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

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