What I Learned Today – Stachys – another kind of corn

Lamb's Ear - Stachys byzantina June 16 2018

A good friend and wonderful gardener told me last weekend that she cuts off the flower stalks from Lamb’s Ears – Stachys byzantina!  I was a bit aghast, but she said she found the flowers a distraction when the main attraction was the soft fuzzy leaves that form a woolly groundcover. 

Turns out she’s not not alone – the description of this plant provided by the Missouri Botanical Garden says a lot of people cut off the flower stalks!  This practice is common amongst Hosta growers, I know, and I’ve never understood it there either.  (Once, I was at a lecture given by a magazine garden writer and she said Hosta flowers are insignificant and should be cut off to let people focus their attention on the foliage. She was a bit upset when I disagreed with her…but that’s another story!)

Hmmmm.  I love Hosta foliage, but I also love their flowers – they can be white, lavender, dark purple, sometimes sweetly scented, appearing at various times depending on cultivar.  The only downside to Hosta flowers is the need to cut the stalks back after flowering, and Hosta can produce a lot of flower stalks!  But the same could be said about a lot of other perennials as well.

As with Hosta, the proponents of cutting back Lamb’s Ear flower stalks contend that by doing so, more energy will flow to the foliage and the ‘creeping stems that root as they go along the ground,’ spreading the plant and making it a true ground cover.  They also say because the flowers are so ‘insignificant’ they are of little aesthetic use so just get rid of them!

Again, hmmmmmm.  As the photo above shows, the flowers, while small, are really interesting.  I love the silky threads that grow all over the flower stalk and complement the fuzzy leaves that make it such a pleasing plant to touch and stroke.

When happily situated (ie full sun, very good drainage such as on a slope, no excessive watering), Lamb’s Ear will spread a lot; if you let the flowers go to seed they will also spread great distances but the roots are fairly shallow and easy enough to pull if they wind up in an unwanted area.

What I learned today?  Two things, really.

The first is how it got its name:  the botanical name – genus Stachys – comes from the Greek for Ear of Corn – quite appropriate! Byzantina refers to its native range – the Caucasus mountain area of Turkey and Iran.

The second thing I learned, again, from the Missourie Botanical site,  is how to pronounce Stachys:  it’s like saying ‘stake-ees,’ not ‘stack-iss,’ as I’ve been saying for years!

Lamb's Ear & Burning Bush

This Lamb’s Ear appeared with no help from me — the only other place in the yard I have it growing is about 300 feet away.  It’s helping create a micro garden with this Burning Bush, spring bulbs and, on the other side of the bush, a bunch or parsley I planted to both eat and provide habitat for Swallowtail butterflies.

Lamb's Ears

Why would you want to cut down these Lamb’s Ear flower stalks when the colour and texture complement so nicely the Allium ‘Purple Sensation?’ 

Six on Saturday – 5 Peonies and an Iris

mauve Peony June 15 2018 sm

# 1 – I have no recollection of planting such a spectacular double peony.  I haven’t played with the colour on this shot – it’s a bit pinker in person but the bright afternoon sun yesterday translated into this marvelous mauve.

I was going to write about vegetables today — all appearances to the contrary I do grow a few in the garden.  I’m not very good at it though so I’ve been putting it off, and when I walked about yesterday and realized that the peonies were at their height of glory I decided to delay once again so that we can revel in the colour, fragrance and mystery of these giant, wondrous blooms.  Plus  a shot of a solitary ‘black’ Iris growing on a hill surrounded by daisies.

If you’d like to see more Sixes from around the world, head on over to The Propagator, who devised this wonderful theme.

#2 – I stumbled across  this solitary Duchesse de Nemours in the back garden.  It’s the only peony I have with a cultivar I know!  I must have planted it years ago in a small garden that has since been totally overtaken by tall grasses and goldenrod.  The photo on the let was taken mid afternoon, on the right a few hours later at dusk.  Lovely how the petals close around the flower, even with such a large bloom.

large red Peony June 15 2018 sm

# 3a – Red peony # 1 – wide open, about six inches across, stout stems. Gorgeous.

red Peony and daisy June 15 2018 sm

#3b – Red peony # 2 – I think the same cultivar but in a different part of the yard, not fully open, but looking great next to a patch of daisies.

pale pink Peony June 15 2018 sm

#4 – Perhaps my favourite – single and simple with a light, distinctive fragrance.  Perfect in a vase.

pink Peony June 15 2018 sm

#5 – Another pink peony – slightly pinker, more petals, not as much fragrance.

black Iris June 15 2018

#6 – this lovely tall bearded Iris in the daisy patch.

