Sunday, July 22, 2018

Abundant sour cherries

We've never lived anywhere conducive to growing cherries, although I've certainly enjoyed Bing cherries from the Pacific Northwest, as well as occasional sour cherry products of varying sorts.

So it was with some amazement that we've watched the two large cherry trees develop fruits and slowly ripen.  A visitor (from Florida) said one was a Rainier because of its appearance, but the taste of ripening fruits didn't seem like Rainier, nor were they the right size.  They are now turning completely red.

Fruits from one of the trees are really quite tasty, the other tree's fruits are still sour.  As sweet cherries aren't supposed to be hardy here, I'm imagining that these are sour cherries that happen to be good for fresh eating, too, if you don't expect them to taste like Bings!

These two trees are large, requiring a ladder to pick most of the fruits.  There are way too many to harvest completely, in any case, in the time I have before we leave.  I'm not sure what I'd do with all of them, aside from drying or freezing, and I don't yet have a dehydrator or a cherry pitter (I'm not sure about the paper clip/straw/ice pick alternative methods...)  Apparently, you can also just freeze them whole. As we do have an empty chest freezer in the basement, maybe that's the ticket.

The birds so far in the garden don't seem interested yet, but we're surrounded by a lot of pastures and fields, so perhaps many of the fruit-eating birds haven't made their way here yet!  There are abundant robins in the national park, but we haven't seen them in our garden here.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Red deer munching on fireweed

I suppose I should have expected to see something like this, but on my morning walk yesterday in Parc National du Bic, I came across a red deer in a meadow along the La Chemin du Nord trail. 

She was contentedly biting off fireweed flower buds and flowers, chewing them a bit, seemingly enjoying foraging on a special treat.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Echoes of past gardeners

The previous owner of our house in Quebec had lived here for 16 years -- 12 of those year-round, and then only in summers.

He wrote with enthusiasm about the plants in the landscape (in his personal for-sale flyer and website), so we assumed that many of the perennials, shrubs, and trees had been added by them.

But we knew, on arrival, that the paper birches, spruces, and aspens that define our landscape had preceeded them.  And our neighbors had talked about a previous owner, too.

So amazingly, this afternoon, the first post-schoolhouse owner appeared, with a young new neighbor, who brought him over.   This fellow, in his 70's, now lives in Le Bic, the village nearby.  He and his wife did the first renovation of the old schoolhouse and lived here for 25 years, before selling it to Daniel, the antique dealer.

They had built the first garden shed, but more importantly had planted all of the large trees that are now so dominant and beautiful in our acre landscape.

So Daniel and his girlfriend had planted a lot more; they were gardeners, too, especially her, according to our neighbors.

So, I don't know who planted the peonies or the roses or the daylilies.  

But I know that the echoes and footprints of past gardeners exist in this landscape that we now steward, not to mention the wonderful historic house that both helped create.

view from the road, with paper birches

It's a good thing.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Fireweed (Chamerion latifolium)

I used to know this plant as Epilobium angustifolium; it’s still a wonderful plant.

Common in disturbance-prone habitats, it grows throughout the Pacific Northwest (where I first saw it as a post-clear cut and post-fire native in my youth), but also grows in much of Canada. It’s frequent here in Quebec in Bas St. Laurent along roadsides, pasture edges, along the railroad right-of-way, etc.

It’s a bumblebee favorite. We saw lots of bumblebees visiting open flowers this evening on our walk in Le Bic. It’ll be an addition to our landscape here next year.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Places of the spirit

I'd call it places of the heart, I suppose, too. 

I'm not the least bit religious, but I definitely connect with a sense of place and feeling connected to special places in the world.  Mine were the forests and mountains of my youth, camping in the Rockies of Colorado, I've realized, with a summer spent on the flanks of Mt. Hood, Oregon in the mix as a high school student.

It wasn't the scrub cedar of the Edwards Plateau, in Austin, Texas, where I grew up, that I connected with. Although I loved exploring the then wide expanses of Northwest Austin on my own, poking around in the junipers and sophora.

It was the evergreens and aspens of Colorado that imprinted their mark;  mountains and forests are my home place.

