In May 2011, after four years of life on McNutt's Island, we moved to Montreal. This blog remains, though, as a (sort of) daily record of our time on the island, and a winding path for anyone who would like to meander about among its magical places. For additional perspectives and insights I recommend Greg's book, Island Year: Finding Nova Scotia (2010), and my Bowl of Light (2012). I'll continue to post once in a while. If you do want to read this blog, one option would be to begin at the beginning of it (which is, as we all know, in blog-world, at the end), and read forward, concluding with the most recent entry. It's a journal, really, so it does makes more sense if you read it that way. But, you know, read it any way you like.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Garden dreams

I didn't think I would grow flowers here. The wild sheep wander around eating whatever they please, so I thought it would be a bit pointless unless I wanted to provide new taste treats for them. They ignore some flowers -- the foxgloves down in the lower apple grove, the blue flag iris along the shore, the wild roses, the spring daffodils and late summer goldenrod -- and they eat the red clover and the ox eye daisies whether I want them to or not. I thought I would just live with it. Besides, we put in a vegetable garden -- a big one -- last summer. How many gardens does one person need?

Then Greg put a picket fence around the side of the house, with gates to keep the sheep out. (Please don't ask where the fence came from. It was of no use at all where it was before.) And, mysteriously, an entire bed of mallows sprang up within this fence, where I had dug beds the summer before but not planted anything. They stood gracefully nodding their pink and white heads all summer long. Those mallows got me thinking that I might have just the tiniest little flower garden after all.

So late in the summer I moved them around and gave them more space. Then I moved some mullein inside the fence. I love their broad fuzzy grey leaves, and the bees are so glad to cling to those yellow spires, and I thought a patch of it would look good next to the narrow walk that Greg had made with the old chimney bricks.  

I dug up some yarrow and put it inside the fence, where it flourished as it never had in the field. One day a bold lamb walked through the open gate and in a few minutes had eaten all the yarrow flowers. That's how I learned that sheep like yarrow, and also that it had been doing well because nobody had been eating it. Come to think of it, maybe sheep like mallows, too. After that we did a better job of keeping the gate closed.

Then I sat on the wooden bench by the side door in the sun and dreamed. I would gather more island wildflowers and put them into the little garden. I didn't have any money to spend at Spencer's Garden Centre in Shelburne, much as I love wandering around there. So making a garden of local wildflowers fit our frugal life. And I wanted to collect them into one place where we could see them every day. That clump of white foxglove down in the lower orchard was a gorgeous sight, but we hardly ever noticed it in our comings and goings.  And I wanted flowers that were already at home.

So in late fall I transplanted goldenrod and foxglove and blue iris and orange day lilies and violets and asters -- whatever I could find. Some will do well inside the picket fence and some will not, I guess. It was only out of respect for Greg that I didn't include any Canadian thistle. Our opinions differ on that plant. There was phlox growing in the stone cellar foundation of Benjamin McNutt's house. I climbed down in there and dug up some of it, and also collected its feathery seeds. At least I hope that's what I got.  We'll find out when spring comes. 

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