Monday, June 27, 2011

Whew, Survived the Garden Tour!

Saturday, the first day of the Botanic Garden Tour, dawned dark and damp. Scudding clouds and a fine drizzle at 6am. did not bode well. But gardeners and garden lovers are made of stern stuff! Before 10 am a pair of determined tour-ers walked up the driveway. They had decided to park on the main road and walk up because they wanted to see the woods. They told me three more cars were waiting for 10am!

 My signs were up....

The bird feeders were in place....

The ferns were bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.....

And there were flowers, here and there.

The big winner was Digitalis grandiflorum, a terrific Foxglove with the happy combination of lovely soft yellow bells and a cast-iron, fully perennial constitution. People asked about it and wanted it and I dug up many little plants to give them. Luckily I hadn't weeded the patch above the Hillside Garden where they were growing in a solid mat! Some advantages to not weeding! Here it is beside the Herb Garden fence:

The weather improved a lot on Sunday, and we even had some actual sunshine. The light coming through the trees above the marsh is always striking. I love the feeling of airiness it gives.

We did lose one party of 3 in the woods. I noticed them starting off down the Marsh Trail but figured with the woods so wet they would soon be back. After 45 minutes I was starting to wonder, but then they came out. They looked happy enough so I stopped worrying about them, but they came over and asked me how far the trail went. I guess they went pretty far! Another pair of visitors brought a sweet white miniature poodle-something (these dogs all have such silly names but they all look alike: poodles with legs too short for their bodies!) and they went down the same trail. When they came back the poor thing was covered with green bits and black muck. He'd apparently stepped off my neighbour's boardwalk, thinking the duckweed on the water was solid! We washed him under the tap and dried him off. Not a happy pup.

It was interesting to see people in my usually empty garden. For a little while, it didn't seem quite as 'mine'. Probably, a little distance will do me good. I get too wrapped up in things and lose perspective.

 On the whole, though, it went very well. The volunteers were great, the visitors said nice things, Kip the Border Collie was A Very Good Dog, it didn't rain too-o-o-o hard, and I survived!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Brer Bunn

The wildlife around here is getting too doggone cheeky. This morning I was weeding in the Rock Garden, pulling weeds with my right hand and collecting them in my left. I was humming along, alone in my own little dream world, not paying attention to anything, listening to the birds, swatting deerflies and so on, when I felt a little tug on my left hand. At first it didn't really register, but I did feel it. A minute later I felt it again. This time I looked down, and there was a brown bunny pulling at one of the weeds in my hand!

I think it was the same long-eared lo-lopper I have been seeing in the mornings. When I sit at my computer, my window view is of the Hillside Garden with the path coming down off the hill. Several times lately I have seen a brown bunny come hopping down the path. He's no doubt headed for my Herb Garden, going to see what new things I've arranged for his dining pleasure. My basil and parsley are practically endangered plants this year. I planted a dozen baby basils and have 3 left, and they have teeth marks on them. The parsley is getting nibbled too. He's a distinctive kind of a guy, with a blackish look all along his back, shading to a quite black little tail. In colour, he's a lot like a German Shepherd dog. These critters are actually hares, called Snowshoe Hare or Varying Hare. I think that's a great pun, given that it is their hair that varies.

I was startled and said 'Hey!' loudly. He  twitched those long ears of his and then bounded off into the woods.

If he likes these weeds so much, why doesn't he pull them?

Friday, June 17, 2011

'Over The Hedge' Botanic Garden Tour

Nothing concentrates the gardener's mind like an impending Garden Tour. Knowing that large numbers of strangers are going to be looking at your garden really makes you look at it. And not usually with joy and admiration, I'm afraid.

The first thing you become aware of when you know your garden is about to be inspected, is paths. Visitors need paths in order to know where to go, and you need the paths in order to keep the visitors out of the plantings. I'm not kidding about that - I've had people tromp right through sensitive plantings because they wanted to see something more closely. So it is imperative to have paths that keep people moving, allow them to get close enough to see the interesting bits, and yet keep them away from anything you don't want pinched, brushed, fondled, or otherwise abused.  One person gently feeling the furry back of a New York Fern frond is one thing, but 50 people doing it is quite another.

And mine is a garden of paths.

Some, the ones in the sun, are covered with the same grey limestone gravel as the driveway and parking area, so they are easy to spot and people intuitively know where to walk. They do have an awful propensity for weeds, though. Everything wants to grow in the gravel! Until recently, I could spray them with a weed killer, but those are now illegal here. I'm not sure if they are illegal everywhere or in all situations, but the home gardener can no longer buy them. I've done a bit of experimenting with vinegar, and it does seem to work. You mix a bit of dish washing liquid and a bit of salt into the vinegar, and spray. One really good thing about this, actually there are two really good things, is that if it accidentally gets on something you don't want to kill, you can wash it off and no harm done. The other thing is that the sprayed thing turns brown within an hour or two. I'm thinking this might be the answer for the flagstone-type paths I have in the Herb Garden and the Rock Garden. It's practically impossible to pull grass or dandelions from between tightly fitted stones, but a spray will make it easy. And I don't believe vinegar and a bit of salt will be that bad for the environment. I hope.

