The Secret Garden and the Willow Trees

There is a very special place that I go to when I need to be in nature, or when I need a quiet moment. Behind the vegetable garden we have about 1/2 an acre that we let grow wild and that contains our pond.


This piece of land has a few intentional plants like lilies, iris and about 7 willow trees. But the rest of it is a chaotic riot of tangled wild flowers (weeds really) that grow about 4 feet high.pond09 pond08

We have a couple of paths cut through it and walking them is like being a child again in my grandmother’s garden. Hidden from view and right in the middle of the natural world. Frogs croak, seagulls and crows soar above. Bees buzz all over the flowers.



The pond itself has 8 large goldfish that wintered over. Animals wander through and drink from the pond. There are dragonflies, butterflies, birds and a host of insects.  It’s a nice place to decompress and to marvel at the complex beauty of the natural world.


pond12I planted the willows 4 years ago and they are already taller than me. In a few more years there will be a willow grove at the end of the pond providing magic for us and no doubt for the next caretakers of this land.


More Brier Island

Last night lightening, thunder and rain knocked out the phone and internet connections here at the hostel. It was foggy, chilly and wet at 9 am this morning. Brier Island day 31But an hour later after the short ride down the dusty, bumpy, puddle-filled road to Pond Cove, the bad weather had blown away and the day was sunny and gorgeous.Brier Island day 33This is where I set up my painting table. I worked with acrylics fighting against the drying, strong winds.DSCN6952 Brier Island day 34

Brier Island day 39

I’ve got the main ingredients down and will finish this in the studio at home…without the wind, but with the memories. ;)

I have a blog post about painting on Brier Island coming up on my Art website. If you subscribe here, I’ll be able to share that experience with you.

My painting buddy Helen and I walked down to the shore at the end of our 7 hour painting session. Those 2 dots at the top of the hill are our cars. The whole day we saw just 3 other people in the distance on ATVs.

Brier Island day 35These have a leaf like a wild rose. I wonder what they are?Brier Island day 36Miniature wild iris are blooming all over the island.Brier Island day 37The beauty on Brier Island is so varied. All day long we listened to the laps of water on the rocks and the sound of birds and wind.Brier Island day 38

This Afternoon on Brier Island

I’m on Brier Island for a few days, painting with friends.
This is one of my favorite spots in the whole wild world. These are some photos I took this afternoon. They are meant to tempt you to come and visit here.
I’m staying at the hostel again…20 bucks a night with sounds of the waves and seagulls lulling me to sleep. Check it out.

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Wild tiny iris are in bloom all over the island.

Wild tiny iris are in bloom all over the island.

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A Homemade greenhouse with aluminum storm windows and a removable roof for the hot summer. Look at those grape plants.

A Homemade greenhouse with aluminum storm windows and a removable roof for the hot summer. Look at those grape plants.

 A Homemade greenhouse with aluminum storm windows and a removable roof for the hot summer. Look at those grape plants.

A Homemade greenhouse with aluminum storm windows and a removable roof for the hot summer. Look at those grape plants.

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Good night!

Good night!

Leeks, Peas, Beans and Celery Grow

Oh my sore neck, my sore knees. Oh my back!

Yup! It’s planting season again. I love the idea of it, growing our own food, but I am always surprised at the amount of work that’s involved.

Veg Garden

I have a huge supply of bamboo-like sticks from the miscanthus giganteus that I grow every year. If you want some to plant, I’d love to share. Bring your axe.

Today I planted climbing beans, chard, spinach, lettuce, beets, leeks, carrots, edamame, bush beans and celery. Whew!  I had previously planted broccoli, snow peas, zucchini and pumpkin.

Swiss Chard

Swiss Chard from transplant.

The asparagus is producing and the redcurrant and raspberry canes are doing well. The garlic is tall and green.


The garlic was planted last fall. It will be harvested in July.

Most years I’ve had to replant the zucchini up to 3 times as it got eaten down by who-knows-what. This year I grew little squash plants from seed first and I’m hoping that action will save me from having to replant.


The pumpkin, squash and zuccinni haven’t minded the transplanting. I’m shocked.

I haven’t had much luck in the past with lettuce or spinach….it gets eaten by slugs or critters. I’m trying to out-smart the wildlife and we’ve been eating ‘premium’ salads out of the greenhouse for a few weeks now. Still, hope springs eternal and I planted seeds out in the garden today.


Garlic in the distance.

It seems crazy to be planting so late – June 4. But the season has arrived late this year. My peonys aren’t in bloom yet and the lupins just started to colour-up today. From photos of friends in Ontario, I see that we are 2 weeks behind.


Snow peas start to climb. The cloth covers broccoli plants. I’m trying to hide the plants from the cabbage moths so I won’t have little green worms eating my broccoli!

We’ve had lots of rain and my two enormous water collectors (4′ x 4′ x 4′) are full…a good thing to have at the beginning of the season.

