Sunday, July 9, 2017

May the Fork Be With You

Also your spade, your trowel, your secateurs, your gardening gloves, your cell phone...

What do you carry around with you as you work in the garden? And how do you carry it? I've been gardening for decades and the perfect solution still eludes me.

I've seen, and tried, a number of arrangements for carrying gardening tools around. One is to attach them to a belt. I think this might work very well if you aren't elderly and slightly plump. In my case an actual belt was most uncomfortable, especially when I bent double as I do constantly. Not to mention that doing so made the secateurs slide out of their fancy holder and bang me on the chin.

Attaching things to my waistband didn't work much better. The weight pulled my shorts down and the phone banged into the trowel. I think wearing things at your waist only works if you never bend over. You only work standing or kneeling. Since kneeling only works if you are going to be working in one spot for some time and I tend to have to cover a lot more ground than that, I don't think wearing my tools is going to work.

I've tried keeping them in the wheelbarrow. This works fine, right until you pile weeds or other debris on top, then dump the lot on the compost heap, and only later think, 'hmmm, where is my trowel...'. Not a good solution either.

You can buy charming canvas tool carriers. A pocket for each tool. Space to add accessories such as sharpeners, pens, labels and so on. They're lovely in the catalogue, the shop and the garden shed. In the field they sag, fall over, get wet and muddy and accumulate dead spiders. And putting the tools back in is such a pain that you tend not to do it and the secateurs get lost under the peony bush.

A kind person once gave me an antique wooden tool box which has a nifty wooden carrying handle. Sadly, it is so heavy it pretty much has to go in the wheelbarrow, which sort of negates its usefulness. I like it at Christmas, though, as it looks great filled with greenery and pine cones.

Lately, I've been using a basket my daughter gave me for Mother's Day. The basket wasn't the gift, it was what the gift came in - but the chocolates are eaten, the jam has been spread, the flowers have  wilted and only the basket remains. It's nothing fancy, not even painted, but it has a nice high handle and seems large enough to hold most of the things I need. Putting stuff in is easy - just toss whatever it is on top and don't worry about it. The handle of the trowel sticks up because the basket is just a little bit too small and the secateurs are easy to see because they are red. The phone lurks in the bottom and the sweat-mopping towel lies on top. I can hang it on the wheelbarrow handle or a tree branch, put it down beside my feet, or put it on a rock.

Not waterproof, though. Today it was sunny so Rosie (the new puppy) and I were out pulling grass out of the Goldenrods on the Hillside when a large black cloud suddenly pulled up overhead and drenched us. I took Rosie in and dried her off and then remembered the basket. Oops. Luckily the towel had kept my cell phone more or less dry. Note to self: put the darn phone in something rain-proof.

Nor is it Rosie-proof. Usually she goes after the towel (she likes fabric, hey, she's a girl) but the other day she went after the trowel. She likes the rubber handle, very chewy. Unfortunately she took it away for a good chomping session and it took me three days to find it again.

But other than that, it seems to be working. It holds my trowel, my secateurs, cell phone (now in a nice sturdy case), a ball of string, some labels, a waterproof pen, and a towel. Gardening gloves just have to take their chances - either on my hands or piled on top in the basket. Notebook I've given up on. Proper weeding requires a sort of zen-like state of mind, so I'm not going to worry about important thoughts that need writing down.

Have I just invented the Canadian version of the English 'trug'?

Thursday, June 29, 2017

A Garden Surprise (or Two)

I love that early morning garden walk-about. The air is cool, my coffee tastes good, birds are singing all around, Rosie is full of joy, and sometimes there's a nice surprise.

The first one was a nice plant of Loesel's Twayblade, Liparis loeselii right in the middle of a huge patch of Thyme. It was at the bottom of my Rockery right next to the driveway, shaded by a fast-growing Maple. It does get some sun, but that spot sometimes gets stepped on when people park there, so it's not a good spot for a delicate orchid. Still, there it was, green and perky. It's only about 8" high, but that is actually robust for this small species.

Loesel's Twayblade is unusual in that it's form can vary depending on the growing conditions. In a damp and shady spot the leaves are much narrower and longer. Flowering is apparently much the same, though. I had it  higher up in the Rockery up to last year, but then it disappeared. It was very close to a path so I was afraid I'd stepped on it! I was quite cheered to see it again.

