Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Tiny Slippers...

Suitable only for the tiniest, lightest and most dainty of fairies... hidden under the dark skirts of Spruce and Cedar in the cool forests of the Canadian Shield, Ram's Head Ladyslipper is a lucky find for a hiker in the woods.

Not common anywhere in its range, Cypripedium arietinum is the smallest of the Ontario Ladyslipper orchids. It occurs in cold woods around bogs and marshes,  usually in well-shaded and damp spots. It's tiny slippers are only 3/4" long, hardly longer than the mosquitoes which are often seen sitting on the fringed edge of the 'shoe'. Plants are mostly less than 12" high.

Growing C. arietinum can be difficult. In some situations it does very well and may even become a sizable clump, but in most gardens it is a reluctant and short-lived visitor.

Rather larger, Yellow Ladyslipper comes in two sub-species. C. parviflorum ssp. 'Makasin' which is  slightly larger,  and C. p. pubescens which is a good deal larger.

This is C. p. 'Makasin', with its tiny slippers held up in the sun in front of some ferns. Each slipper, or 'lip', is barely 1" long. The other petals, three sepals and two petals fused into one structure which looks much like the sepals and curves under the lip, are very red, and wonderfully curled.







C. parviflorum ssp. pubescens is the other sub-species. It is larger in all respects, with the slippers 2" or more in length and plants up to 18" tall.

You may find this one in several different habitats. It is frequent on alvars, in dry sunny banks above lakes or rivers, and in the shade along marsh or bog edges.

Growing the two Yellow Ladyslippers is not too difficult. Neither one is overly demanding, although like all orchids, they do not tolerate crowding or trampling.
Pink Ladyslipper, C. acaule, is the fussy member of the family. It seems to require very specific conditions, particularly the presence of certain soil fauna, in order to thrive. Even then, colonies or groups may persist for some years, then suddenly vanish. They may also suddenly re-appear! When several large Pines blew over in 1997 at Pine Ridge, two years later there were many Pink Ladyslippers in the new clearing. They grew and bloomed there for 18 years, then they disappeared again.
Certainly, this Slipper doesn't like too much shade, and it needs good drainage as well. It it practically impossible to grow in the garden, so enjoy this one in the woods!

The largest of our Ladyslippers is of course the Showy Ladyslipper, C. reginae.

It forms large clumps of its 2' high stems, carrying one or two of its 3" slippers at the top of each one. It likes water at its feet, and it especially likes fresh, moving,  water at its feet. It is found in swamps, bogs and fens. Occasionally it grows in dryer conditions, which is lucky as it means we can grow this one in our gardens. A slightly shady spot with good humus-y soil and adequate moisture in the early summer is all it takes.

 




Now is the time to see C. reginae. It is just coming into bloom now, and will soon be at its peak. A great place to see them is at Purdon Fen, which has quite an interesting history. The site, which is West of Almonte in the Lanark Highlands and is administered by the Mississippi Valley Conservation authority, hosts literally thousands of Showies and comes complete with visitor information and boardwalks. 

Go now!

Sunday, May 27, 2018

A Happy Day Of Weeding

Today I had that most wonderful of luxuries: a whole day to spend in the garden! I had some new Basil, Dill and Parsley plants to plant, so I decided to work in the Herb Garden. We had a bit of rain yesterday and the day before, so weeding conditions were ideal. The mosquitoes thought so too, but I covered up and foiled their evil designs, at least mostly. Once it warmed up they went away anyway.

First order of business was pulling out masses and masses of self-seeded Heart-leaved Asters. Who knew they could spread so quickly! I'd left one clump last summer and apparently it had a Brilliant Career. The clump was right beside my path so you'd think I'd have heard the chortling but I didn't. Anyway, there were two wheelbarrow loads of Aster seedlings and there are still some under the yellow shrub rose. Speaking of Roses, they didn't come through the winter at all well. Of my 23 David Austin roses, maybe only 3 or 4 are showing signs of life. I have never covered them, but this winter  the snow was rather erratic, snow, then a thaw, then ice, then snow, then ice...  fingers crossed some of them recover. I was wondering earlier if I even wanted roses, but my disappointment when I saw how badly they were killed back tells me I do.

And I was sort of counting on the roses to get me through a Studio and Garden Tour next weekend. June 2-3 is not a peak period in my garden but usually the roses and the lavender are in bloom and most people then don't really notice how much else isn't, but not this year.

After all those Aster seedlings I had to have a little break to admire the Iris lacustris in the Rockery.
dwarf purple native iris lacustris
Such purple!

Back to weeding. Creeping Thyme has taken over far too much of the middle of the Herb Garden. It is very difficult to get out, especially with all the rocks that make up the paths. I used the garden fork, much elbow grease and some bad words and got a lot of it out. Not all, but I can attack the rest next time.