Tomorrow is the final push when 45 tomato plants go into the ground. Maybe this will be the year that I will finally grow enough of them to can for the entire year.

Our little greenhouse

Our little greenhouse is a wonderful place for starting seedings and now for growing an eggplant or two and red peppers.

It is a lot of hard work and I am sore, but it also feels wonderful to be so close to the soil and to handle living plants, and to smell the fragrances of the lilac and to enjoy the chirping of birds.


This lilac shrub is 2 or 3 years old. It smells so beautiful right now.

On my hands and knees today planting my 6th garden here it occurred to me that the message of Spring is that we all get a fresh chance to get everything right or at least to tweak our approach.


After rototilling the garden was a blank canvas.

Oh yeah, and then there are the plant sale flowers that are still patiently waiting for their turn.

Solomon's Seal

Solomon’s Seal. This garden bed is planted for my mother and grandmother. I put in flowers that they grew and loved.

Garden Must-Do List for 2015

The growth cycle is back and I swear, if you stood still outside you could hear plants growing and reaching and stretching to celebrate another green, green spring.

A week ago a neighbour's cat appeared. That's a wild cherry tree in the back. This soft green was shortlived.

A week ago a neighbour’s cat appeared. That’s a wild cherry tree in the back. This soft green was short-lived.

It is miraculous that such beauty and lushness can return after such extreme depths of snow and cold. But gardeners tell me that this year the perennials are so juicy because that steady melting snow provided a constant supply of moisture and insulation.

Like January, spring brings a real sense of new beginnings. For gardeners, it’s another chance to “get things right”. I have a list of things I want to be more attuned to in the garden.

  1. Reassess the amount of flower beds EVERYWHERE. Reduce down to only flowers that I love. (And saying that, I dragged home another 10 from our village plant sale last week) cropped-p1210531.jpg
  2. Be more vigilant with weeding. One of my favorite flower beds is riddled with goutweed and although I can never get rid of it, I can at least make spaces around the plants to hoe it and decapitate the goutweed!
  3. Spend time everyday checking in with all the beds. Last year I lost all the zucchini plants from squash borers laying eggs in the strong, healthy stocks and eating their way out. I had innocently ignored the insect activity that preceded the disaster. vegetable garden One week later these healthy plants keeled over one-by-one.
  4. Plant twice as many tomato plants as I think I’ll need for when we have a sunshine shortage this summer. You can never have too many tomatoes. I canned them last summer and was sorry to run out of this more-delicious-than-anything-canned ingredient for sauces, soups, casseroles or just plain in a bowl.

    I'm growing 6 different varieties of Tomatoes in the greenhouse.

    I’m growing 6 different varieties of tomatoes in the greenhouse.

  5. Make an effort to get rid of duplicate flowers. Why do I need a dozen clumps of the same sibierian iris? (OK….cause they are spectacular, I love the colour, I can’t paint it enough………..)

    I think I’ll have to post about “Iris paintings I have known”. lol

  6. Plant a few fast growing trees to get some shade happening.

    Ancient Apple trees in their glory, surrounded by goutweed.

    Ancient apple trees in their glory, surrounded by goutweed.

  7. Get rid of the stump from Cordelia the weeping willow who blew over in 2011. It’s time baby. And I planted clones of her all around the pond which are really taking off.

    Cordelia's stump is still attached to one root. She needs a backhoe.

    Cordelia’s stump is still attached to one root. She needs a backhoe.

  8. Tighten up the flowering area and let 1/2 the lawn grow wild.
  9. Paint more flowers ;) I painted a lot of tulips this winter – from the grocery store. You can see them on my painting site.

    The beginning of the first round of painting my own blooms 2015.

    The beginning of the first round of painting my own blooms 2015.

Bear River Artworks Gallery Opening – Friday April 17 @ Oakdene 6:00 pm

Flora Doehler:

Please join Larry and I and 6 other artists on our new adventure this Friday night!

Originally posted on Bear River Arts & Action:

Artworks logo - horizontal Please join us on Friday, April 17th for the opening of the Bear River Artworks Gallery along with puppetry, and animation.

Eight local artists – Ken Flett, Flora Doehler, Craig Dorsey, Kelly Foxton, Gary Fraser, Joan Stanley, Larry Knox and Catherine Smith- are eager to share an evening of art and performance (of the puppet kind) with you.

Bear River Artworks Opening

Friday, April 17, 2015
6 pm “Bear River Artworks Gallery” opening – Art, dessert and drinks
7:30 pm “Songs of Myself” Animation, puppetry and shadows 
@ The Oakdene Centre, 1913 Clementsvale Road, Bear River, Nova Scotia.
The gallery will remain open on Sat (18th) and Sun (19th) from 10-5.
Open Daily from May 17 – October 11, 2015  10am – 5pm

Songs of Myself

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