Glow festival.

Over the Family Day long weekend (February 17-20), Calgary held its inaugural Glow Festival downtown. For four evenings, you could walk around a course of a few city blocks and enjoy various light sculptures and art pieces.  Some of them, like The Door (artist Paul Magnuson) were interactive: you opened up a door that sat in the middle of the sidewalk, to be greeted with a blast of visual and sound effects that changed each time the door was reopened.  Some were cute inflatable bunnies (Nibbles, a series by artist Amanda Parer):

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And my very favourite was an amazing lighted sculpture made by Jeremy Tsang, called Chopsticks=Chandelier. This stunning piece was made completely of clear chopsticks and chopstick rests and was lit both within (by a rope light) and from without, by flood lights. According to the Glow brochure, “This work explores the Chinese culture and the migrant workers that build the Canadian Pacific Railway, while celebrating the Centennial Year in the winter season through a visually stunning outdoor chandelier sculpture.” Absolutely beautiful, creative work.

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Seriously – chopsticks!  Fantastic.

Flowery Friday.

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And I do mean FLOWERY! I was digging through my photo files a couple of days ago, when I came across this shot of one of the large perennial beds at the Silver Springs Botanical Garden here in Calgary, photographed on a trip I took out there in July of last year. A sight for winter-weary eyes, that’s for sure!

Book review: Build a better vegetable garden.

There’s still snow on the ground here, although there have been sightings in the area of crocus foliage (not in my garden, sadly – although I’ve been going out every morning to take a look, just in case something’s changed overnight.  Nope, just snow). It doesn’t matter. I’ve already ordered some seeds and I’ve got the veggie garden all mapped out (Version 8.0 or thereabouts – we all know I’ll be revising until the very day I plant, especially if the seed catalogues keep coming!).

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And I’ve been looking at a few new books. I was sent a copy of Joyce and Ben Russell’s Build a Better Vegetable Garden: 30 DIY Projects to Improve Your Harvest (2017, Frances Lincoln Limited/Quarto, London) for review and it hasn’t left my desk…I keep picking it up and browsing through it.  Whether you’re an experienced gardener or a newbie, there are projects in here that can get you growing in no time: setting up a raised hoop tunnel, designing and constructing a raised bed, building your own wooden planters, creating a cold frame, or making a trellis for climbing beans.  Other projects you may not have immediately thought of include making your own seed trays (and dibber!), a storage rack for your tools, a wire support for raspberries, a handy trug, a cabinet with trays for drying the harvest, and a beautiful decorative obelisk.  The best part about this book is you don’t need to be a certified woodworker or carpenter to do any of these projects.  You don’t need specialized tools (most can be done with a basic drill, a couple of types of saws, some hand tools and hardware you can easily pick up and afford).  Nearly all of the projects are made from wood.  And the instructions are straightforward, easy to understand, and very clearly photographed so you’re not guessing at any stage of the project.  I am the least crafty person I know, and I have confidence I could undertake most of these projects without making a huge mess of them (or losing a limb in the process). 😉  I really think this book would be a fantastic gift for a new gardener or homeowner – and it would be extremely useful for anyone setting up a community garden or allotment as well.  Highly recommended (and that’s my honest opinion!).

Do you have any recommendations for gardening books that have you feeling excited and inspired as you plan (or dig in) for the new season?  Tell me what you’ve been poring over, I’d love to hear! 

Flowery Friday.

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Today’s flower is an interesting one (and a native, to boot!) – woolly gromwell (Lithospermum ruderale).  According to Plants of Alberta (France Rover, Richard Dickinson), there are only thirty species of the Borage family growing wild in Alberta, of which this is one. In early summer, the west slopes of Nose Hill here in Calgary are dotted with these strange spiky-leaved plants, in full bloom.

What ruderal plants are common where you live?  I always think of fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium, syn. Chamerion angustifolium) – in mid-summer, it is simply spectacular in roadside ditches and in mountain meadows.

Flowery Friday.

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Yes, it’s not a plant most people are fond of here; there’s a very good reason quite a few species are on our province’s invasive plants list. But I have a fascination with thistles – there’s all that geometry and architecture about them, especially when they’re not in full flower – so when I found this specimen in an overgrown back alley a block from my home in early July of last year, I was keen to get some photos of it. This isn’t the ubiquitous Canada thistle (Circsium arvense) – rather, I think it is Carduus nutans, nodding thistle, sometimes called musk thistle.

Of course, while I was hunkered down on the ground with my camera, busily snapping away, a city bylaw officer drove into the alley to investigate.  What he thought of my antics, I’ll never know, as he (thankfully!) didn’t stop the car to talk to me…but I do know that less than a week later, that alley was sprayed very thoroughly with weed killer.

Canada 150.

2017 is a big year of celebration for Canadians, as it marks our country’s sesquicentennial (150th anniversary of Confederation). While working on some research for a writing project, I came across a few fantastic links that I thought I’d share…even if you’re not Canadian, you might enjoy the insight that these resources give into our people, our history, and our culture.

Library and Archives Canada is putting up a post #OnThisDay, for every day of the year, noting significant events and people in Canadian history.  It’s a fascinating follow – if you hurry, you can catch up on all of January’s entries before February first rolls around.

Heritage Canada is diligently providing digitized archives of millions of documents from the 1600’s to the mid-1900’s here. This is a massive treasure trove of Canadian history, free for everyone to access. Genealogists might find the site particularly useful.

The Canadian Race Relations Foundation is doing a 150 Stories project to celebrate multiculturalism in Canada.  Read the stories of new Canadians, notable leaders, and historical events here.   🍁

Alberta snapshot: Wintour snowshoe.

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Amazing views, bright sunshine, and perfect crystalline snow made this snowshoeing trip to the winter road in Kananaskis a few weekends ago a real treat.