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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Earthquake off coast of Washington recorded at 4.1 magnitude

The quake was recorded at a depth of 10 kilometres

UPDATED: Man dies from injuries at Custom House construction site in Victoria

Government Street remains closed as investigation continues

VIJHL season could start Oct. 1, says league president

League awaiting final approval from local health authorities and viaSport

Netflix, Warner Bros filming 10-part series in Colwood

Filming takes place now until March 2021

Saanich explores options for adding shelters to parks

Covered areas would encourage safe outdoor socializing during rainy season

B.C. reports 96 new COVID-19 cases, one hospital outbreak

61 people in hospital as summer ends with election

‘Unprecedented’ coalition demands end to B.C. salmon farms

First Nations, commercial fishermen among group calling for action on Cohen recommendations

B.C.’s top doctor says she’s received abuse, death threats during COVID-19 response

Henry has become a national figure during her time leading B.C.’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic

BC Liberals must change gears from election cynicism, focus on the issues: UBC professors

COVID-19 response and recovery is likely to dominate platforms

B.C. could be without a new leader for multiple weeks after Election Day: officials

More than 20K mail-in voting packages were requested within a day of B.C. election being called

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Majority needed to pass COVID-19 budget, B.C. premier says

John Horgan pushes urgent care centres in first campaign stop

Nanaimo RCMP shut down illegal racing and stunt driving site

Police “swoop in” to seize vehicles and issue violation tickets

Public health officials urge Canadians to limit contacts again as COVID-19 cases rise

Canada has committed $1 billion to buy at least 154 million doses of vaccines from five different companies

Most Read