nichepoetryandprose

poetry and prose about place

Archive for the ‘abandoned spaces’ Category

abandoned gardens: wildflowers take over

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Finding abandoned house-sites where the house has been burned, rotted or torn down is not difficult. Sometime bits of the house are still visible. Sometimes the house-site is the only un-mowed part of a hayfield. Sometimes there are shrubs or flowers, remnants of the plants that once grew there.

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After a few years of abandonment, wildflowers and other plants that colonize disturbed or waste areas gradually take over. In our travels we have seen bedstraw (Galium spp.), spreading dogbane (Apocynum andossemifelium) and other invasives.

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7 old homestead Debec area

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On our drive to the area west of Woodstock, we saw lots of rough bedstraw, with its leaves in sixes (Galium asprellum), sprawling over abandoned areas. It forms a tangle across low pastures and ditches. The tangle looks springy and comfortable, the perfect mattress stuffing, but feels rough and sticky when rubbed backwards from stem to flowers, due to the plant’s rasping, hooked prickles.

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On Wednesday, we took a drive to the area north of Stanley to Centreville, a community settled in 1890 and then abandoned.  We revisited a property we saw in 2018, to try and identify a plant I had seen there. Spreading dogbane (Apocynum androssemifolium) has taken over the front of the property and is gradually spreading into the field.

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Not a very pretty name for a fragrant, nodding flower, pink and bell-like, with tiny red veins inside each flower.

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Although my project is about garden escapes, I think I need to mention the wild species that move the other way, from wild areas to areas that have been abandoned! It’s all about competition and so often, the wild species, adapted to living in our soils and climate. are the successful ones!

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This work is supported by a Creation Grant from artsnb (the New Brunswick Arts Board)!

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All my best.

Stay safe.

Wash your hands.

Jane 

Written by jane tims

July 10, 2020 at 7:00 am

abandoned gardens: flowers, out of place

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A flower common in flower gardens is the yellow loosestrife (Lysimachia punctata). It is prized for its perennial nature and its whorls of bright yellow flowers. A closely related species, garden loosestrife (Lysimachia vulgaris), differs a little in the arrangement of its flowers and in other characteristics.

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These flowers occasionally persist at abandoned home sites, or spread by the roots. As escapes, they look out of place, a bright spot in the green landscape.

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We went for a drive in the countryside west of Woodstock in Carleton County last Friday and found two escaped patches of yellow loosestrife, one on the edge of a field along Green Road and one in the ditches in Watson Settlement.

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16 green road lysimachi distance shot

a patch of yellow loosestrife in a field on the Green Road

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large yellow loosestrife

Lysimachia punctata

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slash of yellow

blooms in the crease

between sumac and hayfield

campion, Timothy, bedstraw and vetch

ladders of golden flowers escaped

from a garden now gone

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10 green road lysimachia close-up

closeup of the patch of yellow loosestrife

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At Watson Settlement, while I was photographing the flowers, a truck stopped to make certain we were OK. In the back of my mind, I was thinking about COVID-19 and social distancing, so although I chatted a bit, I didn’t ask the woman any questions. I could have talked to her about the history of the community and asked her about other garden escapes.

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a patch of yellow loosestrife in a ditch in Watson Settlement

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yellow loosestrife escape

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In the ditch,

in the angle of two roads,

armloads of yellow loosestrife.

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“Are you broken down?” she says.

“Hardly picked a cup

of wild strawberries this year.

But the Devil’s paint brush

is blooming again.”

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I am afraid to ask,

in these days of social distancing,

about the yellow loosestrife,

about the community,

about garden escapes.

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She smiles and drives on.

Unasked questions

unanswered.

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28 watson settlement road lysimachia

yellow loosestrife in the ditch at Watson Settlement

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 This work is supported by a Creation Grant from artsnb (the New Brunswick Arts Board)!

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All my best,

please stay safe,

Jane

Written by jane tims

July 8, 2020 at 7:00 am

abandoned gardens: a pantoum about lilacs

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Over the years, faced by change, some communities continue to thrive. Others, once vigorous, may decline and disappear. Sometimes, communities may hang on but individual homes may be abandoned. Abandonment can occur if the owner moves away or dies, or if aspects of the home become unsustainable (for example, a water source dries up).

