As luck, or perhaps as the fickle finger of fate would have it, a massive supply of disposable flowerpots arrived in Yellowknife, just in time for the summer planting frenzy. All you have to do is go to the KFC and pick up a few. They come in a variety of sizes, small, medium, and large. If you don’t like chicken, don’t despair. They can also be found in your local dumpster or abandoned beside the road and in ditches. Just give them a quick rinse or wash and they are good to use. They are good for starting plants before they get moved outside.
If you are new to the city, be warned that something miraculous happens every summer in Yellowknife. In a few short days, the city goes from “not a flower in sight” to “flowers everywhere.” Not only that but many of the flowers will suddenly appear in full boom. It really is a feat of magic.
The trick here is that the plants have been growing in greenhouses for weeks, either locally or they have been shipped up here by the truckload. They even have a name: bedding plants. Usually, they start selling them days or weeks ahead of when you can actually plant them or move them outside.
To be a gardener in the North you have to be optimistic, patient and a little bit crazy. Crazy because despite all your best efforts, things can happen to destroy your crop. Perhaps an unexpected frost, a hailstorm or a foraging woodland creature happens by. One who really likes eating whatever it is you’re growing.
Now here is something to consider. Someday, a buffalo herd could wander into Yellowknife and decide to take up residence here. It could happen. The buffalo or bison seem to wander closer to town every year. When and if they do arrive, they might really like chowing down on people’s gardens. What would Yellowknife do? That is an interesting question.
Some people would lobby to leave the beast be. Others would say the city should get rid of them. They should pass a bylaw “No garden eating critters allowed within the city limits.”
There is a bylaw about keeping lions in the city, so maybe we need one about buffalo, bison, wild boars, or long horned sheep. Just in case they do arrive. Just because they have never shown up before is no reason to assume that they never will because the world as we know it is always changing.
Every year lots of migratory birds show up in the north. Also, all sorts of migratory plants and flowers arrive. It is very clever of the plants to use humans to help spread themselves around. If you check out the species and their normal ranges, we import plants from all around the world. Gardening really is a mechanism for plant migration.
Now for avid and enthusiastic gardeners, the period we are in is akin to torture because they want to get planting, but they know in their heart of hearts, IT IS TOO SOON.
If you plant too soon, you can lose plants to frost but everyday you wait shortens the growing season. The trouble is the days taunt people. They get long, sunny and warm. The keen gardeners just want to get out there planting. And some will, despite the risks.
When is it safe to plant? Some people swear they won’t plant before a certain date. Others look for signs or omens. Like the ice leaving Back Bay or the arrival of certain birds or insects. No doubt a few might be like ancient Sooth Sayers and read the chicken bones. Luckily for the Sooth Sayers, along with the planting buckets, they can pick up no end of chicken bones.
Ah spring. The birds are back, the migratory plants are arriving, gardeners are out clawing at the frozen earth and colourfully clad joggers have appeared. Aaaah, and the clouds of sweet barbecue smoke. Summers are short so everyone is in a rush to make the most of them.