Vacations & Gardens


Agave growing in a San Francisco area garden.

Being away from your garden can be both liberating and stressful. Liberating because—if you are a hard-core gardener, and visit gardens on your vacations—you discover plants and garden styles you’ve never seen. New ideas, plant species and shapes abound. Stressful because, your own garden is left to fend for itself. (I fret about my seedlings being fried.) While a trusted garden sitter (worth their weight in gold) eases garden separation anxiety, the liberation of new vistas and new plants are a real shot in the arm for a garden rut.
A trip to the Pacific south-west did this for me. Agaves, aloes and other architecturally structural succulents in California left a big impression on me. Yet, stress arrives again in the form of “climate envy”. Southern gardens offer vistas that you couldn’t replicate in a colder climate. Yet happily there are always some garden tricks that can follow us home.


Knot garden in Filoli Garden in San Francisco.

One plant I fell in love with in Filoli Garden’s Victorian knot garden was wall germander, or teucrium. It was blooming pink and swarming with industrious bees, appearing a bit like a robust, upright version of thyme.

Teucrium, or Wall Germander is loved by bees.

Teucrium, or Wall Germander is loved by bees.

The toothed leaves are somewhat succulent and waxy, with small, cupped, pink flowers stacked vertically, creating a ladder for bees to climb up and into. I mentally added it to a list of plants to grow in pots, but discovered it is actually hardy in our Toronto Zone 5 climate. While I could only grow agave in a pot I shelter in winter, teucrium will definitely find a place in my Toronto arden.

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