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February 1, 2006

Weather Thou Goest…

The day after Christmas, I started my first gardening book of the winter reading season. I’ll discuss my epiphanies from Sir Roy Strong’s The Laskett at another time but from that book on, my waking thoughts have been filled with the garden – what worked last year, what didn’t; what should I be starting from seed this year; what new things should I try; and on and on.

This urge to get back outdoors and start plunging my hands into the dirt came to a screaming crescendo this week when the Minneapolis area experienced record-breaking temperatures. And I mean warm ones, not the typical 60 degrees below freezing stuff we usually get this time of year

On Friday, I went for a walk over lunch and it was 46 degrees out. In the positive. On January 27! What the heck!

It was so warm and wonderful out that I could smell the ground thawing. I swear my neighbor’s lawn is growing and soon he will have to mow. My bergenia are standing to attention, and I’ve seen several green plants in the garden beds.

Apparently we’re not the only ones experiencing unseasonable weather. Or maybe it’s going to become the “new� seasonable weather.

In the February 2006 issue of the BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine, British gardening guru Alan Titchmarsh addresses the fact that in England, gardeners are now growing more and more tropical plants – and leaving them outdoors without any need for winter protection. The Brits are experiencing wetter winters and longer, hotter, drier summers. He wrote:

Our gardens aren't what they were 25-years ago, and that's a fact. Don't worry, I'm not about to moan about falling standards and offer dire predictions about global warming, but there's no denying the seasons have shifted over the years, and gardeners have to adjust their cultivations to match them.

Now, I'm not one of those who believes Armageddon is on the way. It may be something to do with my innate optimism, but I don't think I have my head in the sand. Of course, we must do our bit to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and control the number of gases we pump out into the atmosphere, but our planet has warmed up before. There were warm tropical periods between the Earth's many ice ages and mini-ice ages, and they happened quite quickly. This is due, in part, to the fact that the earth wobbles on its axis, and when it wobbles nearer the sun we get warmer, when it wobbles away we get cooler. In short, climate change is natural. The real news would be if our climatic conditions remained static, but that wouldn't sell newspapers.

While I’m not about to start planting tropical plants as perennials, Brian and I have begun discussing pushing our zones. Which Zone 5 plants have we always wanted to plant but haven’t because they weren’t hardy here?

Maybe this is the year to include more hellebores and other borderline Zone 4 beauties. Whether (or weather) they survive or not, time will tell.

Garden Clean Up of a Different Sort

For Christmas this year, my wish list was very short: a teapot to replace a favorite one I had broken and a facial.

How does this relate to gardening? Considering that I garden from April to November in all kinds of sun and weather and dirt and grit, I know that by the time the gardening season is over, my face is a mess. It needs a tune up and a proper cleaning.

Brian presented me with a gift card for the “Ultimate Facial� at the Sanctuary SalonSpa in Eden Prairie, and I experienced the full luxurious treatment this weekend. From my head (scalp massage) to the tips of my toes (foot massage) and areas in between - a seaweed exfoliant on my back and shoulders (great for repairing the summer’s sun damage) and multiple facial masks and treatments, I felt pampered and prepared for the next gardening season.

If you live in the metro area, check out this spa. It’s a lovely way to treat yourself right. Go to Sanctuary Spa. Ask for Korynn for your treatments. She was very good.

Shameless Plug

I'm eagerly awaiting the release of a new CD by Edinburgh-born chanteuse/guitarist KT Tunstall. Her debut album Eye To The Telescope will released on February 7, 2006. The first simgle, Black Horse and the Cherry Tree, has been getting a lot of air play in the Twin Cities. Give her a listen!


Another Shameless Plug

After my spa morning, Brian, Graham and I met our friends Hadi Anbar, his wife Soodi and their daughter Jaanon for lunch at Kabobi, the latest in Hadi’s stable of great restaurants. His other restaurants include Mission (the former Aquavit) and Atlas, both in downtown Minneapolis.

Kabobi serves food from their native Persia in a fast food setting but with real silverware and cloth napkins, an elegant touch. The food – kebabs and pita sandwiches – is very flavorful and a great value. It’s even kid-friendly, our biggest litmus test.

If you are ever in the Eden Prairie area, check it out.

Virtual Shopping Maas-Style

Brian and I have mastered a new kind of virtual shopping. When he is out and about with his cell phone, he will snap a picture of an item with the camera function and email it me.

For example, this fall I wanted to purchase a new camel hair winter coat. Brian went to the mall over his lunch hour, tracked down a couple of models and sent photos of them to me to choose from. We then had a brief phone conversation, and he purchased the one I wanted. Bada-bing, shopping over.

On Friday, Graham had a school release day. Brian stayed home with him, and they spent some time at a book store. Brian sent me an email message to me at work, asking if there were any books I wanted. I replied that I would love anything by Sir Roy Strong.

He sent me the following image for my approval, and it was waiting for me when I got home from work.


Technology can be very, very good. And very, very efficient.

What I’m Reading

Just finished: The Laskett by Sir Roy Strong, an account of the efforts that he and his wife took to create the first new large formal garden in England since 1945. And A Dog Year: Twelve Months, Four Dogs, and Me by Jon Katz, a loving tribute to the author’s two Labradors and the Welsh Border Collies that he adopted.

In the middle of: Cooking for Mr. Latte: A Food Lover’s Courtship, with Recipes by Amanda Hesser, a charming account of a food writer’s courtship of her future husband.

Listening to: Just finished The Grave Maurice by Martha Grimes. Now on Heart of the Sea by Nora Roberts. It’s fluff but I get to listen to Irish accents while driving to and from work. Very nice.

Graham’s current favorite: Together, we are reading The Littles by John Peterson, one of my childhood favorites. Independently, he is burning through the Magic Treehouse series by Mary Pope Osborne. At his school, students are in a month-long reading challenge. Kindergarteners are to read 240 minutes over the next four weeks. Graham has already racked up more than 300 minutes in the first week. That’s my boy!

There has also been some recognition for Graham at his school recently. He also got this award of merit this past week.


Remaining Garden Chores

Start reading through those garden catalogs that are piling up and make some decisions!

Clean out my gardening tote. It’s filled with old plant tags, clods of dirt and other detritus.

Pack the canna, four o’clock and sweet potato tubers in sawdust for the winter and store them someplace in the house that won’t be too hot or too cold.

Today’s Grahamism

“I know what you call people who can’t see and people who can’t hear. But what do you call people who can’t smell?�

Posted by maasx003 at February 1, 2006 1:23 AM | Books | Family | Gardens


How can we be related???? I swear you are English through and through, okay, with a touch of Irish--I am presently reading, The Last Real Story I Will Ever Tell--John Crawford, -- a young soldier's experience in Iraq--My latest CD is Jars of Clay -- Christian contempory with a touch of rock --haven't thot much of gardening yet, karen

Posted by: karen m at February 1, 2006 7:12 PM