Gardening Glory (and Some Gripes)

Given that the majority of my tulips were in full bloom by mid-April of this year – and just in time for a freak snowstorm, too! – I shouldn’t be too surprised that my garden as a whole is, here in the middle of September, really starting to languish. Still, I’m shocked at how pooped-out everything looks. Except for my tomatoes. They’re going to take over the world. (Yes, I know tomatoes should really not look like this, but they’re producing fruit and clearly thriving. So I, for one, welcome our new tomato overlords!)

This is just my second season as a homeowner with a proper garden, and I’m constantly surprised at what works and what doesn’t, what grows and what doesn’t, and how very differently plants respond to their environment from year to year. Nature’s quite the miracle, isn’t it? ūüôā

Take this rose, for example, variety unknown, because that’s how I roll (if you’re looking for its proper Latin name and pronunciation, you’d best consult my mother, who has much gardening knowledge and skill. In the garden, I’m definitely more kill than skill.)

Again, let’s take this rose as an example. I moved this thing around the garden three or four times, and even left it out for a few days, roots exposed, while I contemplated where to move it next. No plant responds well to such treatment, let alone roses, which are susceptible to all manner of maladies, including shock. I was quite sure I had killed it, but a few weeks after moving it to its forever home, it once again began throwing off gorgeous clusters of those brilliant, hot pink blooms.

Or how about this peony, one of two plants I admiringly refer to as my zombie peonies. Zombies, because I am 100 percent sure I yanked them out of the ground last year and binned them after they seemingly up and died. I quite distinctly remember tossing them into a yard bag, roots and all. And yet, this spring two peonies grew strong and tall in the spots where their brethren once stood, so I can only assume I left just enough of the root structure intact for them to take hold this season.

Or how about the unlikely success story of our tiny back yard crabapple, a weirdly misshapen little thing that bore no fruit at all last season (thank you, ever-ravenous rodents) but gave off a whopping 12 cups of fruit this season, allowing me to make dee-licious crabapple jelly that Mr. Finger Candy has been hoovering back like it…grows on trees. Which, it turns out, is an expression that works in nearly all cases but this one!

The big oak tree in the back yard, Annie (Annie Oakley) produced only a handful of acorns last season. This year? They positively carpeted the back lawn. I raked and bagged up maybe 50 pounds worth of acorns. For a couple of weeks there, it was relentless. You could hardly venture beneath the tree for fear that a gust of wind or a particularly vengeful squirrel would send a shower of hard acorns down onto your head. At least the increased rodent presence provided our cats, Beans and Fluffy, with some much-appreciated entertainment.

In the complete reverse of Annie the back yard oak, Chester the front yard chestnut has produced maybe half the fruit he did in 2020. Last year, bright green, rock hard spheres of pain (or chestnuts, if you will) rained down onto our front lawn and driveway every day from the beginning of July to the middle of September. I’d typically pick up 3/4 of a medium-sized flower pot a day (and it should always be with gloved hands, because yee-ouch, those suckers bite!)

This year, though, the few chestnuts the tree has produced have remained resolutely – and quite dangerously – on the tree, hanging in massive, spiky clumps that, if they came down all at once, would absolutely knock you unconscious. I’ve actually been dodging some much-needed yard work in the front because I’m afraid of just such a scenario taking place. Mr. Finger Candy suggested I procure a hardhat, and you know, I don’t actually think that’s as crazy a suggestion as it might seem!

Other success stories include the gorgeous flowers and shrubs and flowering shrubs that overtook my garden this year – yellow potentilla, blue delphinium, periwinkle chinodoxa, pink hydrangea, purple lilacs, white trillium, and a rainbow’s worth of roses.

But this year’s undisputed king of the back yard was this patch of Black-Eyed Susans, five single plants that grew into a mighty, marigold-hued bush that put off tall, sunny blooms for the entirety of the summer. It was such a delight to look out the kitchen window every day and see this cheery fellow keepin’ on keepin’ on, rain or shine. I love it when plants unexpectedly thrive (see above, re: zombie peonies.)

