Thursday, June 10, 2021

Life is Weird

 In more ways than one.

This morning I noticed a fairly large dark brown blob on one of the Birch sticks that I've had leaning up against the Studio wall lately. Don't ask me why I have sticks leaning up against the wall, I just do.They're on one side of the door, there's a Welcome sign on the other side. Seems sort of right, somehow. At one point, I had sticks there that were painted blue, yellow, green... now I have Birch sticks.

Looking more closely, I saw that the blob was a slime mold! Chocolate Tube Slime, Stemonitis splendens, to be precise.

Slime molds are totally weird. They are animal-like in that they move and feed. A slime mold plasmodium, the body of the critter, can move several metres. But they are also fungus-like in that they propagate themselves by producing spores. The spores are produced in or on fruiting bodies, which come in four types. One type is called a sporangium and that is what this one has. 

Chocolate Tube Slime starts as a blob of pearly white spheres, then they elongate to become tubes, and turn dark chocolate brown. Each tube is held up off the substrate by a thin black foot. Here's a sketch of just a few sporangia:

The growth I was looking at had thousands. Here's what they looked like overall on the stick:

Getting closer you can see the individual sporangia more clearly:

Getting really close, you can see the feet and the tops of the sporangia. You can even see some remnants of the white spheres, now just tiny drops of liquid.

None of these pictures are very good, I know, but these things are all of 2cm. long. 

Weird, eh?

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Joy Of Mulching

 33 degrees Celsius today! And still hardly any rain.

But, after lunch and a morning spent on the computer, I went walkabout in the garden and the inevitable happened. I went and fetched a hoe and went after a few Sumach roots that were left when I dug over the vegetable patch this Spring and which had sprouted. It was amusing to see the sprouts in a line, with the ones nearest the parent Sumach the tallest and the rest getting smaller as they got further away. It was satisfying to pull up the largest, get hold of the root, and pull and watch the others get dragged under the surface and then out. The slope the garden is on is infested with Sumach and the roots travel great distances.

Only an idiot would plan a vegetable garden so close to a Sumach patch.

When you pull a long Sumach root, make sure you don't uproot something you planted! Luckily this one snaked through the Tomato patch and it pulled out safely.

I have 3 kinds of Tomatoes in the veg patch this year. Cherry tomatoes (my favourites), a regular Big Beef type, and what I call my '$15,000 Tomato'. Two years ago, when I had to get a new truck (brakes failed on the old one and gave me the biggest driving scare of my life) I ended up liking one at a service station in the City. Took it for a test drive, someone cut in front of me, the brakes worked. Measured the box, it was a full 6 feet so it would take the tables I need for my pottery display at shows and the Market, the price wasn't too bad... but I'm a cautious sort, especially when it comes to spending money, and I asked for a day or two to think it over. We agreed I could leave a deposit (yikes), think for 2 days, and then either cancel and get my deposit back, or commit and send them the balance. Meanwhile they would service the truck and get it ready.

I decided to get it. After looking for about 2 months I knew there was nothing much available that met my criteria. It was larger then I really wanted, but there simply were no mid-size pickups available. Oh, maybe on the West Coast, or downtown Toronto, but not here. 

When I went in to finish the deal and pick up the truck, I went in to meet with the guy running the office. He happened to have some odd lumpy orange and red striped 'things' on his desk. I picked one up and teased him a bit: 'What the heck is this?'.

 'Tomato', he said, in a charming Spanish accent,. 'Ah', he said, 'you take some good bread. You spread on some good fresh butter. You cut the tomato in thick slices, put on. Sprinkle some salt, pepper, a wipe of mayonnaise. Best tomato sandwich you will ever eat. Here, have one.'  

The balance owing was $15,000. I did the e-transfer, picked up a tomato, got into my new truck and drove home.

When I got there, I sent him and the salesman an email saying 'Truck is great, and thanks for the $15,000 tomato'.

I did what he said and indeed it was the best tomato sandwich I had ever eaten.

I kept a few seeds, and am now growing them myself. They are a long-season tomato so need to be started early, but even so I get some wonderful, odd-looking, strangely striped tomatoes in about September. They are worth the effort, although $15,000 might be a bit much.