Comings and Goings

It’s that miraculous time of year where, every day it seems, something new is starting to bloom while something else is starting to fade away.

Peonies are in full bloom everywhere now.  Yes, they’re gorgeous when open; but really – don’t you just have a tiny gasp upon spotting a perfect flower bud a day or so before fully open, perhaps early in the morning, with dew still beading the smooth petals?

Openig pink peony with morning dew smOpenig red peony with morning dew sm

And is there anything more exciting than realizing that, in a week or so, these tiny, individual flowers will be joined by hundreds of other, identical, flowers to form the most beautiful ‘smoke,’ providing the common name for Purple Smoke Tree, ever created by nature?

Purple Smoke Tree opening flowers June 9 2018 sm

And at the other end of this cycle, an oriental poppy fully open is spectacular, its petals like crepe paper, its colours so vibrant and alive… but there’s something somehow reassuring in the flopsy, flouncy appearance of a poppy in decline.  Petals waft, one by one, to the garden floor; the seed head expands; colours mute and descend in a comforting exhale of energy.

end of days for Oriental Poppy June 9 2018

The humongous, disorganized, messy flowers of an umbrella Magnolia evolve quickly from an upright, phallic creamy white spike to an other-worldly bloom before the petals start to brown at the edge, disorganize and fall to leave an enormous seed head.

end of days for Umbrella Magnolia flower June 9 2018

In autumn, it’s simply goings; in June, comings and goings.

Butterfly Wednesday

1st Swallowtail Butterfly of the year June 8 2018 sm

I’m so glad that a few of my Lilacs decided to bloom this year – otherwise I likely wouldn’t have seen this first Swallowtail butterfly flitting around the garden, searching for food, so early in the year.  Last summer the garden was full of them – they seemed to love all the zinnias I had planted, and perhaps the parsley as well – I understand they like to lay eggs in parley and I did see caterpillars in the larger clumps.

1st Swallowtail Butterfly of the year June 8 2018 b


Six on Saturday – Awash in Colour!

Oriental Poppy in the wind June 8 2018 sm

Oriental Poppy blowin’ in the wind

Late spring/early summer brings an entirely new palette of colour, texture and shape to the garden.  What was flat with stands of bulbs poking through brown soil or mulch is now rolling waves of greenery crested by a multitude of different experiences.  Things are growing so quickly every day brings a new wonder.  Here are six wonders from my garden today (and a few from yesterday).  If you’d like to see more Sixes from around the world, head on over to The Propagator, who devised this wonderful theme.

1:  I love this oriental poppy – this one is larger than the others in my garden and has  lovely black highlights.  On the underside of the petals you can see black veins; inside pure black.

2: Bridlewreath Spirea are quite spectacular all over this year.  So many flowers not a hint of a leaf can be seen.  I took two photos of the same bush – one yesterday mid afternoon (on the left), with the bright sun all but blinding me, and the other early this morning.   This is an example, I guess, of why all the ‘How To’ books say the morning light is so much better.

3: The Fernleaf Peony finished blooming a while ago – now the other herbaceous peonies have started.  Here’s the first of mine:

first Peony June 8 2018 sm sq

4: The white tall bearded Iris I wrote about last week are still going strong.  Adding to their splendour are other varieties:

hill of Iris June 8 2018 sm


Violet iris in the sun June 8 2018 sm sq b

this truly is the colour of an amazing Iris that found its way into my garden.

5: Siberian Iris:

Siberian Iris June 8 2018 sm

6: Finally – Lupins are still going strong, bees are still loving them:

bee and Lupin June 9 2018 sm

Six on Saturday – Spring becomes Summer

buttercup, Iris, Lamb's Ear, Columbine June 2 2018 sm

1: Buttercup is a weed, right?  Not here, when it’s joined by Siberian Iris, Lamb’s Ear and Columbine.

It’s seasonably cool today but a week of really warm temperatures and yesterday’s rain has given the yard and gardens a lushness (euphemism for rampant growth, overgrown, grass needs cutting again…) that is sometimes hard to take in.  It’s like living in a temperate tropicalness.  Or a kind of tropical temperateness. Right now the Iris are in full bloom – oh my goodness…as are Lupin and Bridlewreath Spirea.

