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

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.

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!

 

Searching for Colour in Winter – Staghorn Sumac

I was pleasantly surprised recently to discover that Staghorn Sumac (Rhus typhina) is native to my part of the world.  There’s so much of it around here I just assumed it, like all the despicable buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica), was introduced.   The University of Guelph can provide a lot of information about this small tree, and it has a lot of positive traits, including providing food for birds.  My favourite thing about Sumac is the leaf colour in autumn and how the flowers turn and stay such a brilliant scarlet all winter.  It realy is nature’s perfect antidote to an otherwise grey and white season.

Sumac Jan 14 2018

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.

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