The plants are over a foot tall and look pretty good. They have survived several nights of near frost and some incredibly hot days, like today. They've been very dry, too. I do water the veg garden, but that's never enough. Keeping the ground lightly hoed up gives a slight mulch effect and keeps the surface moisture in a bit. 


Having scuffled up the Tomato patch, I tied up the Peas. They were attaching to the sticks I put in, but I felt a string would encourage better climbing.


They are still pretty short, not having liked the heat we've been having, but blooming. There is a deep row of Daffodils behind them, which I planted there in a moment of madness some years ago. Soon as they go dormant, they're out of there.

  The Squash, Cucumbers and Zucchini were looking a big sad. They really, really, didn't like those cold nights.

But I see signs of recovery.

Next thing I knew, I was digging in the old chicken coop, filling a pail with the old bedding. It's rotted beautifully and makes a great mulch. Wish I had more of it!

 Here's a Squash, all tucked in with a thick layer of well-rotted chicken bedding.


 This whole business of mulching and planting is part of my program for making more vegetable garden. Last year I put an old tarp down where the squashes are now and solarized a nice 10 by 10 feet section. The soil there is pretty rocky and sandy, so the mulch is doubly needed. I've done this before and it works wonderfully well. It may not stay a veg patch - there's already a Crabapple planted at the side - but if I can get rid of the old chicken coop itself, there will be more room for edibles there.

Did you know that Crabapples seed themselves around? It never occurred to me that they would, and here I was wanting a tree with yellow crabs and asking for it at the nurseries and being told nobody wanted that, and then last Fall didn't I find 2 small ones that both had yellow apples. A largish one that has been growing against the hydro pole in my Herb Garden turned out to have large yellow crab apples, and later I was surprised to find a 2 foot high one behind the house with those tiny apples the birds like, in yellow. As soon as I figure out where to put it, it's moving. How lucky is that?

My Sampler Garden is under a lot of Maples, Oaks and deciduous shrubs. The leaves act as a natural mulch. A few things aren't able to push through it (violets, for example), but most woodland plants do. It's the garden that needs the least work, the mulch of leaves keeps most weeds out. Plus it's usually cool in there!

This small Walking Fern likes both the moss mulch and the coolth:

Mulch: air conditioning for plants!



















Thursday, June 3, 2021

A Little Bit Of Rain

 It finally rained a bit this morning. Not much, just enough to dust things off a bit, but better than nothing. I was up early and the morning light on the wet flowers was wonderful, so cool, so refreshing.

A lovely, damp, Aquilegia canadensis flower with a small bite taken out of one petal!

Hesperis matrionalis, Dame's Rocket, white form. I love all white flowers. There is something tender and endearing about them.
A medium blue Siberian Iris. This clump has done well for me, in spite of being at the top of my very dry Hillside Garden. At least a hundred flowers this year.
The Pin Cherry tree that hangs over the end of the Hillside Garden is full of tiny green pin cherries, each one with a drop of rain hanging from it. The birds love the pin cherries. They make a fine jam, but it's so much work I'm glad to let the birds have them!
Poppies bending in the rain.
Rosa glauca, the flower arranger's dream foliage, has small but appealing bright pink flowers.

And my spade, which I seem to have left out last night, provided proof that we had had at least some rain!

More, please!

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

28C Musings and A Message To Readers

 When I came in the door from the garden the phone was ringing. The land line, you know, the one you don't carry around.  I picked it up and it was an acquaintance who does sometimes phone. 

"I called earlier", she said, "but I guess you were out."

"Well, I was in the garden, pulling euonymous."

There was this total silence. Now, this is not a person I know very well. We have several friends in common, so she probably knows me better than I know her. It took me a minute to realize that she probably isn't a gardener, so what I'd said might have sounded a bit strange.

I decided not to explain to her that I had gone outside with the firm intention of doing some easy, relaxing weeding. I was only going to pull the Forget-me-nots out of a small part of my rockery, and maybe reduce the nearby Ajuga patch a little. That's was all I was going to do today; after all, it was about 28C out there and the mosquitoes were hungry.

Ajugas are easiest to pull when they're blooming. For one thing, that's when you can find them. For another, that's when they are still attached to all the little baby Ajugas at the ends of their many runners. If you wait a bit the runners seems to disengage or something, forcing the little ones to take up independent living, which they do with great tenacity. At that point, instead of pulling one Ajuga plant you have to pull a dozen, and believe me, they hide and they hold on.