It was hard to chose six shots to represent the garden today – but here are my wonders.  To see more collections of Six this Saturday, head on over to The Propagator‘s site.  He’s the guy who started it all!

white Iris May 28 2018 closeup small

2: Just when you think it’s a white Iris, you notice that the fuzzy bits (the beard) are actually yellow!  I love the veins in the petals too (on this Iris, technically called falls)…such a beautiful pattern.

white Lilac bush May 28 2018

3a and 3b: I wrote last week about how my Lilacs, for unknown reasons,  produced next to no blooms this year.  That’s not entirely true – this white variety, one of the very first shrubs I purchased and planted, is quite pretty.  I transplanted it last spring from the back field, where it spent alternating years growing and dying back (hence its continued small size) to the Island bed, where I think it’s a lot happier.  Lesson learned: don’t hesitate to transplant things for either aesthetic or cultural (growing culture) reasons.

white Lilac blossoms May 228 2018 small

Aronia melanocarpa flowers June 2 2018 b sq

4: Aronia melanocarpa – Back Chokeberry.  Lovely berries for the birds because I never get to them on time!

Blue Spruce new growth June 2 2018 sm


5a and 5b: I love how conifers of all kind send out bright new growth in the spring.  I’m told the current year’s growth is dependent on conditions the previous year.  Judging by the various spruce (like this Picea pungens glauca), pine and fir in the yard last year was good!



Shileau and Blue Spruce June 2 2018

Shileau’s enjoying the morning sun!

Solomon Seal June 2 2018 sm

6:  It’s also a good year for Solomon Seal (Polygonatum) – although it generally reaches two or two and a half feet this year I have some that are almost five feet high.  Remarkable.  Tropical temperateness.

All Time Favourites…

For nearly eight years WordPress – the site that hosts this and millions of other blog posts from around the world – has issued a weekly themed photo challenge.  As of this week the challenges are ending, and bloggers are posting some of their own favourites as a salute to what was a popular theme. Here are a few of my favourite photographs from the past year or so of blogging from my Prince Edward County garden.

All-Time Favorites

Delights and Disappointments in my Spring Garden

Leucojum and Tulips May 21 2018

One of this year’s delights has been the Leucojum gravateye.  The nodding white flowers kind of take you by surprise when they finally appear.  The bulbs send up more stalks every year and this spring there has been quite a show.

Every gardener realizes, almost from day one, that there are no certainties when it comes to predicting how well things will grow.  You can have, on paper, the perfect soil, perfect amount of sunlight, perfect temperatures, perfect moisture levels and still come up with a hugely disappointing crop yield or flower display.

On the other hand, you can wake up one morning and discover a shrub that has never before bloomed; a vegetable that is huge enough to win a medal at the County Fair, a patch of Tulips that has a colour you want to bathe in.

That’s the wonderful thing about gardening – what makes it an interesting and, for the inquiring mind, never a dull moment activity.  Perhaps more so in climates with distinct growing seasons, you never really know what’s going to pop up year to year.  Here are a few of my delights and disappointments so far in 2018.

Delight: I purchased on a whim three Exochorda – Pearlbush – at a tree and shrub auction a few years ago.  I didn’t have high hopes and thus I wasn’t disappointed when the rabbits found them and, every winter, nibbled back all the tips to the point I pretty much forgot all about them.  This spring, lo and behold, the rabbits left them alone and for the first time I have flowers!

Pearl Bush Exochorda May 28 2018

Exochorda – Pearlbush ‘The Bride’.  A delightful surprise!


Lilac with no flowers May 28 2018

A flowerless lilac….

Disappointment: Although a few on mu lilacs are blooming wonderfully, as usual, the stars of the garden have each produced just a few flower clusters.  Lots of leaves – no flowers.  The usual reasons for this are pruning too late in the year or fertilizing (lilacs generally do not want additional fertilizer, especially something high in nitrogen).  I did neither last year so I’m not sure what’s going on.  One site says very dry summer weather ‘keeps buds from forming properly’ and also suggests a soil test to check the pH.  This I will do.


Two summers ago a friend brought over a bag of reblooming white Iris,  I planted them – no blooms that autumn but the following spring and fall they flowered nicely.  It looks like they’re happy because look at this swath of flower stalks that, any moment now, will burst into a huge wave of white:

white Iris waiting for the right moment to open May 28 2018

Anticipated delight:  reblooming white Iris

Two HUGE disappointments: shrubs that die, or die back.  I planted in a sheltered spot a lovely small Paperbark Maple (Acer griseum) a few years ago and it seemed to be doing well.  I’ve written about it before – it really is a favourite because of its lovely exfoliating bark and its deep red fall colours.  This year, after a not particularly harsh winter, the entire top 3/4 is dead.  This tree wannabe is destined to remain a small shrub.

dead Caryopteris May 28 2018

dead Caryopteris…so sad

At least it’s still alive though.  My mini Bluebeard hedge (Caryopteris x clandonensis) – which I loved to sit in front of while listening to bees in August – completely bit the dust.  Three years of luscious violet flowers have come to an end.  This hedge was a late summer focal point of the side micro garden,  attracting pollinators and right in front of the dining room window – I’m not sure what I’ll replace it with.