So I've felt like I've returned home to the Southern Appalachians of Asheville, Carolina, but now I'm feeling equally at home in the far northern stretches of the Appalachians in Quebec, where the mountains dip into the sea.  The forest areas here are magical: spruce, fir, aspen, and birch, with a delightful understory of various natives and adventives.

Havre du Bic view this afternoon
We're so fortunate to have mountains, sea, and forest, as well as a historic house and expansive garden to restore and revision.

Not to mention wonderful views into the St. Lawrence River and Parc National du Bic nearby.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Gardening as restoration

I learned long ago that encouraging folks to restore habitat by creating wildlife-sustaining gardens was an antidote to sadness about the drumbeat of loss in the natural world.  That drumbeat has continued; but hope is still found in the garden.

I'm bookmarking my time in Quebec with two programs:  one just before we left North Carolina at the NC Arboretum was on Pocket Meadows (with native plants).  I didn't want to cancel, so we stayed so I could do the program, and we left that afternoon.

Here in Quebec, I'm doing a small program just before we return home to North Carolina, at the Heritage Center/English library in Rimouski that's part of Heritage Lower Bas St. Laurent, about Gardening for Nature.  Fitting.

It restores my spirit and makes a difference, of whatever sort.

Rosa rugosa naturalized in Parc National du Bic
I almost wrote a piece this evening about how I feel about the current state of my country, the US.  That's a call for activism, not really what I like to post on my blog.

So I'm glad to think about encouraging folks here (in a VERY short gardening season) to think about planting for bees, butterflies, birds, toads, etc....  Lawns are quite popular here, as are a lot of very ornamental shrubs which aren't wildlife sustaining. There's lots of room for restoration towards really beautiful natural habitat, as we're starting to do in our "new" landscape here.

Happily, my attention was drawn yesterday to how Rosa rugosa, a naturalized inhabitant (I hate to call it invasive) along the shores of the St. Lawrence River, and still a widely planted shrub, supports pollen-collecting bees of various sizes, as does its native counterpart Rosa palustris.

Bumblebee on Rosa rugosa
The double-flowered cultivars are largely worthless for pollen-collecting bees, but the singles (closest to the species, I suppose) are being avidly visited, both in the park and in our home garden.

Small bee of some sort on Rosa rugosa

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Clematis tangutica (Golden Clematis)

Golden Clematis,

The yellow clematis now flowering on the arbor outside the solarium in our house in Le Bic, Quebec was unfamiliar to me;  many ornamental clematis cultivars are grown in the Southeastern U.S., but I'd not seen this one before.

So, I wanted to figure out what species it was. 

Golden Clematis
It appears to be Clematis tangutica, a perennial vine native to the high mountains of northwestern India and western China.  It's really quite lovely and looks delicate.  It's certainly not popping up in our landscape here.

So I was surprised as I poked around the web that this species escapes cultivation in Alberta and is considered invasive.  There wasn't any mention of invasiveness on the Missouri Botanical Garden's website and it's a RHS plant of merit in the UK.  Sarah Raven recommended it.

But it's described as a "very vigorous deciduous climber."  I'll be keeping an eye on it, I guess!

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Another Saint-Fabien sur Mer walk

We're so fortunate to be less than 10 minutes away from the lovely seaside community of Saint-Fabien sur Mer.

Walking along the road, we enjoy looking at the cottages and summer residences, as well as the houses that harbor year-round residents -- they're hardy folks as the winds have been brisk at times and we can tell from hedge plantings of Thuja that it's been a consideration.

And it's been fun to see over the course of the time we've been here, the houses being repopulated with their summer and weekend people.

Towards Parc National du Bic
But, what's the constant is the extraordinary views of the St. Lawrence coast --it's a seascape, in reality, because the water is quite salty here, and that's how the locals describe it.

Developing mist over the St. Laurence
The view looking towards the park

Thursday, July 12, 2018

A beautiful Campanula

A morning hike from the Ferme Rioux section of Parc National du Bic, looping around the Sentier Le Contrabandier, brought us to the Anse à Mouille-Cul, a spectacular bay on the far side.  A couple we’d talked with yesterday evening in Le Bic had mentioned the site as a special place for a plant flowering in late May and early June, although the exact plant wasn’t mentioned.

So we just looked for interesting plants, of which there were a number.