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When a home is abandoned, what becomes of the vegetable garden, so carefully tended, or the flower gardens, each plant chosen with love and care?

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Annuals are usually the first to go, although biennials may continue to grow for a year and some plants, like sweet William or pansies, may reseed. Perennials may thrive, sometimes for years. Rhubarb, chives and berry crops often continue to grow in a vegetable garden. In the flower garden, peonies, day-lilies and phlox may bloom year after year. Trees and shrubs often persist.

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63 rhubard Dugan Road

rhubarb persisting in an old garden

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In my poetry project about abandoned gardens, I want to learn more about various poetry forms. The poem below is written as a pantoum. A pantoum consists of four line stanzas. The second and forth lines of the preceding stanza are used as the first and third lines of the next. The first line of the poem may also be used as the last.

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The poem below is written about an abandoned house in central New Brunswick. Keep in mind, these properties are still owed by someone and the owners may care a great deal about them and perhaps use the property if not the house.

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lilac bush next to an old house

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lilacs persist

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delicate scribble of winter wren

lilac, a cushion of shadow and green

props the abandoned house

roof rusted, clapboards and shingles grey

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lilac, a cushion of shadow and green

at night leaves peer in windows

roof rusted, clapboards and shingles grey

features sculpted by overlapping leaves

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at night they peer in windows

stare, front windows to back yard

features sculpted by overlapping leaves

scented panicles of purple bloom

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stare, front windows to back yard

noses tuned to lilac sweet

scented panicles of purple bloom

lilacs persist and thrive

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noses tuned to lilac sweet

roof rusted, clapboards and shingles grey

lilacs persist and thrive

delicate scribble of winter wren

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lilacs~

This work is supported by a Creation Grant from artsnb (the New Brunswick Arts Board)!

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Perhaps we can learn from the lilac …

persist and thrive.

All my best,

Jane

Written by jane tims

July 6, 2020 at 7:00 am

garden escapes: starting a projectile

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This summer, one of my main occupations will be to work on a collection of poems about garden escapes.  Specifically, this means abandoned gardens, plants left behind when homes or communities are abandoned. This work is being supported by a Creations Grant from artsnb.

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I have a short mantra to refer to these abandoned plants: “die, thrive or escape.” In a way, the project theme can be used as a metaphor for any abandonment. For example, when someone abandons a relationship, the one left behind can languish, or pick up and start over, or just leave, find a place to start over. I will be watching for these metaphors throughout my project.

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For today, I have to arrange my materials and get started with a plan for my project.

  • To start I have my grant application (outlines what I intend to do), a bit of reconnaissance work I did in 2018 to develop some ideas for the project, six blog posts from that time and eight older poems that fit the theme.
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orange day-lilies, found in many of new Brunswick’s ditches, are escapes from older gardens

  • To identify abandoned communities, I can refer to information sources and databases developed by others:  the Facebook pages Abandoned New Brunswick  and New Brunswick Upon Days Faded where interested people post photos and short anecdotes about abandoned houses and buildings; the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick website called Place Names of New Brunswick: Where is Home? New Brunswick Communities Past and Present https://archives.gnb.ca/Exhibits/Communities/Home.aspx?culture=en-CA; additional information on communities will be available in Census Records at https://www.ancestry.ca/; various maps including the New Brunswick Atlas (Second Edition); Google Earth and the associated Street View; maps posted in the Facebook page New Brunswick Upon Days Faded; the Walling Map of 1862 which I have used in other projects, F. Walling, Topographical Map of the Counties of St. John and Kings New Brunswick: From Actual Surveys under the direction of H. F. Walling (Publishers W.E. and A.A. Baker, New York, 1862); and, the Monograph about place-names in New Brunswick, Ganong, William F. A Monograph of the Place-Nomenclature of the Province of New Brunswick. Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada: Second Series 1896-97, Volume II, Section II. 1896.
sample Walling map

a sample of the Walling Map for an area in Kings County, New Brunswick. The map shows individual buildings and houses from 1862.