I had high hopes for Allium karataviense, which I planted and promoted a lot last fall.  True, its foliage did not disappoint (see it again here), but the flower itself is a bit of a let down – somewhat anti climactic, in my opinion.

Allium karataviense flower May 28 2018 small

Allium karataviese flower – not white, not pink…somewhat of a colour muddle

Allium Globemaster, on the other hand, is shaping up to be the showstopper I had hoped.  Not fully open yet, here’s a sneak preview:

Allium Globemaster starting to open May 28 2018 b closeup

reminds me of an anemone under the sea….




Six on Saturday – Suddenly Summer

Camassia and Sorbaria May26 2018 small

Sorbaria sorbifolia ‘Sem’ & Camassia quamash.  These two are both new to me – I’m loving both the deep blue of these bulbs, native to North America and once a food staple for Indigenous Peoples’ diet, and the rosy hue on this variety of Sorbaria.

Officially we’ve nearly a month left of spring but with temps close to 30 yesterday it was suddenly shorts and sandals weather.   Most of the spring bulbs have had their days of glory, and now that the Camassia are swooning around in all their blue splendour there’s only the Alliums left to bloom (Purple Sensation has started but karataviense and the Globemasters are still swelling up).

Allium karataviense May 21 2018 closeup small

Allium karataviense.  Unique amongst the Alliums in that its striped foliage is at least as attractive and interesting as its flower – which will likely open this week.

I hope to get all my seedlings in the ground over the next three or four days – still have annuals (Cosmos, Marigolds) and lots of perennials (Liatris, Echinacea, Alcea) to plant – some may wind up being given to neighbours or the community gardens if I can’t figure out proper homes for them all here.  (That’s kind of hard to believe, but true!)

Viburnum carlesii May 20 2018 small

On still, warm days this week you could smell the fragrance from this Viburnum carlesii all over the Island garden.  The distinctive clove aroma makes me think it’s Christmas in May.  I need to plant more!

Most of my Lilac bushes have not produced very many flowers this year – I need to research why (didn’t add fertilizer; didn’t prune at all…it’s a mystery).  But I’m happy that my native Redbuds – Cercis canadensis – have survived the ravages of rabbit and deer to give us more than a few blossoms.  No fragrance, unfortunately, but it’s so neat to have watched the buds spring out from seemingly smooth hard trunks and branches and produce such lovely purply flowers.

Redbud May 26 2018

Canada Redbud – Cercis canadensis

It’s going to be a great year for Irises!  My row of re-blooming white Iris, just in its second spring, has a gazillion flowers stalks and should be spectacular in a week or so, as should the Siberian and flag Iris that seem to love the soil here, even when the summers are so dry.

Dwarf Iris and Leucojum May 26 2018 small

I transplanted a bunch of dwarf Iris – just plain yellow and purple ones – two years ago to the top of this stone ridge and they’ve hit their stride this spring.  I’ll be adding to the row a few other varieties from other parts of the garden this week, I think.

I had a Tree Peony in my previous garden.  It grew quickly and became relatively huge but it was one of many things I wasn’t able to bring with me here to the County.  It’s on my wish list for this year – I’m hoping to find one with a single, yellow flower. The large, pink, many petaled flowers on my last one often were too heavy and I needed to tie branches to each other to prevent them from snapping off when the flowers were in full bloom.  I do have  a dozen or so ‘regular’ peonies though (the blooming has just begun with the Fernleaf Peony); pictures to come in the weeks ahead!

Fern Leaf Peony May 26 2018

This beautiful Fern Leaf Peony – Paeonia tenuifolia – is always first t bloom.

Head on over to The Propagator’s site to see Six on Saturday from all around the world!

What I Learned Today – Beetle Bath

brown beetle in bird bath small

I’ve been finding these beetles making waves in my bird bath this past week.  Sometimes doing the back stroke, sometimes the dog paddle, occasionally a pair of them would be doing some sort of synchronized dance, preparing for the beetle Olympics, no doubt.

At first I was alarmed, thinking some horrible invasive species had arrived to chomp on my tender tomatoes or, even worse, my lilies.  A quick internet search revealed; however, that this is a brown chafer beetle, the adult stage of those white grubs I dig up in the grass every now and then.  I don’t much care if they chow down on the grass roots, but further on-line reading indicates they may also like to nibble of some of the things I DO care about, such as corms (hello Crocus) and perennial roots.  Hmmm.  On the other hand, they are also a food source for small mammals and, I would assume, birds.


