nichepoetryandprose

poetry and prose about place

Archive for the ‘abandoned spaces’ Category

garden escapes: land use changes

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Last weekend, we explored the area north-west of Woodstock, New Brunswick. The area is very agricultural and rural, well populated and prosperous.

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There were many gaps in the landscape where small farms may have been located decades ago. Today, the area is populated by large farms. Huge fields of potatoes, soybeans, corn and Christmas trees continue all the way to horizon in some communities.

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59 Williamstown

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What tells me a small farming family may have lived in a particular location if there are no ruins of habitation?

1. older trees planted in a regular pattern

2. presence of trees and shrubs not found in adjacent woodland, for example scarlet maple, willow, elm, mountain ash

3. presence of garden flowers on the property or in nearby ditches; for example, musk mallow, yellow loosestrife, creeping bellflower, lupines

4. presence of hawthorns along a roadway; John Erskine (‘The French Period in Nova Scotia A.D. 1500 to 1758 and Present Remains.’ Wolfville, 1975) interpreted the presence of hawthorn to settlers who used the thorny shrubs as a means of fencing

5. presence of apple trees, raspberries or grapevines (sometimes spread by cattle or other natural means)

6. local care of a property, indicating a continuing family interest in a property where an ancestor may have lived.

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7 rte 540 Bellflower cropped

creeping bellflower

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hawthorne cropped

hawthorn

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We found all of these types of evidence. All may be subject to debate, and local knowledge would fill in many gaps.

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homestead

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sugar maple—

nine trees, in three rows

a block of lupin, flowering past

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wind sorts

through leaves, launches seed

and a fox presses through

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sweet clover

heady perfume, landscape changes

even as we watch

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4 Lindsay abandoned lot

a regular planting of maple trees, perhaps evidence of a former homestead

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This work was made possible by a Creations Grant from artsnb!

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All my best,

Jane

Written by jane tims

July 24, 2020 at 7:00 am

abandoned gardens: how they escape

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“… some plants will

persist, some will languish

and die, some will escape into forest,

or edges of hayfields,

roads and ditches.”

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34 Olinville road pink roses crop

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Escape artists. How do those plants we see in ditches and fields get there?

Some move by seed. Some by vegetative reproduction (by horizontal roots or by rooting of a part of the plant).

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lunpins Giants Glan

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A good example of ‘escape by seed’ is the lupin.  The lupin sets its seed in pods.  When they dry, the seeds are launched as projectiles and so can travel quite far in a single generation. 

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28 Olinville road orange day lilies

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A good example of ‘escape by vegetative reproduction’ is the orange day-lily. It only rarely sets seed. It moves along ditches or into other locations by rhizomes (horizontal roots).

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” … its names describe

where orange finds a home:

ditch lily, railroad lily

roadside lily, wash-house lily

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outhouse lily.”

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31 Olinville road orange day lilies

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In New Brunswick, you don’t have to drive far to see an orange day-lily or a lupin.

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This work was made possible by a Creations Grant from artsnb!

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All my best.

Staying home,

wearing a mask when I escape.

Jane

 

 

Written by jane tims

July 22, 2020 at 7:00 am

garden escapes: lupins

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In late June and early July, the ditches of some roads in New Brunswick are filled with colour as lupins become the dominant flower.

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Lupins are legumes and enrich the soil with nitrogen. In spite of this, there is an old tale that lupins impoverish the soil, hence the name derived from  lupe,’  the word for wolf.

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Lupins make pretty bouquets but, in my experience, have an unpleasant, peppery smell that keeps me from ever bringing them into the house.

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Lupin has been grown as an ornamental and, in earlier times, as a food source. They are great escape artists and spread easily into the countryside. Some species are considered invasive in Europe, New Zealand and places in North America.

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Lupins along the road

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Lupins do not occur along all roads, but when they do, they may have originated in the gardens of early communities. For example, lupins line the ditches of the road to Giants Glen, north of Stanley, New Brunswick. Giants Glen was settled by the Irish in 1850.

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lunpins Giants Glan

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The Giants of the Glen

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lupins escape The Glen

scramble to roadsides

fix nitrogen

repair poor soil

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fingered leaves like hands

collect the river wind

lean together

work as one

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stand tall in spikes

pink, purple and blue

grey as summer wears

rattles their seeds

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This work was made possible by a Creations Grant from artsnb!

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All my best!

Stay safe.

Jane

 

 

Written by jane tims

July 20, 2020 at 7:00 am

abandoned gardens: rhubarb gone to seed

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When a vegetable garden is abandoned, not much will remain in a couple of years. Most of the plants are annuals and so will vanish; even though some may go to seed, most plants cannot compete with native vegetation. Perennial vegetable garden plants will struggle for a while, but few will survive. The exception is rhubarb.