  • For anecdotal stories about the gardeners and their gardens, I plan to use the resources of the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick since often diaries and other documents contain amazing bits of information about New Brunswick history. Obtaining anecdotal information about abandoned gardens is tricky during the time of COVID-19 since social distancing means ordinary interviewing is not easy.  I will use the websites above to obtain some information and, where possible, talk to people I encounter. I will create a Facebook Page called Abandoned New Brunswick Gardens to obtain some of these stories.
  • For plant identification, I have my own skills as a botanist and my trusty guides: Harold R. Hinds, Flora of New Brunswick, Second Edition: A Manual for Identification of the Vascular Plants of New Brunswick, University of New Brunswick, 2000; A. E. Roland and E. C. Smith, The Flora of Nova Scotia, Nova Scotia Museum, 1969; Roger Tory Peterson and Margaret McKenny, A Field Guide to Flowers of Northeastern and North-central North America, 1968; and the website The Plant List: A Working List of all Plant Species (this is to verify plants names since I use older plant guides). http://www.theplantlist.org/

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My methodology is simple:

  1. identify possible abandoned homes and communities and create an efficient plan to visit these places
  2. drive to these locations and look for plant species that may be garden remnants
  3. photograph the sites and plants
  4. make notes about the sites, the plants encountered and various sensations encountered (sight, smell, taste, touch and sound)
  5. do pencil drawings of some plants and locations
  6. obtain any anecdotal or archived information about the former communities, their gardens and their gardeners
  7. write the poems using all the information collected

I am going to write mostly free verse but I will also use some poetic forms, for example the ghazal and the pantoum.

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Sounds like fun!

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Viper’s bugloss (Echium vulgare) is an introduced plant in New Brunswick.  These are plants found on the New Ireland Road in Albert County, New Brunswick. In 1866, there were 68 families in the community (Source: NB Archives); today all the houses are gone.

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I will keep you up to date on my adventures and show you some of the plants I find. If you know of any abandoned gardens in New Brunswick, or abandoned communities, please let me know! I will acknowledge you in my book!

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This work is supported by a Creation Grant from artsnb (the New Brunswick Arts Board)!

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All my best,

stay safe,

Jane

garden escapes: abandoned gardens and what becomes of them

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I am so happy! I have just won a Creations Grant from artsnb (the New Brunswick Arts Board). The project is to write a book-length poetry manuscript on the subject of garden escapes from abandoned New Brunswick houses and communities.

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The landscape of New Brunswick is changing. As demographics shift towards populated areas, communities are abandoned. When gardens are left behind, some species die out, some thrive and some migrate, finding favorable conditions in adjacent properties.

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foxglove Williamsburg

For example, in Fredericksburg, an abandoned community near Stanley, foxglove crowds the ditches; and near Carroll’s Ridge south of Canterbury, no homes remain, but forget-me-nots turn the woods blue. Although local people are aware of these escapes, the stories of the gardens and gardeners are mostly lost.

forgetmenots and lupins

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The subject of abandoned flower garden escapes is the matter of poetry. The names of abandoned communities and of plants, common and scientific, provide a lexicon of poetic words. Abandoned and escaped gardens involve all of the senses: sight (pink of the foxglove flowers), sound (calls of birds who find new habitat), smell (scent of flowers), taste (sour stem of an abandoned rhubarb plant) and touch (the thorniness of escaped raspberry).

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I am looking forward to taking you on my adventures this summer as I search out abandoned houses and communities, look for remnants of the gardens left behind and capture these remnants in poems and images.

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So, I won’t be staying home as much,

but I am still going to be staying safe!

All my best!

Jane

 

 

 

Written by jane tims

July 1, 2020 at 7:00 am

Ball’s Bridge’

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In southern Ontario, the Maitland River winds through fields and woodlands before it empties into Lake Huron at Goderich.

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When we visited the area two summers ago, we discovered the Ball’s Bridge on the Little Lakes Road.

