Elegant Edible Enclosure

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

 

LO Congress January 9 2018 011 formal garden of edibles

Kohlrabi, greens and Thyme growing in a raised bed

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

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

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

2017 – The Island Evolution

January 21 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

A Last Hurrah

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

There are still a few delightful surprises though.

reblooming Iris Oct 28 2017

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

Blanket Flower October 27 2017

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

Shasta Daisy Oct 19 2017

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

Veronica Oct 28 2017 v1

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

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

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

Whitley's Speedwell closeup Oct 27 2017

Veronica Whitley’s Speedwell

Rounded

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

Rounded
Rounded

How to Stand Out in a Crowd

I have large patches of purple and white Liatris scattered around the garden – all originating from the seed of a few plants I purchased and planted 15 years ago.  The height of the flower spikes vary year to year, depending on how much rain we get.  This spring, with record breaking rainfalls in April and May, the Liatris was almost as high as an elephant’s eye.  Let’s say it was as high as a medium size cow’s eye.

Except for this one stalk, which for some reason decided walk its own path, follow its own winding, curvy, horizontal road.  By the time this photo was taken in mid August it was so heavy with flowers the tip was almost touching the ground.

I collected a lot of Liatris seed a few weeks ago and hope to add even more August height in years to come.

curvy Liatris

 

via Photo Challenge: Rounded

Glow after First Frost

In the wee hours of yesterday morning a wave of frost rolled over the field and gardens closest to the house.  I had, perhaps instinctively, cut and brought in for drying all the sweet and Thai basil the day before so no loss there.  Hardest hit were the Canna Lilies, cantaloupe, zinnias and, sadly,  my overgrown jungle of Amethyst Jewel cherry tomatoes.

Wanna know what happens when you try to pull a cherry tomato plant after frost?

The tomatoes fall.  With the lightest touch, they fall like marble size pieces of purple hail.  And, I discovered, they make a nice ‘pop’ when you happen to step on any that land in the grass on its way to the wheelbarrow and compost pile.

Anyway.

Here is a portion of my frost touched cherry tomato bed, glowing in this morning’s light.

Amethyst Jewel frost hit Oct 17 2017
Glow

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