In the Garden: Never stop growing

Anne Marrison says goodbye in her final column on gardens and gardening.


Some of my editors wanted me to do a farewell column – and though my inclination was to fade away quietly – here I am trying to fit a lifetime of gardens into 580 words.

The first garden I noticed was grandmother’s – stiff Thames valley clay where fruit trees grew in the vegetable garden and the wondrous white lilies by the old pigpen were much taller than me.

My first home garden memory was making mudpies in the cabbage patch. Soon after, my father’s machine shop obtained a government contract and our retired-gardener neighbour, John Chapman, began helping with our garden. I hung out with him for hours asking questions while I watched and learned.

He gave me my own garden strip and seedlings to plant. I also grew primroses, violets, and white anemones robbed from the woods where I roamed on my bicycle. This was the idyllic English countryside of Berkshire.

Later the strong, lateral branches of our Bramley apple tree were easy to climb and I spent many happy hours up the tree reading. In my early teens I made a herb garden.

When we came to Canada, there were chaotic years getting settled. My first houseplant was Mother of Thousands (Kalanchoe daigremontiana). I spent years sweeping up its galaxy of babies.

My first real Canadian garden was a tiny yard in Kitsilano with a perennial pink pea (Lathyrus latfolius) in the front. Des and I grew salad crops and raspberries in the back, and in summer our daughters’ small friends visited with bowls.

In 1968 we bought a tiny shack on seven acres of rocky hillside gravel in South Surrey. We had hens for eggs and pest-control, and after months of rock-moving, we had a vegetable garden.

We added flower gardens. At first our plants were cuttings and divisions from family. Then I joined the Alpine Garden Club of B.C.

This club triggered my love for growing things from seed. These included six seed-grown witch hazels – and some years later, after I had spoken severely to them about compost, they all flowered.

A few years later, we had half the land, a big new house and a cost overrun that sent me back to work as a newspaper reporter and sometimes editor.

A few years later, I was single and my garden was a city lot in warm, sunny White Rock. I could grow plants from seed outside all winter.

I began the garden column in 1985 in the same week that Eric and I got married. Two years later, I was gardening on an acreage in Maple Ridge. In 1994 I began writing features for Gardens West. Meeting and learning from some of the best gardeners in B.C. was a wonderful experience.

Some of the trees I grew from seed in White Rock are with us still, including Katsura, Cornus Mas, Paulonia, Chimonanthus praecox and two Euonymus Europea. But now I’m older and slower. It’s time for another life change which means ending this column. So thank-you to the ones who helped me so much: to Eric who is my proof-reader and office manager, to my patient and understanding editors – and to the gardeners over the years who asked me questions and taught me so much. Since I can’t quite give up, I’ll still answer questions.


Just Posted

Suspected spill kills hundreds of crayfish, coho in Langley river

A fish kill in the Nicomekl has a biologist concerned for the health of the local ecosystem.

Rams harvest sweet victory in win over Huskers

The Chilliwack team found itself pushed back again and again.

WATCH: Cops for Cancer bring message of hope to Langley school

Young cancer survivors are traveling with the fundraising bike ride.

Boxing coach takes shot at Langley City council run

Dave Allison has lived downtown for years and wants to represent his neighbours.

Langley venue of glass provides bright stage for charity art show

West Fine Arts Show runs Friday to Sunday at South Langley’s Glass House Estate Winery.

B.C. RCMP turn to Const. Scarecrow to shock speeders into slowing down

New addition will watch over drivers from a Coquitlam median for first-of-its-kind pilot in Canada

Aldergrove soccer forward enjoys scoring spree

UFV Cascades’ Jhaj named Canada West second star of the week

B.C. home to 1/3 of Canada’s overdose deaths in first 3 months of the year

There were 1,036 overdose deaths in the first three months of the year, with 94 per cent accidental

B.C. candidate moves from hospice care to council race

He beat terminal cancer twice and entered hospice when he decided to run for council.

Canadian tobacco exec pushes back against vaping health concerns

A warning from Interior Health about the unknown health risks of vaping is getting a partial rebuke

New ‘meowyoral’ race featuring felines announced by B.C. animal shelter

Organizers hope the cat election will generate attention for shelter and local municipal election

Ministry of Agriculture commits $300,000 to help B.C. farmers obtain land

B.C. Land Matching Program supports access to affordable farmland for young farmers

Lower Mainland city calls for slower trains near popular beach

Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner said ‘it’s the least we can do’

Most Read