Author Archives: cmousseau

Perennials from seed

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

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

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

Enter seeds.

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

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

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

it’s all about the daffodils…

Daffs April 22 2017

Daffs in back garden

 

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

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

 

Progress…

Step one half complete – managed to Round-Up half the grass, on the right side as you look at this photo.  It was a windy day so didn’t want to spray widely.  I also transplanted a large deep red Peony from the back – it’ll be blooming in a  month or so.  Everything is looking great so far on the Island – the Spicebush flower buds are expanding quickly; the Tete-a-Tete mini daffodils are all in bloom and the Hyacinth and early Tulips have just started.  Most promising is the shape of the Fritillaria persica – so fat and full and promising…

A New Year

Wow – it’s hard to believe the winter of  2016-17 is over….And the miracle of plant life is starting to begin.  This year I’ll be documenting one of the larger micro gardens in the yard – what I call the Island Garden because the driveway circles around it.  This piece of land started as half brush and trees, half grass.  Over the past four years I’ve been transforming it into a garden – keeping a lot of the trees, adding a lot of shrubs and a ton of perennials.  Each year I’ve reduced the area of grass – this year I hope to eliminate it entirely.  The plan:

  • spray Round Up on all grass areas this weekend (if it’s not raining)
  • next weekend lay down a thick layer of wood chips on this area
  • at the beginning of May transplant lots of Echinacea into this area
  • in October plant lots of spring flowering bulbs

there’s a few challenges with this bed I’ll get into as the summer progresses.  For now, here’s a shot of Fritillaria persica poking through the ground just in front of the statue.  They didn’t bloom last year – hope they do this year!

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Oenothera biennis

Even in dead of winter some wildflowers (what are often called weeds…) have an entrancing architectural form, such as the Evening Primrose shown above.  I love how it echoes the strong vertical lines of the trees in the background and how the stems curve inwards at the top, as if trying to grasp any patches of blue sky it can reach.  Goldenrod and Queen Anne’s Lace can’t compare to this Oenothera biennis in the winter, although I do love the form of several more traditional perennials, such as this Sedum, and the tall dead sunflower stalks.

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Giant Russian Sunflowers

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Sedum spectabile

Small Pleasures

I have a neighbour who generally heads south for two or more months every winter.  This year his departure was delayed a bit and every sentence that came from his mouth during those weeks was a variation on “I hate winter.”  He hates the cold, he hates the snow, he hates the ice, he hates the dark days, he hates the wind howling off the lake, he hates having to bundle up in multiple layers just to take out the garbage and he hates how gray and brown everything is.

This despite being a self proclaimed “Gardener,” living on 15 acres of land that has woods, marsh, stream and fields.

I’ve learned to bite my tongue and nod sympathetically, but my inside voice is cringing.  With age, my neighbour has grown to hate the Canadian seasons.  I have grown to, if not love, then at least embrace them.  For me, this means seeking out small pleasures in my daily activities and in my garden.  I look for the subtle splash of colour; unexpected green foliage; textures; shapes revealed when leaves are gone.  Here are a few examples I revel in this time of year.

 

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Giant Russian Sunflower  – seeds long gone

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Acer pensylvanicum – Striped Maple, aka Moose Maple – love the bright red twigs and striped bark

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Cornus sericea – Bud’s Yellow Dogwood

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Acer griseum – Paperbark Maple – notice the exfoliating cinnamon colour bark

Winter…

Winter has sort of arrived in Prince Edward County.  The past few months have seen temperatures hover around zero Celsius – one day snow, the next day rain…. the 14 day forecast says nothing above freezing but who knows!

The good news is that sump pumps everywhere are going non stop and water is once again running over the top of the Consecon Mill dam.  I’m hoping this means the official end of the 2016 drought, and our well is back to normal.  Most people here want a lot of snow this year so that the water table gets back to normal.  The number one lesson I learned from the drought is not to plant things that clearly require moist soil.  I lost a few small trees – Larch in particular – and even the native red Osier dogwood seems in many places to have died – I’ll only know for sure come spring.

What would have died if I hadn’t made a lot of trips to the lake to bring back buckets of irrigation water?  The cucumber and umbrella Magnolias I started from seed 15 years ago; yellow twig dogwoods I planted in the spring; perennials I transplanted or started from seed; my new Pennsylvania Maple; various other shrubs and perennial planted in spring before I knew how dry it would be.

What did all right with no watering?  Various Spireas; garlic started the previous fall in a well-mulched raised bed; Paperbark Maple; Foxglove started from seed; Junipers; Smoke Tree.

The photo at the top is what an artichoke looks like if left to flower then left on the stalk.  I grew them from seed and had a half dozen plants send up stalks.  Another dozen plants produced gigantic leaves but no stalks.  Not too sure why…