The Amazingly Prolific Snow Crocus

prolific - Crocus Prins Claus April 21 2018 c small

Earlier this month I posted a photo showing Crocus chrysanthus ‘Prins Claus’  from the side.  I love the beautiful purple outer petals (up close, the purple is so velvety you want to reach out and stroke it) and the creamy white interior.  What truly amazes me is how such a tiny bulb – typically around 1.5 cm diameter – throws up, every spring, three or four or five flowers.  The larger Crocus (below) do this as well, but not, in my experience, with quite such abandon.

Multi coloured Crocus April 22 2018 small
Prolific

Six on Saturday – receding floodwaters

 

Chionodoxa luciliae April 21 2018 small 2

After last weekend’s ice pellets and freezing rain came a full day of heavy rain – which stayed on top of the ice and caused quite a bit of flooding in the yard.  Flooding isn’t unusual in the spring here, we have pretty bad overall drainage on the property despite a contractor’s promise several years ago…

Here is my weekly selection for you, six things for this garden blogger’s meme started by The Propagator.

This is what the Island Bed looks like this morning – anything wet looking (including the grass I stood on to take the photo) was covered in water all week, finally receding a bit yesterday.  The floods usually don’t bother me – I plan the gardens around it although this week’s water levels were higher than ever before, very close to water-logging bulbs and perennials.  The water usually mainly covers much of the driveway and a lot of the grassy areas.

Island April 21 2018

White Spruce cones falling onto back patio

The small cones from a large white spruce (Picea glauca) started to fall last week; I need to rake this small patio frequently this time of year.

Ice Plant flower April 21 2018

This lovely little Ice Plant (Delosperma) – was given to me in mid March and has been sitting in a sunny window.  Here is its first bloom — I’m not sure if the flowers are always so small or if, when planted, they will somehow be larger…it’s pretty none the less, supposed to be a hardy, drought tolerant perennial.  Needs good drainage so I’ll have to plant it well away from flood prone areas!

first real leaves ob Echinacea pallida April 21 2018

The first real leaves on the Pale Purple Coneflower (Echinacea pallida) seedlings have emerged!

1st Tete a Tete daffodils April 21 2018

With today’s warm sun these tiny Tete a Tete daffodils will open fully.

Finally – two Chianodoxa’s – each a slightly different shade of blue.  I planted hundreds last fall and in a few years they will have naturalized to form thick carpets of blue each April.

Layers of Bulbs and early Spring Foliage

Fritillaria imperialis April 14 2018 small

Fritillaria imperialis rising regally from the ground.

Although I, like almost everyone else in Southern Ontario, have been moaning about how cold it’s been in April, there are ample signs that spring is progressing and the garden is awakening as it should.  Yes, it’s been wet, but we all know what April showers bring, right?  And there’s been snow and freezing rain, but with a normal last frost date in mid May, what else would you expect?  Yes, temperatures on most days have not reached the ‘normal’ highs but the flip side of that is cooler weather means spring bulbs last longer.  My Galanthus (Snowdrops), for example, have been blooming since the end of February and will likely last til the end of April.  Remarkable!

Meanwhile, other spring bulbs, tubers, corms and perennials are waking up and starting to make an impression as the colours of the garden slowly morph from greys and browns to green and all other colours of the rainbow.

Tips to remember for the fall – layering and close planting.

When I plant bulbs I often ‘layer’ them to provide a longer bloom period – smaller Crocus and Chianodoxa, for example, bloom early and, in the planting hole, sit on top of larger bulbs like Narcissus, Allium and Fritillaria, which will bloom later.  Or I’ll plant bulbs tight to the base of perennials so that the perennial foliage will grow and cover the dying leaves of the bulbs.   This both lets the bulb gain strength for next years’ blooms and also helps nourish the soil.

Fritillaria persica & Crocus Prins Claus April 14 2018 small

Can you see the tips of Fritillaria persica starting to emerge through this drift of Crocus Prins Claus?

emerging Tete a Tete daffodils Apeil 14 2018 b small

A tale of two Narcissus — this one a tiny Tete a Tete getting ready to display buttons of yellow above ground cover Sedum, which is just starting to shift from its winter red hues to summer green…

orange crocus and daffodils april 14 2018

…and these much taller Narcissus ‘Ice Follies’ – which won’t bloom for another month or so – pushing through large orange Crocus.  Last fall, I dug a wide hole, planted Narcissus and Crocus around the edges and t=in the middle transplanted a mature clump of Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower).  This year, I’ll get many month of blooms from the same spot in the garden.

emerging Iris April 14 2018 b

I love the contrast between the bright green of newly emerging Iris leaves and the red leaves of fleshy Hens and Chicks (Sempervivum) leaves.

Allium and Chianodoxa April 14 2018

There’s dozens of little blue Chianodoxa bulbs at the base of these Allium ‘Purple Sensation.’  The Chianodoxa will start to bloom in a few days (weather permitting) and stay in bloom until the Allium are set to start.  I’m thinking the rabbit damage to some of the Allium wasn’t life threatening and the flowers themselves survived!

Awakening

Six on Saturday – out with the old

Acer griseum Aprl 14 2018 small

It’s impossible to exaggerate how much I love the cinnamon coloured exfoliating bark of Paperbark Maple – Acer griseum

Trees don’t shed leaves only, and plants aren’t the only thing in the garden that await renewal each year.  Any shots here with a blue sky was taken earlier in the week.  Today it’s cloudy, with rain, freezing rain, ice pellets and snow forecast for the next three days.  Spring delayed, again!  Thanks to The Propagator, who gardens where it appears to be much warmer, for this weekly theme!

 

disintegrating bees nest April 7 2018 small

Last year’s rather large hive on a tree rather close to the house — I’m thinking (hoping?)  winter will have made it uninhabitable this year…

nest in Juniper April 14 2018 small

A bird’s nest in a Juniper in the back field — possibly good for a renovation; as the ad would say, needs some TLC

hornet next in fountain April 14 2018 small

A hornet’s nest in the urn/fountain/planter in the middle of the Island bed.  I’ll likely break it off next week – although I’m all in favour of providing habitat for all sorts of pollinators, these were just too close for comfort.

 

robin's nest April 8 2018

I think this robin’s nest is a total tear down.  It’s three years old though – quite amazing it’s stood up to the weather at all.