After that I needed to cool off so went and checked out the Creeping Phlox. Phloxes? They do seed around a bit but new plants aren't hard to pull out. Had to remove quite a big patch last year, though. A rather blue-ish mauve one had set up housekeeping right around a large clump of White Trilliums. It was fine until the Trilliums turned their usual magenta pink and then it was totally awful. This year the mauve phlox  is well away from the Trilliums.
phlox colours
Near the remaining mauve-ish Phlox some Prairie Crocus have seeded themselves and I was surprised to see their deep reddish colour.
They don't clash with the Phlox, by the way. And I love those soft furry stems.

Back to work, cool drink in hand. The bugs are gone, but now it's hot. Dug over the small bed where I like to put the Basil and planted it. Then, for some reason, I put the Parsley between a large Lemon Balm and a substantial grey-leaved Yarrow. The dark green curly Parsley looks wonderful there! Where to put the Dill seedlings was harder. Several changes of mind later I put them beside the Evening Primroses (large patch as they attract cool moths) and in front of the poor red Clematis which is forever getting stepped on because it is too close to the telephone junction box. One day, should the Clematis ever seem robust enough to survive the experience, I'll move it.

After that spurt of energy I had to go check out the white Violets growing in the wet spot in the rockery. Still not sure if this is Viola Blanda or V. Macloskeyi. The former is supposed to have reddish stems and these don't. But they do have the twisted upper petals and the deep sinuses on the leaves. Whichever they are, they love their spot. It is a hole or dip in the rock and usually stays pretty wet all summer.
white violet flowers viola bland

Nearby is a clump or cluster of Mitella diphylla, Two-leaved Mitella. The flowers are tiny, very delicate small fringed bells. The plant goes completely dormant early on.
flowers fringed tiny white
Bluets were very pretty too, perky and sunny-faced if not exactly blue:

white flowers bluets rock garden

I guess the shadows on the flowers are blue.

The last thing to do in the Herb Garden was to find a nice pot and pot up the new baby Rosemary plant. Last year's plant didn't make it through the winter for the simple reason that I completely forgot to bring it in... and it was getting to be a nice size, too. Some plants need alarms to remind the gardener to bring it in in time.

After all that, time to go in for a glass of wine and supper! A happy day!

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

The Sad, Sad, End of Mr. Mops

It was time. Sad, but true. Mr. Mops had to go.

I bought him 17 years ago as a wee stripling. Over the years, he had gone from a cute little mop of yellowy-green to a fine stout fellow... then to a half-dead, hanging over my path, pathetic old geezer.

Mr. Mops was a Juniper. Actually, he was a Chaemacyparis, but he looked and acted like a juniper. I'm not sure if he was actually labelled C. psisiferis 'Mr. Mops', or just C. p. 'Mops' but in my mind he quickly became Mr. Mops. I planted him in front of the ugly hydro meter beside my side door. The label suggested he wouldn't grow very fast, or very big, but he proved it wrong. In 16 years he went from a tight clump about 4" across to a bush 8' high and at least 10' across.

Unfortunately, I had planted him only about 5' from my path, the path I take a dozen times a day back and forth to my pottery Studio. So I did some trimming (not one of my skill areas) and decided to leave him one-more-year... well, one more became two more... you know the drill. This Spring Mr. Mops looked like this:
You'll have to overlook the dreadful picture, by the way. Rosie refused to either be in the shot, or to get out of it, the wheelbarrow sat there like a well, wheelbarrow, and I never even saw that ugly orange thing in the upper left corner. Sigh. I was too focused on not chickening out to get a good image. But you can see how lop-sided Mr. Mops had become, and how all the new growth was set to take over my path again. It wasn't too bad on nice days, but rainy ones were another matter. And Mr. Mops was in sad shape inside:
This past winter had left a large area browned off and all the green bits were along the path. Since junipers don't re-grow when pruned, there was nothing for it. Mr. Mops had to go.

Here is the result. Sad, but true.
For now, I plan to stage a collection of geraniums (Pelargoniums, really) there to hide the stump. In a year or two it will come out easily or if I decide to plant something else there and feel really motivated it won't be hard to dig out.

Looks pretty dreary, doesn't it? But just so you don't think that maybe this is an 'all dead garden' like the little girl in 'The Secret Garden' worried, here is a picture of some crocii blooming today. This is 'Ruby Giant', which might be 'ruby' but certainly isn't 'giant' but never mind, it's a glorious colour, the squirrels don't seem to eat it, and it blooms very early.
Good-bye Mr. Mops, it was good to know you!

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Change

The only constant in any garden is change... changes happen constantly, some planned, some not. And the larger the garden the more changes there will be. So it's not surprising that a 'garden' of 30 acres should have lots of changes.

