Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

autumn through living room window

Sometimes, even when sunny skies beckon, we still have to stay indoors.  Sometimes it’s because there’s house or office work to be done.  Other times, it’s because we’re sick.  Such is the case with me this week with a diagnosis of pneumonia.

From behind glass, there’s still much to see of nature outside.  Trees continue to change colour and some of the vines on the house have turned red and pink.  They adorn the edges of the living room window.  There’s no time like the present to appreciate them as the wind will soon blow them all away.  In the summer months, they make drapes in the window unnecessary and bring nature’s colours up close.

second storey vines

Vines can also be seen from one of the second storey windows.  Although their colours are still bright through the screen, they’re even prettier seen from the outdoors, as in the photo taken on the weekend. 

leaves through front door windowSilhouettes of leaves can be seen trembling in the wind through the glass of the front door’s window as well.  By the time witches and goblins show up at the door in a couple of weeks, they’ll be all gone.

I’ve been so accustomed to stepping outdoors several times a day.  There is something about fresh air and sunshine that makes us feel better just by being outdoors. 

So why do we tend to stay in when we’re sick?  I wonder if perhaps we would recover more quickly outdoors.  The challenge would be to not engage in too much tiring activity. 

From the kitchen window I can see a large snowshoe hare that’s decided to come close.  Its ears are perked and it’s sitting just below the window, posed perfectly still for a photograph.   Sometimes, when you can’t go out into nature, nature knows, and comes to you.

hare from window

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deadly star of bethlehem

Last summer I found two young snowshoe hares dead on the lawn one morning.  They were curled up in the fetal position and showed no outward sign of trauma.  They were the cutest little creatures and it was so sad to have to bury them.  I had seen them hopping around the rosebushes just the day before.  I couldn’t understand why they had died so suddenly.  A fox would have carried them back to its den.  If a cat or dog had attacked them, they would surely have wounds.

young hareHares have made nests in my wild rosebushes for years.  They didn’t this year.  In years past, young bunnies have often hopped out of the bushes as I’ve mowed the grass nearby.  Adult hares still graze on the lawn in the open, usually dining on dandelions and plantains.  In the winter they reach up to eat the green needles on the lower branches of balsam fir trees.

Recently I learned that most plants in the lily family of flowers are poisonous.  Plants in this family all have bulbs, flowers with parts in 3s and parallel leaf veins. Many of these bulbs are often planted in the fall in North American gardens for spring blooming:  narcissus, tulips, irises, hyacinths, crocuses and daffodils.

Although I”ve never planted any of these in my garden, a couple of years ago, a friend gave me a clump of Star of Bethlehem blooms to transplant.  I put them right next to the rosebushes.  At the time, I didn’t realize that their bulbs would be deadly if ingested by pet cats, dogs, rabbits or wild hares.  Could these have caused the death of the young bunnies last summer?  I’ll never know for sure, but I will be removing this beautiful plant and its numerous bulbs from my yard before next spring.

snowshoe hares

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Finding the name of a mystery flower can be like looking for a needle in a haystack.  It’s often a  frustrating task.  Where do you start?

If you’re doing an online search, two other keywords besides color can be helpful:

  • A flower’s habitat. Is it growing in a meadow? a pine forest? a bog? on a lakeshore? a seashore?
  • The English or Latin name of the flower’s family. There are 7 floral families (listed below), each with a specific set of characteristics.

yellow small

Mustard Family Cruciferae

– 4 petals
– seedpods follow a radial pattern around the stalk
– pods open from both sides to expose a clear membrane in the middle
– all edible





mint smallMint FamilyLabiatae

– 5 united petals
– square stalks
– leaves grow opposite one another
– usually aromatic
– all edible as long as they smell minty





beach pea

Pea or Legume Family

– irregular shaped flowers with 5 petals
– pea-like pods
– pinnate leaves
– vary from being barely edible to barely poisonous





star of bethlehem

Lily Family Liliaceae

– flowers with parts in 3s with 6 stamens
– sepals and petals identical
– parallel leaf veins
– produce bulbs
– some edible, some poisonous





small pink hollyhock

Mallow Family

– 5 separate petals
– column of stamens in middle of flower
– moist and sticky texture
– edible





oxeye daisy

Aster or Sunflower Family –

– composite flowers
– disk-like head
– each petal is an individual flower
– edible





lace small

Parsley or Carrot Family
Apiaceae or Umbelliferae

– radially symmetrical (5 petals, sepals and stamens)
– compound umbrella-like design
– usually hollow flower stalks
– many are not safe for eating and can be deadly




You may still have to look at several images before you’re able to find the exact flower, but these keywords should help you narrow your search.  At the very least, you should be able to identify its family.  Good luck!

