A carol for Beach gardeners

Partridges? What on earth would I do with them? French hens? Against the law in Toronto and probably couldn’t stand the cold. Gold rings? I always take off any rings when I’m gardening – otherwise, they get lost or dirty.

The gifts in The 12 Days of Christmas just don’t cut it for a Beach gardener. Let’s try these instead:

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me… a bird feeder in an oak tree. Grow your oak tree from an acorn you picked  up locally, so the seedling will be genetically adapted to conditions here. And bird feeders are lovely additions to a garden.

On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me… two turtleheads.  Turtleheads (Chelone obliqua) are pink or white wildflowers native to Ontario. The blooms grow in spikes, sort of like small gladioli, on mounded, dark green foliage. They prefer moist soils, so plant them in a rain garden.

On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me… three French lilacs. French lilacs were introduced in the late 19th century by a French flower breeder. They’re known for their wide variety of colours (including deep purple) and their double flowers.

On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me… four calla lilies. Callas are some of the most graceful and elegant cut flowers. They’re tender bulbs, originating in Africa, and not members of the lily family at all. They were popular art motifs in the first quarter of the 20th century and are now fashionable again.

On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me… five gold cards. To use in nurseries, flower shops, garden centres and catalogues, of course.

On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…six sacks of soil. It’s a weird gift for anyone but a gardener, but I know people who asked their true loves for a load of well-rotted manure for Christmas. I am not kidding.

On the seventh day of Christmas, my true love gave to me… seven stepping stones. Every garden can use good, large, solid stepping stones. They help us get to the back of the border or find a way through that big garden bed we planted.

On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me… eight gloves for gardening. What righteous gardener has only one pair of gardening gloves? You need one for wet conditions, one for pruning, one for prickly plants, one for cold weather….

On the ninth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me… nine lads a-watering. We’ve had hot, dry summers lately, and a brigade of lads with watering cans and hoses would be a fine thing. Especially if you garden in containers on a porch or deck.

On the 10th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…10 pruners pruning. Pruning time is in fall and spring, and the window for it closes fast.. Before you know it, prime time is over, and you have to live with scraggly, overgrown things for another season.

On the 11th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…11 ladies raking. Oak trees. Norway and Manitoba maples. Bags and bags of leaves. Need I say more?

On the 12th day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…12 spa treatments. Massages, nail care/repair, saunas, aromatherapy – they all sound good to the weary gardener. I think I’ll skip the mud wraps, though.

Mary Fran McQuade is a hobby gardener and freelance writer.


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