Compost Fever!

One of the garden chores I get a lot of satisfaction from is the annual compost screening.  Usually I’ll wade into the compost a few times every month to turn it over, aerate it, help the insects and microbes do their decomposition bit.  This year; however, nature had other plans – I’ve posted previously how pie pumpkin seeds from last year germinated and basically took over.  This indicated two things:  the pile didn’t get hot enough to kill the seeds, and, whatever was happening within that pile of kitchen scraps, leaves and garden clippings had created a really nutritious growing medium!

I harvested the pumpkins a few weeks ago (had to make Thanksgiving pies!) and it was time to see what was there.  I’ve had for many years a compost screen that fits nicely over a wheelbarrow – it’s easy to build with two-by-fours (or should that be written as 2×4’s?) and wire screening from a building supply store.  I shovel three or four scoops from the pile onto the screen then swipe a trowel through it several times, which sends the decomposed material into the wheelbarrow.  What’s left gets dumped onto this year’s pile for further composting.

After a few hour’s work I’m left with an empty slot ready for next year, a growing pile of this year’s raw material being transformed and a nice pile of rough, crumbly compost, ready for top dressing beds or adding to bulb planting holes!

Composter Oct 11 2017 aComposter Oct 11 2017 cComposter Oct 11 2017 dComposter Oct 12 2017 c

Dream a Little Dream

One of my favourite gardening activities isn’t actually an activity – it’s just standing (or squatting or sitting) in the midst of it all, day-dreaming about what it will look like next year. Or three years from now. I enjoy this (non) activity so much that when a neighbour had a large spruce cut down this summer and offered me pieces of the trunk I gladly accepted; not for firewood but to create perching stools.

Spruce Stumps to be used as perching stools

spruce Perching Stools waiting to be placed around the garden

These log chunks are now scattered around the property – waiting for me to do some sanding and sealing next year and then to be perched upon.

Although I’ve been known to stand around day-dreaming about the garden at any time of the year, October is possibly about the best time to do it. I do a lot of planting in October and standing for a spell helps relieve my aching back. Also, of course, October is bulb planting month.

As I make my way around the various garden beds, basket of bulbs and planting tools in hand, I like to stop and envision what the bed will look like next spring. How I can enhance one micro garden to complement the whole.

Allium bubs

various Allium bulbs ready to plant

Along bulb planting toolswith a shovel (for digging large holes for the larger bulbs) and my trusty trowel, I have a new favourite bulb planting tool this year. It’s called a Cobrahead, (aka the aptly titled Steel Fingernail) and is marketed as a ‘weeder and cultivator.’ I’ve been using it to plant smaller bulbs – Fritillaria meleagris, Crocus, Chianodoxa – by pulling it through my rocky, clay soil to create a furrow the perfect depth for planting.

One of the micro gardens I’ve been thinking about all year is a small semi-circular area behind a short Caryopteris hedge that screens the side patio from the house. It’s an important area because it’s the first thing you see looking out the dining room window but for the past two years it’s been unimpressive. I scattered Lupin seeds there last fall and they germinated but remained small this year. I planted Snapdragons there last year and this year and although they’re one of my favourite annuals they didn’t make the statement that’s really necessary for this location.

adding bulbs to a Lupin bed

area to be planted with Lupin seedlings..

I decided last spring that Allium ‘Purple Sensation’ would make that statement and planted a few dozen earlier this week – adding Chianodoxa near the top of each planting hole to extend the spring blooming season.

layered lanting hole

Alliums planted — I’ll add a bit of dirt then the smaller Chianodoxa on top for a layered planting.

I wanted to keep the Lupin seedlings that have been slowly growing there so dug them out first and made an interesting discovery:

Lupin have a tap root, just like a dandelion or carrot – long and tapered, with many fine hairs coming off it. So all summer, while producing little growth above ground, extraordinarily long roots have been developing underground.

Lupin roots

LONG Lupin roots!

I replanted the Lupin I had to remove to plant bulbs and hopefully they’ll survive.

Now, when I look out the window, I have an image of blue Chianodoxa followed by purple Allium followed by purple or pink Lupin. I’ll let you know next June if my day-dream becomes reality!

7 Early Fall Favourites

In this first week of autumn I realize there’s nothing new left to come up in the garden – no new flower buds to open, no new unfurling of leaves, no more sudden growth spurts of stalk and stem.  The final Hollyhock flowers – those at the very tip of six or seven foot spikes – are blooming; Goldenrod is going to seed; Hosta leaves are yellowing and somewhat bedraggled.

Before I start to think and rave about the changing colours in our forest canopies and tree lines (or about raking up fallen leaves!), and before I set about in earnest collecting seeds for next year’s garden, I want to savour the beauty of these early fall favourites.  Thanks to Chloris in England who writes The Blooming Garden for encouraging this regular check-in of favourite flowers!

1 – Turtlehead – Chelone glabra — I’ve struggled but so far failed to get a good picture of this native perennial. Not too sure why, but all the close-ups turn out fuzzy so I can’t show you how bees love to force their way into the purple, snap dragon-like flowers, buzz around for a bit then force their way out again.  I’ve had to move this clump around a few times so it’s not that large;  hoping it’ll be happy in this spot, shaded by variegated Dogwood (Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima’):IMG_3067_edited-1

2 – Garlic Chives – Allium tuberosum – like regular chives but with flat leaves and a more garlicky than oniony flavour.  I love them because the white flowers open late in the year and are often swarmed by bees.  I started this clump from seed – this is its second year, much slower to get going than regular chives – and will collect seed to start more clumps all over:Garlic Chives Sept 20 2017

3 & 4 – Evening Primrose – Oenothera biennis – this is the native species, not the domesticated  variety often sold in garden centres.  They can get very tall or sprawl close to the ground.  A beautiful, vibrant yellow to contrast nicely with New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae).  They spring up all over here because I often let them go to seed – but they’re easy to pull up where not wanted:Evening Primrose & New Englanfd Aster Sept 19 2017 3

5 – Colchicum – this is the ‘The Giant’ variety – I’ve posted before about them – just can’t stop myself.  This time next year the Veronica ‘Whitley’s Speedwell’ (the low growing ground cover on the left) will have spread over the mulch, providing a gorgeous bed for the purple petals:Colchicum Sept 20 2017

 

6 – Sedum spectabile “Autumn Joy” – not a native but bees of all sorts still love ’em!  A staple of my garden with its many very dry areas:Sedum spectbile - morning dew

7 – Reblooming tall bearded Iris – new to me this year thanks to a generous friend — I don’t know the variety of this Iris (does anyone??) but it had a huge show, as expected, in the spring.  It’s been sending up flower stalks again for the past three weeks with enough buds to last another month:reblooming white Iris Sept 20 2017

Orange is the new Black

double orange daylily August 12 2017

double orange daylily, possibly Hemerocallis var. kwanso

This lovely double orange daylily is a vigorous grower in moist soil but is easily kept in check in my un-watered garden.  A neighbour gave me a few fans many years ago and now I have several large clumps in the garden.  It blooms later than most every other daylily, helping provide vibrant colour in August before the Asters start to bloom.

 

Martagon Lily August 12 2017

Lilium lancifolium

Not too sure where I found the Lily but it has been growing in a semi-shaded spot for about 12 years now.  The bulb multiplies underground every year and it also produces small bulbils on the stalk that will ripen over the summer, drop to the ground and help form a small colony.  This Lily is cultivated in parts of Asia as a food source (the bulb).

 

Spring into July

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

Why?

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

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

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

markin spots for future bulbs with rocks

Colchicum bed Sept 30 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

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