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Dec 15

Cottage property is - almost - perfect

I had the privilege of visiting a very special cottage property last fall, on Deer Island off Honey Harbour. The owner, John, had recently purchased the nine-acre site. He told me he wants to enhance the front of the cottage with native plants and do some landscaping to the rear where there is a wetland as well as an area that appears to have served as a dump. He has no background as a cottager, but his family is ready for the experience – and while he doesn’t consider himself a gardener, he does enjoy the work.

I waited for John at the Nautilus Marina on the last Sunday in October, a lovely late fall day – chilly to start with, but warming up quickly as the sun came out. We jumped into his little aluminum motorboat and chugged out to the main channel between Beausoleil Island and Deer Island. There’s a pleasant old-time feel to the cottages – no McMansions here. John’s is a bungalow nestled in the trees, high above the water. Two nearby “bunkies” will accommodate grandchildren and other anklebiters. The previous owner built stone terracing all the way down to the water. It fits in perfectly with the rocks and the trees and the water. A job well done.

We jump off onto a rickety dock. John has planted hostas and bee balm (“rightly or wrongly,” he says deprecatingly). “They’ll have to go,” I said, nodding at the hostas, “they totally don’t belong.” John - surprised to learn that hostas are from northeast Asia, mainly Japan - is agreeably unfazed. His bee balm is native, although it’s a dwarf cultivar, and cultivars don’t always fulfill the original species plant’s ecological functions such as feeding birds and other creatures, or hosting insects and other organisms.
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Sep 30

The summer of Monarch abundance

It was 8 degrees outside yesterday morning, windy and raining. I decided to cocoon. The day before, it was 10 Celsius, sunny and calm. It felt lovely to be outside. The change had come Thursday afternoon. The date was interesting, because September 28 is when our first frost can be expected. Not this year – but still, it went down to 4 last night and it's chilly today - even if it’s due to rise to 25 C by Tuesday.

So, it’s fall. But I’m not over summer, which this year was enhanced by an encouraging abundance of Monarch butterflies. During the warm weather earlier this week, observers along the Lake Ontario shoreline were amazed by the spectacular parade.

Some of us raised Monarch caterpillars this year and became transfixed by the unfolding spectacle of the species' metamorphosis. When last I blogged, I had seven chrysalides, with one final caterpillar hanging in a ‘J’ from the top of its cage. It pupated a few days later.
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Sep 3

Downsizing the garden library – and updating on Monarchs

It’s been fun, going through my garden books, many of them dating to the ‘90s and early ‘00s when I was writing reviews for the Toronto Star, and beautiful and interesting books just flowed my way. But I have to reduce my collection, this is the year I am trying to get rid of stuff... so I will have a whole lot of books for sale when I re-open this Saturday, September 9, after which they will be gone.

But it’s hard, deciding what has to go!

There are some I won’t take leave of, even though I have long outgrown them – like my first gardening book, purchased in 1978 when I finally had a garden. Carters Dictionary of Gardening was my guide in those early years (this was in the U.K.) – but a keen interest in growing food – dealt with rather too succinctly by Carters in a few short pages under ‘K’ for Kitchen Garden – prompted an investment in a slim paperback by D. G. Hessayon called the Vegetable Plotter. It’s simple and still valued, with you-can’t-go-wrong instructions on growing 25 vegetables, from broad beans to turnips.

Returning to Canada in the early ‘80s, I started my Simcoe County garden and refined my vegetable growing techniques with the Harrowsmith Northern Gardener by Jennifer Bennett. My volume is not in good shape, having weathered a rainstorm or two, but just seeing the cover brings back many happy memories.
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