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

 

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

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

What I learned today

I follow quite a few gardening related blogs, websites and social media feeds and I’m constantly learning new techniques, questioning the validity of horticultural practice and discovering new plants and products.  I love it when something pops up unexpectedly, or an answer to a question I had never thought to ask suddenly appears.

On Sunday both happened within minutes. Instead of just looking through my normal Facebook feed, I clicked around and selected ‘Most Recent.’  Up popped an entirely different set of posts: pages that the Facebook algorithm would not normally make visible to me without specifically searching for it.  There was news from friends I thought had dropped off the face of the earth, only to realize they had simply dropped off the list of people Facebook thinks I should see.  Likewise pages from organizations and groups I actually DID want to hear from – including one of the pages that help people identify plants.

The first post was from someone in northern California who wanted the ID of a plant I see often around here. A type of thistle (I thought) that has beautiful mauve flowers followed by a striking seed head.  Turns out it’s not a thistle at all, but rather it’s called Dipsacus follonum, more commonly known as Teasel (or Teazle).  This is an invasive biennial native to Europe, Asia and Northern Africa but naturalized throughout most of North America.  The first year’s growth produces a rosette of glossy deep green leaves that are covered in soft spines (it’s thought the plant may be carnivorous).  In the second year a spike is sent up that produces one to many thistle-like flowers.  Tiny seeds spread readily and although it’s generally considered a weed, I find it very easily controllable either by mowing or pulling.  It’s an important winter food source for the European Goldfinch and, to my eye, it’s quite beautiful. Here it is in my garden (after blooming) a few years ago.

Thistles January 1 2010

Seedheads of Dipsacus follonum, more commonly known as Teasel (or Teazle)

A bit further down on my ‘Most Recent’ feed, from the same group, was someone asking to ID a lovely blue flower I had in abundance two years ago.  The flower is similar to Forget-Me-Not (Myosotis) but grows on a one to two foot high stem and lacks the splash of yellow in the eye of the flower.  I had tried to ID this plant when it popped up with no luck, until this morning, when there it was:  Cynoglossum amabile, with a common name Chinese forget-me-not.  I think they appeared in my garden after I spread seeds that had been distributed by some forgotten charity.  Here they are – such a beautiful blue, eh?

wasp & forget me not

Cynoglossum amabile,  common name Chinese forget-me-not, growing from seed scattered in this very weathered fountain basin.  See the wasp nest?

So there you have it.  Two plants identified and one lesson re-learned:  remember to more regularly switch my Facebook feed to Most Recent!

 

2018 – Plant Trends

I love it when various gardening associations or plant companies come up with their picks for “Plant of the Year.”  If you haven’t already noticed, get ready to see  gardening pages, sites, tweets, Instagrams (is that a real word?), Pinterests (again, can the word be used as a noun?) loaded with images of ‘The’ plant of 2018.  Could be an annual, a shrub, a perennial….

The decision to designate often appears to be made by the large growers – the folks who propagate and sell plants – or by a plant association.

For example, this year the Perennial Plant Association in the U.S. says it’s Allium ‘Millenium.’  This is an interesting plant, and not just for the unusual way ‘Millenium’ is spelled.  No spring ephemeral here; the glossy green leaves won’t die back late spring but instead remain throughout the growing season.

Allium-millenium-Ornamental-Onion1

Allium ‘Millenium’

The flower-bearing scapes appear mid to late summer, rising above the 12 – 15 inch leaves, and produce 2” purple globes that are said to be huge pollinator magnets.

 

The plant company Proven Winners, on the other hand, has chosen a new Heuchera – Primo ‘Black Pearl’ (a cultivar of Heuchera villosa) as its choice.  (They also have an annual of the year and a shrub of the year – Petunia Supertunia ‘Bordeaux’ and Weigela ‘Spilled Wine,’ respectively. All of these cultivars are trademarked.)

Across the pond in Germany, the Association of Perennial Gardeners has picked Hemerocallis as its Perennial of the Year.  Not any particular cultivar – the entire species!  I like that – no need to choose amongst colour, form, size or even how many chromosomes there are.  Any daylily is great!  For the Field to Table set, the Association for the Conservation of Crop Diversity (VEN) thinks the common rutabaga is the right choice, and wants “to share the knowledge of this classic vegetable with the world.”

89885

Hosta ‘World Cup’

 

The American Hosta Growers Association has decided that ‘World Cup’ is the Hosta of the year.  This is a ‘Komodo Dragon’ x ‘Superbowl’ cultivar that “forms an upright clump of deeply cupped, moderately wavy, deeply corrugated, bright gold foliage.”  It has purple flowers, if anyone is interested.

 

 

 

 

And for you rose lovers, the cherry-red

gallery-1498410043-lovestruck-rose-of-the-year-2018

‘Lovestruck’ rose

Lovestruck (Dicommatac) rose has been named Rose of the Year in Great Britain.  This is a lightly scented, double-petalled floribunda rose, bred in Ireland, and said to have ‘outstanding health and vigour.’  At least in the British Isles.

 

 

 

 

 

Plants of the Year.  At best, a great way to pique interest and introduce a new species or cultivar to the home garden.  At worst, a marketing gimmick for fussy but pretty flowers that don’t live up to their promise.

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