Garden Views: At this time of year, gardeners give thanks for more than food

Lilacs and bridal wreath are garden beauties to be thankful for. Photo: Mary Fran McQuade.


Did you think of your garden during your Thanksgiving celebrations?

I’m pretty sure my vegetable gardening friends did. They’ve been posting photos of their luscious tomatoes, crisp green beans, and brilliant orange carrots for weeks now. And my turkey stuffing wouldn’t taste right without its sage and parsley cut fresh from my garden every year.

For a gardener, though, there’s much more than food to give thanks for.

Friendships grow in a garden

I’m thankful for the many friends that gardening has brought to me.

Gardeners can talk about gardening nearly as long as sports fans can go on about their favourite teams. “What do you think about ajuga as a groundcover?” “When should I plant my new redbud?” “How do you get rid of slugs?” “What can I do about those $%/! racoons that tear up my lawn?”

I’m also thankful for the plants that my friends generously share with me and with others.

When you finally find something that’s happy in your garden, you’ll soon wind up with more of it than you have room for. (My annual spring Rudbeckia giveaway is always a popular event.) And if you start things from seed, you may well have so many tiny plants that, like kittens, you have to find new homes for them.

The many bees and butterflies that floated all over Toronto this year also made me grateful.

We’ve been hearing for years about the decline of Monarchs, native bees and honeybees, but it looks like that’s turned around, judging by all the beautiful pollinators that flew through the Beach this summer.

Pollinator plants support life

For all those bees and butterflies, you can thank the many pollinator plants that people have been adding to their gardens.

Who would have thought, a few years ago, to see milkweed, goldenrod and field asters rubbing shoulders – uh, leaves – with more civilized flowers like roses and lilies? City gardens, in fact, are now becoming better sources of food than country fields for those beloved flying critters.

But even with the trend to native plants, I’m still happy and grateful for the two or three shrub roses that burst into bloom and spread their scent to my front porch periodically.

They’re varieties that don’t flower constantly throughout spring and summer, but they’re also tough plants that can get along pretty well on their own. I don’t have to fuss over them with rose food and bug sprays.

I’m even thankful for those old-fashioned vigorous perennials and flowering shrubs that return so reliably year after year.

The forsythia, lilac and spireas can be a bit of a pain to cut back after they flower, but their splash of colour always brings me joy after the long, dark winter.
And hydrangeas – did I mention hydrangeas?

The fluffy pink and blue ones are impressive, but I’m charmed by and grateful for the varieties that have delicate “lacecap” flowers, which look like bits of pastel lace draped here and there among the leaves. Dear old Annabelle, the one you can count on to sprout madly every spring, is another one that I cherish (partly because it was discovered in 1910 near the town where I was born).

Clouds and rain are a gift too

Though most of us dream of sunny hours full of flowers, I’m also deeply grateful for the cloudy days that let me get through the hard work of pruning, weeding and planting without fainting in the hot sun.

It’s better to put new plants in the ground on overcast days, too, so they have some time to get over the shock of being transplanted. And one of the secrets of good garden photography is that colours are more saturated when they’re not in bright sun.

Finally, I’m even thankful for those rainy days when I can’t spend time in the garden.

A long, steady rain saves me hours of watering my thirsty gang of green things. It soaks our dry, sandy Beach soil and helps my water bill, too.

Best of all, I can sit back and relax on the porch without feeling at all guilty.

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