nichepoetryandprose

poetry and prose about place

Posts Tagged ‘garden escapes

lily-of-the-valley

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lily-of-the-valley

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Convallaria majalis L.

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where they came from

I do not know, perhaps

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from my mother’s old home

in a shovel-full of lilac

a sheet of white writing paper

in a green box crammed with letters

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perhaps from my grandfather’s farm

tucked in beside the creeping Jenny

a green and white plate printed

with a saying about home

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perhaps from a seed in the gravel

spread on the paths or the road

a line of red pebbles

in a spill of quartz

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every summer the colony spreads

green flames lick at gravel

white bells, delicate perfume

scarlet berries

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a letter not written

a plate hung on the wall

a pathway leading home

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All my best!

Stay safe!

Jane

Written by jane tims

October 7, 2020 at 7:00 am

revising poetry

with 2 comments

After a full month of working on my artsnb project ‘garden escapes,’ I am conscious of the passage of time. My deadline is November 1, 2020, and meeting this deadline requires completing the poems and other deliverables.

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At this point (I began on July 1, 2020), I have completed my field work (visits to various abandoned communities), done drafts of 70 poems, placed these poems in seven tentative subject groups, and considered how I will approach revisions. I know I will also write a few more poems based on material collected.

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The subject groups (not in order) are:

  • all that remains
  • my mother’s garden
  • invaders and volunteers
  • the gardener
  • whispered stories
  • a glimpse of history
  • the shape of a garden

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I meet regularly with a writing group known as Wolf Tree Writers. I have read a few of the poems at these meetings and received lots of suggestions. I think the most important suggestion has been: ‘ask yourself, where is the metaphor in this poem?‘ I have taken this idea seriously. I do want these to be poems about communities and garden plants. But each poem has to work harder – it has to comment on some social truth addressed (the metaphor).

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When I began this work, I spent a full day on metaphor, considering how garden escapes would relate to issues or problems we face as humans.  The fundamental requirement for a garden to escape is – it must be left alone to decide its own fate. In our lives this could be a metaphor for:

  • accomplishment – you can write a song, but you have to let it go to see if it will flourish. This applies to the results of various endeavors: paintings, quilts, stories. Collections are a particular type of accomplishment; people often belittle ‘stuff,’ but I think particularly of things passed on from one generation to another (jewellery, books, souvenirs). Like the plants in a garden, accomplishments must make it into the right hands, the right conditions of soil and sun.
  • influence – you can talk to people and try to nurture them, but only time will tell if influences take hold. Some of our influence is directed and purposeful; you can try to be a good teacher to your children but eventually they must leave home and only then will lessons take hold or wither. Gardeners will plant a scarlet runner bean and end up with a lupin; parents can plant a ‘carpenter’ and end up with a ‘financier.’ So much of influence is accidental, transferred by chance. Think of influencers like ‘kindnesses,’ ‘chance encounter,’ ‘place’ and ‘accident.’  Also, ‘influence’ must be abandoned for a while and then re-discovered and the value found.
  • abandonment – the abandonment of children/family can occur in so many ways: adult children lose their parents, children are orphaned or abandoned, parents are left to fend for themselves as they age. Each of these situations can be examined using the metaphor of the abandoned garden.

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So my first duty in revision will be to examine each poem for the embedding of metaphor. Sometimes the metaphor will already be there. Sometimes I will need to add a phrase or line for clarity. Sometimes the whole poem will have to be reconfigured to include a clear idea of metaphor.

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When more substantive revisions are done, I have a revision checklist aimed at detailed revision.

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revision checklist

  1. take out ‘which’ and ‘that’
  2. remove weak verbs (‘to be’)
  3. consider removing small words (‘the,’ ‘a,’ ‘so,’ ‘etc.’)
  4. try alternative words – words to contribute more
  5. exchange words used more than once with synonyms
  6. remove adverbs (many are ‘ly’ words) and gerunds (‘ing’ words)
  7. read aloud – watch for phrases or ideas that ring bells – may make it better/worse
  8. be truthful – when it isn’t right, return to truth
  9. check if singular or plural is correct
  10. consider passive voice – does it drag it down?
  11. check voice (child, scientist); don’t switch within poem
  12. consider end and embedded rhyme – select better words
  13. consider rhythm; count beats/syllables and read aloud to identify cadence errors
  14. for poems written in a particular form, check conformity to form

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All of this is a continuing process. Even when I submit those ‘final’ poems with all their revisions, I may continue to work at poems for years!!!!

