HELEN LANG: Trip to friend’s garden leaves columnist relaxed and loaded up with vegetables

Peninsula News Review's garden columnist writes about discovering a Secret Garden

Birdwatching adds to the beauty of the retreat

This past week Pene took me to see Karen A.’s lovely garden where she served tea in a hidden room whose walls were shrubs, vines and trees – a place to hide when life seems too difficult and you are unhappy, or a spot to retreat when you just want to rest, be happy and celebrate your life.

She served tea there while we watched birds (finches, I believe) at the bird feeder or drinking from the bird bath, which was also being visited by bees who stood on the edge to drink from the cool fresh water. There were butterfles wafting about, beautiful clematis (I think a Nelly Mosher) against a ivy covered wall, many tall lilies and shrubs in a central bed, and a haunting perfume in the warm air. It was delightful, a real Secret Garden.

Aside from that enchanted spot she had a large back garden with a lush vegetable bed, fruit trees and more flowers and shrubs. The street garden was lovely, but the hidden sanctuary was the focal point. Unusual and a complete delight.

Pene and I returned home bearing large bags of fresh vegetables. A lovely afternoon with a lovely and generous hostess.

Although my balcony garden is small, it makes me happy. I have a beautiful orange-red begonia in a pot, its colour almost a perfect match to the five geraniums lined up in a long planter box. There is a pot containing wonderful cream-splashed-with-purple lily flowers, another of purple petunias, sweet peas in with a blue clematis. Then there is the hibiscus, the miniature orange tree, the carrots, and the Swiss chard, plus those darned pole beans which won’t set fruit unless pollinated by either bees or humming birds.

I’ve tried to fool them by buzzing madly (being an imitation bee) or darting about (being a rather large, awkward humming bird), but I can’t seem to fool those dratted beans.

If you can’t delude a bean plant it makes a person feel pretty stupid (and annoyed, too). Bad combination – likely to produce wrinkles, so I’m trying to be cheerful and applying copious quantities of cold cream in case the cheerfulness doesn’t work.

Helen Lang has been the Peninsula News Review’s garden columnist for more than 25 years.