Okay, so it would seem the gardening gripes were in relatively short supply this season, save the aggravating switcheroo the front and back yard trees pulled on us. My dad tells me increased fruit production means we’re in for a harsher-than-usual winter, so yay, there’s something to look forward to! When we’re arse-deep in snow and ice in two months’ time, Annie and Chester will be saying, “Told ya so,” because I think they’d be smug like that. ūüėČ

Wow, what a load of work this garden has been. I often joke (?) that as a former apartment dweller, I may have slipped a cog by going from no garden to ALL THE GARDEN. But when I’m outside on a nice day puttering about, not worried that I’m going to get knocked unconscious by a shower of nuts, just watching the bees drone around and noting all the progress my plants have made, it’s bliss. So really, no gripes, just glory.

Tulipalooza

Bit of a throwback there for the Gen X near-olds of Ottawa, Ontario. Show of hands if you, too, spent a weekend in May 1990-something lolling about Major’s Hill Park, ostensibly there to admire the thousands of rainbow-hued tulips that were, and continue to be, the main draw of the Canadian Tulip Festival, but actually there to flirt with cute boys (and girls) at the all-ages alternative rock show. I met my second boyfriend in just that fashion, in line for the Pepsi Taste Challenge, which was beside the Much Music Video Dance booth, just in case I haven’t aged myself enough with these references. It won’t shock you to learn that that weekend also involved hacky sacks, neon pink comb-in hair gel, and many appearances of local musical weirdo-heroes, Furnaceface.

But I digress. This post is actually about the tulipalooza that I hosted in my garden this past spring, a throwback in itself given that tulip season has LONG since passed.

And that season was, to put it poetically, a beautiful nightmare. It started in the fall of 2020 when I purchased nine or 10 different varieties of heirloom bulbs from Breck’s Bulbs (zero complaints there; the bulbs I bought were in beautiful shape, white, fresh and plump.) In anticipation of the bastard rodents that would surely make merry with my tender tulips, Mr. Finger Candy made eight cages out of zip ties and chicken wire to lock the bulbs in before I planted them in the ground. I then planted a couple dozen, foolishly unprotected, in the pie-shaped bed at the front of the house. I had been inside maybe 15 minutes before I looked out the window and saw that arsehole squirrels had made off with at least three. Mr. Finger Candy leapt to the rescue once again, this time pinning an entire sheet of chicken wire directly on top of the soil.

Winter came and went, and in the spring my fledgling tulips began to fledge. I was so excited to look outside and see their tender green shoots just beginning to poke through the loamy gloom! And then the rodents returned, kneecapping my efforts – and the growth of my flowers – at every. single. turn. It also snowed in the middle of April, necessitating a frosty jaunt out to the beds in my flip flops to rescue the more advanced blooms.

I spent the majority of my spring vacillating between wild gardening highs and crushing rodent lows (not to suggest that I ever actually physically harmed the thieving little jerks, unless you count dosing my flower beds with Da Bomb hot sauce-infused water, a neat little trick that only occasionally proved successful.)

Highs? This absolutely stunning bouquet of inky purple Queen of the Night tulips, ruffled Black Parrots and bubblegum pink Fancy Frills I pulled from the front bed at the very end of the season. How such gorgeous specimens dodged the Wrath of Rodent, I’ll never know, but I loved having this cut bouquet in our home for the two weeks that it remained pert and bright and upright.

I also loved this sunset-hued bouquet of early bloomers I clipped during that aforementioned springtime snowstorm. These gorgeous, plush blossoms are Coral Pride and Pink Pride tulips mixed in with some yellow and white tulips that just randomly sprang up in the yard (I call that gardening by squirrel, or let the tulips lay where they may.)

Another high? This unique blossom, a Showgirl tulip. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a blue flower before (okay, purple-grey) let alone grown one.

The cool tones of this beautiful tulip matched nothing else in the garden, which certainly didn’t matter to the squirrels, who seemed to find these particular flowers extra delicious. But when I was able to actually bring one or two inside, I just wound up hodge podgeing them together with whatever else was in bloom, making for some interesting arrangements.

Lows? Oh, pretty much any time I looked outside and saw a wilted pile of leaves, or worse, a tall, green stem with a nipped-off blossom just laying in the dirt beside it. My mom said, with a note of concerned pride in her voice, “Well, you’re a real gardener now!” when I called her one morning, wracked with sobs and blubbering about my decimated tulips. Apparently heartbreak is just part of the gardening deal? I *might* even have been sort of understanding if the rodents actually ate the tulips, or derived some sort of sustenance from them. Canadian winters are hard; I suppose I can’t fault the little guys for falling on the first fresh greenery they’ve seen in months. But to just nip off the head and then leave it there, fully intact, the plant now utterly destroyed, is unconscionable. I could wring their little rodent necks.