This Campanula was one of my favorites in flower today.  Campanula gieseckeana seems to fit its identity.  An impressive looking bell flower.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Kayaking on the St. Lawrence River

I'm not a natural kayaker, as I've never had much upper body strength (so my paddling arms need building up -- as do my biking arms and weeding ones, too).  Nor do my hands appreciate grasping the paddle for extended periods -- although they'll adjust, too.

Ready to go
But it's a LOT of fun to be out on the water enjoying the views of the coast, Pic Champlain, etc., even as I'm working up to longer jaunts. 

Today's excursion featured more waves, so paddling was more challenging, but exhilarating -- it's a good thing to push limits a bit.  Scary, but fun. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

A morning walk in Parc National du Bic

The walk from Ferme Rioux to the start of the loop around the Cap-à-l'Orignal is popular for a reason; it's spectacular.

The barn on the former farm site (now transformed into the park's discovery/visitor center) faces a  lovely bay, with the old farm house now an administrative center; it's the starting point for a 3 mile round trip walk along the edge of the bay at the heart of the park; the general trail is called Le Chemin de Nord.

With rocky outcrops, small bays, and a wonderful array of forests and meadows to walk through, not to mention the beautiful historic buildings from its time as a family retreat, this path is probably a key reason that we bought this house here. Our house's historic construction and Atlantic white cedar shakes, painted a deep yellow, echo the beautiful historic buildings in the park. And we're less than 5 minutes to either entrance to the park.  Amazing.

At Lyman/La Rose des thés

Pollen-collecting insects on Rosa sp., possibly R. palustris

Start of the Cap-à-L'Orignal


Monday, July 9, 2018

Traveling and "living abroad"

We've been on a number of home exchanges out of the U.S. over the last year and a half, some for a couple of weeks, some for three weeks or a month.  This summer, in our "new" house in Quebec, we'll have been away from the U.S. for two and half months.  I suppose this qualifies as "living abroad" for a while.

We're not expats, as we return to Asheville, NC and will continue to do so.

It's an interesting experience to be in one place for a longer period.  You're no longer a traveler, or "on vacation" -- which is not how I describe our traveling in any case  -- but on a usually different sort of schedule that being the "tireless tourists" that we've been in the past.

It's something different, as you connect with how people live, try to understand their daily lives, experience shopping at the local grocery stores and markets, and navigate whatever else is needed.

In Italy, in April, we needed to troubleshoot the internet connection of our wonderful Home Exchange place. Visits to the local TED office helped figure out that we needed a tech to come; fortunately, he spoke just enough English that I could answer on my phone (with an Italian TED sim card), that yes, we were there.  And then all was well (I think he just needed to reconnect and boost the line feed!)

Experiencing the regional mall where the TED office was located was an experience in itself, and the grocery store in the mall --  yikes, LOUD American oldies were the favorite audio background -- but it was the biggest grocery nearby, so had the best selection of vegetables, etc.  -- although in Italy, all of the groceries, big and small, had fabulous produce, chicken, etc.

Here in Quebec, we've managed to replace our hot water heater, pay our property taxes online via our Canadian bank account, arrange for our property insurance (remotely), pick up items from our very friendly local post office, have things delivered to our new address, get an internet connection, arrange for some additional lights to be installed  -- all perfectly normal things to do.

But when the language of our province is French -- and our French is limited, it's a bit more challenging.

But I'm alternating between listening to CBC radio from Quebec (in English) to a local French station, studying my online French lessons, and trying to get a better feel for how people live here.

I love seeing the families out biking in Parc National du Bic and along the bike paths in Rimouski.

There are so many wonderful paths available, both for biking and walking, it provides quite the contrast from our small mountain town.  They're investing in getting people outdoors through out the year, as the bike paths turn into cross-country ski trails and the walking paths become snow-shoe friendly.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Lonicera x 'Mandarin'

There are two vines growing on the old wooden arbor next to the solarium.  When we arrived in late May in Quebec, it was after an exceptionally cold April and May, so these plants hadn't even broken bud yet, so difficult to distinguish dead stems from living ones, nor was it apparent what sorts of vines they were, although we knew one was a clematis because of last year's fruits.  

