Winter Sculptures

Part of the beauty of winter is discovering shapes, textures, colours and relationships in plants that you can’t see in the growing season.    Tree trunks growing in weird and wonderful directions.  Fat buds waiting to burst.  Bronzed coniferous foliage or bright red deciduous branches.  The weathered leaf of this Cup Plant (Silphium perforliatum) is an example.  From afar it’s just a deaf leaf.  But up close, for me, on a silent, cold, frosty morning, it’s a mini sculpture.  In colour or in black and white.

silphium perfoliatum weather leaf January 2018 b & wsilphium perfoliatum weather leaf January 2018

Silence
Weathered

Six Favourites from 2017

Almost two weeks left of 2017, lots of time for more photos and gardening thoughts…but here anyway are a few of my favourite photos from this past year, a year I learned a lot  about taking pictures, gardening and beautiful Prince Edward County.

Monarch on Zinnia Sept 11 2017 1

This truly was Year of the Butterfly – we saw loads more than usual and their favourite  feast was the giant Zinnias I started from seed.

bee on Caryopteris x clandonensis, Sept 6 2017

There were also a lot more bees and other flying pollinators, such as this one looking for nectar in the Bluebeard {Caryopteris x clandonensis) shrub by the patio.

Echinacea pallida July 2 2017

These Pale Purple Coneflowers (Echinacea pallida) are special because I started them from seed and they survived their first year in the 2016 drought.  They bloom several weeks before Echinacea purpurea.

Zucchinni forest Aug 19 2017

These yellow zucchini not only tasted delicious but had gigantic leaves – many more than three feet across.  Made me feel I was gardening in a rain forest!

PEC haystacks Aug 19 2017 2

This field is about four kilometres from our house – I run or drive by it frequently – it has one of the best cloud-views around.  I took this shot from a moving car, and I love the blurriness of it all.

Shileau September 16 2017

Going down the road with Shileau on a warm late summer morning.  A strange  but beautiful photo taken with my phone.This is probably tops on my list.

2017 Favorites

 

Tree Transformation

Paper Birch November

One of my favourite trees is the Paper Birch (Betula papyrifera).  Although some people give it a pass, saying it’s ‘messy’ or ‘short lived’ or ‘disease prone’ I say “Who Cares?”   Just look at  the gorgeous white bark, and marvel at how layers will peels off, only to reveal a new surface even more brilliant than the last.

I especially like to watch as young trees, with grey brown bark that makes them very similar in appearance to other Betula, start to turn white.  You can see in this photo the trunk on the left is still quite dark, while the larger trunk in front, older perhaps by just a year, is revealing its bright mature colour.

Yes, in our (relatively) warm County it may live only 30 to 40 years, that’s quite possibly longer than I’ll be around!   And it may get attacked by one bug or another – but very few trees these days are resistant to all insects.  And it may indeed shed twigs and, gasp, leaves in fall.  But really, who cares?
Transformation

If a polygonatum falls in the forest…

Decay - Solomon Seal Nov 18 2017 c

Solomon Seal is probably my favourite shade tolerant perennial.  It has graceful arching stems with beautiful, dainty hanging flowers in spring that bees love; the leaves stay dark green all summer; it’s extremely drought tolerant and, in the autumn, everything turns first deep yellow then a beautiful orange/tan before leaves and sometimes whole stems collapse to the ground.

I never ‘clean up’ this garden  – I let everything decompose as it falls.  And then I wait for the new shoots to poke through this natural mulch and start the cycle again.

 

Solomon Seal

Polygonatum biflorum with its June flowers

Transformation

Perennials Do It Too!

Woodland Sunflower

Woodland Sunflower (Helianthus divaricatus) – I love seeing the green vein skeleton as chlorophyll slowly withdraws from the leaves.

This is the time of year everyone on the eastern part of North America – and anywhere else there’s woods and forests with deciduous trees – goes gaga over fall foliage.  Folks take road trips to the country or the hills wherever they may be to take it all in, and Instagram, blogs and Facebook pages are chock a block with images of gorgeous reds, oranges and yellows.

With all the hullabaloo about the trees and some shrubs (I start drooling when I see some Viburnums in late October)  the changing colours of perennial leaves often go unnoticed.  Maybe this is because, low to the ground, they don’t stand out amongst fallen maple or oak leaves.  Maybe folks are so busy looking out and up at the trees they don’t take the time to look down.  Maybe it’s because a lot of people ‘clean up’ their flower beds – cutting back foliage before it has a chance to display the subtle and oh so temporary slendour that can be just as gasp-worthy as a Staghorn Sumac.  Here are a few examples from my garden.

Solidago

Who could have anticipated Goldenrod (Solidago sp.) leaves would turn such a lovely red… certainly not all of them do; more often than not they just turn brown and wither away but this year quite a few are truly beautiful.  Perhaps it’s a specific variety that is spreading around.

Solomon Seal

Solomon Seal (Polygonatum biflorum) will get even yellower before the leaves finally just fall off, leaving a forest of stalks over winter.

Pale Purple Coneflower (Echinacea pallida), below left, and Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), below right,  have different shaped flowers and leaves – but both turn a beautiful orange/red, pallida sooner than purpurea.

Sedum spectabile

After the flower heads turn brown and the fleshy leaves dry and fall off, it’s the stalks of Sedum spectabile that turn a glowing rosy pink.

There’s more of course.  Hosta.  Some Geranium.  Siberian Iris.

What are your favourite perennials for fall foliage colour?
Temporary

The Artifact

Burning Bush October 27 2017 v1

Many years ago I received, as a birthday gift, what was immediately labelled the artifact.  It’s an ancient manure spreader, purchased from a nearby farmer and slowly, while I was away for the day, pulled by tractor along the road and into our back field.  What a surprise to come upon it!

I loved it then and still do – and have experimented with many ways to display it:  letting wild raspberries, Goldenrod and other tall natives grow up in the middle; planting asparagus along one side; allowing it become almost entirely hidden by uncut grasses – just a corner or two peeking out.

I think I’ve settled on this – two Burning Bushes (Euonymus alatus) purchased and planted because the giver of the artifact loves them, and mow down everything else.  I love this view of the artifact, especially in late October into November when the bush leaves do indeed appear to be in flames.  I know design theory says to plant things in threes but in this particular instance, I think the third similar object is the artifact itself – its rusting spokes, wheels and body has become the third point in this triangle.
Peek