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Ball’s bridge was built over the Maitland River in 1885. It is a rare example of a two-span pin-connected Pratt through-truss iron bridge and one of the oldest wrought-iron Pratt bridges in the US and Canada. The bridge was built at a time when horse-drawn carriages and carts were its only traffic. In 2006 the bridge was declared unsafe for the weight of modern vehicles. In 2008, the bridge was saved from further deterioration and eventual destruction by the Friends of Ball’s Bridge.

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The poem below tries to capture the interplay of light and shadow as we crossed Ball’s Bridge and drove the local roads.

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Ball’s Bridge, Maitland River

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on the first day of fall

landscape is criss-crossed

in lattice and wire

spider web and the flight paths

of pigeon-flutter

to the high lines

of the iron bridge

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rays of light

find solar panels

and the backs of turtles

sunning on river logs

the inter-lacing

of dark water and light

the shadows of metal and truss

intercepting wire

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cornfields

and winter wheat

embedded rows

a river and its valley

and a hawk follows

panels of air, first frost

and meltwater collects

on oval lily pads

yellowed leaves

rusted wire

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This is the second metal bridge we have visited in Ontario. A few years ago we photographed the South Nation River Bridge, in Glengarry County, not far from Cornwall. That bridge has been removed, another loss from our built landscape. For the story of our visit to the South Nation River metal bridge click here

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All my best,

Jane Tims

 

 

Written by jane tims

March 16, 2020 at 7:00 am

abandoned spaces: day-lilies

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The orange day-lily (Hemerocallis fulva) is also called roadside day-lily, outhouse day-lily, wash-house day-lily, ditch day-lily, and railroad day-lily, giving a hint of the spaces where it is found. When gardens containing the orange day-lily are abandoned, the flowers persist and spread on the site, and also escape to live in nearby ditches and fields.

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The day-lily is an herbaceous perennial with an extensive tuberous root. The flowers are borne on a long scape and each flower blooms and lasts only a day. It spreads via stolons and seeds. Although pretty, the orange day-lily is considered an invasive species. Its colonies can out-compete other native species.

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This time of year, orange day-lilies are everywhere in New Brunswick. In the abandoned community of Beaufort, Carleton County, orange day-lilies line the roadside on the way to the former community.

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the road to Beaufort … the long isolated road gives a hint as to why a community in the area was abandoned … a long way to other communities, hard winters with deep snow and few opportunities for young people

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The New Brunswick Archives says:

 … settled in 1879 following the adoption of the Free Grants Act: named for William Beaufort Mills who persuaded the government to give aid to Anglicans burned out in the Saint John Fire of 1877 and encouraged settlement in this area: PO [post office] 1881-1946: in 1898 Beaufort was a community with 1 post office and a population of 100.

Source: https://archives.gnb.ca/Exhibits/Communities/Details.aspx?culture=en-CA&community=232

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Today, there is only one, modern house in the community. But remnants of old gardens in the community still remain. we saw:

many apple trees at the roadside and in overgrown orchards …

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a young crowded stand of Balsam poplar, perhaps the hybrid Balm of Gilead …

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and a flower I have not yet identified … does anyone know what it is?

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Sad to think of the people who lived in Beaufort, planted their gardens and struggled to make their lives there.  But they left their mark, on the communities they moved to and in the plants they left behind, now beautifying the former community.

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All my best,

Jane

Written by jane tims

August 15, 2018 at 7:00 am

escapes: Virginia creeper

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Virginia creeper, also call woodbine, thicket creeper and, in French vinge vierge, is a climbing vine with adhesive discs. Its leaves are palmately five-fingered and turn bright red in autumn. The plant has small purple fruit, poisonous to eat. The vine is common around abandoned homesteads where it persists or escapes to local woodlands.

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Virginia creeper

Parthenocissus quinquefolia (L.) Planch.

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In woods

on Whites Mountain

woodbine

climbs the ash.

Persistent escape

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from homesteads

long-gone.

Thicket creeper

navigates itself

to better ground,

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higher trees.

Thick rhizomes,

adhesive discs.

Five-fingered leaves

spread to cover

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every inch of bark.

Maximize

exposure to sun.

Ancestral creepers

once draped

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zig-zag cedar fences

in autumn scarlet.

