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

In Praise of a Not Very Spectacular Native Shrub

Snowberry.  Doesn’t the name conjures up images of large, juicy, creamy berries produced after pollinators have spent the summer happily buzzing amongst fluttery, multi-petaled white flowers?

Then you add the botanical name, Symphoricarpos albus, and reality sets in.  Latin can really be a buzzkill sometimes.

For me, the Snowberry is a memory pant — a shrub I remember from when I was a kid, lining (along with honeysuckle and blackberry canes) the rural road I walked along to catch the school bus.

There is absolutely nothing spectacular about this deciduous shrub, except perhaps that it’s native to almost all of Canada (and much of the U.S. as well) – that in itself should give it bonus points!  The flowers are so small you need to be within a few inches for them to be noticeable.   The berries are, indeed, white, but they are smallish, inedible for us and even unappetizing to birds.

1 Symphoricarpus albus Snowberry July 22 2017 a (2)

Symphoricarpos albus – Snowberry in July

This last tidbit may be why they stay on the bush into fall and winter, providing some interest when the rest of the landscape is grey or brown.

I like it because it grows well in my limestoney soil with no pampering or watering (even during last year’s prolonged drought, when the leaves drooped a lot but recovered nicely) and in the semi to mostly shade of the tree line (More berries are produced with more sun).  Although they may sucker after a while they’re pretty contained, growing to maybe six feet high and wide.  I can see them being a useful as a hedge or as a low visual barrier if you want to create a hidden patio; also a great shrub to fill in spots amongst trees if you don’t want to worry about grass  or perennials yet want some greenery.  And although it may be the food of last resort for birds, it does provide shelter for wildlife.

If you see this shrub at a garden centre and you have a bare spot in the yard consider Snowberry.  Maybe create some memories of your own.

4 Shileau & Snowberry Sept 19 2017

Shileau steals the spotlight from the Snowberry

A Tale of Two Tuteurs

Everyone in my family LOVES Morning Glories (Ipomoea purpurea or, by some,   Convolvulus purpureus).  What’s not to love in waking up to a trellis or fence covered in sky blue flowers?

I’ve never grown them before because I don’t have a suitable fence and I’ve seen that the vines can get 15 or 20 feet high – I can’t imagine a trellis that high and I’m not a fan of attaching string or wire from the eaves to the ground.  Early this spring though I had a DIY idea – create an obelisk or tripod using maple saplings, each around 15 feet high, that I had culled from the woods.

The fancy name is woodlot management, but really it’s just me sawing or lopping away when I think trees are growing too close to each other.  I want to open up the canopy so that the various species can grow thick and strong, not just tall and spindly from being too close for comfort.  Aside from the dreaded buckthorn, maple is the dominant tree here so I tend to pull out a lot in late winter or early spring.

So we made two tuteurs – a tuteur is a fancy name for, in this case, tripods. One was for Morning Glories and the other for scarlet runner beans.  It was a simple construction project – use a drill to screw the tops together a few feet from the tips (I wanted to leave some of the small branches at the top – make it look interesting) and also to attach cross branches about five feet up.  Then we tightly wound gardening twine around the joints for extra strength.  We ‘planted’ first each tripod leg a foot or so in the ground and then I watered in seeds around each leg.

Tripod joints

In theory, should’ve worked like a charm.  One of the neat things about gardening; however, is that plants, living things that they are, don’t always grow according to plan.

 

Shleau and Bean Tripod Sept 4 2017

And so it is that the runner bean tripod has remained almost naked all summer. The beans never grew more than a foot or so high and even though there were scarlet flowers and pretty nice looking beans it was a huge disappointment.  There was enough water there; marigolds, zinnia, tomatoes and parsley were all quite happy in the same space.  Perhaps the seed variety was mislabeled? Perhaps I misread the packet??

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The morning glories, on the other hand, once it warmed up here, took off like the proverbial rocket.  The vines have reached to the sky and now dangle every which way, giving the structure a wonderful whimsical Suesical look.

6 Morning Glory tripodSept 4 2017

Unfortunately, flowers have not appeared to help make our mornings glorious.  Nada.  Not one.

When I read about morning glories I see they like poor soil (perhaps too much alpaca manure added?) and some varieties wait until September to bloom.  But it is September and I can’t spot a single bud.

Some might say both these garden structures were garden failures.  I prefer to look at them as learning opportunities.  Will I try again next year?  You betcha.  Looking forward, more than ever, to waking up to glorious mornings!

Resiliency…

I sat in the garden on Labour Day Monday, resolved (but not entirely succeeding) to do no labour that wasn’t absolutely necessary, pondering the meaning of ‘resiliency’ in my own personal landscape.  It’s a word, along with ‘sustainability’ that’s been cropping cropping up a lot these past few years in landscape design circles.

I heard the word defined on the radio earlier this year as:  “will a plant bounce back from severe weather events.”  We’re very fortunate in the County, weather wise.  We haven’t had (in recent memory, anyway) the kind of ‘severe weather events’ experienced in other parts of North America:  no floods, forest fires, prolonged extreme heat, hurricanes or tornadoes.

But we do have extremes.  Last summer was the driest summer in more than 50 years.  This past spring was the wettest on record in parts of Southern Ontario.  And some plants suffered.

So I looked at my garden and pondered, with amazement, at the resiliency of so many perennials, shrubs and trees that came through it all, often stronger and more beautiful than ever.  Hemerocallis ‘Catherine Woodbury’ Daylily,  Mock Orange (Philadelphus ‘Starbright’ – hybridized in Newfoundland) and Bridlewreath Spirea (Spiraea vanhouttei) all produced more flowers this year than I’ve ever had.

Hemerocallis Catherine WoodburyMock range & Foxglove June 18 217Shileau & Bridlewreath June 10 2017

 

I also remembered the trees I lost.  Gardeners do, I think, grieve when they lose a plant cherished either because it came from a loved one’s garden or because it has been started from seed and nurtured for many years.  But just as searching deeper for water might make a plant, in the long run, stronger, seeing a tree die makes me (hopefully) wiser.  I’ll refrain from planting things that I know will not be happy in my garden.  Yes, I’ll still be challenging our 6a planting zone, but I’ll try, no matter how interesting or beautiful a flower may be, to stop myself from buying anything that loves moist, boggy soil.  I know that no matter how wet and flooded the yard may be in April, come July, without regular rain, the dirt will be bone dry.

I planted this Larch (Larix decidua 12 years ago….it sadly succumbed to last year’s drought.