Last week's windstorm took down, besides numerous branches and old trees in the woods, a huge and healthy White Spruce beside the Studio. I wasn't aware of it until Rosie and I went into the woods part way down the driveway, followed my trail homeward and then couldn't come out! The end of my path near the house was completely blocked, spruce branches up over my head  and much too dense to push through. We had to go around, through the rock garden. When I went back to see the tree I was immensely grateful that it hadn't fallen on the Studio. The stump is only about 20' from the corner of my studio. If it had fallen a few degrees closer to true East it would have been a disaster. As it was, the tree fell across most of the septic bed, the tip landing in the woods on the other side.

This spruce was probably about 80 feet tall. The base was close to 3 feet in diameter.

Given that this was well beyond the capabilities of my trusty pruning saw, I called for help. Here is a shot of Paul, a local tree service operator I've called on before for help with tree problems, cutting the trunk into moveable sections:
chainsawing spruce trunk

That black blob that looks like a huge mitten is his jacket! (You can see the spruce's stump behind it.) He and his helper worked in the rain and got quite hot. They cut up the tree and moved the chunks into the woods where they can quietly rot and become compost... more change.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Spring!

It was the first day of Spring today and it really felt like it. The sun was warm and bright, the air was buoyant, snow was melting, birds were singing... Rosie and I wandered around for a while, but the snow is still too deep in the woods for an actual walk, so we retreated to the Studio for a very spring-like activity.




I grow ferns from spores. Here is a  picture of part of my setup. The dusty white areas are the tops of the fluorescent light fixtures, which are suspended about a foot above the shelves. It's a very simple setup: two shelves with two lights suspended above each one. It's in my pottery Studio, hence the dust. The small plastic boxes contain the spores sown on potting mix.


The label you see is inside the box, pressed in beside the mix so I can see the name when I take the lid off. I used to write the names on the lids... you can guess what eventually happened.

Most of these spores were sown last fall, a few just a couple of weeks ago. The ones from last fall were ready for some transplanting work, so, once I located that darn trowel of mine and some pots and potting mix, I got to work.

Here is what it looks like inside one of the small boxes. The green moss-like stuff in the middle is the germinated spores, which at this stage are small, 1/4" or less, prothalli. They are flat, roughly heart-shaped, and have many reddish hairs (rhizoids) which anchor them to the mix.

Two structures develop under each prothallus, one or several  antheridiums which will produce sperms, and an archegonium which will produce an egg.  The sperms 'swim' to the egg in the thin layer of water under the prothallus. Once fertilized, the egg will begin to grow and divide and soon the baby fern, the sporophyte, appears.

This box is Walking Fern, Asplenium rhizophyllum. You can see many small sporophytes, especially in the upper right-hand corner.

Once the little fernlets get big enough, I will transplant them into small 3" pots.

I didn't do the Walking ferns today, but I did quite a few others.

These are three different ferns, a Dryopteris dilatata, an Asplenium trichomanes, and an Adiantum aleuticum. Cute, eh?




 Here's a whole tray of cuties. I don't usually have a tray of all different species, usually the whole tray will be one kind, but today I had a number of different ones outgrowing their boxes. In every batch of spores, some plants seem to start more quickly, and grow more robustly, than the others in the batch. Later I'll have more of each kind and, being the compulsive sort, I'll no doubt sort them into groups.



I have some plastic mini-greenhouses and they are very good for growing on the little fernlets. Right after they've been transplanted I keep the vents closed so the humidity will stay high and the little ones can recover from the trauma of being potted up.
After a month or so, when they seem to be growing well, I start gradually leaving the lid off so they can get used to normal air. This is another mixed box, but this time it is because some of the 2016-17 crop were just too small to be planted out last fall and I have had to coddle them through the winter.

It was so warm and Spring-ish today that now I'm optimistic they'll make it!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Les Fleurs d'Hiver

They say April is the cruelest month, but for me, February is. The weather is dreary, the fun of fresh show has worn off (very worn off), the sun don't shine... the month just seems long and dull.

So I do oddball things just to make the month go by faster. Like making weird arrangements to decorate the house.

Now, those who know me will point out that I have no flower arranging ability to speak of, and I'll be the first to agree. Years ago I was at a lecture by an ace arranger, and he ended his talk by describing what he called 'the Dutch Bunch'. 'The Dutch ladies', he said, 'just go out into their gardens and look around. Oh, they say, here's a lovely blue flower, and they cut it and jam it into their left hands. Then they find a yellow thing and cut it and jam it in their left hands. A red rose, a blue Delphinium, a white Daisy, all get jammed into the left hand. When their hand is full, they go in, stick the whole thing in a large jar, and voila, the Dutch Bunch.' Best part of the lecture, for me.

