Rosemary & Niño - Paragons of Stability
Saturday, April 22, 2023
My Rosemary died on 9 December 2020 and today 22 April
2023 I am in no better shape that I was then about dealing with my grief.
When April began I knew that I would have to eventually
write a blog about her birthday on April 19. I have written before how my
official birth date on my birth certificate is April 18, 1943. I was really born
August 31, 1942 but the event recorded later, so my mother told me because my
On the double plus side the bureaucratic error meant that
I demanded to have my birthday celebrated twice a year, and most important it
meant I could never forget Rosemary’s.
At my age of 80, with no financial worries and no
obligations (except to walk Niño around the block every day, weather
permitting), I understand philosophically that I am not wrong when a few years
before 2020 I told Rosemary we were WTD (waiting to die). Distractions, and
inventing ways to be busy, might divert you, temporarily, from thoughts of a statistically
certain forthcoming date with oblivion, but the thoughts are there particularly
in the evening.
I have been staring at the scanograph for this blog now
for some days, unable to get myself to write. Today I decided I could no longer
postpone the writing. I found a handle for doing it. It has all to do with this
portrait that I took of Niño yesterday. I see in his face stability. He relaxes
me and I know that with him around I have a purpose in life and that when I
deal with Niño and his sister Niña I rewarded with affection and a sticky
|Niño - a paragon of stability|
Why is this? In my 52 year marriage to Rosemary she was
my Rock of Gibraltar who made all our financial decisions, and, importantly made
us leave Mexico City in 1975 to come to this more stable country that Canada
It was Rosemary who made me understand that a glorious
garden gave us a sense of purpose in the world and the hope every spring of a
Most of all it was sharing everything with Rosemary
that presented me with a comfortable idea of permanence (and I never
considered that it would end as it did).
Now, post Rosemary’s birthday, I can look forward to going
to the American Hosta Society Convention in Ames, Iowa in the beginning of June
with my daughter Alexandra. Even there, I will feel a lingering sense of loss
as if I were on a teeter totter with uncertain instability.
I would like to end this with a contrasting comparison of
the term birthday in English and in Spanish. A birthday, in English celebrates
that first gasp of air in hospital. Cumpleaños, which literally translates to “fulfilling
your years”, puts far more emphasis on all the goings on after that doctor’s
My Rosemary fulfilled much, not only for her life, but made
it possible that at least this guy is WTD in the comfort of a home with two
Rosemary's Mexican "bird dress", is seen in the scanograph here.She wore it when we were married in February 1968, is, all these years later, in perfect shape. The dress is much too small for my two granddaughters. Will the dress wait, perhaps for their children? The dress, in all of Rosemary's stability, will have her patience.
The two little blue flowers are from our Rhodendron augustinii 'Marion McDonnell'. Rosemary loved its blue flowers and almost like magic there were a couple of blooms ready for my scanner.
Capturing Alex Summers
Tuesday, April 18, 2023
|Alex Summers - 1995 - Horizont Camera|
The plants in my gardens have faces. When I look at my
primulas I remember my Rosemary who loved them. When I look at the roses, again
they are all Rosemary. Why?
In 1987 when we began to garden in our large corner in the Vancouver
neighbourhood of Kerrisdale, all I knew about gardening is that hostas did well
in the shade. Our garden had lots of it.
Years later Wolfram George Schmid told me that there was no such thing as a
shade loving plant; “They are shade tolerant.”
One day Rosemary informed me that we were going to a meeting
of the Vancouver Rose Society. I sat down on a hard chair and was subjected to the
projection of over 100 bad rose slides.
But, as always, Rosemary was right and our garden, in spite
of about 400 hostas then, had rhododendrons, ferns, roses, interesting trees,
dwarf conifers and many of Rosemary’s unknown to me perennials.
Now in my Kitsilano garden, a small one it is, I have no
more than 45 hostas. When I look at them they may have the face of the hybridizers
I met who were responsible for introducing them.
From Rosemary I learned that all plants must have
companions. My hostas share the garden. Because of its compact size you cannot
see dirt. George Schmid called it “shoulder to shoulder” gardening.
I have had to amend the soil now for 6 years as there is a
lot of clay. It was the red Atlanta clay that flummoxed George Schmid’s attempt
to garden. Hosta‘Honeybells’ did just
fine and of course the rest is history with the Giboshi Man.
When I stroll in my garden I immediately my thoughts go to the
founder of the American Hosta Society, Alex Summers (my tocayo or namesake) who
charmed me when I first met him at the 1992 Columbus, Ohio Convention.
There was something about this plain spoken (when you could
understand his trademark mumble) erudite man that charmed me.