Instead, I began dosing my beds with ground cinnamon, ground cayenne pepper and hot sauce-infused water. Capsaicin, the active component in chili peppers, is also usually the first active ingredient in critter ridder preparations, none of which seem to work very well, and all of which are quite expensive. So I bought a bunch of ground cayenne pepper at the bulk store and sprinkled it around my tulips. It worked as an invisible barrier more often than not, as did the hot sauce treatment, but I still suffered losses to squirrels who are apparently impervious to the pain of a 2 million scoville-rated hot sauce. As for the cinnamon, I was thinking anything that burns. Have you ever inhaled a bunch of ground cinnamon (or worse, done the cinnamon challenge)? It hurts and smells incredible all at the same time. I was just looking for the squirrel version of that. Is this also a sign that I’m becoming a “real” gardener, that I don’t want to hurt the rodents that thoughtlessly thrashed my garden, but I do want them to pay?

It’s been a learning process, that’s for sure, and one that I’m in the process of repeating right this very moment (get those bulb orders in now!) Heartbreak and tears notwithstanding. Only next time I’ll be approaching the whole endeavor with a bit more gardening wisdom – and A LOT more physical barriers.

Chionodoxa

Blue Flowers 1

That’s the name of these cute little blue blooms that have flower-bombed my front beds and lawn.¬† They’re big time bee-bait, though, so I’ve been admiring them at a distance (except for when I dashed outside to recklessly plunge my hand into the buzzing bed of buds to snap this photo of these inspired-by nails I recently did.¬† What can I say, guess I’m willing to suffer for my art.) ūüėČ

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Plan Ahead

Journal CollageStretching my nail art legs a bit with this gilded floral manicure inspired by my 2018 journal.  I love brights over top of a solid black creme like this, particularly with the addition of a little golden glitz.

Journal nails

Since about grade 6, I’ve kept a journal or diary or a planner of some fashion to organize both my day and my thoughts.¬† Yet despite a proliferation of new journal “systems” – or perhaps¬†in spite of them – I’ve never felt the need to compose my thoughts in anything more structured than a plain old notebook, or your basic yearly planner.¬† As long as it has space for me to scribble down inspired blogging thoughts, random song lyrics and at what time I’m supposed to pick up my mom so we can go to the movies, we good.

But if it can be gorgeous while it’s doing all those things, so much the better!¬† And this planner (from Orange Circle Studio) is beautiful, inside and out…but mainly out. ūüėȬ† I adore this vibrant succulent theme with its fine gold accents; it’s just a lovely book to have laying out and about.¬† Doesn’t look too shabby on my nails either.

Journal Up Close

The Good Tie

The Good Tie

Holy motherforking shirtballs, that is a nice tie!¬† Or that’s what I would be saying if this manicure was an actual men’s bow tie and not just the print of a fictional one worn by Ted Danson’s character, Michael, on The Good Place.¬† I cemented my love of The Good Place with this manicure inspired by one of fashion plate Tahani’s dresses.¬† Tahani possesses a vast and enviable wardrobe of colourful floral gowns; I could do a manicure a day for weeks and still not reach the end of her flouncy and floral.

And as it turns out, Michael, architect of The Good Place, is something of a clotheshorse as well – he wears more pastel than an Easter egg, and always caps off his outfits with a colourful printed bow tie.¬† In a recent episode I watched Michael is wearing a smart floral tie bearing this fetching print; I liked it so much, I thought I’d turn it into a manicure.¬† Now, how’s that about a bench? ūüėČ

Metallic Roses

Metallic Roses Again

New goal in life: Live long enough for it to be acceptable as an old woman to run around in an embroidered turquoise leisure suit bearing THIS print!

I assure you I did not intend for these nails to turn out quite this way, but this manicure is so terrifically 1970s. I almost feel like my paternal grandmother had a belted polyester leisure suit (with slightly flared pants) featuring an embroidered rose print. ¬†That must be where I got the just-accidentally-fell-into-it inspiration for these nails. ¬†Also, not for nothing, but if that’s true, nice one, Grandma – it’s a whole lot of look, and I totally love it!

