozen wrapped bouquets all by myself (super proud; also thank you roster of podcasts and entire seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on Netflix), I'm going to need even more help soon. Cuz I heard my business is supposed to be "sustainable" or something. The only alternative is that I keep trying to do everything myself, turn into a flower supernova, and flame out in a big burst of colour and fragrance. Just imagine, nothing left of me but a slow-mo shower of singed petal confetti and smoke.
Actually, that sounds like it would be worth seeing.
Okay I'll do my best to avoid it.
So... that was the only Toronto Flower Market I signed up for in advance. As this is my first season I didn't want to commit to more before I'd been tested, but man, I hope I'm able to go to market again. It was fun! And very stressful. But at least now I have my set up ready to go. I even dyed my own tablecloths and display drapes! The resist effect wasn't a complete success, but I guess it's nice to remember that time I spent an entire afternoon crawling around my kitchen floor, writing out Posy Gang over and over again on a bedsheet with white glue, haha.
Epilogue: I'd planned to take off all of Sunday, but it didn't happen. Tulips wait for nobody! And I made my mama flowers for Mother's Day. I mean, I worked, but it was pleasant, so I guess it was okay.
What's next? Back to seeding, planting, and waiting for the last frost so I can plant out my dahlias and tomatoes. Looking forward to the fruits of those labours! And wedding planning of course - bring it on. Till next time, dears!
Life change, transitions, can be so difficult. But the garden makes change seem effortless. Or inexorable. For all that I love order and executing carefully laid plans, growing flowers will always be just beyond my control - a good reminder that most things can never really be, nor should be, perfect. Wabi sabi, right?
Let's see what's been happening in the Posy Gang garden the last few weeks...
And now for things still to come: roses, lilacs, sweetpeas:
Okay let's keep it moving! Come on inside again:
And because I promised you more colour this blog, let's take a peek at what I've been harvesting.
Till next time, dears. I hope to be back before long to show you behind-the-scenes preparation for the Toronto Flower Market...
Guys, spring is here in earnest! Every place I look there is new life. Today's high: 20 degrees! Time to go outside and stay there. Let's have a tour, shall we?
Meanwhile, seeding continues indoors. It's been a learning curve for sure. With each succession I'm adjusting how deep to sow each variety of seed, how humid to keep them, when to water them, when to move them off the heat mat and under the lights to keep them stocky and strong. As a very small scale grower, soil blocking has definitely been worth the space saving.
It's now time to plant all the hardy annuals I sowed in March, which I've just started to harden off in these warmer temperatures.
One of my biggest hurdles is going to be getting the new big bed prepped in time. I gotta get it done soon. Over the winter I tried my best to make the lawn melt away under layers of newsprint, leaves, compost, and snow, but it turned out to be mostly wishful thinking, ha! So with a few sighs and what I hope is an endless well of determination, I'm going to break ground and remove the sod myself. And double dig and amend with compost. I promise to use my legs, not my back, and take lots of breaks.
That's it for now - I'm certain the next set of pictures will be more colourful! Until then, stay tuned to Instagram as I've got some exciting news for you all in the next couple of weeks!
There's a tulip in my house. What's more - those masses of tulips and narcissus I planted last fall? They're coming up too. Shit's getting real.
Their appearance should be no surprise, since the whole of last week was freakishly warm for February. Temperatures of 9 and 15 and even 18 degrees Celsius?! It's got me on edge though, since they're more vulnerable now to the elements, and varmints. As I was pulling up the hardware cloth and brushing away the blanket of leaves I'd heaped on the tulip beds last fall, I was hoping, hoping, hoping I wouldn't see any green tips. But I did, and lots of them. I gasped, or groaned. Babies go back to sleep!!!! It's not time yet!!!!
I've mentioned it before, but I'm really weirded out by my changing outlook on seasons. It's so unlike me to be anxious about spring. At least I know that underneath my apprehension is pure, itchy-palmed anticipation. Fortunately, everything's gone according to schedule so far. I'll take that as a sign that I'm headed in the right direction. And sure, the season's hardly begun, and everything could still go wrong, but..... It's a good thing I'm a dogged optimist who loves to plan ahead!
Yesterday I took a time-out from wedding work to plant seeds for my winter sowing experiment. Have you ever heard of winter sowing? It's my first time trying it out, but on paper it looks like a lazy-yet-efficient way to start seeds that need a few freeze-thaw cycles in order to germinate. If you do some Googling you'll read that many of the plants that do well when winter-sown are the ones that tend to self-sow.
