Quonsets & Nissens
Saturday, May 04, 2019
A Quonset hut /ˈkwɒnsɪt/
is a lightweight prefabricated structure of corrugated galvanized steel having
a semicircular cross-section. The design was developed in the United States,
based on the Nissen hut introduced by the British during World War I. Hundreds
of thousands were produced during World War II and military surplus was sold to
the public. The name comes from the site of their first manufacture at Quonset
Point at the Davisville Naval Construction Battalion Center in Davisville,
Before Malcolm Parry left Vancouver Magazine I proposed to
him that we do a story about the Quonset huts in Vancouver. Being English he
corrected me and told me that the British had developed them in WW I. The story
never came to fruition.
Today I went to pick up some glass on East Hastings. Half a
block away is a Quonset hut that I have seen there for years. I could not
resist snapping a photograph. I wonder with the hundreds of thousands of them
that were built during and after WW II if these buildings could not be adapted
as temporary shelter for the Vancouver homeless or even be adapted as quick and
affordable homes for the very low income inhabitants of our city
Incredibly there are at least a couple of companies in Canada that manufacture Quonsets and variations of them.
My First Rose of the Season - Rosa sericea ssp. omeiensis f. pteracantha
Wednesday, May 01, 2019
Rosa sericea ssp. omeiensis f. pteracantha May 1 2019
The beginning of May is always that month when one goes to
one’s garden there are surprises that seemed to have happened overnight. This
is especially true with my hostas as they unfurl quickly with the warmish few
weeks of spring sun.
But I must report that the biggest surprise today was seeing
Rosa sericea ssp. Omeiensis f. pteracantha. It is then officially the first
rose to bloom in my garden.
This species rose is unusual in two ways. It is the only one
with four petals instead of the five found in all other species. The other
unusual feature is that as the rose matures it has huge, translucent barbs that
dazzle the eyes when seen in backlight.
I might have missed the blooming as the rose is in my
alley/garage garden. Some five years ago I had a mature one but it died
suddenly in the middle of the summer. My Rosemary tried to find it in many
mail-order sites but to no avail. I found it last year at Garden Works in North
My original plant was used for a program for Early Music Vancouver in 2014.
Blue Memories at the VanDusen Botanical Garden Plant Sale
Sunday, April 28, 2019
Today, April 28 is the yearly plant sale at VanDusen
Botanical Garden. For many years Rosemary and I braved the usual cold of the
day and we would line up hours before the opening at 10:30. We would be there
with a wheelbarrow, sipping coffee to keep warm. If asked what plants we were
looking for we would be noncommittal as we did not want anybody on the line-up
to rush and get our treasured plant. For quite a few years, Rosemary chose to
help on that day as she is a Master Gardener. This gave her access to look at
what was available on the day before.
Today I dropped and her off and rushed home. Our male cat,
Niño, had not returned (he has yet to return as write this).
The VanDusen plant sale is full of memories for me. There
was the excitement of finding the plant I was looking for or being exposed to a
plant I knew nothing about.
Most of all my memories are full of the people who were
there helping gardeners with information.
And then there was Marion McDonnell (pronounced with
emphasis on that e). She was the Blue Poppy Lady. Every Meconopsis grandis or
betonicifolia (they are just about identical) usually called the Himalayan
(snobs put emphasis on that first a)
blue poppy came from her greenhouse. The plant, legendary for its blueness, likes
dappled shade but it was notorious as an almost impossible plant to keep after
a first year. Some said it was a biannual so a new plant had to be raised from
I told Rosemary to see if she could find a Meconopsis today.
McDonnell was in charge of taking people (elderly or folks
unable to walk) in carts and giving them tours of VanDusen.
On spring and summer weekends I would visit her
(unnanouced). She did not live far from our Kerrisdale home. Her garden was
something like a bowling alley, narrow and long. In the garden you would always
find Gretchen her Daschund at the gate. McDonnell would then loudly say (with
her baritone voice),”How are you my friend?” She would offer me her excellent
coffee and cookies.
There were many others like her at those VanDusen plant
sales. One person that stood out for me was running into architect Arthur
Erickson with a smile of excitement on his face. He was keen on the plant
To this day I can look at the plants in our Kerrisdale
garden and know where they came from. In many of those instances I can see the
face of the person who handed it to me followed by sage advice on how to grow
it and keep it.
Niño just sauntered in.