Sunday, October 2, 2016

Just A Ramblin' Girl...

In my last post I promised to take a look at some of the dry-land asters, but I'm too restless today and will postpone that one to maybe next week. Today I'm going to wander around in my patch and look at whatever catches my eye. Some days just aren't meant to be focused, some days are meant for ramblin'.

The Herb Garden is looking good. We had a little rain, and the plants have all responded by perking up and looking green again. I'm surprised by the roses - they seem to have all put out some new and very tall stems, straight up in the air (except Iceberg, of course, which sends it long shoots out horizontally to catch the gardener's ankles), with clusters of flowers at the tops. This one, Mary Rose, went up into the Crabapple tree. It looks a bit comical, one pink rose surrounded by a heavy crop of red crabapples, but I guess it beats the 'lollipop' look of the other bushes with their flowers waving in the air six feet above the rest of the bush.

The red thorns on the nameless one beside Iceberg are amazing.

When I started the garden here I decided, firmly and definitely, not to have either Roses or Bearded Iris. I have 23 Rose bushes and at least that many Iris.

Moving over to the edge of the Rockery I nearly stubbed my toe on a plant in a pot. I had purchased a nice bushy plant of a Persicaria, a cultivar named 'Golden Arrow', which has nice yellow-green leaves and small red flowers. It is supposed to stay under 18". I carried the plant around for a bit, mentally testing it in a number of places... then got the spade and dug a hole and got some compost and improved the hole and stuck the plant in and tamped it down and got some water and watered it, and stepped back, and, drum roll please, it was immediately obvious it was in the right place!

It's the round yellowy clump just above the middle in this not very good picture. It fits just right and should look even better next year when it expands a bit.

Funny how sometimes you get it right. I suppose it's also funny how often you don't, but maybe that isn't actually funny.

Planting this one plant did mean digging out about a pailful of Ajugas, something I consider a bonus. It would have been easier with a garden fork, but I don't have one right now. Broke mine the other day trying to lever out a largish rock. I seem to keep breaking my garden forks in the fall, when  I can't buy a new one because the stores don't carry them in the fall.


My Winterberry bush has two berries this year. Since this is a 100% increase over last year, I am not going to get discouraged.

The stems of False Solomon's Seal, now to be known as a Maianthemum, are elegantly arched, holding their messy heads of berries close to the ground. The squirrels and chippies always eat them, but they seem to wait for them to ripen. It's curious how the berries ripen at different rates.

Several of the Cardinal Flowers bloomed pink or pink-and-white. I grew them from seeds collected near the Marsh and planted them around the little pond in the Sampler Garden. They need more sun and bloomed quite late.

Several people got small plants of this from me, and I fear they will have been disappointed. I like the pink ones, but if you want red, well, oops.

The stems on the Virginia Creeper are beautifully red. Here the berries are still green, but in a few days they will be dark purplish blue. Virginia Creepers don't bloom (and have berries) until they reach a certain age, then they sometimes fruit quite prolifically. This has been a good year for them, maybe they like drought?

Red stems on the Sumachs. I like their furriness, but hate their spready-ness. Sumachs have every intention, I do believe, of taking over the world. Sort of like Ajugas.

I wonder what would happen if you planted a patch with all the bad spreaders - Sumach, Ajuga, Geranium sanguineum, Goldenrod and so on- would they achieve a stable state, a sort of 'detente cordiale', or would they annihilate themselves and then get replaced by something kind and gentle like maybe a race of Violets? Not that I'm going to try it, I really don't think the Violets are very likely.

Lovely stems on the Apocynums. The leaves turn a bright yellow, too, giving quite a fine effect a bit later on. This is another candidate for the field of spreaders.

A lone plant of Agastache foeniculum, Anise Hyssop, has snuck in among a patch of Heart-leaved Aster. This Agastache has a wonderful licorice scent and makes great tea. Just put a few leaves in a pot, with maybe a few lemon-scented leaves like Lemon Verbena or Lemon Balm, and pour on boiling water. Refreshing to drink and it will remind you why you have a herb garden. Not that the Agastache will stay in the garden, but you'll find it somewhere nearby.

These two are tucked in under the skirts of a (also very spreadish) shrub Rose. I'm not sure which Rose this is, it was sold as R. caroliniana and it might be but I haven't checked. The flowers on this rose are single and lovely (what rose isn't?) but it's real beauty is its hips.