Caught the attention

of farmers’ wives

on community rounds.

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October 7, 2013 'Virginia Creeper' Jane Tims

~Virginia Creeper Whites Mountain

All my best,

Jane

Written by jane tims

August 8, 2018 at 7:00 am

abandoned spaces: remnant plants

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On a drive towards the centre of the province, we found the property below to exemplify what happens to the surrounding vegetation when home sites are abandoned.

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On the property, I could see the old home, the roof fallen in, the tin roof rusted on the half that was not shingled. All around were wildflowers, most noticeable, the fireweed. There were also remnants of cultivated plants:

  • lilac
  • rose bushes
  • hops
  • orange day-lilies

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Street View, Google Earth gives a glimpse of the property back in 2009.

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remnants

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Not meant to sprawl but climb, hops

crouch between grass, fireweed.

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Recline, each five-fingered leaf

with spaces between digits.

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Remnants of pink rose bushes

and an apple tree, apples

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green but plentiful. Lilac

lifts spent and skeletal blooms.

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The two-track road still leads to

back pasture, woodlot beyond.

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Orange day-lilies echo

the rusty reds of tin roof,

the house fallen to decay.

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All my best,

Jane

Written by jane tims

August 6, 2018 at 7:00 am

abandoned spaces: fireweed

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Lately, I have been thinking a lot about abandoned rural areas and the remnants of gardens left behind. Although these properties are still owned, the homes that once stood there are gone or left to deteriorate. The gardens, once loved and cared for, are left to survive on their own.

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When these home-sites are abandoned, the garden plants:

  • disappear (most annuals),
  • persist (perennials like day-lilies or roses), or
  • escape (lupins, mallow or other easily-spreading plants).

Native plants, those liking disturbed or cleared areas, may move into these sites.

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an abandoned site in Williamsburg, New Brunswick where fireweed has colonized

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As I find abandoned properties, the pink or pale purple flowers of fireweed are often present. Fireweed, an indigenous plant not usually grown in gardens, is often a first indicator a house may once have stood on a plot of land. Often fireweed stands side by side with orange day-lilies and other garden escapes.

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on this abandoned site in the Williamsburg area, the fireweed stands side-by-side with orange day-lilies (Hemerocallis fulva), rose bushes and other cultivated plants

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Fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium L.), also known as great willowherb, gets the ‘fire’ in its name since it is one of the first plants to colonize after fire. As a pioneer species, partial to open areas with lots of light, it also moves in to any cleared or disturbed area. After a few years, other plants will move in, out-competing the fireweed. However, the seeds of fireweed stay viable for a long time and may re-colonize the area if it is again disturbed or burned.

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Fireweed is one of many tall pinkish flowers growing in our ditches and wild areas. It is distinguished by its rather loose inflorescence, the flower’s four roundish petals and its seed pods which angle upwards.

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Fireweed spreads by the roots or by seed. In the later part of the season, the seeds are spread by the wind, aided by long silky hairs. Before dispersal the hairy seeds burst out along the seed pods making the plant look unkempt and hairy.

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Fireweed (pink) among brown-eyed Susans; the stiff, many-podded plants in the upper right-hand corner are the seedpods of fireweed, finished with their blooming

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In New Brunswick we are facing a demographic trend of movement from rural communities to cities in the southern part of the province and elsewhere. This means  many small communities that thrived a century ago are now abandoned. For example, in 1866 the community of Fredericksburg, New Brunswick was a farming community with 12 families (Source: https://archives.gnb.ca/Exhibits/Communities/Details.aspx?culture=en-CA&community=1367 ). Today only a couple of homes or camps are found in the area but foxglove flowers, that once bloomed in the gardens, thrive in the ditches. For more on the demographics of small New Brunswick communities see:

Lauren Beck and Christina Ionescu. ‘Challenges and Opportunities Faced by Small Communities in New Brunswick: An Introduction’, Journal of New Brunswick Studies Issue 6, No. 1 (2015).

https://journals.lib.unb.ca/index.php/JNBS/article/view/23057

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foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) flowers thriving in the ditch in the Fredericksburg area

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All my best,

Jane

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