Spring into July

Is it too early to start thinking about what the garden will look like next year?  Sorry (I am Canadian, after all), but I just can’t help it.  It’s  the hottest week of the year, the garden is lush with annuals and summer blooming perennials, the veggies are starting to be harvested, pole beans and Morning Glory are climbing feet a day but I’m thinking about spring.

Why?

Likely because the last of the Narcissus (Daffodil) leaves are finally fading away and I’m remembering all the bare patches from last April, May and June.   And I’m thinking – why didn’t I plan ahead.  It’s all well and good to wander around in mid spring, thinking to oneself:  ‘Self, I should plant more Hyacinth here – there’s lots of room,’  unless you somehow note where exactly you want to dig without damaging the existing bulbs.  Can’t do that now, of course, because for the rest of the season that spot of ground is a very full Lupin and Echinacea bed – I’ve no idea where to plant new Hyacinth!

I could have taken close up photos, drawn sketches or developed a really good memory really quickly but no.  This past spring, like most springs, I just enjoyed the display.  Realizing the folly of my ways last week, I gathered some small stones that appear in abundance (even when I’m not looking) and, before the last of the daff leaves withered, quickly placed small cairns where it will be safe to dig when my bulb order arrives.

Here’s where I’m going to plant more Colchicum bulbs at the end of August, so that this existing patch expands to match the ever widening spread of the Cornus alternifolia (Pagoda Dogwood) on top.:

markin spots for future bulbs with rocks

Colchicum bed Sept 30 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few years ago I planted three Fritillaria persica bulbs in front of the fountain – the bulbs have multiplied so that this there there were five stems, but only one bloomed.  So this fall I want to plant another 10 or so – and placed individual stones in the general area.  Hopefully next April I’ll have a small forest of these purply flower stalks!

 

Have you started to think about spring bulbs yet?  What do you want to plant?

 

Daylily Dreamin’

Bonibrae Daylilies 7

Bonibrae Daylilies

Daylilies (Hemerocalis spp) started to bloom in early June in my back garden.  Well, one lovely tall spidery lemon yellow variety of daylily anyway.  The common orange ‘ditch daylily’ started to open July 1, as they do every year.  Stella d’Oro about three weeks ago and the rest, large brash colourful varieties, just this past week.

I wouldn’t say I’m passionate about daylilies but I do really like them.  A lot.  They’ll grow almost anywhere and bloom reliably given enough sunlight.  They are drought tolerant once established (long, fleshy tubourous roots helps them get through dry periods), deer and rabbits don’t find them tasty and, best of all, can be used in multiples ways.

Want a wide swath of specific colour?  Have a micro garden that needs a flash of brightness?  Want to savour a light fragrance in the evening?  Want to surprise visitors with a bizarre shape or colour combination next to a well traveled garden path?

Daylilies can do it all.

A neighbour and I visited Bonibrae Daylilies, just north of Bloomfield,  over the weekend.  Next to a small grove of ancient maple trees, Barry & Margaret Matthie maintain about an acre of daylilies, carefully cultivated in well mulched rows.  The maples provide welcome shade for visitors and the many varieties of Hosta they also sell. Barry hybridizes and grows from seed the daylilies in their fields and sells them either in person or via mail to aficionados across the continent  – most of the plants in the field are $15 each for a very generous size clump lifted by Barry for you; a few of the more rare varieties can be $100 – a price not uncommon for collectors.

For me, the glory of this nursery is experienced wandering through the rows of daylilies,  marveling at the colours and shapes, whiffing the occasional sweet scent and imagining where, in your own garden, you can add one of these beauties.

For the next few weeks the nursery is open almost every day – if you’re contemplating getting a daylily this is the place to visit.  Even if you’re not a gardener, this is a place to visit – think of it as a living art gallery – a place to overload your ocular sensors  on a warm summer day.

Tale of Two Echinaceas

I have to confess I don’t have just one favourite plant – I have dozens.  And the list changes every year depending on things as mundane as the weather (too dry to produce many flowers, or, so dry the whole plant just dies) or as esoteric as did I grow it from seed (or it was given by a friend or relative).

Bug on purple echinacea (2)

Echinacea purpurea

In mid July there are quite a few favourites – one of them is Echinacea purpurea – Purple Coneflower. It has lively purple or white (the alba variety) large daisy-like flowers, self seeds readily and transplants easily.  Best of all, bees and other bugs love its pollen and nectar.  If it’s happy in its location it can get quite tall so needs to be either near the back of a border or in the midst of other tallish things.

bugs on white echinacea
Echinacea purpurea alba

 

 

 

 

 

My newest heartthrob though is Echinacea pallida – Pale Purple Coneflower.    I started these indoors from seed two winters ago; last year I planted them out – kinda spindly looking things with short narrow leaves.