I pulled happily, filling my bucket many times and dumping it on the Hop Vine which always comes up through that particular compost pile. I've been trying to discourage it for years but it's still going. One year it got away from me and I didn't know it. I wasn't seeing it and started to think maybe it was gone and then I looked up into the Maple nearby. My illusions fell in little shattered bits all around me.

The Forget-mes were no problem. They come out easily. If you pull them before they form seeds they don't even stick to your gloves but once the little burr-y seeds form they stick to everything. Do not pull Forget-mes in a flannel shirt. 

Then I decided, in an uncharacteristic moment, that the little row of Cedars (Arborvitae really) which had grown up in the rock crevice had to go. They were only about a foot high five minutes ago but here they were, towering over my head at a good 7-8 feet. Ever cut down 3" diameter Cedars with secateurs? And then cut them up so you could put the branches on the compost pile and the trunks in the use-for-something-sometime pile? It was quicker than going to get the saw.

The cedars had a lot of last year's leaves caught at their bases. I was going to leave them there but then I tripped over something. Seems an old Euonymous vine I planted there years ago was still going. It was just doing it under the leaves. I pulled. Ten feet of yellow stem, with roots along it, came up. I rummaged around in the leaves, found more yellow stems.... I pulled, clipped, wound into a bundle, pulled, clipped, wound into a bundle... that darn Euonymous had turned into over twenty feet of many many stems, all rooted (shallowly, thank goodness) in the large crevice the Cedars had been in. It had also, very sneakily, sent skinny, hardly noticeable little green stems with small green leaves into the adjacent fern and Trilliums patch. Pulling those wasn't so easy as I didn't want to damage the good guys. So I had to pull gently, clip, carefully disentangle, grope for the end of the stem, repeat. And repeat, and repeat. 

In the 28C heat and no chance of rain again today. They said 'risk of thunderstorms' on the news, but I think it should be 'slight hope of thunderstorms' but anyway they didn't happen and everything is terribly dry.

This Euonymous, by the way, was sold to me by an actual rock gardener. I don't remember what species it was, but it was supposed to stay small. When it first bloomed I was intrigued, it was such a strange flower. I had never seen one before. 


Then, still being completely naive on the subject of Euonymi, I bought and planted an E. fortunei. It looked great in all those English gardening books. Yep, and it looked great in my rockery. All over my rockery. All over all the other plants in the rockery, and the  rocks, and my paths and for all I know, some number of small animals. It took hours of work to dig it out and for a year or two it keep sticking tentative little yellow leaves up above the soil. 


No more Euonymi for me, thanks. 


 Now, a Message to My Readers.

 I know that I am writing this blog entirely for my own amusement. I know that and I'm good with that, but I wouldn't mind having a few more readers! It does begin to feel a bit like the sound of one hand clapping if nobody is reading. In July, feedburner is going to stop handling the email notices about new blog posts that you have been getting. I have to either change the format of this blog, or find another program to do the same thing, or ??? There are options, I don't understand all of them yet... it may be possible to do it completely seamlessly, or it may not. In any case, please, stay in the boat! I'll let everyone know soon.

Meanwhile, one thing I do know: I would like more readers. 

I know there are lots of you keen gardeners out there, and you all know others, so here's a bribe! Kind of a double bribe!

Anybody who shows that they would like this blog to continue, by subscribing, or leaving a comment or sending me an email or phoning on the old land line or otherwise communicating with me, will get their name put into a (virtual) hat. To keep it fair I will only put any name in a maximum of 3 times, that way someone who leaves lots of comments will still only get 3 chances. On Sept. 1, 2021, I will draw one name and that lucky person will win the Tilley Hat of his or her choice. Any Tilley hat, any colour, style, size, up to a value of CAD $120.00. That's a pretty good bribe, eh! 

And, just for fun, I will select one name for a second prize: a Japanese Hand Weeder from Lee Valley Tools in Ottawa. This is a short hoe-like tool with one sharp edge and is the best weeding tool I have ever used. My criteria for selecting the winner of this prize will be... completely arbitrary. I'm going to pick what I think was the best or most amusing or most unusual communication I received all summer to win this prize!

