On Woodlands and Wetlands

Beach Meadows, June 8, 2020

Dear Philip,

As promised, I’m sending along photos of the woodland gardens along with a gallery of the butterbur: marvel, nemesis. Once again, it is encroaching on the gardens so I guess I’ll be yanking some of that up in November. Nothing like a garden which can be at once a mindful practice yet slingshots you into another season with tasks and planning. Anyway, you’ll see the butterbur languishing in one of the photos and I included that to show you how this plant wilts in the sun. It most definitely thrives in woodland shade and it perked right back up again with a shifting sun. Still, the wilting withered spells will be more prevalent this year with the spruce trees down and that part of the forest thinned out, the canopy gone.

Butterbur over the course of a month with a ring thrown in for scale.
One leaf measured 26.5 inches in diameter.

There was a real ruckus in the “Heritage Wetland” while I was mucking about in the roadside garden last week, a very loud, almost cartoonish quacking, so I went across to check out what was going on: A family of ducks, the ducklings learning the ropes with some very vociferous parental instruction. I scooted around to The Point, wading through the sea grass to get a better shot but the dad flew off leaving the mother to usher the two ducklings to safety and out of view.  No sign of otters scampering across the lawn nor any herons, yet. There are bald eagles, though! Thanks for mentioning the pond in your last letter: It’s heightened my attention to a place I really take for granted because it needs no tending except perhaps our stewardship and of course, nature’s beneficence.

Heritage Wetlands” with ducks!

Fern, unfurling

But  I’m burying the lead: we got rain! A day of scant showers and drizzle and then a real soaker that lasted pretty much the course of a day. Wells are replenished and I don’t have to water for a bit now so that’s two birds with one stone etc. I headed over during the anemic spritz to plant some cleome that I grew from seed courtesy of your neighbours Vincent and Bridget. It was very foggy, a very still and gentle day. One of the greatest pleasures of the woods, and a woodland garden is the sensory explosion of extremes: the fecund, earthy sensuality after a rain and the pungency of hot sun on cedar. Both catapult me back each and every time to the best parts of my insouciant youth, the lakes and forests of Ontario, outdoors, carefree and wild and happy.

Rodgersia and dogwood

Okay, that reverie has me feeling lazy. No time in busy June for that, though. Before I head over to Port,  I’ve got to get all the vegetable plants I’ve raised over the last two months in the ground and throw some fence up to thwart the deer and one rather large hare who is here daily (ha, I’m now I’m thinking of that great scene in “Withnail and I” with Uncle Monty:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E4HHaspKL_4).  On that note, I’ll sign off. 

See you and Cynthia and Misty soon! 

Here, hare, here (apparently a fan of dandelion stalks!)

Dear Lynn,
Thank God for the rain. A real soaker, you say. Excellent! However advanced our civilization may be (let’s not get into that), we still look to the skies and pray for rain and suffer badly if we don’t get it. For me, the pond is my happiness gauge. If it’s full to the brim, with ducks, herons, and – if we’re lucky – a family of otters, then all is well. If it goes dry, then despondency creeps up on me, like Carl Sandburg’s fog, on little cat feet.(“It sits looking over harbor and city /on silent haunches/and then moves on.”)

Trillium and rhododendron

Only two ducklings? Last year we had a family of twelve. Led by the mother, they would once or twice a day swim across the bay, close to the beach. A wonderful sight. Although as time went on twelve became eleven, and then ten, nine… “Nature is not cruel, only pitilessly indifferent,” as Richard Dawkins wrote.

Ducks, beating a retreat, from The Point.

My dear and lamented friend Captain Dick Steele planted the butterbur. It’ll do well, he predicted. It’ll spread, he said. He didn’t mention The Day of the Triffids. Does the butterbur have the power of locomotion? Is it carnivorous? Will it start eating people? How did the world get swallowed up so quickly? (That’s another discussion.) No, we can relax. Our butterbur seems benign, peaceful. And it wilts – temporarily – in strong sun. “Perked right back up again,” eh? Watch out.

Captain Dick Steele gave us butterbur and to make up for that, these gorgeous trillium, too.

Our new beech tree, “For Ellen”

 “Fecund, earthy sensuality,” you say. This brings me back to “The Decadent Gardener,” a book I mentioned in our last post and which I have now bought. A section is devoted to techniques to ensure fertility in the garden. Modesty precludes my mentioning most of them, but one method “requires setting up the cult of a python-god; then employing old priestesses armed with clubs to run frantically through the streets of local villages  shrieking madly and carrying off young girls as brides-to-be for the serpent.” Will this work in Port Medway?

The beautiful woodland gardens courtesy of Captain Dick Steele and the talented Ivan Higgins

Clematis and brunnera

Roadside woodland with persicaria, emerging goatsbeard and bleeding heart

Only nine sleeps and we will be there and you and I will walk the land.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top
%d bloggers like this: