location, location, location…

Let me confess first that I should have known better.  In fact, I DID know better, yet I did it anyway.  I planted something in a spot I knew was just not suitable, a spot that was already getting a tad overcrowded, didn’t have quite the right requirements, a spot that meant something, sooner rather than later, would need to be moved.

The victims are two pots of Silphium perfoliatum (Cup Plant) I started from seed the winter of 2016.  I was excited to see the seeds offered at Trenton’s Seedy Saturday that year – I remembered studying this plant at school and seeing pictures of HUGE clumps growing in a moist meadow near Ottawa.  Called a Cup Plant because the leaves grow together at the stem to create a cup that catches water, it’s in the Aster family, and the same genus as the Silphium laciniatum (Compass Plant) – another favourite. 

Cup Plant - Silphium perfoliatum June 24 2017

Two leaves joining together at the stalk to form a cup

Many bee and butterfly species are attracted to the small sunflower-like yellow flowers and small birds gobble up its seeds in later summer into the fall.

 

But did ya see the word ‘HUGE’ in the previous paragraph?  And the words ‘moist meadow’?  Four to 10 feet tall!!  Clumps six feet across!!  What was I thinking???

After starting them indoors in four inch peat pots then transferring them to one gallon plastic pots, I planted them in the Island Bed – about two feet from a prized  Paeonia tenuifolia (Fernleaf Peony – given to me by a friend many years ago as a root division with a single eye) and three feet from a joyful Acer griseum (Paperbark Maple – which is itself slated to eventually be VERY tall and wide!).  I knew they had to be at the back of something and I didn’t want them to be all by themselves in the middle of the yard, not even the front field where it gets very wet (ie floods) in the spring – something the plant actually appreciates.

In semi-desperation I planted them where I was able, thinking I’d have a few years before they (or their neighbours) would need to be moved.  Alas, this year, their first full year in the ground, the clumps are already about seven feet high — that’s with flowers yet to spring forth from the top!

Lesson Learned (yet again…):  think of the mature size of a plant before planting!

Silphium perfoliatum July 23 2017

The poor Fernleaf Peony is just to the bottom left of the Cup Plant

 

New Additions

I really enjoy visiting nurseries – especially the small owner-operated ones that specialize in specific types of plants.  You can often find things that don’t make it to the larger nurseries, let alone the supermarket parking lots.  The people working there (ie those owner-operator types!) are a wealth of knowledge about what grows well in a local area, what survived last year’s drought and how tall something might really get!

On  Saturday, to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday, I went with some friends to Fuller Native & Rare Plant Nursery in Belleville, Ontario.  I’ve never been before but found out about them at the Picton Seedy Saturday earlier this year.  What a jewel!  This tiny nursery has four small structures jammed with trees, shrubs and perennials in pots 4″ to five gallon – including many in an ‘end of season’ sale – five 10 cm ‘plugs’ for $10.   (They call them plugs, to me they’re tall 10 cm pots.)

Anyway – love this place, their display beds are outstanding – all full of colour and ideas.  I walked out with some 10 cm plugs of Empatorium purpureum (Joe Pye Weed) and Helenium autumnale (Sneezeweed) plus two plants that are new to me:  Sanguisorba canadensis (Canadian Burnet):

Sanguisorba canadensis[Canada Burnet]

The Canada Burnet really does like moist, even marshy areas….gets about a meter high and will have load of interesting white spikey flowers in summer/fall

and Thermopsos Villosa (Carolina Lupin):

Thermopsis villosa [Carolina Lupin]

The Carolina Lupin has bright yellow flowers in the summer; should mature to about one meter high and wide.

Didn’t know anything about their habit or needs but they looked great planted out at the nursery.  A quick internet search indicates the Thermopsis should do well – it can take dry, clay soil, while the Sanguisorba might find it more challenging as it likes moist areas.

But hey, it survived through last year’s drought at the nursery with no hand watering – and we’ve just come through the wettest spring in a century, so here’s hoping!

Perennials from seed

I was once afraid to start perennials from seed – so many doubts, so many questions – so many chances for failure.  Why take a chance (money, time, emotional commitment) on a perennial when you know you can get a Marigold to germinate and grow just by dropping a seed in a cup of soil?

Here’s the thing:  when you have a large garden, filling it with perennials is expensive!  Even if you buy the smallest pot size available and don’t mind waiting a year or two for thing to grow into its space, the cost can add up quickly!

Here’s the other thing: if you’re in a garden centre buying perennials, especially the smallest size possible, it’s way too tempting to get one or two of a lot of different plants, instead of two dozen of one plant.  Because really, in your imaginary garden, you have these magical drifts of blooms, created by massing dozens or hundreds of the same plant.  Sure, you may be after the cottage garden look, with all sorts of shapes, sizes and colours vying for attention; but even then it helps a lot to use the same plant here and there, in clumps big or small, to add cohesion to the whole.

Enter seeds.

I started a few years ago by collecting my own seeds – from big yellow and red daylilies (Hemerocallis ssp)  – I’ll get into the details on a future post, but the results were fabulous.

Two years ago I went to my first Seedy Saturdays – in Picton and in Trenton.  There, I purchased seeds for Cup Plant (Silphium perfoliatum) and Pale Purple Coneflower (Echinacea pallida) and was able to plant them out last spring.  These are both perennials that can’t be found in most garden centres – another benefit of starting your own seeds!  With much hand watering (remember last year’s drought??) they survived the summer and winter, growing ever large leaves and this year they are set to bloom.  Pictures coming soon!Digitalis purpurea June 24 2017

Another plant I started from seed last winter was Foxglove  (Digitalis purpurea).  I thought it would be neat to have a ton of them just in front of the tree/brush line on the Island bed.  The ‘magical drift’ I mentioned above!  The challenge with Foxglove is the seed size:  they’re VERY TINY!!!  I wound up with a flat of seedlings all jammed in together and had to carefully split them apart when planting out last spring.  The foliage stayed green all winter and this year they sent up dozens of beauful flower stalks.

it’s all about the daffodils…

Daffs April 22 2017

Daffs in back garden

 

Late April in the garden means yellow everywhere – Narcissus in all sizes plus Forsythia and the early Tulips.  I love it!  As a bonus, it looks like the Fritillaria persica will bloom!  One of them, anyway…really looking forward to seeing up close and in person what they look like, then putting in more this autumn.  The Island project is coming along – go a lot mulched this weekend.  Next weekend I’ll start transplanting Echinacea.

It was wonderful to see so many bees out and about this weekend.  At one point this small grouping of Hyacinth was covered with thrm – as many as two dozen just going in and out of the flowers.  They were also loving all the daffs and of course the Scilla and Chianodoxia.  This time next week they’ll be all over the dandelions!

 

Winter…

Winter has sort of arrived in Prince Edward County.  The past few months have seen temperatures hover around zero Celsius – one day snow, the next day rain…. the 14 day forecast says nothing above freezing but who knows!

The good news is that sump pumps everywhere are going non stop and water is once again running over the top of the Consecon Mill dam.  I’m hoping this means the official end of the 2016 drought, and our well is back to normal.  Most people here want a lot of snow this year so that the water table gets back to normal.  The number one lesson I learned from the drought is not to plant things that clearly require moist soil.  I lost a few small trees – Larch in particular – and even the native red Osier dogwood seems in many places to have died – I’ll only know for sure come spring.

What would have died if I hadn’t made a lot of trips to the lake to bring back buckets of irrigation water?  The cucumber and umbrella Magnolias I started from seed 15 years ago; yellow twig dogwoods I planted in the spring; perennials I transplanted or started from seed; my new Pennsylvania Maple; various other shrubs and perennial planted in spring before I knew how dry it would be.

What did all right with no watering?  Various Spireas; garlic started the previous fall in a well-mulched raised bed; Paperbark Maple; Foxglove started from seed; Junipers; Smoke Tree.

The photo at the top is what an artichoke looks like if left to flower then left on the stalk.  I grew them from seed and had a half dozen plants send up stalks.  Another dozen plants produced gigantic leaves but no stalks.  Not too sure why…

 

Colchicum

I really love these bulbs.  They come in a handful of varieties – white or pink or purple flowers.  I love this one – I had it in my Toronto backyard for about 10 years and it kept getting bigger and bigger.  Transplanted it this past spring and here it is in The County garden, under a Pagoda dogwood (Cornus alternifolia)  that I also had in Toronto, started from seed.  In the spring large strap like leaves emerge and last for several months.  I planted eight or nine last fall – those are just starting to emerge, and another 10 this week which should come up by the end of the month.  I intend to keep top dressing with compost to ensure the soil stays nice and looseColchicum 'Purple Giant'.Colchicum Sept 27, 2014

Asters

One of the many reasons I love Autumn is the Asters that suddenly make a colourful appearance.  It’s weird, because they’ve been there all year, sending green stalks up through the meadow or at the edge of the field and sometimes even in the middle of the garden.  Yet come September when the blues and purples and whites start to appear…. they are a perfect antidote to the masses of bright goldenrod, and the perfect side dish to the tree and shrub leaves that are starting to turn yellow and brown.  Here are three of my favourites from the garden – Aster Symphyotrichum novae-angliae (New England Aster), Symphyotrichum oolentangiense (Sky Blue Aster) and Symphyotrichum ericoides (Heath Aster).Heath AsterSky Blue Aster New England Aster