I guess it’s time to come in


The geranium on my balcony seems oblivious to the rest of nature, which is preparing for winter. It just keeps blooming and blooming… I had no idea that geraniums were so cold hardy — it’s still putting out buds for new flowers.

The sun may be shining at the moment, but the weather forecast looks ominous… below freezing on Monday, and maybe a little snow (schnee!!! My new German word for the day). I’m not taking a chance; the geranium is coming indoors!!!

Invicible summer

I woke up this morning to the sound of wet tires on a busy street, the road splashes that signal a rainy day. The sky looked grey through the blinds on the window, and my first thought was, “rats, I wasted a bright sunny day yesterday doing housework and laundry”.

I walked to the kitchen to feed the critters, and my spirits lifted at the sight out the back deck: snow. The first, bright, heavy snowfall of the year. The air was thick with white, clinging to the grey naked  trees and covering the muddy schoolyard with a clean undisturbed layer of snow. I love the quiet mornings after a storm, before feet and cars and warmer daytime temperatures and maybe rain turn it all into a mucky slushy mess.

It was almost a relief, really. Fall can be a trying time emotionally and physically while our bodies adapt to the cold and the long dark days, as we resign ourselves to winter. I have not been coping well this year — it all seems to have happened so…fast. Wasn’t it just last week that I was out enjoying my deck garden in a t-shirt, battling raccoons and taking pictures of flowers? Well, the sight of snow snapped me out of denial, once and for all. Time to face facts: it’ll be another five months before the leaves on the trees come out again to play. Winter is a time to go inward. I’ll be in my grow room if you’re
looking for me.

“In the depths of winter I finally learned there was in me an invincible summer.”
Albert Camus


Aw man, I just went to look out at the deck, and saw a bunch of dirt around the base of the planters. It couldn’t have been cats trying to do the litterbox thing, I had laid chicken wire over the tops to prevent that. The raccoon? I looked again, and there were two fat black squirrels right in the middle of the planters, caught in the act of digging and nibbling on tulip bulbs. They stopped and stared at me boldy, the little thugs.

I looked at Jake and said, “want to chase the squirrels”? He stared back at me and waved his tail a bit, but all he was interested in was his dinner. I looked at Mousepad, standing beside him, and he too meowed at me, with a “get with it sister, I’m hungry”. So I opened the door and yelled at the squirrels myself. The scampered away reluctantly, their prizes in hand, with a wicked gleam in their eyes.

Still in my pyjamas, I stepped out to survey the damage. Sure enough, there were holes in the planters, daffodils bulbs laying on top where they’d been tossed aside in favour of the tastier tulip bulbs.

Could two squirrels have made off with 75 bulbs in one night? If not, I’m sure they’ll be back to finish the job.

They don’t even have the decency to be cute. Squirrels are supposed to be grey, with white chests, like the ones I grew up with in Montreal. These black squirrels are just plain ugly.

I should have nailed that chicken wire down.

Visit from Gayla Trail

I had a nice visit from Gayla tonight, she took a number of photographs of my deck and grow room as potential material for a book she’s writing on gardening called “You Grow Girl. (which is very flattering), and we had a great chat about all things gardening. Time just flew by.

After she left I brought my two monster plants in from the deck: the cyperus alternifolus (Umbrella Plant), which is about six feet high, and my hibiscus moscheutos, which, judging from the brown cast to the blooms, is feeling the chill of the autumn nights lately. The interesting thing about this plant is that the flowers of the first blooming were a pink blush with a deep red center. This second blooming has pure white flowers with a red center. Anyway, they sure do take up a lot of room — my 1000watt grow light doesn’t cover enough territory to keep them happy across the room all winter. I’ve arranged to buy a light mover from Happy Girl Hydroponics in Kensington Market, but I realize now it would have been much smarter to install it before I brought all the plants indoors. I’m going to have to pull everything apart to get at it, and I’m afraid my Queen of the Night buds will show their displeasure at the repeated disruptions by blasting all five buds. NOT looking forward to that job.

Speaking of my cyperus alternifolus, I saw a beautiful speciman of it’s close relative, cyperus papyrus (here’s an example), at the Montreal Botanical Garden yesterday. It was similar in size to the alternifolus, but it had a hairy head on it, kind of like one of the Beatles in the 60’s.

Bringing the outdoors in

I’m ready for winter — bring it on. I spent the entire day, from 9 in the morning until 11:30 tonight, putting my grow room together. I covered the walls and floor with heavy-duty plastic (to help keep the humidity up and the water out of the apartment downstairs). This was no simple job; I had to pull everything out, then work around the mess with huge sheets of plastic and a staple gun. I ran out of plastic twice and had to make extra trips to the hardware store. I put up racks for mounted orchids and my big staghorn fern to hang from, and re-hung the hanging plants. Then I brought 90% of my plants indoors, arranged them, purged them of bugs, repotted some, and watered all. The humidity was up nicely at 60% to 70%. If I can keep that going all winter, I’ll have lots of flowers and new growth on my orchids this year.

I did eat — Laird lured me out for a late lunch at an Irish pub on Bloor Street. On the way out, we waded through the Harvest Festival crowds one last time, and had a close encounter with an east Asian Elvis impersonator who was crooning ballads on a portable karaoke machine almost outside our front door.

Back home, I realized that moving things indoors meant everything on the deck needed to be re-arranged. So I put myself back to work and swung the corn broom around for a while. Though a bit less “dense”, the deck still looks nice — it’s just a little more roomy. I figure there’s at least another month to six-weeks of deck weather to enjoy.

I even paid “some” attention to my african violets tonight. I watered the droopy things, and spritzed them with Neem oil and insecticidal soap. They’re looking distinctly better…. maybe I won’t throw them away after all.
Yeah right.

The time of harvest

It’s disconcerting to live in a Toronto neighbourhood — though I live a spit away from downtown, Roncesvalles, like many other neighbourhoods in this city, is very much a small village. So much so, today the entire street was closed off for our “Harvest Festival”. It’s an odd twist to a country fair, for though it boasts the same small midway rides, and the same games of skill and chance, the traditional harvest produce is replaced with end-of-season merchandise — endless rows of tables, burdened with deeply discounted and slightly dusty wares (no tax all weekend!), on display outside each and every store. Crowds gather around to watch and laugh at the antics of various buskers, and police officers sporting yellow windbreakers, perched on mountain bikes, stand watch over the beer garden set up right in front of the big Roman Catholic church. The vestiges of Roncesvalles’ once-predominant Polish population stream out of the church tonight after Saturday night mass, right into the large marquis tent out in the middle of the road where cold beer and the oompah stylings of a live band playing polkas await them.  Neighbours meet and greet, just like any small village. I pass a local drunk standing half-way up a driveway, marvelling at the length of time it was taking him to finish a very public pee against a hedge.

It’s cool tonight — the first time all summer that I’ve needed a sweater to stay warm. I’m glad I brought most of my houseplants back indoors a few days ago, for though the hurricane was a dud, it’s too cold for them now anyway.

Still, I’m enjoying my own continuing harvest of herbs, tomatoes, peppers, and soon, my one lonely and undersized eggplant — the fruits of my own modest and pot-bound agriculture labours this summer.