My Dominion

by Yule Heibel on July 1, 2003

It’s Canada Day today (formerly Dominion Day), and a fine day for it, too. Sunny, warm, breezy, perfect. I’m lying on a chaise in my tiny backyard, which is tucked into the L-shape behind the house, hidden from the street. It’s a city lot, but despite its small size, my wee backyard contains all of the following: a birch (weeping, and very messy), a double-house-high Japanese plum (overgrown), a sky-scraper cypress (or some such evergreen), a huge 3-4-metre laurel simultaneously hugging and menacing a fence, two camellias grown to similar tree-size proportions (as well as 2 still-small ones), 4 or 5 andromeda (at this point a mere 2 metres tall), one lilac, a small Japanese maple, a mock orange, clumps of lavender and St. John’s Wort, some flowering sage, daylilies, some iris, 3 or 4 rose bushes, two stone patios, …and about 16 mostly gigantic Rhododendrons & Azaleas, all different varieties, all blooming at different times and in different colours. Over the assembly lords the king of it all, a huge Garry Oak, deeply tap-rooted in the middle of my small plot. This stuff is all contained in the tiny backyard. When I tot up how much is growing here, I’m at a loss to explain how it all fits, but it does. I have pruned the Rhodies & Azaleas & Camellias into sculptural floribunda bottom-up shapes with dramatic unshorn heads, which has cleared up a lot of “floor space.” Of course, that just creates more room for more plants at ground-level, so I’m not sure why I did it, but I like the sculptural look of the shrubbery’s exposed limbs. When I tilt my head back, I see purple-red leaves made nearly transparent by sunlight (that’s the Japanese plum), glossy thick tight-bunched dark green leaves (the Garry Oak), whispy drooping tiny silver-green leaves (the dirty birch), and sated yellow-green fat sunsoaked semi-transparent ovoid leaves (the camellia). Birds streak across limpid blue sky. Not even a hint of humidity. No mosquitoes. Just after lunch now, and I can hear the neighbours coming to life with cocktails all around, lots of music, laughing, and of course the occasional annoying lawnmower. But mostly the sound of GTs, martinis, gibsons, all that sort of stuff: Happy Canada Day!

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