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This work is accomplished as part of an artsnb Creations Grant.

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All my best.

Stay Safe.

Don’t get COVID fatigue.

Jane

Written by jane tims

August 21, 2020 at 7:00 am

garden escapes: balm-of-Gilead

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My mom used to take me for a walk around the garden when I visited. One of her favorite trees was the balm-of-Gilead. Her original tree had escaped into other places along the driveway and she loved its tenacity. She always pulled a leaf from a low branch and crushed it to bring forth the smell … slightly medicinal, aromatic and balsamic. I also love the colour, green with a tinge of orange bronze.

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The balm-of-Gilead (Populus × jackii or P.× gileadensis), is the hybrid between balsam poplar and eastern cottonwood. This hybrid is sometimes planted as a shade tree, and sometimes escapes from cultivation.

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As we drive the roads of abandoned houses and community, I often see balm-of-Gilead before I see any other garden escapes.

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In 1898,  Beaufort, Carleton County, was a community with 1 post office and a population of 100. Today, there is only one, modern house in the community. But remnants of old gardens still remain. We saw many garden plants, both persisting and escaping: monkshood, dropwort, orange day-lily and butter-and-eggs. There were also apple trees and a poplar I identified as balm-of-Gilead.

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Today Beaufort is a long, lonely road with only traces of the former community.

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I took a slip of Mom’s balm-of-Gilead and planted it at our cabin property. It is taking its time, growing a little more each year. I think, when I am gone, perhaps this tree will have grown and be sending out descendants of its own.

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

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Take care, stay safe.

Don’t get Covid-tired.

Be tenacious like the balm-of-Gilead.

Jane

Written by jane tims

August 3, 2020 at 7:00 am

garden escapes: learning something new

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The poems I am writing have two dimensions:

  1. consideration of the plant, its names and characteristics, and its tendency to die, persist or escape when a garden is abandoned
  2. consideration of the community or area where the plant occurs

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For the botany, I have my floras: Hal Hinds ‘Flora of New Brunswick‘ (2002), Roland and Smith’s  ‘Flora of Nova Scotia’ (1969) and others. During the project so far, I have learned about three new-to-me flowers: golden alexander (Zizia aurea), dropwort (Filipendula vulgaris) and narrow-leaved everlasting pea (Lathyrus sylvestris).

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For the history, I have the New Brunswick Archives site ‘Where is Home?’ which tells when the community was first settled, what the population of the community was in certain years and so on. I also have the Canada Census for various decades and some excellent local histories lent to me by a very good friend.

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For example, one of the abandoned communities we visited was Mavis Mills, north of Stanley. The community of Mavis Mills included a lumber mill and camp, post office and train stop. The community was named by a lumberman for his daughter, Mavis Mobbs. The community had a post office from 1922 to 1928. The 1921 Census shows a boarder and miller, John Mobbs, in Stanley Parish and below his name a mill camp with 31 men.

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Something that puzzled me was the entry of ‘last lumberman’ under occupation, beside each of the 31 names. At first I thought it was a mis-spelling of ‘lath.’ Then I read more about the mill, in Velma Kelly’s book ‘The Village in the Valley: A History of Stanley and Vicinity (1983). After World War I, metal was in short supply. So in 1919, the Mavis Timber Company was contracted to make ‘last blocks’ from rock maple.

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canvas 1921

a screen capture of part of the Canada Census for 1921 … under ‘Occupation’, the Census lists ‘Last lumber for each worker in the mill …

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I had no idea what ‘last blocks’ were, so went on a Google hunt. ‘Last blocks’ were used to make the wooden shoe forms used by shoe makers. From 1919 to 1924, the Mavis Lumbering Company made five million ‘last blocks,’ to be shipped to England.