In 2001, on what must have been a hot and boring Vancouver
Sunday in the summer, I looked at my scanner and wondered what I could do with
it. I was much too shy to sit on it. I went out into the garden and spotted
some lovely blooms on the Bourbon Rose, Rosa ‘Reine Victoria. I suspended two
flowers over the scanner using a bamboo stick attached to the art deco lamp on
my Edwardian desk.
|Rosa 'Reine Victoria' summer of 2001|
It seems that I experienced beginner’s luck because the
result was lovely. Since 2001 I have now amassed over 3000 scans.
I want to connect
that first rose scan with Alex Summers.
The rose died a few years later as Bourbon Roses have a problem
with our wet Vancouver springs. Somehow, and I will use the modern digital
language, when I captured that rose in a scan, I captured a bit of its essence
Today while filing photographs and negatives labelled
Washington DC 1995, I remembered I went on a job for an annual report. I had
shingles on my way there. My memory is not sharp for some stuff. Argentine
writer Jorge Luís Borges said (obvious?) that in order to remember you must
In one of the contact sheets where I used a Russian
swivel lens panoramic camera called a Horizont there were two snaps of Alex in
what must have been his Delaware farm. I checked the dates for past hosta
conventions and of course there was one in Washington that year.
Finding that photograph of Alex, which I am now only
starting to remember, is much like capturing Rosa ‘Reine Victoria’. Alex died four years later. The Horizont
picture and the charming portraits of
Alex wearing a beard somehow now make me smile as a I remember (I never did a
Borges forget) a man who befriended my granddaughter Rebecca. She was the only
one willing to sit with him in the bus tours in the 2003 Falls Church, Virginia
Two Daughters, Two Cats & the American Hosta Society
Monday, April 17, 2023
|Hosta 'Liberty' & Camellia x williamsii 'Donation'- 17 April 2023|
This is perhaps the first time that I have written a blog (I
have written 5793) that is expressly destined for Facebook. I am writing it for
the American Hosta Society group.
I must start at the beginning. My wife Rosemary (who had
deep financial acumen) decided that we were to buy a large corner garden with an
equally nice house in the Vancouver neighbourhood of Kerrisdale in 1986. I did
not have any knowledge in gardening and noticed that the garden had lots of
shade. I found out about hostas. At the time immigrants were coming to our
neighbourhood and tearing down houses. They would then build monstrosities with
four and five car garages. As soon as the original houses were vacant and all
indications that the wreckers were soon to come my Rosemary would tell me and
we would go with spades and a wheelbarrow. In one garden she pointed and said, “That’s
a hosta.” I removed it and not knowing what the large green hosta was it became
Hosta ‘43 and Hudson’.
|Hosta 'Liberty' & a few H. 'Sunny Halcyon' and 2 H. 'Dream Queen' & a H. 'Blue Angel' for my daughter|
In the beginning she had her garden and I had my garden. She
had her perennials, trees and roses. I had my hostas.
But I eventually saw the light and the garden became our
garden and my interest in a varied garden that was not monoculture of hostas
became a reality.
It broke her heart when six years ago we could no longer fix
the leaky bathrooms, etc of our old house. We sold it and became instant
millionaires. We were able to inherit our two daughters while we were still
Rosemary was not all that happy in our little duplex even
though besides the deck it has four flower beds and a largish one outside on
the lane since we do no use our garage as a garage.
She died on December 9, 2020 and my life has not been a
happy one since. Because we had been married 52 years and I am now 80, my time
with her was a big chunk in my existence.
I take photographs; I write my blog and walk my male cat
Niño. His sister Niña is not so daring. I tell people as a joke that I am
considering becoming a trans-woman so that I can be an authentic cat lady.
|Niña and Niño|
I am saved of further grief by my two daughters. The older
one, Alexandra (who will accompany me to the Ames convention) lives far in the
town of Lillooet in the interior of British Columbia. She is a gardener and has
a one acre property. The town is the hottest spot in Canada in the summer with
temperatures reaching 41 Celsius. In the winter it can reach -32 Celsius but is
almost a dry desert. It is in her garden that my hardy Gallica roses went to.
Also there are all my large hostas. She has many hostas that seem to do well in
spite of the terrible conditions. Last year I gave Olga Petryszyn’s H. ‘Coast to Coast’. I am sure it will
adapt just fine to the conditions there.
|Rosemary and Ale in Lillooet|
My other daughter Hilary (who accompanied me to the
Minneapolis convention) lives in Vancouver and I see her at least twice a week.
She smiles lot and calls me every day.
|Hilary Stewart & Alex at Minneapolis Hosta Convention - Photograph by Janet Mills - the crying baby is Hilary as a little girl.|
Now, to the reason for this blog. Ale (Alexandra) strongly
pressured me to enter the American Hosta Society FB group. She was right and
now I am happy doing stuff so that I can contribute to this fine group.