IMG_2433_edited-1

Echinacea pallida the first yeat – longish narrow leaves very different from E. purpurea

No sign of a flower at all.  They survived the drought though, with minimal watering, so that made me happy.

Echinacea pallida July 2 2017

Echinacea pallida July 2 2017

This year they exploded – almost literally – sending up first much larger leaves and then enormous stalks topped with a beautiful and delicate flower.  Much like the Purple Coneflower, except it differs by having narrower petals that droop down instead of pointing out like a daisy.

 

Also, the flower stalk itself is many inches long, making it perfect for cutting.

Ti top it off, as the Missouri Botanical Garden plant page says, this native plant can: “tolerate Deer, Drought, Clay Soil, Dry Soil, Shallow-Rocky Soil.”

In other words, this perennial is perfect for my garden and also for many other gardens in the County!

Let me know if you’re interested in growing these yourself – I’ll try to harvest and save you some seeds.

Echinacea pallida July 8 2017

Echinacea pallida July 8, 2017

Star of the Show

As the growing season progresses I find that some plants, even amongst dozens that may be blooming, steal the show.  Lilac and Lupin in spring.  Sunflowers (seeds sown late to ensure autumn flowers) and Asters in the fall and, before the bright orange Rudbeckia starts, the tall and serene majesty of Hollyhocks.

They’ve just starting blooming this past week in The County and you’ll see them in ditches and gardens everywhere.  In the garden, they can provide a screen for something you want to hide.  They can be a dramatic focal point to a driveway entrance.  They can stand alone, in a clump, at the side of the road – a colourful distraction for Sunday drivers.

My favourite Hollyhocks are the ones I start from seed collected from friends’ and neighbours’ gardens.  It just means more to see them sprouting from the soil.  The waiting for the second year (because Hollyhocks are biennial and don’t bloom the first year), to see what colour they are, is worth it.

This year, I’m loving the pastel shades that have appeared for the first time.  The flowers appear so delicate, yet are born on the six and seven foot stalks that make you take a second glance, make you want to walk over to appreciate them better.  And provide motivation to start thinking about collecting seeds for next year.

That’s a show stopper.

pink Hollyhock July 2017yellow Hollyhock July 2017Hollyhock

location, location, location…

Let me confess first that I should have known better.  In fact, I DID know better, yet I did it anyway.  I planted something in a spot I knew was just not suitable, a spot that was already getting a tad overcrowded, didn’t have quite the right requirements, a spot that meant something, sooner rather than later, would need to be moved.

The victims are two pots of Silphium perfoliatum (Cup Plant) I started from seed the winter of 2016.  I was excited to see the seeds offered at Trenton’s Seedy Saturday that year – I remembered studying this plant at school and seeing pictures of HUGE clumps growing in a moist meadow near Ottawa.  Called a Cup Plant because the leaves grow together at the stem to create a cup that catches water, it’s in the Aster family, and the same genus as the Silphium laciniatum (Compass Plant) – another favourite. 

Cup Plant - Silphium perfoliatum June 24 2017

Two leaves joining together at the stalk to form a cup

Many bee and butterfly species are attracted to the small sunflower-like yellow flowers and small birds gobble up its seeds in later summer into the fall.

 

But did ya see the word ‘HUGE’ in the previous paragraph?  And the words ‘moist meadow’?  Four to 10 feet tall!!  Clumps six feet across!!  What was I thinking???

After starting them indoors in four inch peat pots then transferring them to one gallon plastic pots, I planted them in the Island Bed – about two feet from a prized  Paeonia tenuifolia (Fernleaf Peony – given to me by a friend many years ago as a root division with a single eye) and three feet from a joyful Acer griseum (Paperbark Maple – which is itself slated to eventually be VERY tall and wide!).  I knew they had to be at the back of something and I didn’t want them to be all by themselves in the middle of the yard, not even the front field where it gets very wet (ie floods) in the spring – something the plant actually appreciates.

In semi-desperation I planted them where I was able, thinking I’d have a few years before they (or their neighbours) would need to be moved.  Alas, this year, their first full year in the ground, the clumps are already about seven feet high — that’s with flowers yet to spring forth from the top!

Lesson Learned (yet again…):  think of the mature size of a plant before planting!