As shoots and leaves started to appear, the general identity of the other became clear.  It's a honeysuckle.  Hmm. 
 Lonicera x 'Mandarin' on an old wooden arbor

What do honeysuckles in this climate, we thought -- do they set fruit?  Are there "good" horticultural ones, aside from our eastern NA native Lonicera sempervirens?  

As the honeysuckle flower clusters enlarged, they looked similar to L. sempervirens, but larger, with similar perfoliate leaves at the base of each inflorescence.  As the flowers expanded, they changed from a deep orange to a slightly lighter orange-yellow.   Fully in flower, it's quite striking (and robust).  Yikes.  What is it? I thought, and starting looking for an answer googling "hardy Canadian orange honeysuckles."

Happily, it turns out to be a sterile hybrid, developed by the University of British Columbia Botanical Garden in the late 1980's, now patented as Lonicera x 'Mandarin.'

It's a hybrid of Lonicera tragophylla, a native of China, and Lonicera x brownii 'Dropmore Scarlet,' which is, itself, a hybrid of Lonicera sempervirens, our eastern United States native, and Lonicera hirsuta, a native honeysuckle from the upper Midwestern United States.


Saturday, July 7, 2018

Another mystery plant: Galium mollugo (False Baby's Breath)

I love a good plant mystery and we're experiencing numerous ones here in Quebec (USDA Zone 4),  from native plants to horticultural ones.  We've been living in Zones 7 & 8 (in their current guise) for over 3 decades now, with excursions to places colder than that, too, of course, but we're running into many unfamiliar plants.

A feathery-flowered plant is now an abundant part of the roadside meadow mix here, as we noticed coming back from an excursion this afternoon.  Its identity certainly wasn't obvious from highway botanizing speeds.

Looking at it more closely after we returned home and my gardening companion collected a specimen, we knew it was a Galium, but which one?

Oddly, it was smooth, without the recurved spines that characterize all of the Galiums that I was familiar with - and the flowers were quite small, too.  So that helped narrow the field (in my Google search -- my field guides (both hard copy and online) weren't helpful.  So clues because of the lack of spines brought up a New Brunswick blogger's post about Galiums, where she mentioned the common one on roadsides there was this one.  Click!

It's Galium mollugo: False Baby's Breath, Smooth Bedstraw, or Hedge Bedstraw. Native to Europe and Northern Africa, it's hardy to Zone 3, and was introduced to North America as an ornamental.  It was present in Canada in the late 1800's. It's now common through the northeastern U.S, eastern Canada and beyond.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Changeable weather and record heat

There's been a remarkably warm spell over the past week for this part of the world at the base of the Gaspé Peninsula in Bas St. Laurent.  A few highs were in the mid-80°'s F.  

Not that hot for us, as those are fairly pleasant summer temperatures for many of us in the Southern US, even in the mountains of Western North Carolina, where we'd think it was warm but not hot. 

In Southern Quebec, it was much worse, with highs above 90° F -- record-breaking heat.  The   Washington Post had a piece about all-time heat records being broken across the planet.  Depressing.

I don't honestly know what more that I can do than to try to continue to live lightly on the earth, minimizing our carbon footprint, and doing what we can to restore our small patches of the world.

Yes, we have been members of a LOT of environmental groups (national and international) for decades; yes, I try to promote sustainable living and gardening in all of my outreach work; and, yes, we offset our carbon footprint from all the traveling that we've done over the years; I don't know what else to do.

We get some some of carbon credit for not having children or grandchildren, so don't have an imprint there, but then again, we don't have children or grandchildren to enjoy; we've just had big furry dogs!

So on a more upbeat note -- here's Woody, enjoying the sunset a week ago.

Woody in Le Bic at a small overlook park
The heat has broken today and it's quite cool again.  I won't mention the winter temperatures that are normal here.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

An apricot rose

I have vivid memories of visiting the Rose Garden in Berkeley as a small child;  we moved to Texas the summer after I turned eight.  We lived in family student housing in Albany, as my parents were students there, so my Mom liked to take my sister and me there as an outing.  The garden was full of fragrant roses of all sorts, with a wonderful view of the San Francisco Bay.

By the time I returned to Berkeley, as a graduate student myself, I'd fallen in love with the natural world, native plants, and the myriad ways that plants connect our lives across cultures.  I still liked roses, so I visited occasionally, but by the time I started really becoming a gardener, I gravitated towards edibles and natives.