That brings me back to the front door... it's been a fine ramble!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

More About Asters

There is always more about Asters, isn't there? Living with Asters is a bit like living with kids - every time you think you have something figured out you discover something else that throws all your ideas out on their ears. Asters are always that one step ahead of us...

I took a short walk down to the edge of my Marsh and inspected some of the Asters in bloom now.

One (former) Aster, now to be known as Oclemena acuminata, is Whorled Aster. It's a handy one for the woods garden as it does very well in shaded and dry conditions. It spreads mildly, unlike some members of this clan, but is easily pulled if it gets out of bounds. It's short, about 16" high, always looks healthy, and blooms late.

The flowers are a sort of 'shabby chic' for the garden.

This one, with a much prettier flower, is Purple-stemmed Aster, or Swamp Aster, Symphyotrichum puniceum. It likes life damper, and sunnier, than what suits Whorled Aster. You see it quite often at the edges of marshes or streams, rising above all the shorter plants.

The flowers are comparatively large and usually some shade of blue. I have only once seen a white one, and have so far managed to keep my mitts off, but I'll visit it once the seeds ripen. Easy to grow, but it does need moisture.

Another one that seems to like a bit of water at its feet is Flat-topped White Aster, Doellingeria umbellata. This flower cluster isn't really typical, usually they are more flat-topped, but I liked its graceful posture. This Aster can get quite tall; I have it over 6' in the back of my property although the ones here are only about 3'. The books say 'single stalks' but it does form colonies, somewhat like Goldenrods do. A big, robust plant for a wet spot, much loved by bees, wasps and other wingy things.

When I went to photograph the Flat-topped Aster above, I also found a number of plants of what I think must be Symphyotrichum ciliolatum, Fringed Blue Aster. Hard to be sure, but the leaves and flowers are as described in the books. It's the habitat that doesn't match. J. Semple in Cultivated and Native Asters of Ontario calls it a 'calciphile' and describes the typical habitat as 'open woods'. Here it grows along the edge of the marsh (probably acidic) and quite near the water.

Here's one which I can't identify. Tall, about 4', well-leaved all the way down, sturdy and healthy looking, it has spread to be a large patch here. It's in full sun, fairly damp, poor soil. The stems all have some degree of 'zig' to them, and most have the dark spots you see here. The flowers vary from white to very pale pink.

Any guesses?

And if you like guessing, how about this one? I found a number of these beside the Marsh. They tended to be about 2 to 2 1/2 feet tall, single-stemmed, with rough but healthy leaves. The flowers were all white, with the centres (the disc flowers) starting out yellow, becoming purple, and then fading to brown. Quite large for an aster. The leaves are also fairly wide for an aster and clasp the stem at their bases.

Could this be Eurybia radula, Rough-leaved Aster? That's not supposed to occur here, only being known from further North.The leaves fit the description, the flowers sort-of fit, but the location is off.

Wonder what it is...

Next post  I'll take a look at some of the dry-land Asters I have here, and if you think you're confused now, just wait!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Looking Back...

Actually, I'm not so sure I want to look back at August! It was hot. It was dry. Very hot, and very dry. It was all I could do to keep up with watering the things in pots and the few ferns I had managed to get planted early in the summer, but general weeding and gardening was pretty much impossible. The Hillside was hard as a rock, no weed came out without serious efforts with large tools and/or explosives... the Sampler Garden was full of slightly wilted things I really didn't want to know about, and planting anything new was just a short cut to a dead something new. So it was a month just to endure; come to think of it, that's not so unusual for August.

Let's look on the bright side, of course there was one. August is Daisy Month, no question, and Daisies are Yellow Flowers, also no question, so I put together a mix of Yellow Daisies just to enjoy their variety. A lot of these are seedlings from a long-ago package of Rudbeckia seeds. The variety was called, if I remember rightly, 'Cherokee Sunset'. The flowers were supposed to be yellow/orange and double but I got no doubles and very few straight yellows. But the seedlings still appear all over the place and I like the different shapes, sizes and colours. I threw in a few other daisies just for fun.
yellow daisy collage
Nothing exotic here, just dependable performers. Do you know them all?

One curious thing, which I had not noticed before, is the way Rudbeckia fulgida flowers nod at sunset. Every evening when I left the Studio to go back to the house I went past several clumps of these in the Herb Garden and it really looked odd. Every morning they were brightly upright again.
Have they always done this and I never noticed? Or is it something to do with the dry summer? This is the one that was so popular a few years back, called 'Goldsturm'. The books don't tell you, but be warned, it seeds around like the dickens.