Six on Saturday – blooms fit for a Royal Wedding

red Tulips May 18 2018 b small

I sat for many minutes yesterday afternoon, and could have spent many more, just gazing into the luscious velvety red of these most gorgeous Tulips.

Confession: there’s a gorgeous pink sunrise at the moment, but it appears the weather forecast was accurate and it’ll be raining within an hour or so; my Six photos today were taken yesterday or Wednesday.  Just as well, really, since for once, I’d rather be inside watching TV (Horrors!) than out in the garden, laying on my dew tarp taking early morning photos.  It’s Royal Wedding day in England – so as I type I’ve got an eye on the arrivals to Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding.

Cherry Blossom May 18 2018 small

I have only a dozen or so blossom’s on my dwarf cherry trees this year.  They’re pretty, nonetheless.  My trees are from the ‘Romance’ series of trees bred here in Canada, at the University of Saskatchewan.  I have a Romeo and a Juliet.

Narcissus recurvis May 18 2018 vintage camera small

Narcissus recurvis – the last of my daffodil varieties to bloom – has just started to open.  So dainty, so beautiful.  Also called Narcissus poeticus, or the Poet’s Narcissus.  Wikipedia, quoting many sources, says: “Linnaeus, who gave the flower its name, quite possibly did so because he believed it was the one that inspired the tale of Narcissus, handed down by poets since ancient times.”

Serviceberry and Rock May 16 2018 small

This Serviceberry, Amelanchier canadensis, now in full bloom behind The Rock (which I wrote about earlier this week). It’s the best year ever for my Serviceberries.  Pollinators are very happy!

Bleeding Heart May 16 2018 small

Bleeding Hearts do not do that well in my soil.  Too dry, perhaps.  Or too much limestone affecting the Ph.  Nonetheless, this one has hung on since I brought it here about five years ago.  It’s not called a Dicentra any more, but rather Lamprocapnos spectabilis.  It’s the sole species within the genus!

Shileau and F. persica May 16 2018

And finally, looking regal, here’s Shileau admiring the dark purple bells of Fritillaria persica.

That’s it for this rainy Royal Wedding day;  I wish everyone a splendid long Victoria Day weekend, with thanks to The Propagator for starting this lovely garden post theme.


Planning for Next Year’s Spring Garden

Island May 16 2018

The Island this week – lots of daffs but lots of bare spots too.  I need to plan now where to plant bulbs this October for next spring’s flowers.

I hate to say this out loud, but the window of opportunity for planning next year’s spring bulb display is rapidly closing.  Foliage from the earliest bulbs is quickly fading; foliage from the earliest perennials is quickly expanding.  Within a week or two it will be difficult to easily see where the bulb gaps are and, if you’re like me, come autumn there’s no way you’ll remember, with much accuracy, what needs planting where.

There’s a few ways to tackle planning for next year’s bulbs:  notes, sketches, photos and place markers.

If you have a wide open area (a lawn, a new garden bed) or an area with no bulbs this year, it’s simple enough to jot down what you’d like and wait for the bulb catalogues to appear.  You may want to tackle this as a multi-year project, adding more and more as you see what the affect is each spring.  For example, if you think you’ll be planting shrubs or trees in the future, you likely will want to wait to plan or plant bulbs.  If, on the other hand, you know the area will always be lawn or meadow, you could scatter daffodil or Scilla over the whole area.  For me, an example of taking notes is: ‘Plant daffodils, several varieties, in two’s or three’s amongst the Echinacea growing between the two parallel paths in the Island bed.”  I know exactly what I mean with that brief description.

It gets a bit trickier when you want to add bulbs in areas that are already planted with perennials, shrubs and bulbs.  The last thing you want is to be merrily digging away only to discover you’ve sliced in half a prized Allium or Fritillaria bulb! (Trust me, it’s a moment of horror!) This is where planning and a bit of artistry or technical know-how comes in handy.

If you love to sketch, you could draw (or paint if you’re truly artistic!) the area you want to augment with bulbs, colour code (or not) for different bulbs and clearly indicate where things should be planted.  This is kind of fun and could provide a lasting piece of art.

You can use computer skills to augment photos of areas.  Here, for example, I’ve taken a photo of my Hyacinth micro garden – just a corner of the Island bed where purple and Hyacinth corner May 5 2018white Hyacinths bloom first, followed by daffs and then Lupins, Aster, Echinacea, Hemerocallis…  I used the Paint software on my laptop to add dabs of colour to indicate how I’d like to expand the Hyacinth area.  Although it gives me a good enough indication of what the final product will be, I’ve also jotted some notes (“start below the daylily and continue to the Spirea”).

