Monday, February 27, 2006

How neat are these edible birdhouses? A wee bit more sophisticated than those pinecone feeders we used to make in Brownies! From Atelier Oi, an online portfolio of architecture and design.

Via Moco Loco.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Back to School

I'd been contemplating taking either the Master Gardener or UBC Garden Design program for some time now.

I'm happy to say that I applied and was accepted to the UBC program. I have my student orientation tonight, and start the first course, "The History and Theory of Garden Design," in March.

I'm so excited! This will be the first time I study something that's just for me. The way I look at it, I can't lose. I'm not going into it with the intention of becoming a garden designer (although, if I discover that I'm skilled at it and love doing it, why not?). I just want to be a more informed gardener and more informative garden writer, and to share what I'm learning with my blog readers. And it can't hurt that my new garden will reap the benefits of my new-found knowledge, can it?

Monday, February 13, 2006

How to make seed balls

At the Seattle Flower and Garden Show this weekend, these Seedballz reminded me of a personal project, dormant while I lived in the suburbs, but ripe for rebirth now that I've moved back to Vancouver (well, sort of. We're still moving!).

Seed balls are a method of sowing seeds that apparently originated with our First Nations people. To protect seeds from being blown away or eaten by birds, they'd hide seeds inside little balls of clay.

Regular readers will recall that I have a bit of a fascination with guerilla gardening, so it won't come as a surprise that the first thing that crossed my mind when I saw the Seedballz booth at the Show was, "Those would be perfect for chucking into empty lots!" Except I wasn't about to pay $6.50 for a package. So I googled "seed balls" and two seconds later, had my own recipe for making seed balls!

For my next spare moment. LOL.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Vinales Botanical Garden, Cuba

After six days in Havana, we left for Vinales, a small village a few hours west of Havana, and immediately wished we'd gone there sooner. As it was, we stayed until we absolutely had to go back to Havana to catch our flight. Friendly, idyllic and beautiful, the village of Vinales is home to a fantastic jardin: the Jardin de las Hermanas Caridad y Carmen Miranda. The afternoon spent there was one of the highlights of our trip.

Passing through a gate decorated with fresh fruit and doll's heads, a dense garden crowds the path to the small house.

Old sister
The garden is maintained by two sisters (the eldest is shown above with one of the many hens that live on the property). They welcomed us, and we enjoyed home-grown tropical fruits while taking in the house, which was papered with magazine ads and decorated with bizarre tchotchkes.

The garden itself was lovely and serene, except for the dismayed chatter of a mother hen when you got too close to her nest.

As in other tropical countries, houseplants like Cordyline grew larger than I've ever seen them. Also prominent in the garden was the use of dolls and doll heads, the photos of which were too creepy to post, proving without a doubt that doll parts have no place in garden design.

Orchids grew everywhere, usually grafted onto a rootstock, and as they did elsewhere in the province, air plants grew in tree branches.

Containers were created out of old tires, pop cans, and of course, rusty buckets.

One of the sisters told me that this little burst of excitement was called Aroma floridita but I can only find referred to as the Hawaiian flower 'Ohi'a Lehua on the web.

You can see more of my Cuba photos here.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Cuba redux

Cuba. Ten days. Two very different experiences. Today I'll write about the first: Havana.

Both over and underwhelming, Havana is a city of conflict and wild contrast. Walk down one quaint cobblestone street in Habana Vieja (Old Havana), a UNESCO Heritage Site, and every building along it will be precisely restored, paint fresh, potted palms lining the tidy streets. Turn the corner and you may fall into an open sewer. Pass decaying buildings that are so decrepit you believe they must be adandoned... until you catch a flash of movement inside and realize it's someone's home. The juxtiposition of the two extremes is jarring and unsettling.

It's not just the physical nature of the city that is precariously balanced. The contrast between rich and poor - tourists and Cubanos, and, although it's illegal to amass wealth, poor Cubanos and rich Cubanos (who generally get that way through working the black market or other illegal activity) - is a constant source of tension and strife. We were constantly bothered by jinetaros - hustlers - out to get our money. And who could blame them?

But the spirit of the place. The music! And yes, the people - once you got past the jinetaros and met the real Cubanos.

Contrary to what I read before my trip, I saw little evidence of urban agriculture in Havana proper. Houseplants were popular, but silk flowers even more so. I couldn't understand why when even a pot of herbs would supplement their meagre rations.

I only saw a couple of these makeshift gardens in Havana.

We stumbled across this plant shop, run out of someone's home.

We did attempt to visit the botanical gardens, but found them completely abandoned. Only a few unkempt rose bushes indicated that the property was once something more than an garbage-strewn lot. A group of old men warned us not to enter because thieves frequented the area.

In the Afro-Cuban neighbourhood, the heart of which is a street called Callejon de Hamel, an artist named Salvador Gonzalez Escalona has painted brightly-coloured murals, and installed works of art like this bathtub planter.

We also visited the gardens at a restaurant on the sea, which appeared to have been inspired by both Gaudi and Japan.

Unfortunately, the gardens suffered with last autumn's hurricanes. Evidence of damage was everywhere.

Like the majority of gardens in Havana, the variety of plants was limited. Cacti, Eucalyptus, and Sansevieria were the mainstays.

You can see more of my Cuba photos here. Tomorrow, I'll write about Vinales.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

North West Flower and Garden Show

Any of you Pacific Northwest types going to the Northwest Flower and Garden Show (in Seattle) this weekend?

I'm particularly looking forward to A Place to Take Root, one of the show's highlights and the first exhibit devoted to the evolution of the common flower pot. Described as a "traveling museum piece," it will feature over 40 historical American pots. Renowned potters Guy Wolff from Connecticut and John Weber of Seattle will be demonstrating their art live.

But probably my favourite thing about this particular show is its timing: at this dreary time of year the display gardens always seem like a harbinger of spring, of sunnier days to come and of coming times in the garden. I can't say the same for Groundhog Day, whatever the outcome!