Friday, March 25, 2011

My Sunflower Garden

My son and I bought an old house in a wonderful older neighbourhood back in 1997.

Along with the house came an unmanagable and largely uncared for yard. We had cotoneaster hedges which must have been 50 years old that had gone neglected for the last 10 years, and a 50 foot lot that had been left go.The former owners had had a hot water tub surrounded by a cedar deck in the back yard, and when they removed it I found gravel, and black plastic which appeared impossible to move.

Within a month of moving in I wondered what I had been thinking - a single mom, a 16 year old son, a Sheltie, and a 10 year old cat - and really no money for renovations. With a sinking feeling I surveyed the hedges and backyard.

I hired the friend of a friend, a recently arrived refugee from Bosnia, who with indomitable courage and cheerfulness, and using handheld clippers, as well as my aunt's electric chainsaw managed to cut several feet off the cotoneaster hedge.

Paul, my son and I then proceeded to paint the peeling decks of the house, and do a little sprucing up to the interior of the house . I decided my efforts to the backyard for our first summer would be to control weeds, by pulling, and we also shoveled several yards of yellow clay around the foundation of the house to reduce any possible seepage.

In the years following, my main thrust as far as the yard was this - trim the cotoneaster hedge, and pull weeds. Well, also I planted petunias in the front flower bed, and in the old rotten flower box attached below the front window of the house. I did enjoy the abundance of those pink petunias and their spicy fragrance.

Upon the first week of moving into our old house I met several wonderful neighbours. Several days after moving in I found I'd locked myself out (an old habit). My son had left out of town to visit his Dad, so I would have to phone a locksmith.I knocked on a neighbours's door across the street, and Robert answered, quickly hiding a baggie of what looked to be marijauana.I explained my situation, and used Robert's phone to get a locksmith. Robert told me he felt maybe he should try to climb in a window for me, but I assured him I was fine with the locksmith.  So we went out to the front of my house to wait. Unfortunately the locksmith's van hit a motorcyclist just in front of the house, and an ambulance was called. Robert and I and one or two other neighbours watched, as the motorcyclist as helped to walk to the ambulance, and another locksmith was sent out

Robert became a favourite neighbour, often popping by to share the history of the area. I soon learned that my house, was originally owned by Mrs. McNeil, who had moved it to the spot in 1948. One story was that it had been the Flying Club house, others thought it had been a farm house. The general view was that Mrs. McNeil had been a nice older person with a wonderful garden.Connie three doors down had been babysat by Mrs. McNeil, when she was a child in the 1950's. Wilma, a retired school teacher and basketball coach in her 70's,  had parked her vintage convertible winters in Mrs. McNeil's garage. Anna and her husband Ernie shared with me that our little neighbourhood had started as a golf course, and they and Mrs. McNeil had been one of the first residents.

I soon met my other neighbours, as Rocky our Sheltie and I took twice daily walks. One of my neighbours would like to call, "I see he's taking you for a walk!". Rocky made fast friends with Wilma, who loved all animals and greeted her canine friends with a treat, and a drink of water. Larry and Elizabeth, an  elderly but active couple maintained an impressively manicured yard, but didn't seem bothered in the least by my straggly yard.

Larry and Wilma had been teaching colleagues at the high school behind the lane, and when Wilma died in 2006 he and Elizabeth took on the executors duties. Larry at 86 still walks with his beloved Elizabeth every evening, and they still keep a beautiful yard with the help of neighbours.

Soon Paul, my son graduated from high school and moved to Montreal for university.

I worked on my yard intermittantly doing what felt possible, usually spending hours pulling weeds every weekend.I also worked on the cotoneaster hedge, and using small secateurs, managed to cut the hedge down to the ground.This was a big project, and I worked well past sunset for two weekends, drawing several interested on lookers. One woman said "Well you're really going to town." But it was worth it, as the hedge came up quite nicely after that.

My woeful yard and what to do with it came up in conversations with Mom the summer before she died. I had four weeks off in August, and we visited mornings outside in the courtyard of Mom's nursing home, enjoying the birds, and the lovely beech trees.We laughed, and she empathised, and even wickedly suggested I find a boyfriend good at gardening, and then get rid of him when the work was finished.(This could make a whole other story).