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Rhubarb (Rheum spp.) is known to most of us as a component of the garden. The stalks are bitter, but cooked with sugar, the tart taste is a treat. My mom used to cook rhubarb with strawberry jello, if not real strawberries, to make a dessert. Rhubarb was grown in Europe both for food and for medicinal purposes. Rhubarb leaves are poisonous and one source says this contributes to the success of rhubarb since it is not likely to be eaten by rabbits, deer and other garden marauders.

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When rhubarb is used in a garden, the flowers are pulled and discarded, to allow harvesting of the stems for as long as possible. When a garden is abandoned, no one pulls the flower stalks and the flowers stand high above the plant to say, “once there was a garden here.”

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37 rhubarb Dorn Sett

old rhubarb plants at Dorn Ridge

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We have found rhubarb growing at abandoned house sites on Dugan Road west of Woodstock and at Dorn Ridge, near Burtt’s Corner.

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63 rhubard Dugan Road cropped

rhubarb plants on the Dugan Road near Woodstock

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Rhubarb, originally prized for its medicinal uses, is always welcome when it sprouts in early spring.  In days past, it meant the end of a long winter and a fresh source of nutrients and vitamin C.  To me, it is a tribute to the gardeners who have worked hard to cultivate a garden plot and make life more sustainable.

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This work was made possible by a Creations Grant from artsnb!

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All my best,

Jane

 

Written by jane tims

July 17, 2020 at 7:00 am

wild gardens

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As I look for ornamental plants that have escaped to other places in the landscape, I often find plants so lovely, it is hard to believe they have not been cultivated at one time.

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One of these is chicory (Cichorium intybus), a lovely blue flower. We found chicory growing on the Dugan Road west of Woodstock.

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22 flax Watson Settlement Rd

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Also known as blue sailors and, in French, chicoreé, chicory is a tall plant, seen along roadsides and in other waste places. Sometimes chicory is brought in loads of gravel (used for road maintenance) to locations where it is not usually found.

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27 chickory (2)

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Chicory has basal leaves resembling those of the dandelion.  When broken, the stem exudes a white milky fluid.

The bright blue flowers of chicory occur along the length of the almost leafless and somewhat zig-zag stem. Each flower is formed of a central involucre of tiny blue flowers and a disc of larger ray flowers.  The rays are square-cut and fringed.  The flowers follow the sun, closing by noon, or on overcast days.

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25 cropped chickory

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At least one gardener I know has successfully transplanted chicory to his garden.  I think I will keep a list of garden-worthy wildflowers during my treks this summer and perhaps write a poem to capture my virtual wildflower garden.

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This work was made possible by a Creations Grant from artsnb!

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All my best.

Jane 

 

 

 

Written by jane tims

July 15, 2020 at 7:00 am

garden escapes: mallow

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Mallow was one of the first flowers I had in my garden back in 1980 when we started our own home. Musk mallow (Malva moschata) has deeply divided leaves, papery pink or white petals and a pleasant scent. I loved it so much, I included it in my bridesmaid’s bouquet when I was married.

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Mallow often escapes the garden to live in ditches and in fields. In his Flora of New Brunswick, Hal Hinds says vervain mallow (Malva alcea) has escaped to the borders of fields in the Woodstock area of New Brunswick. So, I was on the lookout for the flower when we drove west of Woodstock to look at abandoned properties. And mallow was one of the first plants we found, growing in the ditch.

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3 white mallow Dugan road

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3B closeup of white mallow Dugan road

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We also found mallow growing at the edge of cultivated fields.

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60B mallow edge of field BlowdownDSCN1223

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mallow

Malva moschata

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wind-blown and paper

petals transparent

veined, flutter

in wind

the leaves

frayed and notched

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petals, perfumed in musk

pale pink and white

roadside edged

in field-flowers, bedstraw

day-lilies, yarrow and vetch

and musk mallow, garden escape

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to the edge of the field

to the edge of the road

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2B mallow Digan road

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Stay home,

wear your mask.

You don’t have to escape.

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This work was made possible by a Creations Grant from artsnb!

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All my best

Jane

Written by jane tims

July 13, 2020 at 7:00 am

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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DSCN1254

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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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DSCN1248

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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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DSCN1251 cropped

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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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29 watson settlement road lysimachia

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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DSCN0171 (1)

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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.

DSCN0165 cropped

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 project

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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.
DSCN0579

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!

DSCN0350

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

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