Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Catalogue of Dreams

After two days of false spring heralded by a freakish warm front that drove the temperature up to 25 degrees C, a Maritime storm has moved in.  The wind howled fiercely all night and we woke up to a blast of snow ghosts whipping horizontally across the yard.  Our plastic garbage pail, set out at the curb for early morning pick-up, was retrieved from its resting place in the ditch three houses down from ours.
Reality, late March in NB
Spring may not be in the 5-day forecast, but it's already blooming in my mailbox at the Cap-Pele post office.  The 2012 edition of Veseys seed catalogue came just at the right moment, when my hope for a change of season had been dragged along the asphalt like a wind-blown trash can.  The glossy images of petunias and zinnias, carrots and zucchini, radishes and tomatoes delivered a strong dose of Tonic de Primavera.

I am enthralled by the text in Veseys catalogue and spend a lot of time poring over the written descriptions.   Evocative names like Indigo Treat blueberries,  Applause tomatoes,  Pay Dirt corn,  Red Ace beets,  Sugar Sprint peas, Noir des Carmes cantaloupe,  Calypso cucumber, Star of Yelta morning glory, Snackface pumpkin and Kong sunflowers might have been penned by a writer of romance novels.  There are passages loaded with adjectival phrases and similes that stir the imagination: cauliflowers with "beautiful lime green heads comprised of small pointed florets," tomatoes in the "one-slice-per-sandwich category," and pansies "with ruffled edges like whirling petticoats."  Words like "synergistic", "uniform," "earliness" and "bolt resistant" seem to jump off the pages.

Matthew Ridley (1848-1904) Wingfield Park, Lucknow, India
There are professional gardeners in my ancestry, and although I'll never achieve their level of horticultural knowledge or skill, I do share a basic love for growing things.  My great-grandfather Matthew Ridley trained at Kew gardens in England and subsequently served as Superintendent of Parks and Gardens in Lucknow, India.  He experimented with cotton crops, introduced rubber trees, and wrote extensively about the characteristics of different varieties of mangoes and pears.  I like to think that I've inherited his green thumb.

My own modest gardens have been planted in soil native to Canada, Europe and South America under a  wide range of climatic conditions.  The Veseys website informs me that the last frost in this area (Zone 5A) of New Brunswick can occur as late as May 24th, and the first frost as early as September 27th!  Four months is not a long growing season, but it's enough time to produce food for the table and freezer.  It's long enough to engage in the annual cycle of digging, planting, weeding and harvesting that satisfies the need to get your hands dirty with authentic work.   In the meantime, as the snow flies, I'm filling out my Veseys order form and dreaming of  Espresso corn with "delicious 9" cobs, 16 rows,  tapered ends and good tip coverage."

N.B. For a look at another paper garden, read about Mrs. Delany and her amazing botanical mosaics. 

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