So I grabbed my trusty secateurs (yes, I was able to find them, unlike the trowel which I really need as I'm planning to transplant a bunch of baby ferns, anybody seen it lately?) and ventured forth. It was kind of gloomy out, a bit of drizzle happening, the snow deep all around, but not cold. Just a wander down the driveway and I found all kinds of nice dried weeds.
dried native plants to use in an arrangement
A Spirea bush donated a stiff stalk, much branched, the Motherwort plants that have taken over a patch near the road were a lovely deep brown, there were Queen's Anne's Lace 'nests' a-plenty, Milkweed pods, of course, Ggrasses, Goldenrods, Asters, even a rather goofy Japanese Anemone stalk.

I gathered them up and jammed them into my left hand.

Stuck the whole bunch in a tall vase (a wider one would have been better), and placed it artistically on my hall table. I did cheat a little and added some bulrushes from last summer, but that was the extent of it.
vase of dried weeds
BTW, if you want to have bulrushes for arrangements in the Fall or Winter, try to get the small ones. There are two species and the most obvious difference is that one has much smaller 'wands' than the other. It grows all along our roads, just keep an eye out and you'll see them. Pick them while they are still green and let them dry upright in a cool spot. They won't burst and spew fluff all over the room, and they'll look good in arrangements all winter.

You can of course, also go out and buy a flower or two. Here's another of my 'arrangements' using some purchased Chrysanthemums and a piece of Balsam Fir branch blown down by the wind.

I apologize to those who really do know how to arrange flowers, particularly those who do Ikebana. I admire it, but it isn't in my skill set.

Another fun way to use wild stuff to decorate your burrow in February is to bring back one small twig or branch or stem every time you go for a walk, and stick them individually in a collection of small vases.

I just happen to have a fine new narrow shelf rail in my dining room, and of course, being a potter, I have plenty of small vases to choose from.

And no arranging required!
small vases with dried weeds

Monday, January 29, 2018

Well, That's Seedy.

Seedy Saturdays and Seedy Sundays are popping up all over these days. If you don't know about them, they are events where various seed-savers, seed-sellers, seed-swappers and otherwise seed-ish people get together to swap, sell and so on the seeds they've collected. I'm going to one in Almonte Ontario on February 10. Since I don't have very many seeds (a few species, but not many), I'm bringing my Wildflower note cards and some Herb garden markers.
Well, to be honest, I'm going because it's fun! Last year I was delighted to get seeds of white Cleome and New Jersey Tea and I'm hoping for more great finds this year. Just being in a large room filled with keen gardeners is exciting too. So it's fun!


Seedy Saturday, Feb. 10, Almonte Civitan Hall, 500 Almonte Road, 9am to 3pm. There will be guest speakers, info tables by many gardening groups, seeds galore and, yes, photo note cards. If you come, please stop by my table and say 'Hi'!

Sunday, January 21, 2018

A Snowy Day

If you go down to the woods today...
woods in snow

You're in for a big surprise...

Actually, no, you're not, but you might find some interesting stuff just the same. Seed heads, mosses, bark... if you look closely you can find all kinds of things.


Maybe even a small dog sitting in the snow looking bemused:

If we gardeners are surprised at how different our gardens look in the snow, think of how it must be for a dog!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

A Nice Surprise

Even in the winter, one can have a gardening surprise!

Rosie and I were out for a 'walk', or should I say, 'slog' the other day, wading through snow that was up over my knees and her head. Poor dog, the only way she could get ahead was by making a series of small leaps. It worked but she got quite tired. Still, it has been very cold and we've been a bit cooped up and we both wanted to be out so we kept going.

Eventually we got to the top of the ridge overlooking the marsh. I stopped for a brief rest and noticed a small branch from a conifer blown down and resting on top of the snow.
red spruce twig and rosie
That's Rosie  photo-bombing my picture of the twig! She was finding it pretty hard going and was following me very closely. The twig interested me because the cones seemed very small. I picked it up and carried it home. Here's a closer look at the twig with the cones:

red spruce cones on twig
 I looked it up in my Trees In Canada (Farrar, 2006), and it turns out to be Red Spruce, Picea rubens. The book describes it as 'uncommon, but present' for my area. Of course it is hard to interpret the distribution map very closely, but I know it's uncommon here because I've never seen such small cones before. I have a lot of White Spruce, Picea glauca, but their cones are always between 2" and 4" long. These are mostly less than 1". Also the needles on White Spruce seem a bit longer, darker green, and less curved. I don't think this can be Black Spruce, Picea mariana because that is mostly found right in swamps or other damp areas, and this tree is growing on a rocky slope quite a bit above the marsh.

The cones are really cute:
cones picea rubens
I'm going to plant some of the seeds and see if I can grow a few Red Spruce trees.

And I'm going to get my snowshoes out!