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The other kind of 'white garden'


by John Beaulieu (bowl-you), Midhurst, Ontario

The mention of a white garden, brings to mind a garden filled with white flowers, the kind made famous by Vita Sackville-West at Sissinghurst. That is not exactly what I have in my mind on this second day of spring as we have had another dumping of snow (close to a foot of heavy wet stuff) on top of our already high piles. At least all this shoveling makes up for the lack of exercise of not digging in the garden.

The shots below were taken before this last dumping, and show a view looking up and looking down the driveway.

We must be the only folks on our street without that Canadian must-have, the snowblower. Come to think of it, we don’t subscribe to that must-have list, as we don’t have a gas barbeque, cell phone, or a power lawn mower, but I digress.

I read in books (often UK authors) about all the various spring flowers showing up in March. Beth Chatto wrote of sundrops and Narcissus ‘Cedric Morris’ blooming in February… I’ll be lucky this year if I see bare ground by the middle of April!

A few years ago when I started doing in-ground (late fall) sowing of perennials, mostly daylilies and geraniums, I started the habit of going out to the garden in the spring with my morning coffee to see what was coming up. The morning walks around the garden and backyard were so enjoyable that I kept it up all year. It is a relaxing ritual, like meditating, to clear your mind and also to be aware of nature. Even this long winter, which is officially the coldest in 35 years, has not stopped my morning walks. My coffee has evolved into a sort of mocha-latte, half warmed milk, half coffee with a scoop of chocolate protein powder. It sustains me as I trudge through mornings of deep snow. My winter white garden!

It is always interesting to see what tracks have been made overnight. There are always mouse and vole tracks crossing my paths, going from tunnel to tunnel. There are often squirrel tracks, with grey squirrels heading to the bird feeder and the smaller red squirrels going from tree to tree out back in the woods. They leave evidence of chewing on the spruce cones which they have stored in underground bunkers.

Although I have plowed through the snow and have paths packed and lower than the general snow depth, the paths are still up on about a foot of packed snow so the arbours become a lot lower as the selfy shows!

As I head into my little wooded area, I am being watched by our Barred Owl. I can also hear the laughing call of the Pileated Woodpeckers, the largest of the six species of woodpeckers that we see in the yard.

Each year we fill about three of those standard black, square compost bins. I located them in a different spot each year, usually where I plan on diggiing a new bed. I can empty them directly into the new bed area. Even if they are not totally composted I top dress with some new soil or wood chips, so it looks fine anyway.

As I approach the back of the house, I see a flock of goldfinches have discovered that I had spilt some seed when topping up the feeder earlier in the morning. A group of doves sit on the awkward support bar for the feeder, but they find that the black bar is warmed by the sun.

I see my old bike is almost covered with snow again. This one serves as a base for some baskets of plants in the summer.

I have a post that is marked so I can see the depth of the snow in a flat area. The record, since we moved here in 2000 has been just over three feet in 2008. This year we reached two and a half feet, but are now sitting at only two feet… I hope it does not go back higher!

At least my plants are all well protected under all that insulating white stuff. By the time it is gone the weather should be a lot better and we should be through with that polar vortex that kept returning throughout the winter. Of course everyone hopes for a gradual melt, otherwise there will be flooding in some areas to deal with. When the white garden greens up, I may have to trade in snowboots for wellies for my morning cuppa!

Normally by the second week in March we are seeing thousands of migrating Tundra Swans… This year they are late and so far only a few hundred have been seen in the usual locations.

I can only dream of seeing those first robiins of spring.

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You are having a tough time over there John. It's been interesting seeing your snow covered garden and the wildlife it attracts. Thank you.

22 Mar, 2014


i would give anything to experience what you are experiencing..ok i know all need to be safe and thats a given fact....but those photos show pure beauty at its extremes and the birds being fed is beautiful humanity in actions... Wow!! fantastic blog...
ive seen some great photos from my friends of that given beauty from Canada and i know its been quite hard for them but they still photograph the landscape and share with me and others because they love and appreciate its beauty..
stay warm and safe...

22 Mar, 2014


I started reading the blog feeling quite sorry for you under all that snow, but my word what a fantastic place you live in and even under the snow its is so beautiful. Hope it melts gradually and the spring flowers are all waiting underneath! Like you I enjoy my morning patrol round the garden to see what's new but it doesn't take me quite as long! Thank you for a really lovely blog.

22 Mar, 2014


Great blog and that's a nifty looking owl. He seems ok with all the snow. Very picturesque place.

23 Mar, 2014


Looks like a scene on a xmas card, really beautiful and its great to see the birds and squirrels that share with you, I enjoyed seeing your garden John and hopefully you'll be out taking the same shots soon with a show of your garden in springtime, lets hope it does come gradually and that you don't get the flooded areas to follow...
Great blog with lovely photo's, thankyou.....

23 Mar, 2014

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