Shileau and robin's nest April 8 2018

This robin’s nest is only two years old – Shileau is still waiting for occupants to reappear.

 

 

Six on Saturday – emerging seeds and a slow spring

Shileau inspecting the new spruces April 6 2018

Shileau inspecting two new spruce trees.  A good friend buys them every fall, keeping them in their pots to decorate her city patio; then I plant them in the yard in early spring.  They generally (but not always) survive, although I have to do a lot of root pruning and root untangling after removing them from their 10 or 15 gallon plastic containers.

This past week brought blustery cold winds to the County and all Southern Ontario – lots of downed trees, fallen branches, rain, snow flurries and power outages.  We were fortunate to escape wind damage or flooding even with the sump pump out of action for a few hours at the height of Wednesday night’s storm.  That said, bulbs continued to push up outside, and seeds started to sprout inside.  Here are my Six on Saturday, with a tip of my Tilly to The Propagator for this theme.

emerging Tulips April 6 2018

These short red early kaufmanniana Tulips have a lovely mottled leaf.  This is their third spring in my heavy clay soil – I’m hoping they’ll continue to bloom for a few more years.

Allium Globemaster April 6 2018

Hard to imagine but within a month this little rosette of leaves will have become a three foot Allium Globemaster.  First time growing them so I’m looking forward to a nice show.

Allium Purple Sensation April 6 2018

I’ve had Allium Purple Sensation for many, many years.  These are new bulbs  I planted last fall but I also collected seeds and have started to propagate larger numbers (I hope!).

Chocolate Sprinkles grape tomatoe - yogurt vs Jiffee pot April 6 2018 1

Grape tomato seedlings started two weeks ago – I’m experimenting using different growing containers.

Chocolate Sprinkles grape tomatoe - yogurt vs Jiffee pot April 6 2018

I was surprised to notice that the tomatoes started in yogurt containers are almost twice as large as the ones grown in more traditional peat pots.  Wow!  Is it maybe because moisture levels are more easily managed?  ie growing media in plastic doesn’t dry out as quickly as in the peat pot?

Six on Saturday – Signs of Spring

Galanthus elwesii March 30 2018 small

This holiday long weekend is much sunnier – so far – than the weather channels had predicted, with seasonal temperatures for a change.  I think it might just be a blip though because it’s been cooler than normal so far this spring and there’s snow predicted for later next week.  Heavy sigh.   Plants know what time of year it is though – here are six signs that spring is underway in Southeastern Ontario, and a tip of my Tilly to The Propagator for this theme.

Acer pensylvanicum leaf bud March 30 2018 small

Acer pensylvanicum leaf buds swelling.  This small understory tree is also called Striped Maple because the bark of young branches has attractive vertical stripes, or Moose Maple because in Northern Ontario moose are fond of nibbling on the branches.

Lilac leaf bud March 30 2018 small

It’ll be about a month and a half before bloom but these Lilac flower buds are starting to swell.

Clematic leaf bud March 30 2018 small

The buds on this Clematis durandii have broken.  It’s a favourite rambling Clematis – I have it clambering over large rocks and amongst daylilies where the large purple flowers make a statement.

Sorbaria sorbifolia bud March 30 2018 small 2

False Spirea – Sorbaria sorbifolia – it just can’t wait to get a jump on spring!

Daffodil flower buds March 30 2018 small

Daffodils – I’m guessing they’ll be open next Saturday but you never know.  It’s not going to be much about zero for the next few days, with some snow expected later in the week.  These full size Narcissus are in a warmish micro climate in the yard; the tiny Tete a Tete – usually the first to bloom – are in a cooler spot and have just poked out of the ground. 

Galanthus elwesii March 30 2018 small

Snowdrops – Galanthus elwesii – have been in bloom for more than a month now.  Really – it’s the only thing I can count on for March.

 

DIY – seed starting by Re-using

I love yogurt (or for non North Americans, Yoghurt) – have some every morning, sometimes as a topping for melons, berries or nuts, sometime right from the little plastic container. Of course, all these containers go into the recycling bin, and I can only hope some intrepid company is melting them down to make new plastic thingamjigs somewhere in the world.

I also love the three “R’s” – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and it struck me a few weeks ago that I can possibly Reuse before Recycling, and save a few pennies as well. So I started collecting the yogurt containers, large and small, to use for seed starting.

I’m not sure if it will work. The wonderful thing abut using Jiffy® pots is you don’t need to disturb seedling roots when planting out. With the yogurt containers, I’ll have to carefully slide the root mass into the planting hole. So I’ll be conducting a quasi-scientific study — half of my new tomato seedlings in Jiffy, half in yogurt. All else will be the same (starting medium, heat and light while in front of the window, and side by side in the garden). I’m looking forward to the results!

Seed starting DIY 1 March 18 2018

Here are some of my seeds this year. There’s a grape tomato from Stokes® called Chocolate Sprinkles and an All American Selection cocktail tomato from Earthworks Seeds called Red Racer. I love cocktail tomatoes – they’re the perfect size for salads. I’m also trying to start my chard this way – this variety is Scarlet Charlotte from Renee’s Garden. They recommend starting them outside when there is no danger of a hard frost, but in my experience the rabbits think chard seedlings are an appetizer so I’m hoping that by planting a lot of larger plants I may get a harvest.

Seed starting DIY 2 March 18 2018

I wasn’t sure how to put drainage holes in the bottom of the yogurt cups so I tried with secateurs and a knife before realizing plain ol’ kitchen scissors work best.

Seed starting DIY 3 March 18 2018

I wanted three triangle holes – the scissors provided the cleanest and easiest cut.

Seed starting DIY 4 March 18 2018

I’ve never done this before but the Stokes seed pack suggested soaking the Jiffy pot in warm water before adding growing medium. It makes sense – otherwise the sphagnum peat moss would pull moisture from the medium, causing it to dry our faster and making watering a bit trickier.

Seed starting DIY 5 March 18 2018

The final result – four pots for each tomato variety, two started in a yogurt container and two in the Jiffy pot, and a whole lot of chard! The tray is now covered and on top of the freezer where it’s a titch warmer than my windowsill (if I had an electric heating mat I’d use it – maybe next year!)