Coneflowers, Echinacea species, seemed to actually like the dry weather. My yellow one, E. paradoxa, bloomed it's head off, more flowers on the plant than I've ever seen before. I grew a few seeds from it last year, and they finally bloomed. I expected more yellow Coneflowers but what I got instead was a bit humorous. I got dingy pale buff pinkish flowers shaped like E. paradoxa, that is, with large drooping petals, and colours somewhere between the purple of the purple Coneflowers and the yellow. Luckily some of the other plants in the patch were quite lovely, including this pale pink one.
echinacea purpurea pale pink daisy

My E. tennesseensis bloomed for the first time. Every plant had flowers that started out with a 'crook' to their necks, then straightened out. The flowers (and the plants) are much smaller than E. purpurea, and more delicate. The colour is a rich pink-violet.
My Sand Hill garden was a mess. The Horsetails and the Coreopsis (daisies again) and the grasses spent the summer in mortal combat. I'm not sure if anybody won. It actually looked not too bad, but the part of me that insists on weeding felt tired just looking at it. Surprisingly, a lot of small Delphiniums came up in between all the 'weeds', as did a lot of brown Foxgloves. Yes, brown. This was Digitalis ferruginea. It is a narrow spire of brown and pale cream flowers, long-lasting and actually quite attractive. It mixes with grasses very happily.

Had enough pinkness and yellowness and daisy-ness? Here's one of the small Delphiniums as a palate-cleanser:
Now let's forget August and look ahead to September and, hopefully, eventually some rain.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Small Incidents in a Large Garden

Sometimes you just have to ignore a few things. Ignore the weeds. Ignore the plants that are in the wrong places. Ignore things chewed to the ground by the deer... just ignore everything except the beauty in whatever is in bloom.

A few days ago I equipped myself with a nice cup of hot coffee, freshly made, dialed my 'Ignoring Ability' up to 'High' and set off to wander around my garden for a bit. Nothing really amazing was in bloom, but there were rewards nonetheless.
One of the first things I saw, unfortunately growing in my front steps but what the heck, we are ignoring that, right, was a white Borage. I've had this version of the usual blue Borage for quite a few years. It seeds itself under the Crabapple trees and can get quite huge - three feet tall is not unusual. The flowers are glistening white. But will it grow in my Herb Garden? Of course not. Never mind, this one in my front step is blooming beautifully and I can always step over it.
Not too many Hollyhocks left this year. I really like the very dark one (which they call 'black' but of course it isn't, it is really dark red) but its seedlings tend to be lighter shades of red. This one has held down the corner of the Herb Garden for quite a few years now.
Moving down the driveway to the Rockery, I see that one of the many yellow daisies is in glory. This is, I think, Inula ensifolia.The foliage is very bristly but it is a great plant for the larger rock garden. It fluffs itself over the rocks very nicely and blooms for several weeks.
Looks like the deer left me one lily. The picture looks a bit impressionist - some day I'll learn not to take photos in full sun. Not today, though!
Actually, this photo kind of works. The Yuccas are getting ready to bloom and the flowering stalks made a nifty pattern against the dark trees behind them.
The Fireweeds are pretty well finished, but I was interested to see that most of the flowering stalks drooped over at the top. I've never seen this before, so it must be because of the dry summer we are having. We've had some rain in the last few weeks, but what with the very hot days and the low humidity I think the soil must be very dry. For sure the Marsh is very low this year. The beavers are having to drag trees a long way, maybe soon they will have to import water too.
Echinacea paradoxa is doing well. It must like dryness. I grew some of the seeds from this plant a few years ago and the variety in the seedlings is amazing! I thought they would all be yellow, but some are peach and one is quite orange. Of course all the seedlings are growing in the path... must mark the good ones and move them.
Did you know there is one yellow Pink? This is Dianthus knappii. Not a very bright yellow, but pretty anyway. It looks better than this picture shows, I took that in full sun too. It's about 18" tall and undemanding.
Up against the Studio wall I like the way the geraniums are filling in around my dish totem. It was made by a friend and she calls them 'totems'. Since I make tableware pottery, it has a lot of meaning for me. Plus I just like the way it looks.
Orange Milkweed is about to bloom. I'm really happy to see more plants, it is finally spreading. I've got it in pure sand, very dry, full sun. Awful conditions, just what it likes.
Coming back through the Herb Garden, I'm struck by the colour combinations. The Lavender, Stachys, Rudbeckias, Coreopsis, all are set off by the bright purple-pink Petunia you can just see at the top of the picture. The Spirea is the same shade as the Petunia but has almost finished blooming here. I don't much like Spirea bushes, but rescued this one because I liked the deep rose colour. Anyway, the Herb Garden path looks pretty good here, and we can't see those weeds moving in on the paving stones, can we?

