Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Seed Study

It's already time to start saving seeds. I harvested my poppy pods a couple of days ago because I felt damp in the air and wanted to save them in case it rained. Turns out I didn't need to, but in a Pacific Northwest climate you have to be ready to take in those seeds before the rains start. Let's hope for a nice dry fall. When the poppy pods are completely dry, the lid pops up and reveals the holes designed to release the tiny black seeds. You can see in the photo, the pod on the left has popped and the one on the right is still sealed.

I love the sinewy muscular quality of these poppy pods.

Each pod and stem has a personality of its own.

My sugar snaps are starting to dry up and the cerinthe and borage are just about finished as well.

I love the bumps and ridges on seeds, carrying a profound sculptural resonance. Enjoy your seeds and take the time to meditate on their beauty. Let your fingers explore them in order to lodge their aesthetic power in your memory. Our souls need seeds.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Shade and Song Tea Party

Sad to say that this is my last tea party as a member of MOPARRC. It's been wonderful working with Sharon Kallis, Lois Klassen, Jody MacDonald and David Gowman and the Environmental Youth Alliance. Blessings and thanks to Oliver Kellhammer for creating such an incredible space and leaving us with this profound legacy.

We had a sunny, yet shade-dappled party with bee talks by the EYA, an invitation to participate in Haruko Okana's new project, tours of Peter Leichner's garden, and music by the League of Flying Monkeys Horn Orchestra and the Pan Flautists.

These little spikey balls are the seed heads of Echinops.

Folks were eager to hear what the EYA had to say about their hives at the MOP.

Participants were invited to make their own bee hats and have a close up look at honey extractor.

We collected chamomile, mint, fennel and little white roses from the garden for our tea blends created by Jody MacDonald.

Fritillaries, syrphid flies and all kinds of bees were having their own tea party in the mint flowers.

Sharon supplied parasols to help participants to stay cool. We really needed them!

Haruko Okano talks about her project which will take place at Granville Island in September. Check out her Ocean Flotilla blog to find out how you can participate. Don't just think about it, do it!

Participants wrote messages of hope to send in Haruko's beautiful boats. On her blog, Haruko states:

"Experiments have shown that when positive thinking is done in unison with hundreds of participants in different locations concentrating on one vision that it can improve a situation needing positive change. This was done for a short, sustained period of time for a specific problem. Therefore, I invite you to begin changing the destiny of the planet and all its inhabitants for the better by taking the time to compose an affirmation. Hold this thought in your mind, knowing that there are others doing exactly the same thing."

Dr. Legume told us the sad story of trying to undo the damage done to plants by the artist Peter Leichner.

This pea is one of his experiments.

There were some awesome sun hats at the party.

I love the patterns of shadows on this umbrella.

Best wishes to all of the fabulous folks I have met through my involvement in MOPARRC. Please keep in touch and check in to this blog to find out what projects I'll be doing in the future including more performing, gardening, natural dyeing, writing, and teaching.

UBC Farm Sunflowers and Bees

We are finally getting some nice dry heat in August, although as I write this, it is overcast and cool. This is the best time to moon over the beautiful sunflowers at UBC Farm and watch a variety of bees sipping the florets. Sunflowers are composite flowers, made up of hundreds of mini flowers. Each of these florets sits atop an achene which contains a sunflower seed that plumps up and becomes viable if and only if its floret has been visited by a pollinator.

You can buy bouquets of sunflowers at the UBC Farm market on Saturdays, or you can purchase them by the stem. UBC Farm can also provide flowers for weddings and other special occasions.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Sweet Peas, Bumble Bees

My heart is dangerously filled with pride from the profusion of sweet peas spilling from my raised garden bed. As I pick them in the morning shade I imagine dressing up as Eliza Dolittle and selling bouquets of flowers on the street. One pictures oneself as an Edwardian lady, fussing about the choosing of the proper vases and doilies for the end tables in the parlour. Some colours are racy sexy and others demur and delicate, but always ultra feminine. The scent is too strong for the dining room, but flirty in the boudoir and pretty in the powder room.