The Flower Show Part of Canada Blooms

 

Flower Show 1 Paola Zattera floral entry

From Italy –  Paola Zattera designed this show stopping arrangement,

When I visit garden shows or county fairs I generally either breeze through or walk on by the flower show part.  You know, the tables with vases of cut flowers, or weird looking arrangements that use sticks and leaves and kitchen gadgets that make the whole thing appear…strange.  I know, I know  – it’s a complicated process; running and judging a flower show takes a lot of time and effort.  You can tell just by reading the info tags beside each display — there’s a million different types/classes of entries.

I took the time this year to more closely tour the winning entries of the Toronto Flower Show at Canada Blooms.  I was amazed.  I spotted at least four main categories:  dresses based on Disney themes, small planted boxes meant to be viewed from above, front door decorations and arrangements by international floral artists that interpret the ‘experimental’ move genre.   Here are a few of my favourites, with apologies for not noting the floral artists’ names.  Lesson learned!

These are the front door decorations.  Although I loved the snowshoe best, it was the Hyacinth wreath that won the day – these are living bulbs forming the wreath!  I have no idea how the artisan who crafted it manages to keep the roots moist throughout the show; perhaps there’s something between the bulb and the beautiful moss diaper they’re wearing.

 

These dresses are made from flower petals, bark, leaves, twigs….they’re what I imagine movie stars would wear if there was a red carpet event in the middle of the enchanted forest.

 

Flower Show 8 as see from aboveI took photos of several of the ‘gardens in a box’ which, the sign said, are meant to be viewed from above, but my shadow was in all of them.  Including this one!

You have to admire the imagination, creativity and tremendous skill demonstrated by all the displays.  The neat thing is, if I had been at  the flower show at the right time I could have seen judging and creating being demonstrated.  Next year!

Going to the Movies at Canada Blooms

Canada Blooms 2018 welcome 1

The theme of Canada Blooms this year is Let’s Go To The Movies.  The creators of many of the feature gardens interpreted or used as inspiration a well known movie such as The Jungle Book, Midnight in Paris and even Al Gore’s documentary An Inconvenient Truth (the feature garden is called An Inconvenient Garden – its central courtyard is bare concrete and dead Cedars and dead grasses…).

The most colourful and playful bits of the garden show weren’t feature gardens but the accents, small pieces running down the middle of Floral Alley or put together to demonstrate the theme.  Here are a few of my favourites.

Canada Blooms 2018 welcome 3

This giant tub of ‘popcorn’ (tiny white and yellow roses) spilling from the ceiling greets visitors to the main hall.

Canada Blooms 2018 welcome 8

The City of Toronto display right beside the giant popcorn tub is an inviting mass of colour waiting for pollinators to buzz amongst the petals.

These displays running down Floral Alley and the giant red and white popcorn tubs placed here and there helped unify the show and remind people, if they had forgotten, what the theme is:

 

This manikin couple greets visitors on the red carpet — the dress is a pretty beautiful floral creation!

more Allan Garden delights

Allan Gardens March 7 2018 looking up

Under the main dome, filled with palms reaching up to touch the glass.

The wonderful thing about Allan Gardens Conservatory is you can be satisfied and invigorated by visiting for just 15 minutes or by spending as long as 45.   Take a quick walk through the entire complex to enjoy the colours, fragrance and humid air, or, leisurely stroll the meandering pathways, examining the large and sometimes tiny specimens, many of them exotics (for Ontario), all of them meticulously cared for. The city horticulturalists pack hundreds of species into the half dozen greenhouses; some seem to have been there forever and some are obviously seasonal.  Here are a few of my favourites from the permanent collection and the current Spring Blooms installation.

From the spring show – lots of Muscari, Narcissus, Hyacinth and Tulips, plus the occasional surprise, like Winter Aconite.

 

 

 

 

 

Rhodo and Koi Pond at Allan Gardens

This koi pond is there year-round, but the Rhododendron is now in bloom!

 

Also in bloom is Agapanthus – I’ve heard it being called a weed in more tropical parts of the world but here, not so much!  I love the blue flowers.  And this variegated Brugmansia is quite spectacular.

 

 

 

Surprising for me was this patch of kale, left to flower – the yellow flowers are really quite beautiful when massed like this – and the lemon tree!  I wonder if the staff enjoy G&T’s after closing time…

 

 

Cactus at Allan Gardens March 7 2018 small

There are lots of succulents and cacti in the desert house, some of them so tall they’re brushing the roof.  For me, this quartet epitomizes the look. If I lived in Arizona or New Mexico I’d likely have a bunch of them on either side of the front walkway.

Seen in the metal roof struts; I wonder what he’s found to chomp on…

Squirrel at Alan Gardens
Meander

Toronto in Bloom

I’ll be in Toronto this weekend enjoying two annual sensory feasts – the Allan Gardens Conservatory spring flower display and Canada Blooms, Canada’s largest flower and garden show.

Allan Gardens front 1

Allan Gardens Conservatory

I try to visit Allan Gardens several times a year.  It’s centrally located in the city, easy to get to by subway or streetcar, and it’s free.  There’s a half dozen interconnected greenhouses that feature both permanent and seasonal displays.  They’ve just opened their spring show, with thousands of hyacinth, tulips, narcissus and other spring bulbs filling the air with a heady fragrance that invites you to close your eyes and picture yourself in a blooming garden in May.

 

Trust me, Allan Gardens any time between November and March is the perfect antidote for the winter blahs, and the perfect size for an hour of blissful wandering.

Canada BloomsCanada Blooms, in comparison, is HUGE and, opening tomorrow, is only around for 10 days.  To be honest, I haven’t visited the show in a few years, since it moved from the downtown convention centre to the larger buildings at Exhibition Place, a few kilometres west.  Easier parking there but a bit of a hassle by public transit.  Still, they’re expecting more than 200,000 visitors this year!

I’m eager to tour the feature gardens –  Toronto area landscape designers and builders will be showing off their skill and artistry interpreting  this year’s theme:  ‘Let’s Go to the Movies.’  There will be gardens inspired by movies such as The Jungle Book, Star Trek, Midnight in Paris and Alice in Wonderland.  A ongoing trend in landscaping is creating outdoor rooms, and for this show, those rooms are outdoor movie spaces.

