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Allan designs and plants flowering gardens in Montreal, Zone 5 [USDA Zone 4] .

See website, design work and favorite flowering plants at

Consultation and coaching for do-it-yourselfers is provided. Occasional emailed questions are welcome and answered free of charge. Oui, je parle francais.

See my work on Pinterest at Garden Guru Montreal

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Gardening in a Heat Wave

Every neighborhood community in the Province of Quebec, where I live, [a province is the equivalent of an American State] has a small-scale health center to meet some of the needs of the local population. Services here, and at all of the hospitals in Canada, are supplied free of charge to citizens because health care is funded by government and paid for by revenue generated by weekly payroll deductions. In addition, we also have a government-run hot line phone service that dispenses advice and guidance in dealing with health issues and medical emergencies. The comprehensive umbrella protection of all combined services assures both basic and advanced health care coverage for the entire population without exceptions.

One of the many other responsibilities of the local community health center is to inform and educate the public on health-related matters. Recently, I picked up one of the information pamphlets they distribute because it dealt with seniors and heat waves. I found the information applicable to gardeners of all ages and I am pleased to share that advice with my readers.

  • Spend as much time as possible in a cool place.
  • Drink lots of water even before you feel thirsty.
  • Reduce physical effort.
  • Let someone know how you are feeling on a regular basis.
  • Cool off using a cold damp towel or face cloth.
  • Take cool showers or baths.
  • Garden very early in the morning, say around 7 AM, and get back indoors by 10:30 AM, the latest. If necessary, continue gardening in the early evening but only if the temperature has dropped.
  • If you do not feel well, contact a doctor or family member.

The summer heat wave has just begun here in Montréal so that gardening for a full day is no longer an option for my staff and me. Garden designers are prone to redesign a garden as they plant; it is part of the creative process but heat makes it challenging to think strategically. By noon, during a heat wave, I am no longer able to do my best work. Now, our workday begins at 7 AM; we break for a rest at 9:30 and return to work until noon when we stop for the day. This schedule keeps us productive. Had we opted to work in the heat of the afternoon, our output would be meager, the quality of my work inferior, we would become debilitated, and our next-day productivity would have been compromised.

My employees are university students who live away from home. All want to earn extra money for international travel prior to entering graduate school. As a result, they are motivated and hard working. They never complain about the heat because they want to generate as much income as possible. That mind-set exposes them to the risk of heat exhaustion because many college students believe that good health is a given and that they are invincible. Since I am the only older adult in their life at this time, I have undertaken the responsibility of looking after them for as much as they will allow. I insist that we eat in air-conditioned environments rather than outdoors, that they get plenty of protein and carbohydrates with their lunches, and make sure that they drink water throughout the day.

It is interesting how my second career as a garden designer has also reconnected me to my old role as father bear, except that this time, I am caring for other peoples’ adult children. It was not part of the business plan, but it sure feels good.

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Reader Comments (1)

Allan, I think it is great that you are a mentor to these young people. Who knows who you might influence in regard to a life's work. It has been very hot here and unusually stormy.


June 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEileen

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