Saturday, August 20, 2011

An Evening at the Races

Marques Downs does not resemble the Royal Ascot or the Kentucky Derby because you can come as you are or make a splash with a fabulous hat, it doesn’t matter.

The races at the Downs of the thoroughbred horses are extra special events; everyone can enjoy them and create memorable experiences. They invite you to relax, enjoy a flatter, and soak up the atmosphere in the grandstand and in the surroundings as one watches the speed and stamina of the superior equine athlete.

It was my first time at the racetrack and the evening races offered the most prestiges and the biggest purses. I had my eye on a maiden race in which the horses usually are two years old and had never won a race making it their first race ever. It was going to be a race of six furlongs.

There are many factors which influence races such as the weight the horse carries, their proximity to the inside barrier, gender and track surface and distance. My table partner was a retired jockey who shared a wealth of knowledge with me. I still cannot get my head around the size of the “saddle” a jockey sits on when riding the horse - It’s no bigger than a saucer practically sitting on the bare back.

Sitting in the grandstands dining room overlooking the racecourse, I could see the horses in their stalls and then entering the track for the post parade to the starting gate. As the horses pranced, I glanced nervously at the racing form in my hand. It was the first time I placed a wager – my very first bet. I have to say here that I needed help from my table partner placing this bet not that I was spending a big sum of money. I clutched my ticket as the bell rang and the starting gates sprang open. Like a bullet the horses charged forward, I couldn’t help but get caught up in the excitement and I cheered my horse all the way to the wire. Amazingly my horse won!! It was Peaches a horse my friend owns. There were anxious moments earlier as Lynda had told me that Peaches (the winner) had a good chance of winning this race as she was pretty keyed up. She had questioned her maturity at this point but knew that she had tremendous ability and a tremendous hearth, which of course is a great combination.

The evening was spent celebrating and was a safe bet for fun and excitement and an experience I’ll never forget.

Here are the pictures of Peaches aka “Marge’s Action” the winner of the Woodland Heritage Sweepstakes and all her friends who came to cheer her on to this tremendous win with her trainer Fern Zdunick and jockey Garfield Gordon.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Garden Tour

Gardening seems to be a passion here in the prairies. The most valuable thing gardener’s share is their practical experience growing in Saskatchewan, as the seasons are so short and the winters are so very cold.

The Saskatoon Horticultural Society hosted their annual garden tour early in July with six amazing private gardens in our city that are tended to by local gardeners. I can only imagine the flurry of weeding that took place to make things presentable before the actual tour. The tour resulted in an abundant array of beautiful gardens around the city that showed their beauty and individual charm.

The day was sunny and thanks to the little golden dragonflies, the pesky mosquitoes that have been such a nuisance this summer had mostly disappeared. It made it an enjoyable afternoon.

The gardens were beautiful. Each garden gave the tour participants the gift of inspiration on how to improve their own garden.

The first stop was a garden designed with feng shui overtones. There was absolutely no grass. This unique garden was designed to cope with the southern exposure and the owner’s three little dogs. Exquisitely planted garden rooms were designed with different principles creating a tranquil garden space. It was an inspiration to gardeners to look beyond the individual plants and group the plants to create harmony and balance.

The naturalistic Koi Pond that the owner partly heats during the winter months.

The second stop was at Oliver Lodge, a special care home were the average age of the gardener is 85 and the oldest is 92. The inspiration here is; one is never too old to grow. The gardens included raised garden beds so that the garden was at the level of the gardener. They were spotless and the enthusiasm of the residents was infectious. Each gardener had their own raised bed, easy for planting their favorite flowers or vegetables and gentle on their backs.

Our third stop was a garden in the Riversdale area. It had a unique front yard. A resting place was created under a big spruce tree. Because these trees take all the moisture out of the ground, the owner creatively build a deck that housed potted containers with flowers that love the shade; and lush woodland ferns were planted around the edges. The branches of the tree were cut high enough to add a seating place. The back garden was designed for entertaining and had wonderful specimens that have become focal points for their garden. This is a welcoming, manicured garden full of dramatic places. I admired the creative designs of the outbuildings; while along the fence lines there are clambering vines and mixed perennial beds.

My favorite garden was the fourth garden. This garden inspires with subtle design detail. You look at the garden and think, “Wow this looks good.” As you start to analyze the garden, you discover sophisticated design principles. One area of the garden uses the principles of repetition. Your eye is gently drawn to the next area of the garden, which features wonderful deeply layered mixed boarders under the sinuous branching of an ancient tree. This gardener is a true artist using a broad pallet of texture, which is used in imaginative combinations. Even when not in full bloom, the flowerbeds were amazing. (I learned to day that this garden received the People’s Choice Award)

The fifth stop inspired gardeners to be bold. This garden incorporated pieces of art collected by the owners. The pieces were large, but the proportions matched the garden. There was an impish sense of humor and whimsy not only in the pieces of art, but also in their placement in the garden. Heck, you could even sit in a room and watch TV or take a dip in the pool.

The next garden exploded with flowers. An unexpected oasis of rare plants, this garden provides the connoisseur with much to linger over. Each architectural element in this garden is thoughtful and house and garden seamlessly transition from one to another in a unified whole. It was evident that this husband and wife team love to garden. Color combinations were bright and joyful. It was a welcoming and tranquil place to be.

All good things must come to an end and so did this wonderful afternoon. The hosts shared their love of gardening and at the same time had the tour on schedule, keeping us moving when we would rather linger a little longer.