Hyacinth corner May 5 2018 paint 2

Same photo using Paint to add more Hyacinth – I think I need more exact locating for additiona bulbs though, so I’ll add markers.

In tightly planted areas that already have bulbs I use stones or sticks to remind me where to plant new ones.  Below on the left the foliage from both the Galanthus ad the Colchicum will be gone come October so I put a row of stones to indicate where to plant new bulbs.   On the right, back in the Hyacinth corner, I used Popsicle sticks (bought at the dollar store) – you can barely see them now so I hope I can see them (and they survive the summer) come October!

The area below has clumps of Echinacea (can’t see them yet) surrounded by Crocus and Narcissus.  There are; however, two clumps with no bulbs at all – I just transplanted them last week.  So I need to remember which clumps have and don’t have bulbs already.  This photo, in October, will remind me.

where bulbs are needed May 16 2018

Daffs or Tulips… what variety… planning is half the fun!

There you have it.  This coming Monday is Victoria Day in Canada – a national holiday – I hope to spend a few hours looking at pictures of pretty bulbs and planning next spring’s bulb display.

My Favourite Rock

Columbine on rock close May 12 2018

Last week.

One of the first big landscaping things we did when we started to sink roots into The County was buy this big limestone boulder.   We generally call it The Rock, and wanted to use it as a quasi headstone for the ashes of our beloved dog, a black Lab named Bogart, who had recently and quite unexpectedly died.

Bogart’s ashes are, indeed, buried under an overhanging part of The Rock, as are the ashes of  a subsequent dog and cat.  I used The Rock to anchor a new flower bed and patio  I created; a paper birch (Betula papyrifera) is on the other end, and there is a Nannyberry (Viburnum lentago), large upright Juniper and a white Spruce (Picea glauca) on one long side with a wide grass passage on the other.

The Rock Oct 19 2017

Last October

For the first few years the rick was barren – scraped clean by the mechanical process of yanking it from the ground, transporting it to our property then planting it in a a two foot deep hole.

Over the years plant life appeared on The Rock, growing from the fissures and holes that occurred naturally, finding the bits of sand and soil that were blown into these fissures and cracks, sending roots deep into The Rock and surviving our cold winters.

There are bonsai-like conifers: a cedar and two junipers, one upright and one prostrate.

Three Dwarf Conifers on the Rock Oct 19 2017

Three conifers growing in The Rock

There are grasses, Echinacea, Sedum, moss, dandelions (of course!) and my favourite, Aquilegia canadensis – our native columbine:


All these plants just found their own way to The Rock – seeds either dropped by birds, buried by chipmunks or insects or blown in by the wind. I don’t do much ‘gardening’ on The Rock – just a bit of editing now and then (ie puling dandelions).

It’s an ever evolving micro landscape that fascinates me every year.

rock and black eyed susan

10 years ago – the Rudbeckia is long gone; it was too hard to keep the lawn grass out and the site is too dry most summers  for it.

Patio in the snow December 28 2017

And in the winter, under an insulating snow blanket.

Three Buds a Bursting…

Spring, a magical time of year, where every day brings new delights, new surprises, new colour…

Oak Leaf buds bursting May 14 2018 square small

Red Oak (Quercus rubra) leaves unfurling and starting to expand. This photo is from a very young sapling – only in its third year.  Leaves on the mature trees are still a week or so from enlarging to this degree.

Umbrella Magnlia bod breaking May 12 2018

Umbrella Magnolia (Magnolia tripetala) leaf escaping its protective winter parka.  The leaves will eventually be up to 18 inches long; the white flowers can be quite spectacular as well.

Cercis canadensis Redbud flower buds May 14 2018 small

Canada Redbud (Cercis canadensis) flower buds about to burst.  This is such an interesting native flowering small tree – the flowers form along the stems, not at the tips like most other flowering shrubs or trees, and well before the large heart shaped leaves emerge.

Six on Saturday – White Ephemerals and a Heavy Sigh

white Trout Lily May 12 2018 small

White Trout Lily — Erythronium albidum

The spring ephemerals continue to enthrall — here one week and gone the next.  The yellow Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum) I wrote about last week has all but disappeared.  In its place, but not in nearly as great a number, is the white Trout Lily. Very pretty when you can spot them.


The Canada Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum) has leaped out of the ground in the past week.  Like the Trout Lily, it appears to form colonies.  Unlike the Trout Lily, this is about the only time during its life cycle you can clearly see the flower bud.  In a few days the leaves will have unfurled and enlarged to cover the downward facing white bloom.  Also unlike the Trout Lily – the Mayapple foliage persists well into early summer, making a lovely ground cover at the forest edge.


