Skip to content
Join our Newsletter
Join our Newsletter

Nellie McClung: Spring days return in multicoloured glory to Gordon Head

This column originally appeared in the Victoria Times on April 9, 1938.

This column originally appeared in the Victoria Times on April 9, 1938.

The Festive Day has come! The gladiolus bulbs are going into the soil at the rate of 3,000 per hour — with five people working! The soil is first furrowed with a hand cultivator and then powdered bone is scattered on the bottom and sides of the burrow and the bulbs put in, six to the foot, and covered with the hoe. So the preparations, simple and hasty, are made and the soil and the sun will, we hope, do the rest. Morocco, Damascus, Inspiration, Baghdad, Sunset Cloud, Purple Glory! Even the names have fire and colour in them!

We are in consultation now about the colour scheme. The different colours arranged in a rainbow are favoured by some. Others want them in squares of colour with a border of yellow. Meanwhile, the first 25,000 are planted, but the next lot will not go in for another week, so the discussion goes on.

The time for pruning is here, too, and the blackberries have a sobered and chastened look; but they have had their revenge on the pruner, for his hands, in spite of heavy gloves, are torn and scratched. Still, he got several wheelbarrow loads of stalks to throw into the compost heap, and the vines are dehorned for another season. Blackberries are the gypsies of the berry family, and like the gypsies, they feel they are the aristocrats and so have developed thorns to keep themselves apart and secure. But in the catalogues, I see someone has now developed a thornless blackberry. So the old order passes, even in the plant world.

We have been at home five days and are back into the rhythm of Gordon Head. The spring activities are upon us. I see a man plowing, with the gulls following him. Daffodils are being cut and prepared for market. Boxes of them stand on the headland, gleaming like pure gold. The crocuses, yellow, purple and white, spangle the grass beside the roadway. There is a collar of them below each monkey tree and a few volunteers in the rockeries, mingled with the pink and yellow heather.

The birds swept in the first day we came home, and sang in the leafless cherry tree. Their table was spread with grain — a good neighbour saw to that — and kept their drinking places full, but they sang for a while before they settled down to eat. The skylarks, never seen by me except when they are in the air, are bursting their little throats with joy. They have forgotten the snow that covered the ground, forgotten the cats that, roaming wild, have destroyed their nests, forgotten every sad thing that ever happened in the rapture of living.

The asparagus field might be a blank for all that shows, but there are 1,500 plants in it already to spring at the sun’s command. The rock garden at the gate has been improved since we left, with cinders in its winding paths and little tufts of plants stuck in its fissures. These are the lovely purple, blue and yellow aubretla, contributed by another good neighbour.

Miss J. G. Syme of Montreal, whose new book, In a Canadian Shack, I am happy to possess, says: “Canada is a strange land. Once you leave the cities and go out in the country, you feel the power of the earth. In a sense, you scarcely take the people into account.”

That may be true, in the first few days of country residence, but the people in this neighbourhood add greatly to its delight for us. They become a necessary part of country life, giving it much of its charm by their unaffected friendly ways and the interesting things they have to tell. They are more observant than city people. Perhaps they have more time to think and so become more individualistic.

One of my neighbours last spring showed me a quail’s nest with the little bird sitting on it. It was shaped like a round-bottomed dish, and the eggs were placed not only on the bottom, but also around the sides. This explained the mystery of the quail’s large family. How a small bird can cover and hatch 20 eggs is seen in this clever arrangement. I had believed that several birds had pooled their families, for the quail always come in large parties.

Another neighbour told me that a wounded bird with a thorn in its throat flew over to her one day when she sat on the beach, dropping down beside her gasping for breath. She was able to extract the thorn and give it relief, but it lay on her knee without fear until it had recovered sufficiently to fly away.

Another neighbour tells me she has yucca growing in her garden and says the fibre may be used to make baskets, and speaking of home industries, I saw a beautiful chain of crystal beads recently, cut from stones found on the beach here. Unfortunately, the stones have to be sent to England to be cut.

While I was writing this, my onion adviser came in to tell me my onions are not holding their own. He says the warm days followed by cold nights have chilled them, but this news was softened by his presentation of a fine setting of young plants from his prize-winning seed, with which I can fill the wasted places in my rows.