Sunday, November 15, 2015

All the Shades of... Brown

It's late Fall, and everywhere is brown, so lets enjoy brown!

brown tones of autumn collage

Have a Happy Brown Day!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Taking Another Look

Bright sunny days are all very well, but I think you notice things more on a damp and cloudy one. Yesterday I was putting a few last things away in the shed and happened to go by a small shrub that lives under the Japanese Lilac. I don't usually pay much attention to it but this time the yellow leaves caught my eye. Not their bright yellow although that was nice enough, but the 'lines' made by the leaves, especially those at the tops of the stems. I'm not sure what the shrub is - it could be a kind of flowering almond - mostly it's just a short slightly spreading shrub with plain green leaves and small puffs of pink flowers for about fifteen minutes in the Spring.
shrub flowering almond yellow leaves
I liked the curves of the leaves and the way they sprang away from the stems. Repeated as they were on the multiple stems they had a rather nice rhythm to them.

That got me looking at other interesting 'lines' in the garden. How often do we look at the colour of something, or the shape, while not noticing what interesting lines it has? Look at all the lines in this collage of some things you might find in a late Fall garden:
brown leaves stems collage
Graceful curves in the grasses... bold veins on leaves... crisp curled leaves on Goldenrod stems... repeated zigzag edges of Bracken fronds... sinuous curves of the edges of Oak leaves. Even the collapsed stems of a Hosta was interesting when I looked at the lines.

.Of course there are lots of colours too: many, many, browns from palest tan to darkest chesnut, with a an excursion or two into red or yellow. But it was all the different 'lines' that intrigued me and made me look at my garden in a slightly new way.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Fall, Fallen, and Falling

One thing I've often said is that if a tree falls in the forest, and there is nobody around to hear it, it will fall across your trail. Not that it won't do this if you are around to hear it, but the point is, it will fall across your trail.

Or on to your best patch of Trailing Arbutus.

I happen to have three nice patches of Trailing Arbutus, Epigea repens, one of which is right beside one of my trails and is much larger and lusher than the others. Of course the dead Spruce fell right on it. It happened a few weeks ago in one of our wind storms. I inspected the situation, tsk'ed and walked around it.

So today I asked myself, 'self, what would you like to do with this fine cold windy afternoon' and the answer was, 'get that d... spruce off the Trailing Arbutus'. Right. I got out my old shabby green coat, which is warm and can't get any worse no matter what I do to it, my work gloves, my old saw and my trusty axe. I grabbed the biggest and reddest apple out of the fruit bowl, and set off for the woods. There were a few other things to clear along the way: a dead Balsam Fir top blown across the path, a large Cedar bough standing straight up as though it was a tree, and some Maple branches right at hair-snagging height. Once I got to the Arbutus patch I got right at it and hacked all the branches off the Spruce and moved them on to an existing brush pile. That left a long bare log lying on the ground, clear to view. A rather daunting view, given that it was about 15" across at the base, and me with no power saw. I'm scared of those things so I don't have one.Besides, it would be one more thing to store and maintain and anyway I hate power tools.

For no real reason, I jumped on the log near the top end. To my amazement, there was a loud cracking noise, and the log broke into three pieces! I was able to drag all three to the brush pile!

Then I stood quietly under the Maples nearby and enjoyed the yellow leaves planing down around me, mixed with some fat white snowflakes that were starting and finished my apple.

yellow maple leaves falling

Friday, October 9, 2015

October Observations

There's a lot to be said for October. Spring may be a fine sweet song, but in Autumn we can let go and find some peace. We've come through the frenzy of September, when we were assailed at every turn by chores not done, ideas not realized, plans not achieved, and now we are ready to let things be, do a little here and there, and just appreciate what the summer has left with us. Instead of thinking that maybe we can squeeze in a few hours of work tomorrow and get some particular mess tidied up, we are ready to say, well, I'll get to it next year.

