Commentary: Glamping in the garden

Commentary: Glamping in the garden
Irene Jackson
A view of Irene Jackson's garden.

Last week, the BC Parks’ website and their phone lines were swamped with people trying to make reservations for campsites all around the province for the spring and summer. Some friends of ours have a fifth wheel, and they spent three hours just trying to make one reservation. Eventually, they managed to book a few campsites on Vancouver Island, with dates spread out over the summer and into the fall. Camping is their joy.

Well, it’s not really “camping” in a fifth wheel…it’s what they call “glamping”.

I am not a camper. I can’t afford one of those big rigs so I’d be the one with the tiny, poor excuse for a tent, the moth-infested sleeping bag and the rusted propane stove. Nuh uh.

I understand the back-to-nature thing. I love my walks, even when they’re not in the forest or by the ocean. But I find the most peace and joy in my own yard. My own garden. On a spring or summer weekend evening, you will find me wandering around it with a glass of wine in hand, inspecting and admiring my work. That’s my glamping.

Just as I am not a camper, I was not born a gardener. My Dad, however, had a knack for it and was known around our neighbourhood for his beautiful landscaping and neatly trimmed lawn.

I started out more like his father, my grandfather, who bought an apple orchard from a guy in Peachland in the late 1920s without knowing the difference between “dormant” and “dead” trees. As it turned out, half of them were dead and he’d been swindled. Yeah, I was more like that.

When my husband and I bought our first house, I didn’t know the difference between a weed and a…well, pretty much anything else. I’m sure I killed numerous legitimate plants for no good reason other than I didn’t know what they were. Whenever my Dad would visit us, he would help me out by weeding and cleaning the yard up. But I was pretty useless.

By the time we moved to our second house five years later, Dad made the decision that we were on our own with the yard work. Our new house was on a corner lot and had SO many more flower beds and a lot more lawn. I don’t blame him for bowing out.

Everything in the yard was a mess for years as our daughters grew up. Finally, one day we decided that we would focus on fixing it up, and we hired some garden pros to give us some tips and advice. I remember the couple well. They were British, probably in their 60s at the time. But mostly I remember the look on their faces as they took a look around. “Holy crap. Amateurs.” is the expression I saw.

They wrote down some names of things, bushes and plants, and gave us some advice on our fence and how we might re-think our lawns, and then left it to us to figure the rest out. I kind of took the position of head gardener, while my husband took over care of the lawns.

I could not propagate for the life of me. I spent gobs money on all kinds of plants, and promptly put them in the wrong spots, and then forgot about them, thinking they would take care of themselves. Dead, dead, dead. I didn’t know a perennial from a pollinator. But I persisted. I dug up the dead stuff and started again. I tried different plants in better places. And I weeded. And weeded. And weeded. And then, slowly, my gardens started to blossom.

Over time, I’ve not only come to terms with my garden, I’ve come to love it. Mostly, I’ve become much better at taking care of it. And now my next-door neighbour has garden envy. Just the other week, she was outside chatting with me while I was working in one of the flower beds. She said “I wouldn’t know what a weed was if it hit me in the face! How do you tell?”

I thought about it.

“Well, I think of a weed as pretty much anything that I don’t want,” I said with a smart ass smirk.

“That’s good! That’s good! I’ll remember that!” she laughed.

She’s an amateur. But I have finally taken root.

Irene Jackson is a guitar teacher, musician and general writer “wanna-be” living in the beautiful city of Victoria, B.C. Her website is at

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