by Leslie Cox; May 28, 2017
As sure as spring follows winter, sun follows rain, and heat follows cold. At least when we are talking about the weather. And for the latter…the thermometer has definitely been creeping up. We have resorted to working in the garden in the morning and in the evening, using the afternoon for chores which either keep us in the shade or indoors in front of a fan.
Or…we just sit under the chestnut tree, admiring the garden while sipping on copious glasses of water to re-hydrate ourselves.
As much as I curse all the chestnuts this huge tree drops every autumn…because they cannot be just dumped in the compost, but rather, must be gathered and bagged for garbage pickup…right now, as the heat starts to gain momentum heading into summer, under the chestnut tree is the coolest spot to be. It is easily ten degrees cooler in its shade…a real blessing after working hard in the garden all morning.
(I have found almost every chestnut will grow a tree…and they produce lots! Personally, one chestnut tree is enough for any yard. Impossible to compost and difficult to burn completely in a fire pit, I have found the easiest solution is to send them to the garbage dump where they can be properly hot composted to a very high temperature.)
It is funny, that, as there is not the same cool relief under the grape arbour or vine-drenched pergola in the back garden. Don’t get me wrong. Both of these shade locations provide cooler temperatures in the afternoon…just not as much as the chestnut tree. The only explanation I can offer up is the combination of laurel hedge, the tall chestnut, and the neighbouring tall evergreens keep much of the hot sun out of the front garden whereas the back garden gets baked all morning and into early afternoon. Although, the vine pergola with its brick floor is a welcome shady spot for most of the morning.
In the rest of the garden…the peonies flowers have burst open. Sadly, I only have one bud on one of Mom’s tree peonies…the one that bounces off a nearby clematis so beautifully. Their colours blend so incredibly well one would think I had planned the combination.
Happily, it turned out because I must admit, the placement was an absolute total fluke. Especially since the clematis I planted had an ID tag ‘Ville de Lyon’. But the photos I looked up on the Internet are really not the same as my clematis. A real mystery…so the search for the right name continues.
The second of Mom’s tree peonies has three blooms on it this year. It, too, is less in number than last year but still a lovely sight with its soft pink, fluffy ruffles. Caught sight of a spider resting on a petal…waiting patiently for prey to cross its path.
This peony is the one with the family history…having been given in payment by a Chinese mandarin to a whaling ship’s captain from Victoria, BC in payment for smuggling the mandarin’s daughter out of China during the Boxer rebellion. The short version of the story is this tree peony was moved to my great-uncle’s garden, to hide it from someone who was trying to steal it.
Kind of a fun story…and true! I certainly cherish the honour in the family connection to a plant which traveled from China to Canada sometime between 1900 and 1904 and which now thrives in my own garden…over a century later.