Garden Clippings for May 26, 2018

Thea DeGroot was a lot of different things to a lot of different people.

For me, one of her most outstanding qualities was her teaching.  Thea taught at Sarnia Christian School, John Knox Christian School and then switched to adult education primarily at Aamjiwnaang First Nation.

But even when Thea was not teaching, she remained a diligent teacher.

More than forty years ago, when Art and Thea first moved in to their rural home, she quickly cordoned off a huge area for vegetables and another for perennials.    In the vegetable garden Thea taught me about companion planting, crop rotation, mulching and gardening without pesticides.  Thea was so skilled in the garden and kitchen that she rarely graced the front door of a supermarket, preferring instead to grow her own groceries and visit the local independent bulk food store.

Thea’s perennial garden was a constantly changing painting.  She planted at least one of every perennial known and did so to pique her curiosity but also to enable her to speak more intelligently about each plant’s growth habit, colour, and performance.

When I dropped by to visit Thea’s perennial garden, I discovered something new at each visit.  Thea was constantly adding, moving, transplanting, always with a project on the go.  For me, I saw Thea’s garden as a demonstration garden as much as a picture garden.

When Thea’s perennial garden was in its infancy, she mentioned that she wanted to add a new patch of all-white plants.  She was going to need a yard or two of rich soil to build up the garden.  I assumed that Art was going to bring a loader bucket full on one of his trips home but Thea suggested that wouldn’t be good enough.  She was going to take the wheelbarrow to the ditch where she could salvage the richest soil available.

Thea’s all-white garden took a year to complete.  Not because she was a slow worker, but because she knew that soil sourced from the ditch was apt to be full of weeds.  For a full year, Thea cultivated that soil, keeping it fallow so most of the weeds and weed seeds would disappear, thus ensuring a more maintenance free garden in future years.

Within two years, Thea’s all-white garden blossomed to become a diverse mix of textures, sizes and blooming times.  Her garden opened with Snowdrops in March and ending with white Mums into November.  White plumes of ornamental grasses extended into winter at which time Thea would cut stems to bring indoors for further enjoyment at Christmas time.

Thea didn’t realize it, but she taught me that white was the most valuable and effective colour in the garden.  I learned that in the colour wheel, white comes forward while blues and reds seem to recede.  White is especially valuable in the evening when the sun goes down and you finally take time to sit back to enjoy the fruits of your labour.

Thea the Gardener, Wife, Mom, Grandmother, Teacher, Worker, Advocate, Cook, Writer, Reader and Pursuer of a just world, left this earthly garden a week ago Thursday.  She touched the lives of many.