Tw more native ephemerals:  white Trillium grandiflorum and Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis).   Bloodroot petals can be bloown away by a gently breeze so I’m happy these have lasted as long as they have, given the high winds this past week.  the root of Bloodroot has been used to make a dye and also is said to have many medicinal attributes.  You can easily research the many uses of this tiny plant.

Those are five of my six (and if you would like to see more collections of six gardening shots please head over to The Propagator’s site) – all lovely spring ephemerals I’m fortunate enough to have growing in the woodlands that border our property.  The final picture represents a disappointment.  I wrote several months ago about the expanding buds of a Chestnut tree I had started from seed about a decade ago.  I keep waiting for it to flower and thought this may be the year, given how fat the buds were.  Alas, it is not to be so.  The buds have broken, no flowers.  My sadness will be brief, however, since I know that in the coming weeks, months and years I will continue to marvel at and admire this beautiful tree, its extraordinary leaves and, in particular, its glossy, fat, sticky buds.

Horse Chestnut leaves opening May 1 2018 small

Ephemeral in The County

Trout Lily - Erythronium americanum - Trout Lily May 6 2018

Erythonium americanum – Trout Lily

On Saturday I noticed a few of these dainty yellow flowers opening by the driveway.  Come Sunday afternoon the leaf littered floor of the entire tree line was covered with Trout Lily.  Just like that.

Other native spring ephemerals just in bloom include a flower I used to call woodland Geranium.  I kinda knew it wasn’t, really, a Geranium, and what I learned from Micheal Raynor, one of the knowledgeable folks on the Facebook group Plant Identification, is its proper name:  Cardamine douglassii.  It’s also known as purple cress or limestone bittercress.  It’s a member of the mustard family (Brassicaeae) and is native to a wide swath of central and north east North America, growing in deciduous woodlands and in shady areas where limestone is close to the surface. It’s prefers a mist soil but has managed to gain a foothold in my dry woods.  It’s at risk from the wildly invasive Garlic Mustard in many wooded areas.

Cardamine douglassii May 6 2018

Cardamine douglassii

While the white Trillium are above ground they aren’t quite blooming.  Still putting on a show; however, is the lovely mottled leaves of this red wood Trillium.

red Trillium May 6 2018.jpg small

Six on Saturday – and all of a sudden…

daffs and Hyacinth May 5 2018 small

Daffs and Hyacinth

All of a sudden, it seems, we’re in the middle of spring.  A few days of 20 degree temps and sunshine means the bulbs are bursting, buds are opening, dandelions are blooming and there’s way too much gardening to do in a day!  Here’s a quick Six taken this morning, with a nod to The Propagator, who started this theme.

Hardening Off May 5 2018

Flats of Hollyhock, Echinacea, Liatris, chard, parsley, basil and a few other things got their first taste of the great outdoors this morning as the hardening off process begins.  So exciting!!!

Frtillaria persica May 5 2018

Fritillaria persica are looking good this year.

emerging fern Peony May 5 2018

I really love fern leaf Peony – it’s always the first Peony to bloom and the foliage is really romantic.

emerging Chestnut bud May 5 2018 small

Expanding buds of the chestnut tree I started from seed 10 or so years ago — in a few days I’ll know if this will be its first year to bloom…report next week!

emerging Solomon Seal May 5 2018

I know I’m behind schedule when the Solomon Seal is this high and I haven’t yet transplanted any!  My goal in life is to have this magnificent woodland perennial throughout the property – all starting from a single small clump a neighbour gave me many years ago.  Tomorrow’s project. (Well, one of tomorrow’s projects!)



DIY – Pea Trellis

trellis April 2018

The finished project…

Conventional wisdom (and instructions on seed packets) say plant peas (and sweet peas)  as early as possible – don’t worry about last frost dates or any such nonsense.  Peas don’t mind.  OK, I procrastinated this year, hemming and hawing, worried about rabbits, effort vs reward, location….I had any number of reasons (excuses) why I didn’t get any peas in the ground.

Finally got my act in gear when I was gathering all the maple saplings I had cut late last fall and left scattered in the woods through winter.  Maple is such great wood, I didn’t want to just toss the 10 – 15 foot stems into the fire pit or even chop them up into kindling.  I wanted to use them for something first, then chop them into kindling.