My contact info is in the box at the top to the left of the blog text. If you decide to play, do be sure I have your name and a way to get in touch with you should you be the winner! 

Good Luck!

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Twenty Degrees!


But I still have some snow! Want some?  There's a nice big pile of it where Mr. SnowBlowerMan throws the snow from three different directions so it becomes a dense icy pile and never melts until about the time farmers are taking off their first hay crop. If you want some, just come on over. Bring Scotch.


Snowdrops are out - actually, I tell a lie, they've been out for a week already. This is Galanthus morrowii, a larger-leaved species, but just as charming as the more common G. elwesii.


Dirca palustris, aka Wicopy, aaka Leatherwood, aaaka quite the earliest shrub to flower at my place. In fact, just about the first flower, period. The blooms are small, only about an inch long, but the black furry buds are cute. Kind of like my cats' black furry butts, but a lot smaller!


I was delighted to find four separate clusters of purple Crocuses in a small bit of open woodland behind my Rockery. I planted 100 crocus bulbs in 2019, and had one flower. I figured the squirrels had gotten them, but it appears they missed a few!


A miniature daffodil called Tete-a-tete. First, earliest, smallest, cutest, most invasive daff in the garden. I rarely see a seedpod yet Tete-a-tete seeds itself around. Adorable in a small wineglass. Wine is even better, but if you're out, these tiny perky blossoms will make you feel better. If you have wine, pour yourself a glass and go sit in the sun beside these little charmers and enjoy both. When your glass is empty, pick some daffs and put them in the glass.


A False Morel, a tiny one, but it will get bigger, and there will be more of them. Seems too early for mushrooms, but these show up in a certain spot every Spring. Totally inedible, but they do signal that the True Morel might be up as well. I searched where there were some last year, but didn't see any. True Morels are scarce, False Morels not so much.

There's a moral there, somewhere. 


Happy Spring!

Monday, March 15, 2021

Hoya, Hoya, or, The Pride That Goeth


 I was taken to task, politely but quite firmly, by someone who asked why her Hoya plant wasn't blooming. 

Her post, on Facebook, included a very nice picture of a healthy looking Hoya carnosa.

Now I've had Hoyas, several species and several variations of the main houseplant, H. carnosa, for over 50 years. In fact one of the plants I have now is a distant offspring (are things grown from cuttings 'offspring'?) of a plant that covered the better part of a 20' by 20' brick wall inside the building where I worked. It's only light, other than the artificial office lighting, was a skylight overhead and about 10' away. One evening, after working late, I snuck over to the plant with my scissors and nipped off a small tendril with, I think, 2 or 3 leaves.

After a fairly long time, much coddling, regular talking-to and a certain amount of dark magic, it rooted and put out new growth. It eventually became quite large and after a few years, maybe not 7 like the old wives' tales, but at least 5, it bloomed profusely and did so every year.

So I felt confident that I could help her with her question. I suggested that perhaps it wasn't getting enough sun - it was very dark green, with few of the usual tiny silver splotches that Hoya leaves get - or that perhaps it wasn't old enough, or that perhaps, she had made the mistake which I've seen other people make of cutting off the finished flowering stems. I then went on to say that once it did bloom, she'd love the sweet scent from the flowers.


Somebody immediately leapt in and told me in no uncertain terms that they had a Hoya that lived in a   window, which was firmly curtained, overhung by a giant Spruce tree right outside, and faced due North, which bloomed all the time.


Somebody else promptly refuted my idea that Hoyas needed to reach a certain age before they bloomed. Apparently she regularly roots small pieces and they always bloom the same year

Great. I'm happy for her.

Then a veritable storm broke out about the scent. 'Oh, I can't be in the same room as a blooming Hoya'. 'I always cut the flower stubs off because the scent is over-powering'. And more, many more, of the same.

All of which goes to show that whenever you think you know something about a plant, the plant will quickly make a fool out of you. If you know for a fact that a certain plant needs lots of sun, someone will be growing it under their deck where the light never goes above deep gloom. If you state confidently that such-and-such needs steady moisture, someone will be growing it on a rock with no soil and full sun. Or underwater. Or in zone 1A. Or in an old boot beside the kitchen door where the cook empties the dishwater over it three times a day.

And no, I can't show you a picture of my plants. They aren't blooming.