In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.
— Margaret Atwood, Bluebird’s Egg
Queen Victoria’s birthday, May 24, is marked on the gardener’s calendar as planting time. By then, it’s generally believed, frost warnings are a thing of the past and fragile seedlings will happily shoot up to invade every square centimetre.
Before then, of course, happy green thumbs are wandering through greenhouses and garden centres, as well as checking out events organized by traders. Cuttings traders, that is. There’s a plant and seed exchange in Saint-Denis-de-Brompton on Saturday, for example (organized by a resident of 110 rue de Laverdure, between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.; a donation is requested if you want a plant but have nothing to exchange for it). Two days later, on the holiday Monday, May 20, you can drop off unwanted plants and buy inexpensive greenery at Sherbrooke’s Marche de la Gare from 8 a.m.; that event is co-sponsored by the environmental group Action Saint Francois.
But what to plant? For some, a garden is a means to a different end. “We all have our favorite birds, in backyards and in the wild. I’ve learned where they feel at home, and which plants they can’t resist. And I’ve put those lessons to work in every place I’ve lived, to bring the birds I like best to my own backyard.” And you can give it a try, as well, thanks to Sally Roth’s Bird-By-Bird Gardening: The Ultimate Guide To Bringing In Your Favorite Birds – Year After Year (2006).
Roth ‘s guide begins at woodpeckers — you can learn to tell them apart by the drumming sound they make as they have a go at the nearest tree.
If you don’t want to wait years for a stripling to grow, plant the biggest branch you can lift.
“Planting a dead tree will instantly catch a woodpecker’s attention. I like to pick out real branches with graceful curves that look like garden art to my eye. Driftwood is my favorite find…. it’s usually sturdy enough to last a few years after ‘planting’.”
At almost 400 pages, there’s bound to be birds in this volume that you will want to share the summer with.
Or perhaps you’ve already spent a bit of time planting over the years. But you just can’t seem to get one species to settle in. Leaves die, bushes are sickly small, flowering trees stubbornly refuse to show their colours. It’s time for The Reader’s Digest Garden Problem Solver: The Ultimate Troubleshooting Guide For Successful Gardening (2004).
This is another encyclopedic overview, and American in focus. But that doesn’t matter so much. It’s easy to find your hardiness zone, which is the grade that identifies your climate and what plants best survive. Sherbrooke is a 4b.
Don’t have a backyard? No space for a big den? Check out the Lennoxville Library’s garden section, which includes tips on planting in small containers (a window sill, the porch, a sunny spot in kitchen). Everyone has room for a little pot of fresh basil to brighten home and supper.
— Eleanor Brown, May 17, 2013