Riffing off last year’s Morning Glory tuteur project, I decided to build a small trellis to stand against the house and grow sweet peas, regular peas and a late cucumber vine or two.  My better half did much of the work, chopping the saplings to size and tying up most of the criss crossing branches.

maple pea trellis April 2018

being built…I wanted to keep the small branches at the top – it looks interesting and will provide support for any extra tall pea plants

I added a few extra branches and then ‘planted’ the whole thing against a west wall, next to the rain barrel (for easy watering).

twine and wire joints on trellis

At first we just used this jute twine but realized we couldn’t get it tight and sturdy enough; added the plastic coated wire for extra support.

For mulch I used chopped up stems and stalks of last year’s perennials (instead of hauling them to the compost pile) – if you look closely here you can see bits of Sedum spectabile.

Sedum to be used as mulch

Instead of cutting down these Sedum stalks and hauling to the compost pile, I chopped them up on site…

Sedum mulch and trellis

If you look closely you can see chopped up Sedum spectabile.

I think I’ll add some short buckthorn stems next – in an attempt to deter rabbits from nibbling on the shoots as they appear.  I’ll let you know if that works!


Six on Saturday – daffs and tulips and hyacinths oh my


Purple Hyacinth April 28 2018

Can you close your eyes and waft in the fragrance of these Hyacinth? 

Spring has a firm hold on us now – there’s no stopping the explosion of colour all over the garden.  Tulips, Hyacinths and Narcissus are all starting to parade their seasonal, glorious display and our continued cool temperatures (a few days of warmth forecast for next week notwithstanding) will help ensure a lengthy blooming period.  We’re expecting rain later today and all day tomorrow (not a bad thing unless one was wanting to get on with the spring clean-up) so I was out early to get these six photos.  You can check out a lot more ‘Sixes’ by heading to The Propagator‘s page!

Chinaodoxa path April 28 2018

I’m so happy I planted hundreds of Chianodoxa last October – they’re everywhere, like here, helping define the path that divides the side garden.  So cheerful!

Korean Fir & Chianodoxa April 28 2018

Here’s more Chianodoxa planted at the base of a small Korean Fir I paid $5 for at auction last fall.  It’s quite bedraggled (you should have seen the roots crammed into its pot!) , and I’m not sure it’ll grow out of it’s shagginess, but I do see that buds are expanding so there’s hope!

Lupins emerging April 28 2018 small

I love how Lupins emerge in the spring – sending their beautifully architectural leaves into the sky.

Red Tulips April 28 2018

These vibrant red tulips are always the first to bloom.  I don’t know the variety, unfortunately, but when fully open it’s quite spectacular.  If there’s a peek of sunshine later today I’ll try to get a shot.

Shileau and daffs in woods April 28 2018

I can’t have a photo essay without including Shileau.  She’s by my side (or near my side, anyway, following trails only her nose can detect) whenever I’m in the garden. These daffs are planted just inside a patch of woods – they started life in a pot on the dining room table about 10 years ago.  I love how some bulbs can be re-purposed from being an interior decoration to an exterior fixture.


Why disparage the ditch daylily?

double orange daylily August 12 2017 small

Hemerocallis fulva ‘Kwanzo’, I think.  It was given by a neighbour when it started to spread and overtake his small garden.

New daylily shoots are a few inches tall now – the perfect size, I think, to divide large clumps and spread the joy around the garden or with friends, if you’re able to tread lightly in the garden.

That last point is crucial – if your soil is still mushy from spring snow melt or if spring ephemerals are still emerging you don’t want to be clomping around with big boots, compacting soil, destroying the structure that many organisms need and  thrive in.

Probably the most vigorous daylily in these parts is the much maligned Hemerocallis fulva – also know as a ditch daylily, tiger lily, orange day lily…  The main complaint is that the orange is too bright.  Huh?  Orange is supposed to be bright!  People also say it’s too prolific, spreads too much, is too tall, the leaves flop after blooming….the litany goes on.  Me, I look forward, every year starting the last week of June and lasting throughout July, to driving along country roads and seeing large clumps of the cheery, welcoming flowers.  Like any plant they should be properly situated. So no, don’t plant them if you have a really small garden.  Even the cultivated varieties will spread, but possibly not with the same speed as Hemerocallis fulva var fulva – the more common, single variety that easily spreads and can be seen in ditches and at the edges of woodlots all over.  These plants are so often seen in natural settings here people may think they’re native; they’re not.  They originate in Asia.

Plant them with the expectation they will spread!  Plant them where they will be seen by passerby! Plant them where you want a huge swath of colour mid summer! Take joy in their exuberance!

orange daylilies coming up April 21 2018

This large patch of emerging H. fulva var fulva will, in mid July, look like…

orange daylilies in back field July 19 2009 small

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

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!


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

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.