Silphium perfoliatum July 23 2017

The poor Fernleaf Peony is just to the bottom left of the Cup Plant

 

New Additions

I really enjoy visiting nurseries – especially the small owner-operated ones that specialize in specific types of plants.  You can often find things that don’t make it to the larger nurseries, let alone the supermarket parking lots.  The people working there (ie those owner-operator types!) are a wealth of knowledge about what grows well in a local area, what survived last year’s drought and how tall something might really get!

On  Saturday, to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday, I went with some friends to Fuller Native & Rare Plant Nursery in Belleville, Ontario.  I’ve never been before but found out about them at the Picton Seedy Saturday earlier this year.  What a jewel!  This tiny nursery has four small structures jammed with trees, shrubs and perennials in pots 4″ to five gallon – including many in an ‘end of season’ sale – five 10 cm ‘plugs’ for $10.   (They call them plugs, to me they’re tall 10 cm pots.)

Anyway – love this place, their display beds are outstanding – all full of colour and ideas.  I walked out with some 10 cm plugs of Empatorium purpureum (Joe Pye Weed) and Helenium autumnale (Sneezeweed) plus two plants that are new to me:  Sanguisorba canadensis (Canadian Burnet):

Sanguisorba canadensis[Canada Burnet]

The Canada Burnet really does like moist, even marshy areas….gets about a meter high and will have load of interesting white spikey flowers in summer/fall

and Thermopsos Villosa (Carolina Lupin):

Thermopsis villosa [Carolina Lupin]

The Carolina Lupin has bright yellow flowers in the summer; should mature to about one meter high and wide.

Didn’t know anything about their habit or needs but they looked great planted out at the nursery.  A quick internet search indicates the Thermopsis should do well – it can take dry, clay soil, while the Sanguisorba might find it more challenging as it likes moist areas.

But hey, it survived through last year’s drought at the nursery with no hand watering – and we’ve just come through the wettest spring in a century, so here’s hoping!

Perennials from seed

I was once afraid to start perennials from seed – so many doubts, so many questions – so many chances for failure.  Why take a chance (money, time, emotional commitment) on a perennial when you know you can get a Marigold to germinate and grow just by dropping a seed in a cup of soil?

Here’s the thing:  when you have a large garden, filling it with perennials is expensive!  Even if you buy the smallest pot size available and don’t mind waiting a year or two for thing to grow into its space, the cost can add up quickly!

Here’s the other thing: if you’re in a garden centre buying perennials, especially the smallest size possible, it’s way too tempting to get one or two of a lot of different plants, instead of two dozen of one plant.  Because really, in your imaginary garden, you have these magical drifts of blooms, created by massing dozens or hundreds of the same plant.  Sure, you may be after the cottage garden look, with all sorts of shapes, sizes and colours vying for attention; but even then it helps a lot to use the same plant here and there, in clumps big or small, to add cohesion to the whole.

Enter seeds.

I started a few years ago by collecting my own seeds – from big yellow and red daylilies (Hemerocallis ssp)  – I’ll get into the details on a future post, but the results were fabulous.

Two years ago I went to my first Seedy Saturdays – in Picton and in Trenton.  There, I purchased seeds for Cup Plant (Silphium perfoliatum) and Pale Purple Coneflower (Echinacea pallida) and was able to plant them out last spring.  These are both perennials that can’t be found in most garden centres – another benefit of starting your own seeds!  With much hand watering (remember last year’s drought??) they survived the summer and winter, growing ever large leaves and this year they are set to bloom.  Pictures coming soon!Digitalis purpurea June 24 2017

Another plant I started from seed last winter was Foxglove  (Digitalis purpurea).  I thought it would be neat to have a ton of them just in front of the tree/brush line on the Island bed.  The ‘magical drift’ I mentioned above!  The challenge with Foxglove is the seed size:  they’re VERY TINY!!!  I wound up with a flat of seedlings all jammed in together and had to carefully split them apart when planting out last spring.  The foliage stayed green all winter and this year they sent up dozens of beauful flower stalks.

it’s all about the daffodils…

Daffs April 22 2017

Daffs in back garden

 

Late April in the garden means yellow everywhere – Narcissus in all sizes plus Forsythia and the early Tulips.  I love it!  As a bonus, it looks like the Fritillaria persica will bloom!  One of them, anyway…really looking forward to seeing up close and in person what they look like, then putting in more this autumn.  The Island project is coming along – go a lot mulched this weekend.  Next weekend I’ll start transplanting Echinacea.

It was wonderful to see so many bees out and about this weekend.  At one point this small grouping of Hyacinth was covered with thrm – as many as two dozen just going in and out of the flowers.  They were also loving all the daffs and of course the Scilla and Chianodoxia.  This time next week they’ll be all over the dandelions!