Monday, July 11, 2016

Some Sad News

Dear Readers,

As some of you may know, my dear husband, Robert has been ill for some time. In May of this year, his health became even more precarious.

Sadly, he passed away on June 17.

I miss my companion of over 50 years more than I can say. Even though he was never himself involved in my garden, he was always ready to admire a new planting or listen to my enthusiasm about a newly discovered plant or critter. He didn't much like hikes, but he did enjoy exploring our property here. Somehow, this helps me feel that his spirit is still here.

It has been a difficult couple of months, but I plan to get back to writing and working in my garden and my pottery studio.
One of my favourite pictures of Robert. Here he is admiring the view from the ridge above our marsh, with Jake and Kip (hiding). It was taken a few years ago, but I like to remember him as he was during that walk in the woods.

We have finally had some rain, the sun is shining, the roses are blooming... we will carry on.

Stay well,


Sunday, May 8, 2016


Sometimes the right-thinking Gardener simply devotes her whole day to wandering about her Kingdom, suitable beverage in hand, exclaiming 'Oooo, aaaaah', at appropriate intervals.

The late and rather chilly Spring this year means a great rush to bloom in the woods and fields.

Bloodroot Sanguinaria canadensis blooms

Bloodroot, Sanguinaria canadensis, while not the first flower of Spring, (which is Mayflower or Epigea repens), holds its sparkling white faces up to the morning sun. The leaves are still tightly wrapped around the stems and the stems this year are very short.

Bloodroot flowers must surely be the most ephemeral of the Spring ephemerals - the flowers last only a day or two. The double form is much longer-lasting, sometimes remaining crisp and fresh for a week. I've been trying to get a clump of the double going and not having much luck. Of several plants purchased in the past, only one has survived at all, and both the plant and the flower seem very small. Now I have a bigger clump from Kiwi Nursery in Perth, and I have hopes it will do better.  There are also forms with fewer, wider, petals, and a pale pink form.

Jeffersonia dubia pale pink flowers

Almost as fleeting is Twinleaf. The one here is the Japanese cousin of our native Twinleaf, Jeffersonia diphylla. I've had seeds of the native species several times and have never managed to get any to germinate. The one time I had seedlings I was rather thrilled, right until they bloomed and I realized I had J. dubia, not J. diphylla.

A clump of Twinleaf (Canadian version) blooms year after year, just getting bigger and bigger. You can divide it, just do it after it blooms, and keep it watered until it re-establishes. At least, so I am told...
yellow Trout-lily blooms
The Trout-lilies, Erythronium americanum, are in bloom all through the woods. In places there are so many leaves they form a sheet of green, mottled but green nonetheless. The younger plants tend to have only one leaf, and it small. Trout-lilies grow from corms, which develop at the ends of short underground stolons. Older, larger, corms produce two leaves, with a flower between them. Squirrels and chipmunks dig up and eat all the larger corms, which would completely destroy the species if it weren't for that sly technique of growing many many tiny corms. It probably takes a number of years for a corm to become large enough to bloom, but once it does it will bloom every year, or at least until it gets eaten.

I have a population of Trout-lilies with unmottled, blue-green leaves. I keep hoping to see a bloom and almost hoping it will prove to be E. albidum, but so far no luck. Still, there are some noticeably larger leaves this year...

The Hepaticas seem to have had a bad winter. I notice that the H. acutiloba plants in my woods seem to have no leaves at all, and most have only one or a few flowers. Normally there are at least a few leaves per plant, and enough flowers to polka-dot the forest floor. H. acutiloba leaves are not evergreen, H. americana leaves are.

My H. americana plants, which I have introduced into the garden from my previous garden, are also much reduced and have fewer flowers than usual. The round-leaved Hepatica prefers acidic conditions, while the sharp-lobed prefers more lime-y conditions. This certainly holds true at my place, with no round-leaved ones in my woods at all.

The bright violet (dare I say, 'magenta'?) flower is a small plant I grew from a few seeds surreptitiously collected from a similarly coloured plant never-mind-where. I had to move it last year, and was very afraid I had lost it, so I am very happy to see it this year. Maybe if I promise not to move it again we can have two flowers next year?