The large bumble bee queens will sip the nectar, and seem to prefer the two-tone heritage variety called Matacuna. This variety was brought to England in the 1700's by an Italian monk named Cupani. I'm going to try to save some seeds for next year when I will build even higher bamboo pyramids to prop up these prodigious climbers.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Tips on Growing Native Plants in Vancouver

This past Thursday evening as the August sun was creating patterns of shadown in the MOP Garden, we had the final talk in a series created between MOPARRC and Evergreen. The speaker was Andrew Appleton, who is the Regional Project Manager of Evergreen in Vancouver. Evergreen is an organization that creates, supports and implements urban greening projects and school greening projects. Andrew has years of experience ripping out invasive species and planting native plants in areas such as Jericho Park, and Still Creek in the Grandview cut. He gave us some great advice on which native plants good to plant inVancouver and how to deal with some of those nasty invasive species in our gardens.

First of all, Andrew explained that it takes about three years to establish many native plants. In the first years they may look less than robust, but you just have to have patience and faith that they will eventually look healthy. Of course, you have to match the plant with the right location in your garden, and sometimes even a couple of feet can make all the difference. Evergreen seeks to plant small areas with a diversity of species, a community of plants that work well together to promote biodiversity.

With the help of volunteers from the community they install shade plants, flowers and berries, bushes and trees. Some favorites include Red Flowering Currant (be sure you get the native Ribes sanguineum as the nurseries will only have cultivars in stock), Mock Orange (Philadelphus lewisii), Pacific Ninebark (Physocarpus capitatus), Oval Leaf Blueberries, Red Osier Dogwood, Rosa nutkana and bald-hipped roses (Rosa gymnocarpa). The three most popular ground covers are Fringe Cup (Tellumia), Piggy Back Plant (Tolmea) and Foam Flower (Tiarella).

For some of the troublesome invasive plants such as lamium and goutweed, Andrew recommends putting down sheet mulch--cardboard or paper and bark mulch and digging right through those layers to do your planting. Some of the more tenacious plants like broom require special treatment--removal with root wrenches and vigilant removal of any seedlings because the seeds are viable for up to 30 years. One of the plants that was just declared a noxious weed is yellow flag iris, a European transplant that colonizes bogs with its huge root systems. Evergreen holds work parties where volunteers don rubber boots and dig out the iris rhizomes.

Once native plants are established they require less water and care than exotic plants and they support the native birds, insects and specific pollinators. Urban environments often contain a variety of cultivars which often contribute to biodiversity, but a wide variety of native plants makes for healthier city ecosystems. Climate changes mean that Andrew keeps an eye on the micro-climates Evergreen targets for their restoration projects. He says they no longer plant Red Cedar, our provincial tree because it has become generally too dry to have a successful survival rate here. Andrew also took a look at the native garden at the MOP. One plant that he says is not doing too well because it needs more water is our elderberry tree but our Arbutus tree and Ocean Spray (holodiscus) are thriving.

Evergreen works with the community and they are always looking for volunteers. They also work with offices and businesses to create team-building exercises with their urban greening projects. If you are interesting in helping out, check out the Evergreen BC web site. The best way to get a free education is to volunteer. It's good exercise and you can think of it as a form of horticultural therapy! Evergreen supplies the tools and snacks. In fact you can come to Jericho Park this Sunday (August 13) to lend a hand from 9 am to noon.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Sunday, August 7, 2011

UBC Farm Bouquets

Now that the amaranth and sunflowers are blooming at UBC Farm it's a great time to head to the market to buy a bouquet or two.

I love this light pink yarrow with against the dark sunflowers and amaranth sprays.

There's plenty of variety: phacelia, sweet peas, calendula and more.

The salad greens look incredibly lush.

Tim, the farm manager says they finally decided that the best place to hang the garlic to cure was right over our heads, as long as a bunch doesn't fall and conk someone on the bean.

I bought some of those filet beans and I'm going to add my own little crop in to make something beany. Any suggestions? My favorite green bean dish is made with bits of bacon and slivers of almonds.

I've been reading the story of Clara and Mr. Tiffany about the woman who invented the Tiffany lamps and this sunflower reminded me of the stained glass. I'd love to see the original lamps. I think we've become over-exposed to bad copies of the real Tiffany lamps from the early 1900's.

Catherine identified this as sorghum.

I love the velvety texture of these chocolate sunflowers. Catherine and I wandered through the flower garden and some of the student plots adjacent to the bee hives. We both felt uplifted and inspired from our visit to the farm. I'm sad to see many of the nearby trees chopped down by recent development and I appreciate that any of the remaining trees have been fought for by supporters of UBC Farm. Bouquets of thanks to them for keeping up the good fight.