I thought of bachelor buttons, poppies, daisies - and Mom reflectively said "What about sunflowers?".Mom died a sad death in February 2005 - and I'm happy she is now free, although I miss her very much. That summer with time on my hands felt like the time to create my garden. I hired a bobcat to dig out the gravel, black plastic, and countless roots, as well as to remove some spreading lilac bushes from the lane; ordered good earth, had it spread, and planted from seed .I planted oriental poppy seeds (given to me by a daycare parent where I worked); packages of blue and multicoloured bachelor buttons; packages of orange cosmos, as well as purple cosmos; and sunflowers -  mainly the tall Russian sunflower.I also divided and moved daisies about, especially along the back lane.

The result was so beautiful! I  was in awe, not truly sure if anything would come up, not having a great deal of faith in my gardening abilities.But what splashes of colour! And the butterflies and small birds that were attracted, to my garden were plentiful. I think as well I sparked a lot of interest among my neighbours as people would slow down driving past the back lane, and more people seemed to walk by in the evening, and to stop and talk. Possibly the old time neighbours  felt a touch of nostalgia for Mrs. McNeil's time, and this was a small reminder of her garden.

In the fall one hot day my sunflowers were visited by a flock of crows, and this just took my breath away. (I have a love for crows - I love their intelligence, their beauty, their caws) I also left the sunflowers stand through the winter, and enjoyed their beauty in the snow.

Over the next few summers I enjoyed this garden, and how the poppies and bachelor buttons had reseeded themselves, although I had also collected the seeds in the fall, and replanted. I planted several different varieties of sunflowers with beautiful names - Velvet Queen, Autumn Beauty, Evening Beauty, Taiyo, and my favourite the Tall Russian.

This past year I sold and  moved  from my old house, out from this friendly neighbourhood - and am living in an apartment building. I'll never forget these people who befriended me.

The building in which I now live is a small building with only 6 units, and we are friendly - we operate like a cooperative, taking care of the vacuuming, and laundry room, and the grass in the summer, and shoveling in the winter.  Just before fall this year, two owners in the building reshingled the roof over the entrance, and I and another neighbour  painted the trellis and woodwork.I have my thoughts on digging up a small plot in the back and planting some sunflowers.



teric said...

This was so interesting. You have certainly had your adventures.
I'm waiting to hear more about the 'gardner', lol, sounds like another good story.

MullenAvenueWorkshop said...

Well thanks so much!

The story of the gardener is yet to come!

Teri C said...

Welcome to the world of blogging Brenda. I have been blogging since 2005 and let me warn is addicting! And you will love it. I look forward to more stories from you.

Teri C said...

Oh, and if I can be of any help, please ask. Be happy to.

Geraldine said...

What a wonderful first post here Brenda. I loved reading about your old house and all the memories you have of living there. I miss all of the houses I've lived in, some more than others. Its the memories we make in each of them that live on long afterwards. I'm trying to guess the area this house was in, does it start with Ca... ???

Hugs and Happy Weekend, G

Geraldine said...

PS: Teri's right, blogging is SOOOO addictive but oh what fun it is too and all the wonderful people you can meet online. I'm up to blog 4 now! Must stop!!! LOL

MullenAvenueWorkshop said...

Hi Ger , Thanks for dropping in!!
The area was River Heights.
All the best!!

Teri Thanks again!

MullenAvenueWorkshop said...

Just one more comment here:
I have noticed in the blogging world that it consists of supportive and friendly people, and it is a wonderful way to have friends all over the world. I think it's the people contact that is the "addictive" part - and so maybe a healthy addiction. In a way blogging seems a little like "penpals", from my youth, but it is much more as well.A means of sharing information and knowledge, and creativity.

So Ger, don't stop okay?, and Teri thanks for your warm comments!

Geraldine said...

I mean "addictive" in the most positive of ways. I plan to be blogging for a long, long time!!!

Faith said...

Well, now you've found another new neighborhood.
Welcome! I enjoyed your story, and was hoping there would be a picture or two of your what sounded like a lovely yard. I'm sorry you sold the old home. Thank you for stopping ove my place...I like to mix it up a little bit, it isn't always about crochet..I dibble and dabble and ramble...hee hee..stop over anytime...The ladies who visit with me there are all very nice and you'll make new friends.

MullenAvenueWorkshop said...

Thanks for dropping in!
I really enjoy your blog, it is sweet, and abit quaint, but also contemporary. I'll be dropping in lots to read up on your journey.

At this time I don't have a digital camera, but it is next on my list of things to do. I do have some cd's provided by the photo developers from some old photos, so am going to see if I might be able to post some photos that way.I also enjoy seeing pictures on the blogs I follow.
Thanks for taking the time to comment here. Cheers!