I’m also looking forward to seeing two feature gardens  The first is called ‘Fusion Oasis Under the Stars’ – a garden designed to stop storm water runoff, another growing trend in landscaping.  The second is called ‘… Never Forgotten.’  It’s a “living tribute to Canada’s fallen soldiers” and an homage of sorts to the Highway of Heroes, that portion of southern  Ontario roads and highways that form the route of a fallen soldier’s final journey after he lands at CFB Trenton and makes his or her way to the Toronto Coronor’s building.

Never Forgotten

Highway of Heroes – unknown photographer

The Highway of Heroes is a big thing – with hundreds of people lining the sides of roads and highway overpasses to bear witness and pay tribute as a fallen soldier’s convoy passes by.

Inspirations for small gardens and balcony gardens will also be on display; these should have good ideas both for city dwellers and for those of us with larger rural properties who, like me, want to tackle the yard one small section at a time.

I’ll take lots of pictures and share next week.

Six on Saturday – Footprints in the Snow, mainly

We had a few inches of heavy snow Thursday night – with temperatures above zero in the foreseeable future  it’ll likely be gone within a few days but this morning it’s still there.  You can see lots of small footprints in the snow – many more than in previous weeks, so I’m thinking a lot of critters have come out of hibernation and are looking for food (aka spring bulbs…) to munch on.  The woodpeckers are hard at it as well, we can hear them all day, and there seems to be plenty of bugs in the dead or dying trees around us.

I asked an experienced nature photographer, Bill Johnson, if he had any tips on shooting in the winter, when all is snow covered and rather bleak looking.  He said try black and white, so I have.

Here’s my Six on Saturday, with thanks to The Propagator for this theme idea.

6 on 6 animal prints in the snow March 3 2018 b small

I started a new composter compartment yesterday afternoon by dumping a bucket of kitchen waste on top of the snow.  This morning there were tracks all around it – I’m assuming from the rabbits that we see back there, going in and out of the burn pile where they’ve spent the winter.

6 on 6 animal prints in the snow March 3 2018 small

I have no idea what these tracks are from — they look alien to me — but they were near the road, just out from under the buckthorn hedge.  Shileau and I are always disturbing a large bird from that area, a grouse or partridge I think –  perhaps it’s scratching away here?

6 on 6 chipmunk prints 2 March 3 2018 small

A family of chipmunks have lived in this stone wall for a few years.  Today is the first I’ve seen of them this year and they’ve been busy, emerging from several holes in the wall to quickly scurry across the yard to another pile of stone…

6 on 6 chipmunk prints 1 March 3 2018 small

…here.  I’m already worried about the perennials and bulbs that are planted here.

6 on 6 dead tree leaning March 3 2018 small

One of several leaning dead trees along the fence line.  Luckily most are far enough from the driveway that, even if they topple, I won’t have to do any major cutting up.  I like to leave fallen trees as they are for the most part, to provide food and habitat for bugs and critters.

6 on 6 Sedum and Snow March 3 2018

I’ve added this Sedum just because.

 

behind the lens – a Face in the Crowd

Although Sunday started out gloomy and wet, a brisk south-westerly soon blew away the clouds and allowed the sun to reveal a glorious late winter landscape.  Snow and ice melted away leaving dirty drifts at the side of roads or brown squishy fields and yards that led to much dog paw washing all afternoon.

Around 5:15 p.m. I realized there would be quite a nice sunset so I scooted down to the beach, where I found several other photographers already there, all waiting to capture their version of sunset over water and ice.  I wondered what they were waiting for, what combination of descending light source and spray of icy water would produce their perfect image.

Photographers at Sunset - Weller's Bay, Consecon, February 25 2018

A Face in the Crowd

Prince Edward County Seedy Saturday Report

It must be a sign that folks in the County are tired of winter and itching to get their hands dirty and digging in the garden – the Picton Seedy Saturday was packed right from the get go.  Dozens of vendors were there selling seeds and other garden related do-dads; local horticulture related societies were there providing information; presentations were made and everyone, I’m sure, left the school gym feeling inspired, loaded with seeds and making plans for spring planting.  Next seedy stop for me will be March 24 at the Quinte West Seedy Saturday in Trenton.

The busiest spot was the seed exchange tables:

Seed Exchange table at Picton Seedy Saturday - 1006 a.m.

Seed Exchange table just after opening…

Seed Exchange table at Picton Seedy Saturday - 1017 a.m.

Seed Exchange table 10 minutes later…

Fuller Native Plant Nursery was there – I’ve written about this great Belleville nursery before; it’s where I purchased my first Echinacea pallida and Silphium perfoliatum seeds two years ago.

There were lots and lots of heritage, hard to find and unusual seeds available, and a number of booths with seed and gardening related stuff.

Thyme Again at Picton Seedy Saturday

Lorraine from Thyme Again Gardens had seeds, condiments and spices from their organic farm in Carrying Place.

Hawthorn Herbals at Picton Seedy Saturday

Registered herbalist Tamara from Hawthorn Herbals  had a variety of herb related products and was talking about some of the really interesting workshops she’ll be running this year.

Green Wheel Farm with sunfloweer sprouts at Pictin Seedy Saturday

Green Wheel Farms and a tray of sunflower sprouts.  They had a variety of micro greens including cabbage, mustard and pea and are keen to share the story of their Belleville off-grid (ie bicycle powered), sustainable farming operation that uses reclaimed urban land to help educate and provide micro greens to local schools.

A Face in the Crowd

A Face in the Crowd

I met up with my friend Sylvia yesterday at the Picton Seedy Saturday event and took a few pictures of her perusing the displays and selecting seeds for her garden.  I can’t remember if, in this shot, she is engrossed in conversation with a volunteer from the Prince Edward County Horticultural Society, or puzzling over something on their display table.  I think it captures the feel of this week’s Photo Challenge.

A Face in the Crowd

Six-On-Saturday – still winter!

Joining in the fun with six things in my garden today, with thanks to The Propagator for this witty idea!  Most contributors to this theme are showing images of spring — here in my part of Canada it’s still winter.  It was -14 Celsius overnight, although much of the snow may well be gone next weekend as the experts are calling for a lot of rain and highs almost double digits in the coming days.