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Mavis Mills abandoned property

an empty lot in a place in the community where Mavis Mills once stood … the lot is filled with golden alexanders

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Such is the learning from a project such as mine. The phrase ‘never stop learning’ comes to mind.

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Have you ever heard of a ‘last block?’ My great-grandfather, Josiah Hawk, who was a shoemaker in Pennsylvania, would be puzzled about the lack of knowledge of his great-granddaughter!

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shoemaker’s lasts (Source: Wikipedia)

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Note that this project ‘garden escapes’ is funded under a Creations Grant from artsnb (the New Brunswick Arts Board).

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All my best,

staying in as much as possible and staying safe,

Jane

garden escapes: vectors

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The term ‘vector’ has different meanings depending on the discipline. In university I took two engineering courses that occupied me in the study of ‘vector’ mathematics!

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In biology, a ‘vector’ is any organism or physical entity that moves an element from one place to another. The idea of vectors is used in epidemiology, in reproductive biology, and in ecology. When I try to understand garden escapes, I am interested in vectors for seed or vegetative dispersal.

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Once a garden is abandoned, the plants there will either die, persist or escape. They escape by way of rhizomes (horizontal roots), rooting of plant parts (suckering) or spreading of seeds.

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Seeds or pieces of plant can be spread to other locations by various vectors: water, soil, air or animals. Seeds, for example, can be carried along by water in a ditch, or can spread by wind that carries seeds on specially adapted seed parts.

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dandelion fluff 2

air as a vector for seed transport

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Animal vectors include insects, birds, mammals (including humans). Some of this is deliberate (a squirrel burying acorns) and some is accidental (humans spreading seed by moving soil from one area to another).

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squirrel as a vector

squirrel as a vector for transport of seed

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The various garden escapes I have encountered usually have their preferred vectors.

  • lupines- seeds carried through air as a projectile
  • orange day-lilies- rhizomes through soil
  • yellow loosestrife- rhizomes through soil
  • creeping bellflowers- rhizomes through soil
  • rose bushes- roots through soil; humans who dig up and replant shoots
  • grape vines – suckering, seeds, humans

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This is a poem about a human vector (me):

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paths to come and go on

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Old rugosa rose,

brought the stem and root,

across the ferry

from Grand Manan,

in a banana peel.

Every summer pale

pink blooms on an arc

of thorns, biggest hips

you ever saw. Rose

will outlast the house

and all who live here.

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Virginia creeper

dug From the river bank

below the willow

on Waterloo Row.

Overcomes the pole

and every summer

the power people

pull the creeper down.

Red in the autumn,

sneaks across the lawn,

started down the drive

and along the road.

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The staghorn sumac

pinnate leaves spreading

cast purple shadows,

give a tropical air

to the driveway.

Brought the root and slip

from the gravel pit

in Beaver Dam.

New shoots every year.

Headed direction

of Nasonworth,

last time I looked.

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34 Olinville road pink roses crop

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Note that this project ‘garden escapes’ is funded under a Creations Grant from artsnb (the New Brunswick Arts Board).

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All my best!

Jane

Written by jane tims

July 29, 2020 at 7:00 am

garden escapes: having fun

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I have been working at my garden escapes project for almost a month now. Many of the poems are simple free verse, usually evenly divided in stanzas of four to seven lines, often consisting of regular numbers of syllables. I have also tried some other forms, the pantoum and the ghazal. And most fun of all, for a few poems, I have tried shape poems, using the lines of the poem to create shapes reflective of the subject matter.

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Here is a poem that goes a step further. The shape shows the shape of lupins growing in the ditch; the colours are the colours of the flowers.

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lunpins Giants Glan

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And, a poem about chokecherries, in the shape of the hanging blossoms or berries.

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I will continue to work with these, perhaps aiming to make the poem read sensibly no matter which way you approach it.

I’d appreciate any comments, positive or negative!

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

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All my best,

doing my best to stay in my shape,

Jane

 

Written by jane tims

July 27, 2020 at 7:00 am

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

with 5 comments

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: 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

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