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

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!


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.