Amaryllis February 17 2018

Indoors first – this Amaryllis (Hippeastrum) was given to me about seven years ago and it keeps coming back.  I let it sit on the southeast facing porch all summer, then stop watering and bring it in to a dark room and let it go dormant for a few months before starting to water again indoors in December.

forced Crocus February 17 2018

My first forced bulbs in many years; I put some Crocus in a paper bag in the fridge at the beginning of October, then planted them just after Christmas, keeping them in the fridge.  I pulled them out two weeks ago and here they are!

dwarf conifers on limestone boulder February 17 2018

There are three tiny conifers growing in natural pockets on this huge limestone boulder – two Juniper varieties and a cedar (Thuja).  The seeds must have just blown in because I certainly had nothing to do with it!

Horse Chestnut bud February 17, 2018

I’m hoping this year will bring a flower or two on my Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum).  It started from a seed at least 10 years ago but is only abut 12 feet high – not growing in the best of conditions I guess – and has yet to flower in spring.

Woodpecker food February 17 2018

Finally a pair of black and white tree shots – this one showing the woodpecker food I have around the edge of the property.

circle branches February 17 2018

Just like the shape these two curving branches make when seen from the right angle.

It’s Seedy Saturday Time!

Hollyhock seeds

Hollyhock Seeds (Alcea rosea) – I have a lot of these packaged and ready to share.

While I’ve spent the past six weeks with my head in the snow and my body in front of a cozy fire, other gardeners have been busy planning for the 2018 growing season.   Yes, I’ve received and perused a few seed catalogues, with their glowing descriptions and lovely pictures of the wonders that could show up in my garden, but I haven’t ordered anything.

That’s because for me, the growing season starts in earnest with Seedy Saturday – the day when local(ish) seed sellers and gardeners set up tables and displays in a school gym or community hall to sell or, better yet, swap seeds.  Some of my favourite annuals, perennials and vegetables have come from a Seedy Saturday table:  Echinacea pallida, Silphium perfoliatum, Amethyst Jewel cherry tomato, Alcea rosea…. the list goes on.

For County dwellers, the Picton Seedy Saturday is next Saturday, February 24!  Trenton is March 24, Cobourg March 17, Kingston March 10… You can check out Seedy Saturday dates for the whole province (or country) on the Seeds of Diversity website — in fact, check out the whole site.  It has a ton of great information about seed saving and starting.

In the Toronto area – the first Seedy Saturday is this Saturday at the Toronto Botanical Gardens.Others, from Scarborough to Etobicoke and points in between,  follow throughout February and March.

Often these events are more than just tables of seeds – there are educational displays, talks by professionals and lots of information sharing.  It really is the perfect opportunity to get the gardening juices flowing after a long cold winter, to meet and share stories with other enthusiastic gardeners and to discover new plant varieties.

So mark you calendar, I hope to see you there!

Amethyst Jewel cherry tomato

Amethyst Jewel cherry tomato – started from Seedy Saturday seeds

Echinacea pallida July 8 2017

Pale Purple Coneflower – Echinacea pallida – started from Seedy Saturday seeds

Silphium perfoliatum July 29 2017

Cup Plant – Silphium perfoliatum – started from Seedy Saturday seeds

 

What I Learned Today – Blue Eggs

what-makes-blue-eggs-blue

image from FreshEggsDaily.com

 

I don’t keep chickens.  Yet.  My neighbours do, and my other neighbours used to, and I love eating the fresh eggs they’ve provided me over the years.  I love the rich yellow yolks and the flavour so different from supermarket eggs, and I really, really love the different colours in a basket of farm fresh eggs when the eggs come from different chicken breeds.

There’s a great website called Fresh Eggs Daily and in  this week’s article, Lisa Steele explains why some chickens produce white eggs, others brown, others blue, green, pink and so on.

Turns out all eggs start out white.  Pigment gets added by specific breeds of chicken as the egg goes down the chute (aka oviduct).  Brown eggs have the pigment added near the end of the journey so it stays on the surface of the egg (meaning the inside is white).  Blue eggs has pigment added early on, giving it time to penetrate the entire shell.  The genes of various types of chicken determines how much pigment is added, which accounts for various shades of brown or blue.  Other colours of eggs (green, pink) are produced by brown egg chickens and blue egg chickens that have been cross bred.

Not really about gardening, I know, unless you want to get me started about how free range chickens can really wreak havoc in a garden, as told by the neighbour who no longer keeps them!

Variations on a Theme – dipped in frost

Echinacea purpurea frosty seedheads January 28 2018

A multitude of Echinacea purpurea seedheads.

It was a brilliant weekend on The County – just above freezing during the day, just below freezing at night, a bit of rain late Saturday, a lot of sun on Sunday.  Pretty perfect.

Sunday morning there was a very light frost covering everything;  I went out just before the sun hit and melted it away.

Veronica 'Whitley's Speedwell' January 28 2018

Rolling mini hills of Veronica ‘Whitley’s Speedwell’

Cotoneaster leaves January 29 2018

Cotoneaster leaves dipped in frost – January 28 2018

 

Variations on a Theme

What the Bunnies Eat

We have lots of rabbits around the County.  I see them every year, all summer long,  hopping into the tall grass along side roads, or in the middle of the driveway at night, eyes bright and ears tall in the headlights before they disappear into the shadows.

What I mostly see in winter are trails in the snow, sometimes ending at the base of a shrub, where the paw prints become muddled with their pellets and half eaten branches.  In past years I’ve surrounded the tastier shrubs with cut buckthorn branches – one of the very few positive uses I will grudgingly ascribe to this invasive and really annoying shrub.  I didn’t bother this past fall because the past two winters have been mild – rabbits had more appealing choices to nibble on.  This year, with a return to normal snow falls, the varmints have targeted the tender young bark and dormant buds of their favourite woody plants.

Also targeted, interestingly enough, have been two purple kales – leaves and stalks – but not a green kale.  Here’s a photo of them in September and one from last week.  You can see the naked stalks of the purple kale stalk but the green one has simply died with nary a nibble.  Weird eh?

 

 

Burning Bush and rabbit damage Jan 14 2018

Burning Bush – Euonymus alatus – the usual target of hungry rabbits in the back field.  No need for me to prune, rabbits do it all.

 

IMGP2829_edited-1

Korean Spice Viburnum – Viburnum carlesii – a new target this year.

End Note… Also seen last weekend —bits of rabbit fur, blood, guts….I think the local coyote  may have discovered his or her own source of food this winter; perhaps my shrubs are safe after all…

Pruning Time!