For more information on floral families, see:
Learning to Identify Plants by Families

For more information on flowers in northern North America, see:
Ontario Wildflower

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front door

The color green evokes a sense of peaceful growth.  Its use on or around a front door enhances a home’s ability to communicate a calming and soothing atmosphere. Although my front door is painted a very light greenish grey, it’s surrounded by much green foliage at this time of year.

Last week, while delivering a package, the postman commented that he would soon need a weed wacker to get through the doorway.  The vine leaves have grown very large and hang low by the front door.  In order to pass through the threshold you have to bow your head.

open door

Having to do this reminds me of a story I once heard  about an East Indian worker who had hung a curtain across the top of the doorway to his office.  It required that he bow down his head whenever he entered his work space.  The act of bowing was a reminder to him to be reverent in his approach to his daily tasks.  There’s certainly room for all of us to integrate more reverence into our lives, both at home and in the workplace.  We so often take for granted the sacredness of home and the work of our hands and minds.

mountain ash

Earlier this spring, I transplanted a mountain ash tree from the backyard to a spot just right of the front door.  This type of tree is very similar to Old World rowan trees which are customarily planted near front doors to ward off evil spirits.

Without words, nature can communicate warmth and welcome in many ways.  Mystery and the wonder of growth are inexorably woven into her message.

However much you knock at nature’s door, she will never answer you in comprehensible words.

~ Ivan Turgenev

For more information on mountain ash, see Rowan Trees.

For more information on vines, see Dragon Claws on Vines.

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hydrangea bush

Hydrangea shrubs become so heavy with blooms towards the end of summer that their branches begin to droop.  Their tired appearance might make it easy for you to walk past.  But stop.  Take a closer look…

hydrangea 1

Despite the droopiness of the branches, is not each bloom still exquisite, still perfect in its form and softness?  Peering through the bloom, one can get a glimpse of the fragile inner structure that holds each of the tiny flowers together in the rounded shape that is often mistaken for the flower itself.  Look more closely…


Each individual little flower consists of three tiny petals with its own centre.  Look!  The tiniest of flies is taking a rest on one of them.

hydrangea 2Like flowers, the more closely we look at people, the more wondrous they become.  Although they might appear tired and worn from a distance, up close, their resilience and beauty is revealed.  Sometimes it’s only when they begin to fall apart a little, that we can see what holds them together beneath the surface.  Each one is more complex than we could ever have imagined.  But such discoveries don’t come cheap.

It takes time, patience and energy to focus on a single flower or person.  Some open themselves more easily to revelation than others.  Yet each one will open and disclose its beauty in its own time.

So much is waiting for us to discover, in both flowers and people… if only we would take the time and look carefully.

Look deep into nature and then you will understand everything better.

~ Albert Einstein

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ragged robin

Ragged Robin flowers grow wild in the yard.  They just popped up a few summers ago and I’ve been mowing around them ever since.  They’re too pretty to cut down.

daisy patchI used to mow around the Oxeye daisies too but now restrict their growth to mostly a large circular bed in one corner of the yard.  Once they’re done blooming, I mow the area flat.

Wild flowers require no special care.  They grow where God has planted them (or I’ve transplanted them) and need no extra watering beyond what rains down.  They’re not as prone to blight and insect damage as introduced species seem to be, and the slugs don’t have much of an apetite for them.

Unfortunately, these plants are often seen as weeds and tend to be either tolerated or eradicated with great effort from city lawns.

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.

~ William Blake, Auguries of Innocence

Whether or not a plant is considered a weed is a matter of perception.  Poet William Blake believed that ‘If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.’  Signs of innocence are close at hand but it’s up to us to open our eyes, take notice and try to understand them.  ‘Everything that lives is holy’ and can bring us in touch with that which is infinite.  What positive things might happen today if we were willing to abandon our pre-conceived, limited notions of beauty and abundance?

shore birds in flight

Nature in its many forms possesses qualities that can connect us to this holy state.  From sandpipers on the ocean’s shore to doves on city streets, these signs of innocence are ready to give us a glimpse of the infinite and the eternal, if only we would adjust our focus.

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