The grasses on the Sand Hill have not been cut down. I'll just have to do them in the Spring. Meanwhile the waving seed heads, including one on the Miscanthus which isn't supposed to set seed, look thrilling sprinkled with raindrops and the occasional red Maple leaf.
maple leaf in grass

Along the Marsh edge the Cinnamon and Interrupted Ferns have turned various shades of yellow and, well, cinnamon.
fern fronds coloured in autumn
There are a couple of Royal Ferns which have appeared, tucked in among the Cinnamons, which I really should move. They were very small last year but have gotten a good bit bigger this year. The beavers chewed down a couple of small Maples nearby (you can see part of one trunk lying here) and the added sunlight has given the ferns a real boost. I'm trying to see the good side of beavers, and the way they keep the marsh edge open is probably good. I'll have to move the Royal Ferns, though. Next year.

symphyotrichum ericoides
A few things are very late bloomers. Sometimes it is because they are in too much shade, or in a spot too dry for them, but sometimes they are simply things that bloom late. A native Aster that is always late is Heath Aster, Symphyotrichum ericoides. I've been wanting one ever since I saw a plant at the Fletcher Wildlife Garden. It was huge -  about 3' tall and 6' across - and an absolute magnet for bees and wasps. I kept looking around the Valley, expecting to see some, but I didn't until a few weeks ago when I happened to be driving to Kingston. Near Carleton Place I found a small field, really a meadow, with many Heath Asters. Several were growing right up near the road... and there were ripe seeds on many of them.

Heath Aster is easily recognized, unlike the other Asters, due to its thickly filled flowering wands, tiny florets, and many very small leaves up and down the stems.

I've got seeds in pots, ready for next year.

Something else that often blooms late is Japanese Anemones. All the ones available at nurseries are cultivars, mostly of Anemone japonica. Many were developed in Europe where the summers are longer and warmer, and when they emigrate to Canada they have a hard time blooming before it gets too cold. So we end up with Anemones in October. The basic A. japonica blooms much earlier, July, but many of the varieties seem to be later.  There are white ones, pale pink ones, pink ones, single ones and double ones. It pays to try a few kinds and to move them around until you get what you want.

anemone japonica pink flower buds
But be warned! Japanese Anemones always remind me of  those bold-eyed boys that foolish girls like, dangerous and exciting, but impossible to live with. These plants put down massive roots and can lay claim to entire  gardens. Unless they are in a spot they don't care for...  like the double white one I accidentally put under a Crabapple tree and which can't seem to get its feet under itself. Guess I'll move it. In the Spring.

Last but not least of the things I've been admiring today are a couple of the New England Aster varieties sold in nurseries. Again, they were developed in Europe, Germany in this case, and they bloom too late for us here. By the time 'Andenken an Alma Potsche' and this unamed dark purple one bloom, they are alone in the border.
symphyotricym novae-angliea Andenken an Alma Potsche

dark purple aster flowers
I've already moved bits of Alma (as I call her) to better spots - one in front of the Yuccas on the hillside, and one to a sunnier spot, but I'll move the main plant next year as well. Maybe put it in front of some pale Japanese Anemones, and put the dark purple aster nearby. If they bloom together, they should be a nice spot of colour in the mainly yellow and orange of Autumn.

Next year.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Diggin' It

One of the best parts of gardening is digging! It's hard, or can be, it's messy, or can be, it's hot sweaty work, or can be, but it's fun! At least when you are done you can feel you've actually had an effect on something. Not like spending 2 hours on the computer trying to pay your phone bill (this morning's entertainment, not) or glazing pots in the studio (good useful work but no payoff until they are fired) or phoning people who really don't want to talk to you... just get out there and dig something up!

It was gorgeous today, sunny, cool, leaves turning red on the maples over my head, and I just felt I had to work off some of the cobwebs I'd picked up the last few days. So I attacked the bit of terracing at the back of the Hillside Garden today. The path, at Studio level, takes a right-angle turn around the Studio to the bottom of the Sand Hill Garden with a steep slope to the left. Under this bit of slope is the huge granite intrusion the builders found when they were digging for the Studio footings. In fact, this lump of granite is why the Studio is slightly off-square in relation to the house. It was either move the rock, tricky since it is attached to China, or move the Studio. Anyway, there isn't much soil there and what there is, I brought in, by wheelbarrow.

Right at the beginning of making this garden I stuck some rescued Yucca plants up there - they seemed to suit. And they've been very happy there, blooming magnificently in June and July and being a good dark focal point in the border. Unfortunately, some Lily-of-the-Valley pips must have come with them and they have been happy there too. Not to mention some seeded in Asters, Japanese Anemones, one lonely Helenium, and any number of weeds. A spurge of some kind went a bit mad there too. So it was a mess, not to mention that a rather nice Bearded Iris, with a soft yellow flower, was looking sad and neglected in among the jumble.