Mid winter is often considered the best time to prune fruit trees:

  • the tree is dormant so sap isn’t running;
  • the cold means insects and fungal diseases aren’t going to enter the cutting wound;
  • there’s no leaves so you can clearly see the branching structure

I only have three fruit trees: dwarf sour cherry (Romeo, Juliette and Crimson Passion, all from the ‘Romance’ series developed by the University of Saskatchewan),  now entering their fourth growing season after planting.  The first year there wasn’t much growth – I figure roots were getting established.  The next year there were a few blossoms and some growth – I cut off two or three small branches last winter.  Last year there was a lot of vegetative growth – branches going every which way (maybe that’s why these particular trees are called ‘bush’ cherries) plus a lot of flower blossoms.  No cherries though – some started to form but then fell off while still green; I think it was just too wet last spring.

I needed to prune though and Sunday was the perfect day — not too cold and the snow depth had gone down enough to see where I wanted to cut.  Plus, I wanted to spend as much time outdoors in the sun as possible.  My goal was to leave branches  that grow up, not down, sideways and diagonally.  Here is the results for one of them – I hope I didn’t cut off too much.

 

Sour Cherry before pruning January 21 2018

Dwarf Sour Cherry before pruning

 

 

Sour Cherry after pruning January 21 2018

Dwarf Sour Cherry after pruning

Winter Sculptures

Part of the beauty of winter is discovering shapes, textures, colours and relationships in plants that you can’t see in the growing season.    Tree trunks growing in weird and wonderful directions.  Fat buds waiting to burst.  Bronzed coniferous foliage or bright red deciduous branches.  The weathered leaf of this Cup Plant (Silphium perforliatum) is an example.  From afar it’s just a deaf leaf.  But up close, for me, on a silent, cold, frosty morning, it’s a mini sculpture.  In colour or in black and white.

silphium perfoliatum weather leaf January 2018 b & wsilphium perfoliatum weather leaf January 2018

Silence
Weathered

Elegant Edible Enclosure

I know – the title of this post is a stretch – but I do love a catchy tautogram!

 

LO Congress January 9 2018 011 formal garden of edibles

Kohlrabi, greens and Thyme growing in a raised bed

I’m always jealous of gardeners who can maintain a perfectly weed and disease free veggie bed beyond the end of June.  You’ve seen pictures of them in glossy magazines (paper or virtual…) – lovely potagers or kitchen gardens, colourful, bountiful and beautiful.  Something most of us, I suspect, fail to achieve beyond mid summer.

While at the Landscape Ontario trade show last week I spotted this raised bed.  Raised beds aren’t new, I know, but it caught my eye because its  shape is sophisticated yet it’s being used to grow edibles.  If the walls here were made with natural stone instead of the more affordable decorative concrete block, this would be at home in a backyard in the toniest neighbourhood in town.  If this was my raised bed, I’d likely have added Nasturtiums for colour (still edible though) and to soften the edges – but that would change the whole look, wouldn’t it?  More to the point, a veggie bed like this just begs to be regularly weeded, harvested, watered, pinched back – all the things that can often get overlooked or ‘put off ’til tomorrow’  when the plants are far below eye level.

Kudos to the students at the Niagara Parks School of Horticulture for building this, demonstrating that  ‘formal’ can also be useful – and for bringing your mini Monarch house to the show.

What I learned today – Dipsacus & Cynoglossum

I follow quite a few gardening related blogs, websites and social media feeds and I’m constantly learning new techniques, questioning the validity of horticultural practice and discovering new plants and products.  I love it when something pops up unexpectedly, or an answer to a question I had never thought to ask suddenly appears.

On Sunday both happened within minutes. Instead of just looking through my normal Facebook feed, I clicked around and selected ‘Most Recent.’  Up popped an entirely different set of posts: pages that the Facebook algorithm would not normally make visible to me without specifically searching for it.  There was news from friends I thought had dropped off the face of the earth, only to realize they had simply dropped off the list of people Facebook thinks I should see.  Likewise pages from organizations and groups I actually DID want to hear from – including one of the pages that help people identify plants.

The first post was from someone in northern California who wanted the ID of a plant I see often around here. A type of thistle (I thought) that has beautiful mauve flowers followed by a striking seed head.  Turns out it’s not a thistle at all, but rather it’s called Dipsacus follonum, more commonly known as Teasel (or Teazle).  This is an invasive biennial native to Europe, Asia and Northern Africa but naturalized throughout most of North America.  The first year’s growth produces a rosette of glossy deep green leaves that are covered in soft spines (it’s thought the plant may be carnivorous).  In the second year a spike is sent up that produces one to many thistle-like flowers.  Tiny seeds spread readily and although it’s generally considered a weed, I find it very easily controllable either by mowing or pulling.  It’s an important winter food source for the European Goldfinch and, to my eye, it’s quite beautiful. Here it is in my garden (after blooming) a few years ago.

Thistles January 1 2010

Seedheads of Dipsacus follonum, more commonly known as Teasel (or Teazle)

A bit further down on my ‘Most Recent’ feed, from the same group, was someone asking to ID a lovely blue flower I had in abundance two years ago.  The flower is similar to Forget-Me-Not (Myosotis) but grows on a one to two foot high stem and lacks the splash of yellow in the eye of the flower.  I had tried to ID this plant when it popped up with no luck, until this morning, when there it was:  Cynoglossum amabile, with a common name Chinese forget-me-not.  I think they appeared in my garden after I spread seeds that had been distributed by some forgotten charity.  Here they are – such a beautiful blue, eh?

wasp & forget me not

Cynoglossum amabile,  common name Chinese forget-me-not, growing from seed scattered in this very weathered fountain basin.  See the wasp nest?

So there you have it.  Two plants identified and one lesson re-learned:  remember to more regularly switch my Facebook feed to Most Recent!

 

Searching for Colour in Winter – Staghorn Sumac

I was pleasantly surprised recently to discover that Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina) is native to my part of the world.  There’s so much of it around here I just assumed it, like all the despicable buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica), was introduced.   The University of Guelph can provide a lot of information about this small tree, and it has a lot of positive traits, including providing food for birds.  My favourite thing about Sumac is the leaf colour in autumn and how the flowers turn and stay such a brilliant scarlet all winter.  It realy is nature’s perfect antidote to an otherwise grey and white season.