Basically, you sow your seeds into clear, plastic containers in mid-winter and just leave them outside. Once the temperatures start to warm up the containers act as mini-greenhouses, triggering germination and protecting the emerging seedlings. You do have to keep an eye on the containers in order to ventilate them at the right time, but you end up with stocky little plants that don't need to be hardened off, since they've spent their entire lives outside. Of course I'm hedging my bets (all this week I'll be seeding indoors into soil blocks too) but if the winter sowing turns out well, I'll be very happy indeed.
Happy sigh! Building this little business is all I can think about. Some days I focus on growing stuff, other days I'm corresponding back and forth about weddings, dreaming all the while. Making something from nothing, telling stories (mine and yours) with flowers - talk about flow state!
Signing off, with dirt under my nails once more,
Well I just got home from an incredible week spent exploring London, England. Land of the Queen, David Austin roses, and Monty Don. Spring has already sprung there in balmy zone 9. Camellias and other flowering shrubs are all on the verge of exploding into colour; everywhere I walked there were geraniums, pansies, and mini-cyclamen in planters and window boxes. So, so jelly.
I haven't forgotten that the inspiration behind the Toronto Flower Market was London's Columbia Road Flower Market. Obviously it was one of the highlights of my trip. The market happens every Sunday on a short stretch of road absolutely packed with market stalls, flowers, and people. I walked up and down about 10 times taking it all in. It was hard not to freak out. I freaked out.
I ended up choosing a bunch each of bupleurum, tuberose, and dried lavender. The man I bought the tuberose from had labeled them "Tudor Rose" which I thought was a delightful play on words. I couldn't tell if he really thought tuberose was called Tudor rose but I don't care.
Note to self: congratulations on remembering to bring your clippers all the way to England - next time bring some clear tape, and try to find a better vessel to use than a pot! Also glad you had some self control at the market, but a handful of lilies or roses woulda looked nice nestled in all that bupleurum!
My eyes are full of flowers now. That taste of spring was exactly what I needed to slingshot me into my first season. Back to wedding quotes now - let me at'em!!
Talk soon <3
Lunar New Year is January 28 this year. It’s a really important day, but my mama’s pretty low key about it. After years of her children living here and there, she just wants all of us home for dinner at some point, in the general vicinity of that date. Well, this year, we're all in town, and we’ll be together tomorrow on New Year’s Eve, January 27, as it should be. I can't wait. My mom's an amazing chef. I’m bringing the paperwhite narcissi I planted to bloom just in time.
Next morning I'll make my husband practice saying “Kung Hey Fat Choy, Sun Tai Geen Hong!” with the proper Cantonese tones. He’s got a good ear for them! Then we'll run to my parents and offer these well-worn phrases in exchange for Li See – those little red packets full of MONEYS! Too bad, this fun lasts only until we have children of our own.
My dad tells stories about when he was a kid in Hong Kong. He and his brother would receive pretty generous sums from some of their father's business associates. The boys would finish counting their cash with wide eyes – just in time to have to hand it all back to their father. “But why??” I ask my dad. “So your Ye Ye could present it to the next business associate’s kids! Such heavy taxes on our Li See!" my dad exclaims back, amidst our gails of laughter. “Oh well,” he finishes, “while the nighttime festivities were going on people always dropped their Li See by accident and the next morning I’d make sure to go around picking them up.” LOL.
Happy Lunar New Year! May this be an auspicious year for all!!
When I got married to my love, I hadn’t worked on a flower farm yet and Posy Gang was still just a glimmer in my eye, but you betcha flowers played a big part in our wedding. Here were my goals: I wanted to do the flowers myself, I wanted the bouquets to look like I’d picked them from my garden that day, and I wanted minimal waste. And minimal stress. Definitely minimal stress.
I knew my own garden would be overflowing with some of my favourite perennials (bearded iris and columbine, anyone?) but the timing just wasn’t going to work out. My minimal-stress clause kicked in and I went looking for other solutions. Ah well! I try to be flexible.
With a little time and effort, I found my solutions and was able to check off all my goals: I hung lavish, overflowing planters of blush and poppy-red geraniums from the rafters, grew little pots of ever-bearing strawberries for table decor and guest favours, and made the bouquets for myself and my one bridesmaid the evening before. Spiky liatris, Dutch iris, and silky mauve godetia; foraged lilac blossoms and bleeding hearts foliage. Actually, the lilacs were from my parents’ yard and the foliage did come from my own garden - they made our bouquets that much more special.
What kind of wedding flowers are you hoping to have? Do you know someone whose wedding flowers are stressing them out? Tell me about it! Click on the comments button to tell me your story, or drop me a line here.