Originally Published: June 1, 2002. Globe & Mail,
Whenever the new garden season rolls around I leap into the fray, usually too quickly. I?m a Canadian, after all: If there?s even a faint breath of warm air I?m out of the house. I add yoga and Tai chi to the daily list of stuff to do and occasionally I actually accomplish these sensible aims. When I don?t, there?s the solace of long soaky baths afterwards.
Gardening is a treacherous business. We tend to focus on the target rather than everything around us. That means the risk of getting poked in the eye and scraping a lens is high-a very painful experience according to a friend who went through it a few years ago. But how many of us actually wear plastic goggles in the garden?
There?s a definite machismo to the planting culture. Gloves, for instance, are one of those basics that I can?t seem to remember to keep on. If, like me, you like to actually feel the dirt, there?s Gloves-in-a-Bottle ($15.95 at Lee Valley)?a barrier handcream that dries on. But if you forget to protect, there?s Crabtree & Evelyn?s superb new Gardeners Hand Recovery ($24.95 at C&E across Canada). It?s a salt scrub mixed with cleanser and rich emollients that is applied and then rinsed off, leaving the hands astonishingly soft. When followed up with Gardeners Hand Therapy or any other good hand lotion, it will get rid of the old pineapple texture of yore.
If you do want gloves, there?s a glam new stretchy version called Foxgloves, which come in colours like purple and red and blue and were inspired by fifties fashions. These contain both Spandex and Supplex and keep the hands cushioned while allowing for fine work ($35 at GardenscapeTools).
Feet are prone to abuse too and the last thing you think about when it comes to protection. Don?t go out there in open-toed sandals, or sandals of any sort. There are dozens of styles of rubber shoes (good for the wet garden) and brilliantly coloured clogs on the market. The most comfortable ones I?ve found are Anywear shoes: a rubber slip-on that I usually forget I?m wearing and clunk back into the house still wearing them ($80 at Dig This, phone 416-483-4443 or 416- 785-5411 in Toronto; and 604-688-2929 in Victoria.
I?d like to be able to wear a garden apron – they look so cute on TV – but frankly they are uncomfortable and you can?t keep enough stuff in the pockets. I have longed for a vest to hold everything I could possibly need and not be sweaty, but warm enough on a nippy mornings. Finally found one: at Dig This. Cook designs studios Canada, $98. The pockets are over-sized, the fabric is two toned canvas and you can throw into the laundry.
Geranium phaeum `Somobar? is a cultivar of the common Mourning widow which I allowed into my garden before I knew it would seed itself all over the place. And no one gave me warning. `Samobor,? I was promised, would behave itself. And it has. The medium sized leaves have a great splash of purpley black will survive very nicely even in shade but need moist rich soil (that?s with lots of humus in it). The purple flowers are small, refined and in bloom right now. Grows up to 60 cm high and is deer-resistant.
Hosta `Stiletto? is a new one to me and I think I?m going to love it. It?s a dwarf hosta that probably won?t get much above 30 cm high (I hope) has dark green wavy leaves with white margins. Any soil but not too dry will be good enough. I?m popping it into a container because it?s small enough and exquisite enough to be close by where I can see it clearly.
Here?s one of my favourite plants from last year: Tradescantia ?blue and gold? (aka ?Sweet Kate?). it?s a spiderwort of unsurpassing beauty which attracts butterflies. The foliage is a strong chartreusey-gold and the flowers an equally intense blue. It came through the winter in fine fettle and grows to 60cm high in a fairly rich moist soil. In fact, don?t let it dry out and if is does, cut it back to 20cm and let it start all over again. It will grow in sun or light shade and will look stunning in a container. It lasts for weeks and weeks with each bloom surviving one day.