Sumac Jan 14 2018

2018 – Plant Trends

I love it when various gardening associations or plant companies come up with their picks for “Plant of the Year.”  If you haven’t already noticed, get ready to see  gardening pages, sites, tweets, Instagrams (is that a real word?), Pinterests (again, can the word be used as a noun?) loaded with images of ‘The’ plant of 2018.  Could be an annual, a shrub, a perennial….

The decision to designate often appears to be made by the large growers – the folks who propagate and sell plants – or by a plant association.

For example, this year the Perennial Plant Association in the U.S. says it’s Allium ‘Millenium.’  This is an interesting plant, and not just for the unusual way ‘Millenium’ is spelled.  No spring ephemeral here; the glossy green leaves won’t die back late spring but instead remain throughout the growing season.

Allium-millenium-Ornamental-Onion1

Allium ‘Millenium’

The flower-bearing scapes appear mid to late summer, rising above the 12 – 15 inch leaves, and produce 2” purple globes that are said to be huge pollinator magnets.

 

The plant company Proven Winners, on the other hand, has chosen a new Heuchera – Primo ‘Black Pearl’ (a cultivar of Heuchera villosa) as its choice.  (They also have an annual of the year and a shrub of the year – Petunia Supertunia ‘Bordeaux’ and Weigela ‘Spilled Wine,’ respectively. All of these cultivars are trademarked.)

Across the pond in Germany, the Association of Perennial Gardeners has picked Hemerocallis as its Perennial of the Year.  Not any particular cultivar – the entire species!  I like that – no need to choose amongst colour, form, size or even how many chromosomes there are.  Any daylily is great!  For the Field to Table set, the Association for the Conservation of Crop Diversity (VEN) thinks the common rutabaga is the right choice, and wants “to share the knowledge of this classic vegetable with the world.”

89885

Hosta ‘World Cup’

 

The American Hosta Growers Association has decided that ‘World Cup’ is the Hosta of the year.  This is a ‘Komodo Dragon’ x ‘Superbowl’ cultivar that “forms an upright clump of deeply cupped, moderately wavy, deeply corrugated, bright gold foliage.”  It has purple flowers, if anyone is interested.

 

 

 

 

And for you rose lovers, the cherry-red

gallery-1498410043-lovestruck-rose-of-the-year-2018

‘Lovestruck’ rose

Lovestruck (Dicommatac) rose has been named Rose of the Year in Great Britain.  This is a lightly scented, double-petalled floribunda rose, bred in Ireland, and said to have ‘outstanding health and vigour.’  At least in the British Isles.

 

 

 

 

 

Plants of the Year.  At best, a great way to pique interest and introduce a new species or cultivar to the home garden.  At worst, a marketing gimmick for fussy but pretty flowers that don’t live up to their promise.

2017 – The Island Evolution

January 21 2017

From January 21, 2017 – trunk of a small Paperbark Maple (Acer griseum) – someday to be a focal point on the Island

Earlier this year, during a radio interview, the head of the Toronto Botanical Garden described gardening as a type of performance art.  He was right, of course.  That’s one of the fascinations of a garden – watching it change day to day, week to week, month to month and year to year.

Sure, you can create a space that never changes, using stone walls or pathways to maintain rigid boundaries, pruning hedges and shrubs the same way year after year. But even then, if you have trees, they will grow and conditions will change.

I, like most gardeners, like an evolving space.  I enjoy the four seasons, the unexpected seedlings, moving perennials, planting bulbs, deciding whether to keep a growing shrub or prune it back or maybe even remove it.

The largest micro garden on our property is The Island.  I’ve documented its changing patterns in 2017 – you can see it by clicking the tab above that says ’12 Months on an Island’ – or by clicking the link below.  The Island will keep changing in 2018 and beyond and I’ll keep taking pictures of it.  Hopefully my skills with a camera will also evolve!

https://wordpress.com/page/countygardening.wordpress.com/2366

 

Lovin’ the Sun!

These last days of 2017 have been really really cold but mostly bright and sunny. I’ve enjoyed bundling up and being outdoors snowshoeing or running along our well ploughed side roads while the garden hibernates under a think blanket of insulating snow. I’m experimenting with black and white photography – it’s ideal for this time of year I think.

Sunbather December 28 2017

pathway to the composter December 28 2017

Pathway to the composter! Garlic raised beds at the back.

Six Favourites from 2017

Almost two weeks left of 2017, lots of time for more photos and gardening thoughts…but here anyway are a few of my favourite photos from this past year, a year I learned a lot  about taking pictures, gardening and beautiful Prince Edward County.

Monarch on Zinnia Sept 11 2017 1

This truly was Year of the Butterfly – we saw loads more than usual and their favourite  feast was the giant Zinnias I started from seed.

bee on Caryopteris x clandonensis, Sept 6 2017

There were also a lot more bees and other flying pollinators, such as this one looking for nectar in the Bluebeard {Caryopteris x clandonensis) shrub by the patio.

Echinacea pallida July 2 2017

These Pale Purple Coneflowers (Echinacea pallida) are special because I started them from seed and they survived their first year in the 2016 drought.  They bloom several weeks before Echinacea purpurea.

Zucchinni forest Aug 19 2017

These yellow zucchini not only tasted delicious but had gigantic leaves – many more than three feet across.  Made me feel I was gardening in a rain forest!

PEC haystacks Aug 19 2017 2

This field is about four kilometres from our house – I run or drive by it frequently – it has one of the best cloud-views around.  I took this shot from a moving car, and I love the blurriness of it all.

Shileau September 16 2017

Going down the road with Shileau on a warm late summer morning.  A strange  but beautiful photo taken with my phone.This is probably tops on my list.

2017 Favorites

 

Tree Transformation

Paper Birch November

One of my favourite trees is the Paper Birch (Betula papyrifera).  Although some people give it a pass, saying it’s ‘messy’ or ‘short lived’ or ‘disease prone’ I say “Who Cares?”   Just look at  the gorgeous white bark, and marvel at how layers will peels off, only to reveal a new surface even more brilliant than the last.

I especially like to watch as young trees, with grey brown bark that makes them very similar in appearance to other Betula, start to turn white.  You can see in this photo the trunk on the left is still quite dark, while the larger trunk in front, older perhaps by just a year, is revealing its bright mature colour.

