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DUCHESS OF DIRT: Looking back and looking ahead

Leslie Cox
A female hummingbird at the feeder at the Cox house. Leslie Cox photo

Leslie Cox

Special to the Record

End of another year and a new one peeking around the corner. A good time to look back and then start looking ahead.

Checking back… five years back, in fact… it was interesting to find we had the same snowy Christmas in 2016 as we have had this year. One of my December articles that year noted the branches on the hardy hibiscus ‘Collie Mullens’ were virtually laying flat on the snow. Looking out the window, I am seeing much the same scene with a few of the shrubs – both in front and back. Spring will tell whether these shrubs survive their winter treatment or fall to the same fate as the hibiscus – permanent removal.

Back in 2016, I wrote about sneaking peeks at a possible replacement plant for the hibiscus. Just in case. Did not want to lose the hibiscus, although we did, but I can always get excited over the new plants which will be on the market come spring. If I cannot get out in the garden, at least I can look at plants on my computer screen.

However, I am feeling the upcoming gardening year will be a little different this year. Let’s face it. There is a whole lot that is different in our lives and in the world now. Why not also in our garden?

Top of the list is fresh food. It was a miracle at least one of our supply links was repaired as fast as it was after catastrophic washouts. But even the short interruption in delivery service to the coast and Vancouver Island was a wake-up call.

And what about the impact the forest fires had on thousands of hectares of fertile land on the north and south side of the border? Then there was the huge calamity to fruits and vegetables during the weeks of unrelenting heat. Finally, the number of established farms that were underwater for days, weeks. Some may survive enough to be productive next spring and summer but many will undergo many months, or even years, in reestablishing their product line.

And where does that leave us?

It will be a given we will be spending more money on pretty well all of our purchases in the foreseeable future. The economists have already stated this fact. But perhaps not all is doom and gloom.

We only have a small vegetable patch, but for a number of years, I have been experimenting with growing smaller sized versions of favourite vegetable species in pots. And thankfully, I have kept decent notes on my experiments. (Lab techs love spreadsheets!)

Interplanting vegetables with ornamental plants is still a “thing.” Maybe not so much in the past couple of years but I just bet there will be a revival of sorts… in this garden at least.

If it is one thing this COVID pandemic and the weather patterns over the last year have hit me with, it’s the fact we can no longer ignore the serious trouble our planet is in. I will be thinking about what I can do to make a difference in 2022, in my small way.

And I will hold onto hope for our children and grandchildren.

Sadly, I fear there is little hope for the two female hummingbirds who have been frequenting our feeders. The two bully-boys are still here and feasting away but I have yet to see either female so far this morning. I pray they are sneaking in when the boys are napping and my back is turned.

Leslie Cox co-owns Growing Concern Cottage Garden in Black Creek. Her website is at