I did plant red tulips in my first bed at our first house in Statesboro, Georgia, as well as fruit trees, as they've been something I've always loved for some reason.  I'll have to think about the connection.

Regardless, we now have roses starting to bloom in our Quebec garden.  Clearly, the previous gardeners loved roses of sorts, from the Rosa rugosa selections, to shrubby small-flowered red shrub roses, to what else, I don't know yet.

But this apricot-colored rose is now in full flower at the very edge of our property, along the fence line, as we drive down the road.   It's quite lovely.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

A mystery plant identified: Allium schoenoprasum (in the wild)

On a bike ride in Parc National du Bic a couple of days ago, I spotted something different in the coastal grassland.  It was distinctly pink, flowers in clusters, and not something I'd seen before here in Quebec.  Much of the grassland in the park were pastures back when that part of the park was a working farm, so it's largely Rosa rugosa (lovely, even if it's not native), grasses, with vetch and a sprinkling of other adventives.

On today's bike ride, I stopped to look at it more closely.  It took some walking into the grassland (a welcome break from biking, truth be told), and I'm thinking I know this plant.

It didn't smell like anything and had a solid-feeling stem, nor were any leaves obvious at the time.  My gardening companion and I thought Persicaria, perhaps?  But it really didn't fit when I checked it out.  So I went back later in the afternoon to look more closely at the leaves.  Hmm, they were clasping around the single flowering stem, but didn't really look like a Polygonum nor a Persicaria.

A stop at the park entrance store on my way out provided the answer:  Allium schoenoprasum var. sibiricum  --  Cibuolette de Sibérie -- wild chives.

In all of my years growing chives in the garden, I hadn't thought about where it might be native.  It turns out that it's circumboreal, in both Europe and North America, incredibly cold-tolerant, and widely variable in terms of ecotypes across the northern latitudes where it grows.

Hmm.  No wonder, it puzzled me. The plants in the park didn't have a scent of chives until long after crushed, the stems were really quite stout and solid compared to the garden varieties that I've grown, and the clumps, at least in this small population, were quite separate, rather than clusters.

So Allium schoenoprasum in the wild -- wow!

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Traveling and coming home

A gardening blogging friend had a lovely piece that I read today:

It reminded me about how we come home in mid-life to who we really are, why traveling can be important, how travel can be pilgrimage, and how finding a place that feels like home is so special.

I've written a lot of posts over the years about traveling; we've been fortunate to be able to visit many places in the world over the last decades; without children, on an academic schedule, we've been free at winter break and summers to seek out destinations because they're interesting as "natural" places and/or culturally rich places.

We travel as travelers.  We try to experience where we are and try to understand the culture and lives of the people who live there.  Visiting outdoor markets, hiking on trails in natural areas, visiting museums of all sorts; this is the fabric of traveling as we experience it.

But I also realized, reading Tammy's post, that we've come home, too, this summer.

Bumbling onto a wonderful historic house next to a fabulous national park  -- well, I'm channeling my youthful days hiking in the Rocky Mountains and the Northern Cascades. My gardening companion is seeing the surf of his youth growing up in Southern California along the St. Lawrence River, as well as remembering the mountains of Northern California that he fell in love with as a college student.

It's wonderful.

view from the ridge above the house

Monday, July 2, 2018

Farm views

One of the pleasures of being in Quebec, in Bas St. Laurent, on the beginning of the Gaspe Peninsula, is the expansive farms. They’re growing hay, grains, potatoes, and I’m not sure what else.

The view out of the small window in the main living space in our house here — lovely. I’ve probably posted the same view before!

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Morning walks, peonies, and rugosa roses

I'm continuing to explore trails in Parc National du Bic.  We fell in love with the park over the last couple of years just by visiting a few of the trails.  There are a lot more and they've all been great.

Cap Caribou
The trail I took this morning paralled the beach near where we first saw seals a couple of summers ago.  It was lovely and a side trail to the beach had me admiring this view.

At home, the herbaceous peonies are starting to put on a show.

