Second Chances

And thirds. And fourths….


My garden is a full-colour canvas, portraying forgiveness and hope. Or, in the words of Mike Ditka, former pro-football coach, “Success isn’t permanent, and failure isn’t fatal.” Certainly true—at least where my garden is concerned.


In example: that red climbing rose I planted next to the cottage-garden arbour a couple years ago—rambling upward at an alarming rate, covering the one side with its magnificent blood-red beauty— gave the false allusion of an amazing yearly show to come.



And every spring I plant clematis next to the picnic garden arbour, hoping against hope that it will survive the winter, this time. No doubt about it; winter is hard. Hard on gardens, and hard on people. And so, each spring, armed with a spade, fresh vision, and a good measure of hope, I begin again.


As much as I adore this flower and colour, I believe it may be only the blues that are truly hardy.

In 2008, this dark purple jackmanii performed pretty well; but it didn't survive the winter, either.

Therefore, I am pleased to finally celebrate success; with the clematis, if not the rose. My Blue Bird clematis, which a couple local greenhouses now carry each spring, is hardy to zone 3, has survived three winters now, and I’m completely thrilled to have discovered it :) Unfortunately, exactly where I want it to grow is not where it can thrive—too much shade—and so it’s not covering the arbour as I’d like; although it is very happy to ramble upwards, twining itself in the spruce branches. Which, now that I think of it, is exactly how they grow in the wild. If you’re walking through a spruce wood looking for wild clematis, look up! You’ll spy the blue flowers in the evergreen branches far more easily than you’ll locate the spindly plant at the base of the tree.


Another Blue Bird, rambling up the backside of my garden shed. It gets both morning and evening sun here and does much better than the one on my front-yard arbour.

Other more or less unsuccessful garden ventures include Sweet Potatoes and Blackberries. I’ve learned that just because a garden plant can survive my zone 3-type of cold is no guarantee that the growing season will be long enough for fruit production. However, I must, in conclusion, sing the praises of haskap (aka edible honeysuckle).


Not only is this shrub hardy to zone 2, but it also produces its blueberry-like fruit early in the season. In the event that you don’t yet know what haskap is or why it should be part of your garden landscape, let me recommend a virtual visit to Eagle Hill Foods. You’ll find an introduction to, a history of, and a look at the health benefits of this easy-to-grow blueberry that has taken northern gardens by storm.


© 2019 The Rural Hen