The white flowered Hepatica was sold as H. transylvanica, and it probably is. I have had that plant for many years, moved it several times, cajoled and threatened and bullied, but it has never bloomed. This year there is one flower. Not a very exciting flower, but a flower. The leaves still look odd to me, almost diseased, really, but they develop into perfectly normal-looking leaves, split into the three distinct lobes that are typical of H. transylvanica.

viola striata small pale yellow-buff flower

Violets are beginning! For some reason, violets intrigue me - such odd flowers, such a variety of characters. Some are sweet and demure, others are not characters you would want to welcome into a well-ordered life.

This one, Viola striata, came to me from the Fletcher Wildlife Garden annual plant sale. It has taken to life in my garden quite happily, possibly too happily, and has many soft buff-yellow flowers this year. Like many of the Violets, it is stoloniferous and spreads quickly. Some blue Scilla  seeded themselves in among them and for once they bloomed together. Bright electric-blue and buff-yellow, it works!

Daffodils are springing up everywhere, a few Tulips which have escaped the attentions of the bushy-tailed residents are showing colour, the Moss Phloxes are covered in buds, Peonies are waving their red fingers above the Forget-me-nots, White Trilliums (and several of its cousins) are getting ready for their Spring extravaganza... such excitement!

The Gardener needs more tea.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

In Praise of Sloth

Occasionally, only occasionally, sloth pays off. Usually, by this time in April, I have the leaves all or mostly raked off the various garden beds. This year, however, in spite of the warm days we've been having, I have hardly begun to rake. I've cleared the worst of the leaves (and the gravel thrown up by the snowblower doing the driveway) off the Rockery, but everywhere else they still lie thick and heavy. And tonight and tomorrow night, we are supposed to be getting several degrees of frost,  with the possible added excitement of snow flurries. So for once my laziness is paying off!

Not that I'm really being lazy. A gardener cannot afford to be lazy. It just seems that Spring, real Spring, is so slow this year that we might as well still be in March, and one doesn't rake leaves in March.

I would be worried, but if there is one thing I've learned while gardening here it is that the White Trilliums will bloom on May 10th. In an early Spring, they may be three feet tall, but they'll bloom on May 10. In a slow Spring, they may be under six inches of snow... but they'll bloom on May 10. No doubt, this year they will bloom on May 10. They might be only three inches high, but they'll bloom! On May 10th.

Meanwhile, I took a wander around and found a few quite nice things in bloom in spite of the weather.
collage of spring bulbs
The dark purple Crocus at the top is Ruby Giant. Not particularly ruby-coloured, and not all that giant, but a sparkling beauty none the less. I have it in among silver-leaved Lamb's-ears, but Ruby Giant deserves better. Lamb's-ears are very shabby early in the season. I read somewhere that the squirrels don't dig up Ruby Giant, and it might be true because it is the only one that is spreading.

Beside the Crocus are a few of the flower clusters of Cornus mas. This, with me, is a rangy shrub, about 8' high so far, which blooms heavily and for a longish period, usually over a week. The rest of the season I don't even see it, it disappears into the general tree and shrub background.

Snowdrops you know. They haven't been that good this year, perhaps I need to divide them. Or perhaps the deep snow pack discouraged them.

The Muscari is the variety called Valerie Finnis. I love it's soft blue with the darker blue tips. Its flowering stalks are shorter than the other Muscari, but it is seeding itself into a big patch so you don't really notice that. It can seed itself all it likes for me.

The Daff is Tete-a-tete. The name is probably because most, if not all, stems carry two of the small but perfect Daffodil flowers. It too seeds itself around.

That weird red thing, which is really very tiny, only about half an inch across, is the female flower of Beaked Hazelnut. Tiny red stars... sprinkled all over a loose shrub about 6' high, which lead to pairs of hazelnuts encased in bright green 'sleeves' which lead to squirrel joy because they eat every one. The male flowers are tiny braided catkins. The stems of the Hazelnut seem to only live for one or two years, then new stems take over. You have to rake the dead ones out every year, not hard to do, but odd for a shrub.

The last Crocus is Crocus seiberi, the Three-colour Crocus. The squirrels left me a few this year. These flower very early while everything around them is still grey and winter-dreary, but so brightly! A rock garden Crocus, it does need good drainage.

So if it really does snow tonight, I'm going to be smug about not having the leaves raked off my garden, and I'm going to look at the picture of the spring bulbs and not the snow!