My second happy surprise was a bright orange, almost red, lily leaning out from the Coneflower it was growing through. I planted that Coneflower there last year, and had no idea there was a Lily of any kind lurking in the pot. Or was it? I have no idea where it came from, and I also don't know what species it is.

The leaves are very narrow, dark blue-green, and in whorls (more or less) around the stalk. The stalk would be a good 4', should it stand up straight, but for now it is curved over and around the Coneflower. It would probably be less lanky if it got more sun so I might have to move it. There were two flowers, both on long stalks.

I have a small group of white Martagon lilies nearby. The flowers are similar in shape, but the leaves and the arrangement of the blooms are completely different.

Another surprise, Rosie is a very good digger! Here she is wondering why I'm speaking sharply to her. She dug all around the huge boulder that serves as the doorstep to the Studio. It's about 600 pounds, so I don't think she'll shift it... you can see some of her sticks here too. She collects any stick or branch she can carry and piles them in the doorway. Hmmmm. I need to work on my woods trails next week, maybe she can help.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

A Happy Anouncement!!

Yes, I am delighted to announce that Elphin Rosie, the world's smartest, cutest, most lovable puppy is home!

She arrived on Monday and has already, in her perfect puppy way, changed life for myself and Pepper, my faithful cat and longest-standing employee.

Her she is sitting and looking bemused by this new and rather wet world:

 In true Border Collie fashion, she soon set out to explore. Notice that she already has 'the stare' down pat. All she needs is some sheep.

Or maybe this juniper can be induced to go somewhere:
Today it was sunny and we did some gardening. Rosie helped by dragging the trowel about 100' down the driveway and then going off with my phone (no, Rosie, bad girl...). We had a lovely time but got pretty tired:
So now we're back inside, I'm typing and she's curled up under my chair sound asleep. Just for a few minutes my toes aren't getting nipped and nobody's barking at the mosquito that's buzzing around. Life is good.

 Welcome home, Rosie!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Ladyslipper News

As usual with news, the Ladyslipper News is  mixed.

I'm absolutely disgusted, disappointed, furious and otherwise miffed off that three of my  Yellow Ladyslipper plants in the Sampler Garden have not appeared this spring. They were doing so well last year... now, nothing. I strongly suspect Enemy Action, that is, chipmunks. Chipmunks are a scourge. They tunnel everywhere and eat everything. They upend my pots and dig up anything freshly planted. This is the second time I've lost Yellow Ladyslippers in my garden while those in the woods are fine, so I'm sure it's them.

On the other hand, I'm delighted to report that my one plant of Ram's Head Ladyslipper, Cypripedium arietinum, is looking bigger and more vigourous than last year.

Not sure if it will bloom this summer, but it might. The top leaf is still tightly curled and I didn't want to risk damaging anything so I didn't check. You can see a small Oak Fern, some stems of a tiny Polygonatum and a Hosta in the background.

Fingers crossed!

The Showy Ladyslipper clump is showing above ground.
The clumps in the woods (in my Bog area) are looking healthy too. One of these was under a foot of water for a week, so I'm pretty impressed that it is even alive.

Not so sure about the Pink Ladyslippers. The ones in the woods haven't appeared yet, although the ones on the hill are up.  Odd that the ones which had good water last year might be gone while the ones that got really dry in the drought seem to have done alright. Not as many plants as two years ago, but still some. Looks like more fingers will have to be crossed although I suppose removing some of the small trees nearby which are shading them too much now may be more effective.

Now, nothing to do with Ladyslippers, more like one of those snippets of news they use to fill out a page in the newspaper, my Wood Anemone, Anemone quinquefolia, is spreading nicely beside the cedar it chose to get friendly with. I planted it some distance away, but it seeded itself at the base of a large cedar and has thrived there ever since. It's not a native form, being semi-double, but totally charming.
Back to Ladyslippers, one more good thing. Connaught Nursery has beautiful large potted plants of Showy and Yellow Ladyslippers at the Carp Farmers' Market. I'm going to be there early to get a couple new Yellows for my garden, although since this is the second time I've purchased plants to replace some eaten by Chippies, I may have to grovel a bit...

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Plant Sale News

Good news and bad news.

The bad news, not that it's so very bad, is that I have postponed my Wildflowers Day plant sale. It has been so cold this Spring that the plants in the pots are only now blinking and yawning and thinking about getting out of bed. For example, my Goldenrods are about 1" high... hopefully by May 28th the things in pots should be ready for the new season.