These, out in the "orchard" aka "arboretum" echo the color of the rugosa rosa next to it perfectly.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Greens from Quebec

So nice to harvest butter crunch lettuce and baby chard (from transplants), snip some young bolting arugula from a sown mesclun mix box, and contemplate a full-scale harvest of baby arugula from another - these from seeds brought from the US.

harvested greens on our old dining table
Mesclun, arugula and chard
There should be a couple of harvests of kale, too, from the trough box, before we leave.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Morning views from Parc National du Bic

On my morning walk, I looped around the Ile aux Amours (a low-tide walk) -- fantastic, with wonderful native vegetation on the island.  The view from there was spectacular, too. I enjoyed seeing the houses across the bay in the nearby historic town of Le Bic.

The day was overcast, so the light was somber.  Another short walk nearby brought these views.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

A view of the world

It's a bit dizzying right now. 

A difficult news week at home in the U.S. 

Trying to learn more French - a difficult language for English speakers, I'm thinking, with all of the silent letters and combined pronunciation of words. Yikes.

And the lovely interjection today of watching a German gardening show that included the garden of an English garden blogging friend, Victoria Summerly, had me reminded of a wonderful visit to Oxford (also featured in the show) and the Cotswolds, where she lives. 

Hmm, I could understand the German almost word for word, even after many decades past my year there post-graduate school.  But a visit about 5 years ago had me reviving those modest skills, so perhaps that's how my brain remembers (I did study German for 6+ years in middle and high school, and a bit in college, before living there for a year).

Well, maybe I can eventually learn French, too, or at least enough to converse here in Quebec. I had a bit of French as a 3rd and 4th grader, and quite a bit of it seems familiar.  Thank goodness for the wonderful online resources and classes available, now.

The Canadian view of U.S. politics is interesting, to say the least, and another friend's post about the reliance of Canada on imported food, has me musing. 

50+ banana varieties in Mto Wa Mbu, Tanzania, seen some time ago
There actually is more focus on eating local here in Quebec than I would have thought; it's similar to Asheville, which is a very eat local kind of place.  And new tariffs just encourage thinking along these lines, apparently.

But it's all about context.  Here in Le Bic, what's local right now (fresh) is asparagus, radishes, and a few greens (in the farmer's markets); there's Quebec-raised pork, chicken, and beef in the groceries, Canadian milk, and there are delicious Quebec-grown potatoes (much better than at home). Quebec-grown apples are quite nice, too (they're Cortland, Spartan, Empire, etc).

Lots of folks have small vegetable gardens (why they'd try to grow tomatoes and peppers here surprises me), but they try.  I have lettuce, swiss chard, and kale growing here from starts, but it's hardly going to feed us for the next month.

So it's not surprising that folks in the markets are buying all the produce that we're familiar with -- but that's all imported.  Interestingly, more is coming directly from Mexico (peppers, carrots, lettuce, etc), and even more interesting is seeing onions from the Netherlands and garlic and broccoli (!)  from Spain. The organic spinach that I recently bought was from the U.S., as some of the organic produce often is, but I haven't looked at the labels for the large lettuce/spinach/greens boxes that I've also bought, thinking it was cheaper than at home (~ $4 US vs $6 US).

I haven't even looked at the green beans or zucchini for sale -- they're almost certainly from Mexico, too.  And berries -- there will be wonderful berries here but not until mid-July through August.  We're just getting the first strawberries from the Ile d'Orleans in the market, and they look quite modest, actually.  But the bananas that my gardening companion loves -- well, they're coming from different countries than at home in NC:  Columbia, the Dominican Republic, etc. and are different "brands."

This isn't so different than what I saw in Stockholm last summer - fresh vegetables and fruits imported from all over, but again with a bent towards what's closer distance-wise.  Or in Umbria in April -- LOTS of great (and truly delicious) produce from southern Italy, particularly Sicily, I thought, but not much local in April.

Here's a link to a post from 2008 about starting on my local food journey.  I always look at labels of origin...and try not to buy too much out of season, but I'm mindful that we do depend and benefit from a global food supply.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

A visit to Jardins de Métis

We've been to Métis Gardens/Redford Gardens a couple of times before and really enjoyed it, but this was our first visit this year.

It was a perfect day, clear and sunny, so a good day for an outing.  It's a garden full of special plants in an outstanding historic setting; it's a garden simply to enjoy, rather than focus on photos for today's visit, I thought.

