Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Kirstenbosch, Native Plants, and Babies

Over the Victoria Day weekend in 2003, I read a book that changed my life. It's probably not the kind of book you're thinking of. It was The Gardener's Manifesto: Changing the World and Creating Beauty One Garden at a Time by Lorraine Johnson, and after I read it, I decided to buy a house so that I could have a garden with plants indigenous to my part of Ontario. No doubt there are easier ways to get a garden, especially with all the community gardens around. But many of my friends were buying houses and I wanted to join in on the fun.

So a few weeks later we found a house and bought it and took possession on July 18, 2003. It was a fixer-upper and cheap but in a central neighbourhood on a quiet street. I thought it would be a great project. After six weeks of ripping up floors, removing 50-year-old doggy carpet and yucky 70's fake wood panelling, painting, melting and nearly breaking up in the hot summer, we moved in. I started gardening immediately, bored with the house renovations already. I removed some hedges in front of the porch and began planting native plants. And then waited to see the results next summer.

Next summer we got married and I started planting flowers in a former vegetable garden that was far too shady for vegetables. Plus, being in an old, slightly industrial neighbourhood I didn't trust the soil for veggies. And veggies are just way too much work. A big reason for planting native perennials was for the low maintenance. I like planting but I've never been great at the maintenance. Anyways, again, I waited to see the results in the following year. The front garden didn't look so great. The right side flowered in the early summer and the left side flowered in the late summer so it was all very unbalanced. On to 2005.

In February 2005, my husband and I went to South Africa. He grew up there and all of his family except for his mum still live there. For details of my trip, see the emails I sent while we were gone. Our first day in Cape Town, we went to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. I was very keen to go because I've always loved flowers and now I was especially interested in the indigenous plants, especially the fynbos. My favourite place in Kirstenbosch is the medicinal plants garden, which describes how each plant has been used traditionally. By this time in our lives, my husband and I were beginning to talk babies. Well, ok, I'd been talking babies for a few years but finally my husband had joined in. For some reason I was scared I would struggle with infertility once we started trying. So one plant that really struck me in the medicinal plants garden was agapanthus. It's a blue flower in the lily family and very pretty. I think it was backlit in the actual garden when we were there so I couldn't get a good shot of it in Kirstenbosch. Traditionally it was used as a fertility charm. I wanted a charm like this to take home with me. So I spent the rest of the trip with my eyes peeled for agapanthus so I could take a photo for my fertility charm. Eventually, I found one at the Storm River's Mouth in Tsitsikamma National Park.

Shortly after we returned to Canada, we started trying to make a baby. Two months later, I was pregnant. After we had Ezra, my husband's employer sent a beautiful bouquet of flowers to congratulate us. It was blue, I guess because we had a boy, and in it were two beautiful agapanthus flowers.

Anyways, back to my garden: I didn't do much during the summer I was pregnant and here we are in the next summer and I'm too busy with Ezra. But I have a friend who is a fantastic gardener and has improved my gardens immensely. I like my front garden now and I just know my back garden will look great next year. Oh - and on our house: it's slightly more fixed up than when we bought it but it's still very much an unfixed-up fixer-upper. We've discovered that not only are we completely unhandy but we also don't much like renovating. Luckily, we've also discovered we really like our house and don't want to live in any other house.

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