It took me a few hours, but a small section of this area now looks much better:

newly dug-over terrace
The bit I planned to work on is the lower of the two dug-over strips you see here. It was about 6' long and 2' wide, so not huge. It was hard going, though, because the soil there is solid heavy clay and it was packed with Lily-of-the-Valley pips and roots. My plan was to get it ready, then lift the Iris and re-plant it in the new space. But when I came to do it, I realized it would look wrong anywhere but one level higher up, so I had to dig over a second bit the same size. I had a time getting the rocks out, but they lined up nicely and they'll hold the soil back just perfectly. Remember that under all this there is a huge rounded granite outcropping!

Now tomorrow I'm planning to move a brighter yellow Iris over to the left of the pale one, behind the aster you can just see, and then maybe, maybe, add in a bit of a beautiful white Iris I have. Not sure if that won't be entirely too pale, but it might also be quite dramatic. Then I need to think of some short leafy things to put in between the irises and the other things for next year. I don't like looking at the iris foliage in the summer, too shabby. I hadn't planned on having any Bearded Iris, told myself, definitely NO IRIS. But then a friend arrived and said she was splitting her Irises (she's serious about Iris) and here were my share... (She also brought me a pail of strawberry plants and I dutifully planted them and they were doing fine but a bear came and ate the plants so that solved that problem. Bears don't seem to eat Iris.)

Now just so you don't worry that I might run out of digging opportunities, here's a view of the whole 'bit':
rock terrace
Two more levels to do! But no more Lily-of-the-Valley, whoo hoo!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Words for Kip

       We walked our woods,
          Cedars stitched with rain,
    Pines edged in mist.

                        You had today, and were content.
         I, still having yesterday,
       wanted tomorrow too.
        We walked our fields.
                                             Arches, steeples, songs and bright windows,
All were grass.

          The pale wind brings,
   And takes away.

These Words for Kip are for my beloved dog, Kip, whose life ended yesterday. Good-bye, dear companion, your today was too short.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Two Solidagos and a Turtle

Well, a Turtle-head. Chelone glabra, White Turtlehead, seems to be having a good year. Not sure if it is a perennial or not, but most years I only see a few along the marsh edge, and this year there are many. One of the best plants is this one:
You can see the water to the left - these things are tricky to photograph if you are wearing sandals. There were actually a number of stems and each had quite a few flowers, but I was reluctant to step into the water. I just did not want to risk sinking to my knees and losing my sandals on the way out! The name, which is a little puzzling, could be a reference to the flowers' profile, but looking at this group of four flowers, I'm wondering if it isn't really a reference to the shape of the flowers as you look straight down on them. Don't you think they look a lot like tiny white turtles heading off to the four different directions?

Chelone glabra, and its (non-native) cousin Chelone lyonii, are both good garden plants. White Turtlehead needs a bit more water - a damp area will keep it happy - while Pink Turtlehead does fine in normal conditions. Both like a sunny spot and both are about 30" tall.

In a shadier area, two Solidagos are starting to bloom. One is S. caesia, Blue-stemmed Goldenrod.

One plant I put near some hostas has filled in beautifully and is starting to show real presence and personality. I love the way the stems arch over to fill their space, and the way the leaves hang down below the flowers. The tiny curls on the ends of the leaves are charming too. S.caesia is easy to grow - a dependable perennial, not fussy except it doesn't like too much sun (half a day, or dappled by a high tree is fine) and not too 'spread-ish'. It does expand, and it does offer a few seedlings now and then, but it is easy to control. A mature plant will be about 2' tall and will fill a space twice that wide.

Solidago flexicaulis, Zig-zag Goldenrod, on the other hand, will attempt to monopolize more real estate than you might wish to allow it.

The plants don't seem to self-seed much, but they keep getting wider... and wider... and wider. You just have to be more determined than it is, and chop it back in the spring. The big thing about this Goldenrod is that it does well in solid shade. The plants are about 18" high, dark green, and healthy looking all summer. In September it is covered with typical Goldenrod flowers held high on ziggy-zaggy stems.

Both of these 'Goldies' are worth having in the garden - interesting form, bright flowers at a time when flowers are becoming scarcer, and extra 'garden points' for having something unusual!