Tag Archives: Prince Edward County

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.

Small Pleasures

I have a neighbour who generally heads south for two or more months every winter.  This year his departure was delayed a bit and every sentence that came from his mouth during those weeks was a variation on “I hate winter.”  He hates the cold, he hates the snow, he hates the ice, he hates the dark days, he hates the wind howling off the lake, he hates having to bundle up in multiple layers just to take out the garbage and he hates how gray and brown everything is.

This despite being a self proclaimed “Gardener,” living on 15 acres of land that has woods, marsh, stream and fields.

I’ve learned to bite my tongue and nod sympathetically, but my inside voice is cringing.  With age, my neighbour has grown to hate the Canadian seasons.  I have grown to, if not love, then at least embrace them.  For me, this means seeking out small pleasures in my daily activities and in my garden.  I look for the subtle splash of colour; unexpected green foliage; textures; shapes revealed when leaves are gone.  Here are a few examples I revel in this time of year.

 

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Giant Russian Sunflower  – seeds long gone

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Acer pensylvanicum – Striped Maple, aka Moose Maple – love the bright red twigs and striped bark

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Cornus sericea – Bud’s Yellow Dogwood

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Acer griseum – Paperbark Maple – notice the exfoliating cinnamon colour bark

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