At Last

June 23

Finally, in Port Medway…

Two months later than originally planned. The flight from Toronto was a ghost flight – a pandemic plane with a handful of masked, sepulchral, passengers scattered through the rows of seats. Halifax airport, empty, half-lit… 

Persicaria, cottage garden with viburnum, barberry etc and seaside garden with meadow sage, false indigo, allium

And then, a 90-minute drive, to Port, the house by the sea, and the gardens, in the early evening light, after many months away.

Lynn and I immediately had an early evening walk together round the place, prelude to many walks to come. Our winter epistolary relationship was over. Now we could talk and laugh together. 

I wanted a sense of what was happening. Now, in the middle of June, things were moving fast. The early bloomers had already come and mostly gone—the daffodils, 



camassia, pea shrub and the forsythia –  but the irises, trillium, lilac bushes, and the magnificent yellow magnolia tree that Dick Steele had planted twenty years ago, were still in bloom.  But much was about to happen. Tree and herbaceous peonies were “ready to pop” (a Lynn expression). Azaleas, rhododendrons, many varieties of allium, bleeding hearts (one magnificent large white one, in the seaside garden, that I like in particular), and false indigo, were all blooming. Goat’s beard was getting ready—what? to pop. Lynn was excited about the return of the malva, a biennial visitor.

Paeonia, in various stages of “popping”

But, as always in a garden, there was failure and trouble. It’s the way of things.  It was mostly a couple of trees. The small peach tree over by the cottage had been pretty much finished off by some horrible blight. The same for the elderberry in the circular garden. The stewartia at the cottage? Completely dead! But, to make us feel better in the tree department, the laburnum was in glorious, glorious, bloom and Ellen, a small beech planted last year and named after a friend who died, was thriving. And the long established chestnut and eastern redwood – magnificent!

Gorgeous laburnum

Which brings me to Japanese Knotweed. We have quite a bit. It’s impossible to get rid of. We’ve tried, even using a backhoe to dig down six feet and rip out roots. Nothing works. So we decided to live with it, and try and control its spread. Actually, it’s a rather handsome bush, if you look at it the right way. Many recipes call for knotweed – vegan chutney, for example, or a kind of bread. It can be used to treat Lyme Disease, which is a problem in these parts. Embrace the knotweed!

Japanese Knotweed, on the march

But Japanese Knotweed is feared and loathed by many. By chance, on the pandemic plane from Toronto, I was reading the latest issue of Granta Magazine and came across “the knotweed sonnets” by Andrew McMillan. He has knotweed in his garden. In part of the introduction to the sonnets he writes, “Sometimes at night… I think I can hear it stretching, threatening to wake up, to grow through the walls.”

6 thoughts on “At Last”

  1. Rosemary Bates Terry

    Andrew’s knotweed nightmare has a hint of truth and possibility: hereabouts, knotweed can burst through concrete. Bill’s weed rage, however, was reserved for horsetail in its almost prehistoric, rampaging ability to survive. Persistent (and early, often) pulling out was the only way to prevail, he said, and he usually succeeded. Patience is usually rewarded in the garden, as in other pursuits…
    So glad you made it back to your port side paradise. Have a wonderful summer, Philip, Cynthia and Lynn.

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