Metallic Roses

 

 

#TahaniTime

#TahaniTime

Anybody else out there watching The Good Place?  Very funny (and sweet, and enlightening, and thought-provoking) half-hour sitcom starring Kristen Bell as Eleanor, a woman who, upon her completely ignoble death Рflattened by a boner pill truck while bending down to retrieve an errant bottle of Lonely Gal Margarita Mix that had rolled out of her shopping cart Рis sent to The Good Place, a heaven-ish type neighbourhood filled with nothing but pleasant people, pleasant surroundings and pleasant, pleasant pleasantness, instead of The Bad Place, where she most likely belongs.  Because Eleanor in life was kind of a dick, although her time in The Good Place really begins to bring her around.

Anyhow, tangent there, because this manicure has nothing to do with Eleanor, but rather Eleanor’s gorgeous glamazon of a next door neighbour, British socialite and It Girl Tahani Al-Jamil (played by actress Jameela Jamil, who I’ve never seen in anything before, and I simply don’t know how, because she’s just fantastic.)

Tahani actually begins The Good Place as Eleanor’s nemesis, a smothering and seemingly insincere neighbour who makes everybody’s business her business and name-drops more often than she blinks. ¬†But Tahani’s also deeply insecure, and all the mentions in the world – that time she brokered a peace accord between her friend Kanye, her good friend Taylor and her¬†best friend Beyonce, the year she spent as Baz Luhrmann’s muse, the $60¬†billion she raised for charity – can’t compensate for a lifetime of emotional cruelty from her cold socialite parents. ¬†But lord, does Tahani try. ¬†Tries Eleanor’s patience, for one, although it quickly becomes clear that Tahani is the real deal – a genuinely good (if occasionally insufferable) person who lives – and lived – to help others. ¬†And hey, if she could snog Ryan Gosling at the Met Ball while she was doing that – twice – then so much the better! ¬†It’s hard to stay mad at that, and by the end of the first season (second season coming soon!) Tahani and Eleanor consider themselves friends.

One of my favourite things about Tahani, though, is her gigantic, enviable wardrobe of flouncy and floral – girlfriend wears an honest to goodness Belle dress to a first-night gathering in The Good Place, hosted by her, of course, because ain’t no party like a Tahani Al-Jamil party! ¬†She’s quite the fashion plate (although she laments that her modelling career was so regrettably short-lived; seems her bosom was simply too ample for couture, the poor dear.)

These nails depict one of the many, many, many floral dresses Tahani wears on her adventures about The Good Place, a dusky blue number she pairs with a floppy, wide-brimmed hat, afternoon gloves and a picnic basket (stuffed with morale-boosting maple butter scones she passes out to the other residents following a bit of neighbourhood strife.)

Anyhow, big recommendation on The Good Place. ¬†It also stars Ted Danson, and another group of fabulous unknowns – William Jackson Harper, D’Arcy Carden and Manny Jacinto among them, and they’re all freaking hilarious (particularly D’Arcy Carden, who plays Janet, a Siri/Alexa-like informational assistant in The Good Place.) ¬†Trust me, just watch it – it’s great. ūüôā

June Band of Bloggers

bandofbloggers_header

Toes in the water, sunshine on the skin, evenings spent watching blinking fireflies or brilliant fireworks, all the little indulgences that only summer can bring. ¬†As it’s arriving soon (in the northern hemisphere), for June we want to know the special ways you indulge during the summer months. ¬†Any activities you look forward to? ¬†For some, it involves dodging bugs, to searching for respite from soaring temps. ¬†But for everyone, it means longer daylight hours. ¬†What is your summer indulgence?

I’m not sure how much of an indulgence something can be if it cost 75 cents at the secondhand bookstore, but one of my favourite things to do in the summer is bury myself in a stack of Christopher Pike young adult thrillers and pretend I’m 12 years old again. ¬†I was just discussing this with a friend the other day, but those beloved books (all published in the late ’80s and ’90s, for those not familiar with Pike’s work) really hold up quite well. ¬†You know, provided you’re into Egyptology, time travel, teen cannibalism, lizard people from Mars, mild drug use, vampires, devastating childhood trauma and a hell of a lot of female characters named Ann. ¬†Last summer, whilst in the midst of a major Pike-a-thon, I created this manicure. ¬†I may have also rhapsodized a fair bit about my deep, abiding love for the 1980s YA teen thriller; you can find that post¬†here.