Yes, in our (relatively) warm County it may live only 30 to 40 years, that’s quite possibly longer than I’ll be around!   And it may get attacked by one bug or another – but very few trees these days are resistant to all insects.  And it may indeed shed twigs and, gasp, leaves in fall.  But really, who cares?
Transformation

If a polygonatum falls in the forest…

Decay - Solomon Seal Nov 18 2017 c

Solomon Seal is probably my favourite shade tolerant perennial.  It has graceful arching stems with beautiful, dainty hanging flowers in spring that bees love; the leaves stay dark green all summer; it’s extremely drought tolerant and, in the autumn, everything turns first deep yellow then a beautiful orange/tan before leaves and sometimes whole stems collapse to the ground.

I never ‘clean up’ this garden  – I let everything decompose as it falls.  And then I wait for the new shoots to poke through this natural mulch and start the cycle again.

 

Solomon Seal

Polygonatum biflorum with its June flowers

Transformation

Blowin’ in the Wind

Grasses in the Wind Oct 28 2017

I’ve had this tall grass for years – name long forgotten – and have divided it and moved clumps all over.  I’m re-learning how to use a SLR camera – this time a digital one – and here is the result of an experiment with a long exposure and a moving object.

Experimental

 

Little Promises

Lilac 2 flower bud Oct 27 2017

It’s official – winter is nigh

Snowfall has come, dark clouds are high

Leaves are all gone leaving branches so bare

Hoping these buds bring flowers to the air

Next spring.

 

Magnolia Bud November 4 2017

Magnolia acuminata flower bud

 

Korean Spicebush November 4 2017

Viburnum carlesii – Korean Spicebush flower bud

Aronia melanocarpa flower bud Oct 27 2017

Aronia melanocarpa – Black Chokeberry flower buds

Forsythia flower bud Oct 27 2017

Forsythia ovata flower buds

 

*** These photos were taken about a week ago before the first frost and fist dusting of snow; today, almost all the leaves are either gone or very very brown…

 

 

The Artifact

Burning Bush October 27 2017 v1

Many years ago I received, as a birthday gift, what was immediately labelled the artifact.  It’s an ancient manure spreader, purchased from a nearby farmer and slowly, while I was away for the day, pulled by tractor along the road and into our back field.  What a surprise to come upon it!

I loved it then and still do – and have experimented with many ways to display it:  letting wild raspberries, Goldenrod and other tall natives grow up in the middle; planting asparagus along one side; allowing it become almost entirely hidden by uncut grasses – just a corner or two peeking out.

I think I’ve settled on this – two Burning Bushes (Euonymus alatus) purchased and planted because the giver of the artifact loves them, and mow down everything else.  I love this view of the artifact, especially in late October into November when the bush leaves do indeed appear to be in flames.  I know design theory says to plant things in threes but in this particular instance, I think the third similar object is the artifact itself – its rusting spokes, wheels and body has become the third point in this triangle.
Peek

A Last Hurrah

There’s not much left blooming in the garden these last few days in October – the only thing looking halfway decent are the patches of sweet Alyssum.  The huge Zinnias, colourful Cannas and even the merry Marigolds are either withering away with the cold nights or had to be pulled to make way for bulb planting.  (I know – a lot of people really hate Marigolds.  I, on the other hand, really LOVE them and grow them every year; next year’s seeds are already dried and waiting in tiny envelopes for April germination.)

There are still a few delightful surprises though.

reblooming Iris Oct 28 2017

This white Iris is STILL blooming!!!!!  There’s a half dozen flower stalks and a few buds left that have survived our light frost.  Amazing!!!

Blanket Flower October 27 2017

I took a few Gaillarda (Blanket Flower) seedheads off a rocky slope in Toronto’s Tommy Thompson Park many many years ago, and have tried to grow them all over the property.  Not surprisingly, the only place they have really thrived and come back year after year is on a similar rocky slope!  No compost, leaf mould, mulch or watering wanted!  They bloom non stop from mid summer until…

Shasta Daisy Oct 19 2017

I bought a little 10 cm pot of Shasta Daisies last spring and, stupidly, tried to make two plants by splitting it down the middle.  Neither half was happy.  They appeared to just wither away over the course of the season.  I left them alone though and this year, with no coaxing and quite by surprise, they came up bigger and better.  Also a surprise is how short this variety is – a reminder to NEVER throw away plant tags until I’ve recorded everything written! 

Veronica Oct 28 2017 v1

I have no idea what variety of Veronica this is (again with the tag!!!) – last year it was a ground hugging rosette of leaves that spread quite a bit.  This year it threw up tall spikes and then the little flowers, a perfect blue, started to appear and bloom, from the bottom up.  It’s been three months now!  And they’re still attracting the last desperate bees needing to top off before winter.

Finally, another Veronica – Whitley’s Speedwell.  It holds a special place in my heart because the original small clump was given me by a dear lady in Toronto many many years ago.  A large patch of it was growing up a slope by the sidewalk in front of her house and I admired it year round.  Its original spot in my garden is still going strong and growing year by year.  It’s generally drought tolerant (I’ve never watered it) although last year by the end of the summer drought only the fringes survived (it all grew back this year).   But I’m really impressed by my new patch – started with just four hand-full’s pulled up from the original, it has now filled in to border the side patio.

AND – the best part – it’s evergreen.  ALSO the best part is this new patch flowered en masse as usual in the spring but continued to send up dozens of individual, tiny blooms all year.  Last week, for some reason, it just burst out again with hundreds of flowers.  Weird and wonderful!

Whitley's Speedwell closeup Oct 27 2017

Veronica Whitley’s Speedwell

Rounded

I think this Lilium lancifolium (a true Tiger Lily) is my favourite Lily – it’s growing in the shade of a large Basswood (Tilia americana) multiplying quite happily and is a welcome splash of colour mid August in an otherwise drab corner.  The rounded petals are a perfect match for this week’s photo challenge!

Rounded
Rounded

Tropicals in Toronto

It was a delightful surprise to see these planted outside a low rise apartment building in   Toronto where nights are about to get very chilly!  I love how the arching branches of this palm and the rounded bracts of the two Bromeliades contrast with the sharp lines and corners of the brick wall.

Tropicals in Toronto

Rounded