any excuse for il giardino…

Snow’s falling today. Just yesterday I was still wearing sandals. Tomorrow I’ll pick the rest of the celery, dig out the leeks. By the end of the week things could well be frozen and white.

Used to be that was it; I’d hardly go past the patio from December to March, except to feed the birds, maybe make a snow angel. But then, a couple of years ago, I saw Karen Shenfeld’s film about the men and women of Toronto’s Little Italy and their amazing gardens.

There’s the guy who rigged up a clothesline of empty pop cans so he can sit on his patio in his undershirt and enjoy the view of his vegetables growing, occasionally yanking a string that rattles the cans and keeps the birds away all afternoon. Another who uses a handmade hoe and shovel, tools his father brought to Canada more than forty years ago.

The film is filled with music and food and front yards that are planted with tomatoes and zucchini and eggplant; they’re not beautiful in the mown and blown, pesticided, clipped and landscaped way, thank god, but in all the right ways.

These people don’t  ‘have gardens’, they have relationships with their gardens—healthy, head over heels, madly in love with life relationships.

My favourite was the guy who didn’t let even winter stop him spending time in his beloved “il giardino”—every day he’d go out and chip away at a little of the ice that covered it. (He’s the reason I’m not that sad it’s time to dig out the last of the leeks, store the patio umbrella and put on my socks—I’ve got a pile of cedar branches to tie into kindling bundles—one bundle a day, starting in January…)

2 thoughts on “any excuse for il giardino…

  1. Dear Matilda Magtree,

    I am not at all sure who you are, but “Google Alerts” alerted me to this beautiful blog that you wrote about my film.

    I am honoured that, after two years, you would remember the details of the film so clearly.

    Happy gardening!


  2. It was delightful to drink a glass of Valpolicella at Il Gatto Nero on Saturday and to show you personally a bit of the ‘hood — even in the sleepy doldrums of winter. But, how wonderful that, on the way to your car, my neighbour showed us her Christmas display, which was, truly, an astonishingly elaborate piece of folk art. (I find that my neighbour’s gardens are living works of folk art unto themselves!)

    Thank you so much for the Anne Simpson book! I will read it before our next meeting in downtown Whitby!

    Good luck completing your novel. I’m sure it’s going to be great.

    Much affection


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