Christopher Pike Collage

Continuing with gratification, what’s the most indulgent fragrance purchase you have ever made or been gifted? ¬†A special bottle of perfume, exclusive wax opening, or pricey, fancy pants candle?

Every Christmas my parents gift me with a two-wick Voluspa candle in one of my favourite fragrances, French Bourbon Vanille. ¬†This candle is a real luxury item – silky smooth, clean-burning coconut wax, a lush, gourmand fragrance, that beautiful mercury glass container – and it’s got the price tag to go along with it – $38 Canadian.

That my parents willingly – I’d say even gleefully – purchase this for me every year is nothing short of amazing, as they are not the type to splash out on something as banal as a candle. ¬†My parents have always been exceedingly financially responsible. ¬†It’s what has allowed them to enjoy a comfortable life, all while continuing to be quite generous with their only daughter (come on, you knew I was an only child!)

Having said that, my parents are still a long way off from Dickensian tightwads. ¬†They spend their money on the things that matter to them; luxury candles simply aren’t one of those things. ¬†Dollar Store firestarters will do just fine, thanks! ¬†But my, do they love purchasing this candle every year. ¬†I think it gives them a weirdly illicit little jolt – “Wayne! ¬†We’re buying a $40 candle for our kid. ¬†Is she bonkers or are we?”

Voluspa In the Dark

Lastly, how would you indulge if $ was no object? ¬†It could be a luxe fragrance you desire, a pampering spa package, a legendary retired scent, etc. ¬†What is your dream way to treat yo’self?

If finances and environmental impact were of no concern, I’d enjoy freshly laundered linens every day, and fresh cut flowers thrice weekly. ¬†Thrice! ¬†I love bedding down in clean sheets (bolted downstairs at 9:30 pm on New Years Eve, actually, to throw a load in the machine so I could begin 2017 unencumbered by 2016’s scuzzy sheets) and fresh flowers are simple sunshine in a vase. ¬†Love the little luxuries associated with both.

Luxurious Photo

Please feel free to answer these questions for yourself in the comment section below.

And we hope you’ll visit these Band of Blogger blogs and help support the blogger community!

Amanda at Thrifty Polished

Jaybird at The Candle Enthusiast

Jessica at The Meltdown Blog

Julie at The Redolent Mermaid

Lauren at LoloLovesScents

Liz at Furianne

Sandra – me! – at Finger Candy

If you are a blogger and would like to join the Band of Bloggers for our monthly posts, please contact us.

More Power to the Flower

Fleurs

Because those April showers have to pay off somehow, right? ¬†And I’m pretty sure the record flooding my city has seen over the past week (in a condo apartment on high ground, I am thankfully immune) is not what that tired old expression originally contemplated. ¬†Strength to my less fortunate neighbours, with the vehement hope that the waters finally begin to recede. ¬†Until then, more flowers, fewer showers.

Calamity Carol

Calamity Carol Bottle

As in Carol of The Walking Dead. ¬†Although…alluringly alliterative though it may be, is “calamity” really the correct descriptor for Carol Peletier’s very particular brand of post-apocalyptic madness? ¬†Girlfriend’s¬†ice cold, and I kind of love it. ¬†Or I loved it right up until she suddenly – and abruptly, because this is The Walking Dead – began acting completely contrary to her long-established character, running off alone to ruminate on man’s inhumanity to man, when she should have been back in Alexandria terrorizing small, frightened children with her apocalypse cookies and impressively detailed death scenarios. ¬†I totally hate-watch The Walking Dead, so I actually don’t have much of a stake in it one way or another, but I’d like to see Carol get her mojo back next season – every apocalypse needs its rage goddess.

Personal feelings on both the show and the comics aside, I love the¬†idea of The Walking Dead, as evidenced by this TWD-themed polish from Dollish Polish, Look at the Flowers, Lizzie, a mucus-hued favourite. ¬†Straight up, this polish looks like snot – ain’t nothing wrong with that! ¬†Here I topped Look at the Flowers, Lizzie with two sweet flower studs and a couple of badass silver spike strips. ¬†I definitely think Carol – any version, really – would approve.

Calamity Carol Fingers