I will have a selection of native plants, many of them good for pollinators, and a limited number of Trilliums, both White and Red. Hours are 10am to 4pm, address is 6114 Carp Road. Contact me (see the left sidebar) if you have something specific you are looking for or have a question. Hope to see you!

The good news is, actually there are two pieces of good news. One, I am getting a new puppy! Her name is Elphin Rosie and she's a Border Collie. She'll be coming home the first week in June. She's mostly black, with a white stripe on her face, one white-tipped ear, a white-tipped tail and 4 white paws. She's totally adorable and I'm totally excited! Her main job will be Friendly Greetings, so if you come to visit you will see how talented she is at that!

Second piece of good news is, my Double Bloodroot is blooming. I bought this plant some years ago, but due to good management on my part, it first dwindled and then nearly disappeared and then gave it one last effort and succeeded!
It's blooming a bit later than the singles and I understand the flower will last a bit longer. Most Bloodroots bloom for about 15 minutes, so that is good news too!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Opening Notes

Ah, it begins.

A quiet note sounds in the distance. A light breeze, a hint of song...

Along the edge of the marsh, the deep and dusky notes of catkins on the Alders. The catkins sway in the breeze below the much smaller red cones of the female flowers. Last years cones persist.

Buds are enlarging, ready to sing of leaves.

A thrilling run of deep notes of purple from Iris Reticulata sound. One of the first flowers to bloom and a sustained note  in the cool weather.

A throb of yellow becomes just audible as the Cornus Mas shrub covers itself in its curious small flowers.

Snowdrops appear above the leaves on the forest floor, introducing the opening notes of the garden's theme.

Light high notes, rising briefly, so briefly, above the deeper concerns in the background.

The Iris hands off to the bright blue-purple blooms of Anemone Blanda.

White Trilliums rush to add their voices.

  Bloodroot doubles them along the fence row.

A quiet counterpoint of fiddleheads begins beneath the theme.

Hepaticas, delicate and ephemeral, join in. 

 Trout Lilies nod over their contribution.


In a garden, deep in the woods, Spring begins.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

First Walk-about

Every Spring I go through the same thing: a period when I both want to take a nice long nap, and want to go dashing off in some direction to do something energetic.

Best thing to do is go for a walk, but there is still a lot of snow, very icy snow, in the woods and around my garden. Out in the open, the snow is basically gone, but under the trees winter hangs on for at least a week longer. I was able to walk everywhere in front of my house, but was stopped by a 3' high pile of ice crystals at the back. Maybe that was just as well, as not all the news was good.

I saw that the mice have really chewed on my prostrate junipers. There is a whole swath of them along the front of the house and they do a great job of being a very low foundation planting. I did have to evict a mouse from the house earlier this year - she had moved into my kitchen dresser and started a nice nest in my favourite napkins - and, not knowing what else to do, I had tossed her outside. (It was on one of the warmer days.) Maybe this is her revenge.

 And garbage, garbage, garbage. Where does it come from? I know  Snowblower Man had an unfortunate encounter with a bag of garbage I must have left out (the results were not pretty), but I don't smoke so where do cigarette butts and other stuff like that come from? Is there a Garbage Fairy?

It always surprises me how flat everything gets under the snow. Logically I expect it, but when I see it, it is still a shock. Sort of like when someone you know gets his hair cut. You know what it will look like (usually) but when you see it you still feel jarred. The leaves blown onto the garden are packed flat, stems of perennials I didn't cut down are flat, even the garbage I was talking about is flat.

The small pines in the woods are comically bent over, having been under the snow for months. They look dire, but I know they'll soon straighten up.

Speaking of trees, I looked up and didn't see that the buds on the Maples were much enlarged yet. Only the one Red Maple near the house showed fat buds, and these Lilac bushes.


Daffodils and Peonies are showing their noses above ground.

Down near the marshy bit, Ranunculus ficaria, a thug of the first degree, is growing and ready to burst into bloom. The shiny bright yellow flowers are attractive, but the little bulblets help it to spread like the dickens. There is no such thing as one Lesser Celandine!

Snowdrops! The Snowdrops are out!
These are Nivalis morrowii and they are in a spot where the snow melts early. I noticed that the little knob on the top of the flowers, where the stem attaches, is green in most plants, but yellow in the one in the foreground. I'll have to keep an eye on that and see if it stays that way.

I also see this blog needs a new Spring header. Hmmm.... maybe after I have a short nap.