We joined as members, planning to go back a number of times this summer.  In any case, we like to support gardens!  It's a lovely drive ~ 40 minutes from our house.

Several interesting highlights:

Meconopsis betonicifolia
First, it's the start of the flowering season for blue poppy (Meconopsis betonicifolia), a Himalayan species challenging to grow, but one that Elsie Redford, the garden's founder, first grew from seed in 1930's; their progeny are what we enjoyed seeing today.

And interestingly, given my newfound appreciation of peonies, there were peonies in many of the garden areas, including the collection near the historic house.

They're just starting to flower, and these were being avidly visited by pollen-collecting honeybees, as well as some sort of small flower fly.

peony with pollen collectors
 And the lupines in the meadow were in flower, so we timed our first visit perfectly.  But we'll be back, too, to see what else unfolds.  The rhododendrons (both deciduous and evergreen) - unusual for a garden this far north, apparently - were striking in flower on this visit, too, but I didn't take photos of them, as they're not so unusual for me!

lupines (with enhanced blue sky!)

Monday, June 25, 2018

The gardeners buy more plants

In a garden filled with plants, we can't help tweaking it towards our gardening style, which is natives and naturalistic.

So, we've been scooping up plants at the local nursery -- Arctostaphylus urva-ursi (Bearberry), Asclepia incarnata (Swamp milkweed), Lobelia cardinalis (Cardinal flower), Liatris spicata (Blazing star), Rudbeckia fulgida (Black-eyed Susan) etc. and others.  Combined with transplanting natives from a neighbor who's glad to have us take a few (Canada mayapple, paper birch, lowbush blueberry, etc.), we're happy gardeners.

a cart full of plants!

Sunday, June 24, 2018

A month in Quebec

It’s been just over a month since we left North Carolina for Quebec, imagining what was to come with excitement and some trepidation. What if the house didn’t work out?  What if we didn’t like it? What if it’s not like we imagined?

Now a month in, I’m sitting in the small armchair in the living area, looking out at the Pic Champlain in Parc National du Bic as I write.  The view is framed by a lilac in flower at one edge.  And the light is marvelous.  I had been reading about Asian cooking in Milk Street Magazine, after a long morning in the garden, weeding, planting, and pruning.  As I was reading, I was suddenly struck again by the contrast of the light in this house with the light at home in North Carolina.

It's so different. In our house in North Carolina, the main floor, including the kitchen, is infused with light through the morning and afternoon, especially in the winter.  The light isn’t harsh, but bright and dappled, with a feeling of being surrounded by nature, with the canopy trees visible in the woodland garden through the windows.
One of the first things we did here in Quebec is open up the curtains more widely to let more light in.

The previous owner enjoyed the coziness of dim light; he had artistically draped the lovely old-fashioned curtains from their centers, halving the view through the upper windows.  Ditto for the curtains framing the French door, where the view looked out into giant overgrown shrubs.  Now, sitting in the armchair, I can look out to the small back porch and a more expansive view, including the lettuces and kale in the now cleaned-up and planted wooden trough.

Similarly, although we both loved the lace half-curtain above the kitchen sink, in a dimly lit space, it blocked a bit of welcome extra light and part of the view outside.

For the same reason, we took down the graceful and delightful curtains in our upstairs bedroom.  The view looks over the east side of the garden;  it’s lovely in the morning after we pull the shade up (necessary because of the 4:30 am sunrise!)  It's nice in the afternoon, too.

Afternoon view from the main bedroom
Afternoon view from the second bedroom
As we open up the overgrown landscape, recreating views into woodland, we're doing the same thing.  By editing ungainly shrubs, so the outbuildings are more visible, we're gradually creating a more cohesive feel again of garden to house. There’s a balance between surrounding the house and outbuildings with garden and having the overgrown garden smother the context of the setting, which is singular, set between farms and the natural landscape of the national park across the highway. 

And in an odd way, the hum of the road and the close presence of the train also reminds us that we’re on what the tourist authorities have designated the Route des Navigateurs, which follows the St. Lawrence River, focusing on the diversity and history of the river in their materials, including 19th century seaside resorts, fishing villages, and lighthouses.
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