Tales From A Rented Garden: How To Love A Begonia

Not to toot my own horn, but I seriously rarely toot my own horn, so TOOT TOOT. I have spent all my personal time of late, my days off, my afternoons, mornings watching dappled sunlight sparkle, and I am enchanted, stunned with its beauty, this ethereal sense of watching the wilding world go by.

Enchanted by all that comes and goes, flits through, breezes by, of the shadows and the light, in the rain, or a cloudy day, it has become, em, it has become something I am proud to say I created. It reflects me, it soothes me, it kisses the top of my head with sunshine, and I feel blessed.

I did not arrange this, this is how I found it – yellow feather with Black Walnut seed thingies.

I don’t want to leave. I want nothing more than to spend as much time as I can, soaking it in. Like meditation, my mind clears and I hear Hawks cry and Cardinals flit by, find bright golden yellow feathers, that one Clever Crow told me signifies I am going in the right direction.

And, yes, it is a master at distracting, drawing me out the door, away from the 45ths circus act down yonder on the other side of the 49th.

Sitting there, I snip this branch, trim back ol’Virginia a bit here and bit there, like a Zen thing, I nip and clip… details details… such lovely distracting details – if only to touch, to feel, to etch inside more of this healing chaos magic of this nature I’ve captured outside my door.

This garden that started out when I got here in September 2013 as mostly bare earth, with the scraggly Virginia Creeper vine with a mind of her own, and of course the graceful Plantaginea Hostas out front, with Lily of the Valley running along the side of the wall, and whatever weeds don’t mind the juglan that deters so many other more tenacious weeds – and I am thankful for that big beautiful Black Walnut Tree.

And, the things that I love don’t mind at all that chemical or whatnot it emits. In fact, a southern Ontario woodland is made more beautiful by everything the Black Walnut offers, from nuts to shade on a hot summer day.

‘Brilliance Autumn Fern’ ~ Dryopteris erythrosora – part shade to full shade

This garden I share with a dog who just pees where she wants, with no propriety, and what doesn’t mind all that abuse? Well, I’ve learned that ditch Lilies, for one, they couldn’t care less. And of course old Virginia the creeper, she just barrels along on high velocity all spring and summer, up and over and through this and that, merrily she goes, turning red sometimes in the fall where the sun has touched her.

Let’s see, but this year all that pales a bit, and how do I start to describe this beautiful new one I found? To describe its beauty? To my astonishment, I am enchanted.

Now, gardening under a Black Walnut tree is about limits, as not a lot likes growing underneath one, as I mentioned, it has this thing it sends out called Juglan, and some plants just wither, yellow up and die, some are stunted and don’t thrive.

Asparagus Fern & Dwarf Papyrus, my new favourite combo. All three will winter inside, to bring my garden in to be enjoyed all winter. I didn’t know that Papyrus could also be a houseplant – love the play of light through the delicate leaves, so beautiful.

Add to that, this side I’m on faces North and most is in full shade, with spots that receive up to 6 hours or so, streaming in a bit in the morning, but just this one stretch, just along the hedgerow, just 8 feet (2.44 m) long and about 2 feet (0.61 m) wide gets about 6 hours.

Every year I’ve tried all the old standards, but none really thrived, not the Geranium, not Petunia, not Tobacco Flower, I don’t remember all the deaths and disasters, but I tried and tried. And I avoided Begonias, never had liked them. However, last year I gave in and tried one, and, they don’t mind, not the lack of sun or the Black Walnut, so there you go.

So this year I opened my mind to possibilities, and there before me I found a beauty, a variety that shows off its Salmon Pink and dark sexy leaves in that strip of sunshine as surely as it does in the shade. Called ‘First Kiss‘, it has these neat frilly centres that start out this golden yellow and ruffle out, and that do look a little like lips – er, just maybe not the ones on your face.

‘First Kiss’ Begonia & ‘Rainbow’ Coleus
‘First Kiss’ Begonia & Variegated Swedish Ivy (Plectranthus Australis ‘Varegatus’)

“Modern life is, for most of us, a kind of serfdom to mortgage, job and the constant assault to consume. Although we have more time and money than ever before, most of us have little sense of control over our own lives. It is all connected to the apathy that means fewer and fewer people vote. Politicians don’t listen to us anyway. Big business has all the power; religious extremism all the fear. But in the garden or allotment we are king or queen. It is our piece of outdoors that lays a real stake to the planet.”

Monty Don, My Roots: A Decade in the Garden

Once in a while, I think I might post some stories of how this or that plant came to be, tales of a rented garden, of foundlings and antique ladies, of embracing limitations as opportunities, of surprises, little gifts, and broken dreams made into stepping stones.

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Some Tales From A Rented Garden, Of Time, Lessons, and That Lungwort Flowers

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