Flower literacy slowly returning

It's like riding a bike - the language of flowers is slowing returning after years of ignoring it.

I have great admiration for serious gardeners: people who grow their own seedlings, discuss pH levels, and can tell the difference between a Harmony and a Bee Imp marigold at 10 feet. Their gardens are immaculate, they take edging very seriously, and their lawns could double as fairways.

I am not one of these gardeners. I’m doing well if I manage to keep a poinsettia alive until New Year’s Day, and the less said about the garden, the better. Two weeks ago, however, I set out to tackle the wilderness that was our front yard. We don’t have a flamethrower, and I suspect that bylaws don’t allow the use of napalm within village limits, so it was on with the gardening gloves (once I found them) and out with the weed spike (after buying a new one, the old one having gone AWOL).

It took two days, and the help of other family members (good thing I bought two spikes), but I finally got the yard looking tidy once more. Something was missing, however, so off for flowers I went. It’s been a long time since I bought plants, and at first it was rather like re-learning a language I once knew (“I bought these flowers once – yellow – no, not marigolds – kind of papery . . .”). After a time, though, it started coming back to me, and I rolled the no-longer-forgotten names around my tongue. Calendula. Gazania. Lobelia. Bacopa. Calibrachoa. And of course old favourites such as petunias, marigolds, violas, and pansies, glowing like jewels.

In 1872 my great-uncle, George Munro Grant, passed through the area while accompanying Sir Sandford Fleming on his surveying trip across Canada, and wrote of their travels in the book Ocean to Ocean (1873). The area around Ashcroft and Cache Creek, he said, was “no more a desert than are the rich valleys of California. Like them, it will grow anything, if irrigated.” Despite my lack of a green thumb, I’ll try to prove Uncle George right. And who knows? By the end of the summer I might be able to tell the difference between Harmony and Bee Imp marigolds myself.

Barbara Roden is a Guest Editorialist for this week’s Ashcroft-Cache Creek Journal.