Sunday Surprise

pumkin growing in compost bins

I’m seriously serious about composting.  Almost the first thing we did after buying our Prince Edward County property was build this huge compost bin.  I think I had seen something like it on a BBC gardening show.  I think we had fantasies of being able to drive the shovel of a small garden tractor into the bins to turn the stuff over.  No more using shovels or pitchforks for me.

Oh well.

The system works, in its own way, like a charm, (my) manual labour involved notwithstanding.  There’s no water where it’s situated at the back of the field so it generally takes longer for plant material to break down than it did in my small city black plastic with a lid composter.  But that’s OK because I have three bins to work with.

The first year I pile new stuff in one bin, filling it to the top by the end of the season.  The next year I start fresh with the next bin and let the first  just sit there, using a heavy fork to turn stuff over every now and then, to get air to the bottom of the pile.

I start the third year by screening the first year’s material – dumping finished compost in the third bin, and putting the unfinished stuff in the second bin to continue breaking down.  This leaves me with the first bin empty and ready to use.

Sounds complicated but it’s not.  Until this year.  Mid May something sprouted in the middle bin. Now, a lot of things sprout in the compost bins — tomato seedlings, Rudbeckia, various weeds, garlic, Virginia Creeper…but this one plant seemed to have strength and purpose.  It became large very quickly and was obviously some sort of squash so I left it alone.  I like squash.  And I loved the huge leaves this vine produced – so much larger than the leaves of anything I had ever purposefully planted!  And by mid July it was obvious – it was a pumpkin vine. I had grown pie pumpkins last year and one seed survived the winter.

So now I have a withering vine (it is August after all, and it’s been rather dry the past few weeks) and six good sized pie pumpkins growing.  And I notice, on Saturday, a large burrow going into the middle compost head, directly under where the pumpkin sprouted.  It looked like it could have been made by a skunk or a fox, hopefully not by a rat!

On Sunday I went out back to dump kitchen scraps and the whole centre of the compost pile had been torn out.  There, in a hole in the middle, was this.  I very quickly left the immediate vicinity.  And spent the day puzzling about what creature in our back field was brave enough or big enough to attack such a huge nest.

bee nest uncovered in compost pile

 

Daylily Dreamin’

Bonibrae Daylilies 7

Bonibrae Daylilies

Daylilies (Hemerocalis spp) started to bloom in early June in my back garden.  Well, one lovely tall spidery lemon yellow variety of daylily anyway.  The common orange ‘ditch daylily’ started to open July 1, as they do every year.  Stella d’Oro about three weeks ago and the rest, large brash colourful varieties, just this past week.

I wouldn’t say I’m passionate about daylilies but I do really like them.  A lot.  They’ll grow almost anywhere and bloom reliably given enough sunlight.  They are drought tolerant once established (long, fleshy tubourous roots helps them get through dry periods), deer and rabbits don’t find them tasty and, best of all, can be used in multiples ways.

Want a wide swath of specific colour?  Have a micro garden that needs a flash of brightness?  Want to savour a light fragrance in the evening?  Want to surprise visitors with a bizarre shape or colour combination next to a well traveled garden path?

Daylilies can do it all.

A neighbour and I visited Bonibrae Daylilies, just north of Bloomfield,  over the weekend.  Next to a small grove of ancient maple trees, Barry & Margaret Matthie maintain about an acre of daylilies, carefully cultivated in well mulched rows.  The maples provide welcome shade for visitors and the many varieties of Hosta they also sell. Barry hybridizes and grows from seed the daylilies in their fields and sells them either in person or via mail to aficionados across the continent  – most of the plants in the field are $15 each for a very generous size clump lifted by Barry for you; a few of the more rare varieties can be $100 – a price not uncommon for collectors.

For me, the glory of this nursery is experienced wandering through the rows of daylilies,  marveling at the colours and shapes, whiffing the occasional sweet scent and imagining where, in your own garden, you can add one of these beauties.

For the next few weeks the nursery is open almost every day – if you’re contemplating getting a daylily this is the place to visit.  Even if you’re not a gardener, this is a place to visit – think of it as a living art gallery – a place to overload your ocular sensors  on a warm summer day.

Star of the Show

As the growing season progresses I find that some plants, even amongst dozens that may be blooming, steal the show.  Lilac and Lupin in spring.  Sunflowers (seeds sown late to ensure autumn flowers) and Asters in the fall and, before the bright orange Rudbeckia starts, the tall and serene majesty of Hollyhocks.

They’ve just starting blooming this past week in The County and you’ll see them in ditches and gardens everywhere.  In the garden, they can provide a screen for something you want to hide.  They can be a dramatic focal point to a driveway entrance.  They can stand alone, in a clump, at the side of the road – a colourful distraction for Sunday drivers.

My favourite Hollyhocks are the ones I start from seed collected from friends’ and neighbours’ gardens.  It just means more to see them sprouting from the soil.  The waiting for the second year (because Hollyhocks are biennial and don’t bloom the first year), to see what colour they are, is worth it.

This year, I’m loving the pastel shades that have appeared for the first time.  The flowers appear so delicate, yet are born on the six and seven foot stalks that make you take a second glance, make you want to walk over to appreciate them better.  And provide motivation to start thinking about collecting seeds for next year.

That’s a show stopper.

pink Hollyhock July 2017yellow Hollyhock July 2017Hollyhock