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A GARDENER'S NOTES  is now available for sale on Amazon

I grew up in the Rocky Mountains of  southern Alberta.  They call the province “sunny” but it is a brutal climate for gardening.  Winter temperatures can reach 40 degrees below zero, and that doesn’t account for wind chill.  It often snows every month.  It  is a testament to the human spirit that anybody ever plants anything.  Maybe that’s why I remember so vividly the miracle of purple crocuses blooming through a lens of ice, the brilliant crimson of an oriental poppy against the backdrop of a split-rail fence and snow-covered mountains.  The whole family went out to look at them when they bloomed.  It was such a miracle that they came back every year. 

My grandparents owned a farm on the edge of  Waterton , the Canadian side of Glacier National Park.  My grandmother was an avid gardener and I followed her around.  She wore a housedress, gumboots, and a white shawl with a silver thread woven through it.  Sometimes, she draped the shawl over the fence, where the crows  worried out the silver threads. 

When I was seven, my grandmother gave me a bowlful of seeds to plant in the garden, a plot the size of a football field.  I held the round, brown seeds and doubted they would turn into anything.  But I admired my grandmother and trusted her.  I still remember and relish my surprise when I grew a row of turnips.  So white and purple, so absolutely beautiful.  I didn’t really like turnips, but I ate them anyway.  I had grown them myself!! 


When I was fifteen and had been told not to get in cars with boys, I went straight out and did just that.  It was a silly thing to do when you live in a small town and come from a big family on both sides.  My mother had nine siblings  and my step-dad had eight, so I was related to almost everyone in town.  The odds of someone seeing me were high.  But, at fifteen, I knew everything.  I rode in that car for twenty minutes and by the time I got home, my mother knew all about it.  I was grounded.   For punishment, I was sent to the farm for the weekend to work.  My grandmother took me to a hillside where she  had a crop of potatoes.  She dropped me off with a shovel, a pile of gunny sacks, a lunch, a big bottle of water, my book, and the dog. 

It was sunny and warm.  The Quaking Aspens glittered in the tiny, cooling breeze.  I carefully dug the potatoes and filled the burlap sacks.  Then I shared my lunch with the dog and laid back in the grass to read.  Ultimately, the disciplinary measure of forcing me to dig potatoes was not a punishment.  That day stands out in my memory as one of the finest days of my life.  I’m a grown up, now, and have grown children.  I own the ratty white shawl with the silver threads my grandmother wore.  I still dig in the  dirt.  My heart still lifts when my irises bloom.   I’m not the kind of gardener who collects rare plants.  I celebrate the miracle of common perennials. 

[May Sample below]






















Regular Garden Chores


•  Weed

•  Control slugs

•  Turn the compost

•  Deadhead


Plant the following:

•  Summer bulbs

•  Perennials: daylilies, hosta, penstemon, Siberian iris.

•  Annuals and biennials such as African daisy, calendula, clarkia, cleome, cosmos,

     forget-me-not, godetia, linaria, lobelia,  nasturtiums, pansies, portulaca, sunflower,

     snapdragons, sweet alyssum, sweet William, verbena, violas, and zinnia

•  Tomatoes, peppers, basil, corn, squash, and beans late in the month

•  Container-grown trees, and shrubs

•  Vines: clematis, climbing hydrangea, wisteria

•  Dahlias, gladiolus, calla lilies, chrysanthemums (plant gladiolus every two weeks)

•  Divide summer-and-fall blooming perennials

•  Fill containers with annuals and herbs

•  Transplant annuals

Prune the following:

•  Rhododendrons, azaleas, forsythia, clematis, and daphne

•  Lilacs

•  Wisteria as it finishes blooming

•  Deadhead rhododendrons

•  Pinch back perennials and annuals


Fertilize the following:

•  Roses, evergreens, annuals, azaleas and rhododendrons 

•  Potted plants and vegetable garden every week



•  Take cuttings from evergreens, shrubs, perennials, and houseplants

•  Cut strawberry runners to keep the main plant producing strawberries. You can replant       the runners if you want more plants. 

•  Spray the roses regularly to control diseases.  Refer to the note on page 14.

























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