Cultivated: On stepping out of the rhythm of the year

Christin Geall is an avid Oak Bay gardener and writing instructor at the University of Victoria

It goes like this every fall: rooting cuttings; sowing sweet peas; pre-sprouting corms; harvesting flowers; planting bulbs; raking leaves; covering plants; moving perennials; protecting shrubs. If you didn’t notice all those active verbs, I guarantee your back did.

So what if we let it all slide?

I’m a nature-worshipping urbanite: coffee runneth through my veins (and half of it I don’t make myself). But every day I’m deep in the green: futzing, pottering, and what’s more—thinking about my garden. I feel tied to the rhythm of the seasons, a Wordsworthian thrum in my heart. For many years I longed to be the person I’ve become. But on bad days now the beat runs to a samba and I stumble, overwhelmed. Do this. Do that. Now. And gardening, my love, feels like a chore.

For solace, I have long returned Margaret Atwood’s poem, ‘Progressive Insanities of a Pioneer’. It is about the wilderness and the Canadian mind but it speaks to growers in the thick of it too.

He stood, a point

on a sheet of green paper

proclaiming himself the centre,

with no walls, no borders

anywhere; the sky no height

above him, totally un-

enclosed

and shouted:

Let me out!

This past weekend I got out. I ignored the perennial weeds—the English ivy sprouts who miraculously appear miles from a vine and the creeping Pacific buttercup that sneaks from lawn to bed. I left dahlia tubers undug, chrysanthemums untied and leaves unraked. I got about as far from my garden as I could get for four nights: I went to New York.

And there, I saw flowers. At the Met I marvelled at urns filled with branches of cherry red dogwood, silver eucalyptus and plum hydrangeas ten feet high. I saw a vase filled with old Noisette roses painted by Van Gogh. I inhaled the sharp scent of my Toronto childhood—concrete and grime—and mooched around the floral wholesalers on 28th then travelled blocks underground. I went to a wedding where the bride held more flowers and the men wore boutonnieres of twigs and blooms. I thought about gardening but obtusely, not sharply as I do at home, and all my little horticultural worries fell oddly into place. To have a plot of earth of one’s own is a rarity; to be able to grow what I see on my travels is a gift. Seeking inspiration from abroad is not a step away from the work but a step towards new aesthetic understandings.

Once you see the world in shades of green you can’t do anything but. That is the life of a gardener; so be it.

So go.

Christin Geall is an avid Oak Bay gardener and creative non-fiction writing instructor at the University of Victoria.

Just Posted

PHOTOS: Thousands show for 40th GoodLife Marathon in downtown Victoria

New records, first-time runners, and stories of resilience

Mother of alleged hit-and-run victim hopes municipalities will work together to improve crosswalk

Young woman injured, dog killed when struck by driver on marked crosswalk at Foul Bay Road

Here comes the rain: Victoria can expect post Thanksgiving showers all week

Mild, rainy weather expected from Tuesday to Saturday

Opponents of Elizabeth May criticize her push to scrap temporary foreign worker program

May has proposed to scrap the federal program which supplies local business with temporary workers

Victoria woman uses loss to raise awareness of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day

City of Victoria to recognize Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day Oct. 15

VIDEO: Greater Victoria, here’s the news you missed this weekend

Dog killed in alleged hit and run, Goodlife Marathon takes over city and more

Canadian Snowbirds plane crashes before air show in Atlanta

Pilot lands safely after ejecting from jet

Share crash data, private insurers tell David Eby, ICBC

B.C. monopoly makes drivers retrieve their own records

B.C. VIEWS: Wolf kill, not backcountry bans, saving caribou

B.C.’s largest herds turn the corner from extinction

Pearson nets shootout winner as Canucks clip Flyers 3-2

Vancouver picks up second straight home win

Map on Elections Canada website sends Nanaimo-Ladysmith voters to landfill

Address for polling station correct, but Google Map address differs

BC Children’s Hospital launches 2 new virtual care sites bringing total to 19 across province

Provincial initiative allows pediatric patients to see health specialists through video

‘Wham-bam out the door’: Surrey man’s front yard left ruined by scamming landscaper

Resident warns neighbours to be careful of door-to-door salesmen

Most Read