In my native Argentina we have a saying that the devil
knows more not because he is the devil but because he is an old man. I may know
Here in Vancouver, until recently, we had many of those 19th
century English defined ‘amateur gardeners’. My wife made me join the Vancouver
Rose Society, the Alpine Garden Club and we were friends with the amateurs who
were experts in rhododendrons, magnolias, ferns, roses but nobody really knew
much about hostas so I became the hosta man.
Rosemary was a Master Gardener and when she retired she
worked in the Shop in the Garden of the University of British Columbia
Botanical Garden and was a guide at the VanDusen Botanical Garden.
Thanks to Rosemary I am a well rounded (but thinnish)
And so here I am. Thank you all for taking me in.
The first photograph of Hosta 'Liberty' and Camellia x williamsii 'Donation' I photographed today for two reasons. Camellia 'Donation' was Rosemary's favourite camellia. And I would like to point out that Liberty does not mind being pot bound.
In the second photo with Hosta 'Liberty' are these bunch of Hosta 'Sunny Halcyon' I did not know existed until I saw them in a nursery last week.
In the third photograph you can see my Rosemary with Ale and behind them the Lillooet garden.
Trains - Retiro & Capt. James T. Kirk
Sunday, April 16, 2023
|Retiro - Buenos Aires|
Since I have a memory for anything I can remember the trains
of my life. As a little boy my father and my mother (or my grandmother) would
take me on a train from the station in Martínez and later Coghlan to the
cavernous downtown Retiro Station. From there, without leaving the station, we took
the escalators down to the subte (the subway) to the Lavalle Station that had
two blocks of movie theaters to movie theaters.
From kindergarten on my mother and I boarded the train to
Belgrano R where her American High School was. It was not far from my grammar
When I returned to Buenos Aires for my military service in
the Argentine Navy in 1965 I lived on a pension in the Beccar Station. This
train and all the above where on the line of Bartolomé Mitre.
When I arrived at Retiro from Beccar I had made friends with
the station master who would write me a letter saying that my train had arrive
45 minutes late. I would then retire to have a desayuno complete in the lovely
Retiro Station tea room. Cabo Moraña at the office would smile when I arrived
late. I am sure he suspected of my triquiñuela
but he was a good guy even though he was in the more serious Infantes de Marina
In Mexico I remember that Rosemary went on a train to Oaxaca
and the curves made me very dizzy.
In Vancouver I had no real experience in riding trains. I
liked to go to the downtown CP Station and I would sit on a bench and imagine
my grandmother, my mother, aunt and uncle crossing it on their way to Montreal
and NY City. They had arrived in the late 20s in a Japanese ship from Manila.
My grandmother often told me of “Un lugar con montañas y bosques llamado
In my contract job for Canadian Pacific Ltd. I photographed
tons of cargo trains, locomotives and cars, and even the last caboose that
arrived in Vancouver. CP wanted to give as gifts large photographs of a train crossing
a bridge over a river surrounded by mountains, forests, the Japanese car
companies. I found a location near Lytton where the CP tracks crossed from one
side of the Fraser Canyon to the other. I was given a walkie talkie and for a
few minutes I had the power to stop a train informing the engineer when the
Toyotas, Datsuns or Mazdas where visible on the bridge.
A lasting memory of mine is seeing the many white morning glories
that grew along the side of the tracks of the Buenos Aires trains. I also
remember that the ticket man had a personal punch, all his own, when he punched
my ticket. I can remember the smell of a combination of train brake linings,
rust and a tad of human urine. It was at
the Belgrano R station where I got off one day, sometime in 195, when I saw my
first sign at a drink post advertising 7-Up.
Now at my age of 80 when I turn off the lights, and when
I dream, I have visions of all the people from my past that somehow I met,
knew, loved and liked. They appear randomly in my memory. It could be my
grandmother or my childhood friend Mario, or my Vancouver friends Sean
Rossiter, Mark Budgen and Abraham Rogatnick. I remember my friends and mentors,
Brothers of Holy Cross in Austin, Texas. I remember all the writers I worked
with for Vancouver Magazine. I even remember their voices. I have visions of all
the girls I admired but was too shy to approach parade by my memory. I remember
all the cats that Rosemary and I had.
These memories are fleeting and they remind me of a Star
Trek episode The Mark of Gideon that Rosemary and I saw in Mexico City on our
primitive TV in 1970. In it the Enterprise arrives at an overpopulated planet.
I have this lasting obsessive vision of Captain James Tiberius Kirk being in a
room with a window. Behind the window was an unceasing parade of people in
hoods that had to move as there was no place to stay.
This vision contrasts with another dream I have. I get on my
train in Coghlan on route to Retiro. At each station people get off. When my
train arrives at Retiro I am the only passenger.