In the Sampler Garden, and of course in the woods, my paths are just bare earth. In the Sampler I once spread many many wheelbarrows of wood chips,which looked wonderful. They weren't really that nice to walk on, but they sure looked good. Of course it didn't take very long for them to rot away. Now I have a system where, in the early Spring, I rake the leaves off the planted areas on to the path, and leave them there. After a month or so, they are pretty much broken up and I can move them back on to the plant areas as mulch. By then, too, I can see where the plants are. Probably most of the woodland things would come through the leaves fine, but I like to have seedlings pop up, and they won't if the leaf cover is too thick. I'm getting a bit of very welcome help in the Garden just now, and my Super Helper cleared all the paths in the Sampler. A good path makes the garden look good!

Woods paths suffer from windfalls. No tree will fall beside a path if it can fall across it. No branch will land in an open spot where you can easily pick it up if it can land on a precious plant where you will have to cut it into small pieces in an effort to save the thing it is crushing. And no small trees crash, only chain-saw-sized ones do. Enough said. My tree guy will be happy this Fall. (He's going to be very happy in fact. He's a bit of a dare-devil, and likes nothing better than to take down trees no insurance-minded person would go near. I have several waiting for him. One is a huge White Pine, over 24" diameter, leaning across a main trail.... the other is a giant White Spruce which has died and is much too close to my hydro line. Paul will be thrilled!)
The Rock Garden path suffers from Trilliums. They come up in the path, and I can't bear to yank them. I would dig them out and move them except that moving one path stone would mean moving the adjacent ones, which would mean re-building the path. I guess this week (the Tour is next weekend) I'll have to grit my teeth and yank.

Then, with a Tour imminent, one starts to count up what will be in bloom on the fateful day. This time, to my disappointment, I'll have to say, not much. A garden with a lot of native plants in it is a Spring and Fall garden. My peonies are in full bloom today and will be gone by next Saturday. My roses might be good, but the lavender that I count on to set them off is far behind yet. Quite a few of the lavenders didn't make it through the winter in good order and I have replaced them. They will bloom, but a bit later than usual. The geraniums, lady's-mantles, iris, yarrows and so on are all either over or nearly so. The heat and dryness we have been having have hurried them through their season. Obviously, I need to think more about flowers for the Summer.

Another thing a Tour makes you think about is those areas in the garden that you just haven't been able to cope with. The compost or burning piles that aren't very hidden..... the old shed that would teeter if you leaned on it but you haven't had time to take it down..... the bit of path that doesn't quite connect to the next path because there is a huge boulder in the way.... the side garden that the Horsetails have overrun totally.... well, we just won't go there, and that's the only solution to deal with them, don't go there.

Luckily, my ferns are in very good shape! Ferns do start a bit slowly in the Spring, but they hit their stride in June. They are in full growth, bright and bushy-tailed, right now and will be for the next several months. The Sampler Garden, the Fern Bed and the Marsh Trail are very nice right now. So there will be something worth looking at at Pine Ridge next weekend!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

A Surprise, A Mystery, and, finally, some Rain


There really are times when you see something and can hardly believe your eyes! A couple of days ago I went to open the bedroom window because it was cooler outside than in, and I happened to glance over towards a messy spot which started as a compost pile, morphed into a stuff-to-be-burned pile, and then became one of those don't-go-here-it's-just-too-awful garden corners. We all have them. Anyway, I saw something reddish.... ran outside to look, and there was a fine Lily with buds almost ready to open. I must

dumped seed pots which hadn't germinated on the pile, and one seed was able to grow. What is most amazing is that I had left the spot alone long enough for it to grow to blooming size. Actually, given that this garden is too big and I never have enough time to do everything, maybe it's not so amazing.

I wonder what it is!

It's a Mystery....

Have you ever had something bloom, and had no idea that you had such a thing, where you got it, or why you put it where it is? That happened to me this week. Suddenly there was a gorgeous wine-red Iris blooming in  my Hillside Garden. It was behind a blue Oat Grass, getting engulfed in with a huge patch of Rudbeckia 'Goldsturm'. Why on earth would I have put a Bearded Iris there? And who gave it to me? I gave up on the large Bearded Irises years ago. I love those opulent flowers, but not the dreadful spotted leaves the rest of the summer. And the gales we usually get right at Iris time were the final straw. So now if there is a large Iris in my garden, it must have been a gift. Whoever gave me this one, thank you, it is very beautiful, and I promise to move it.

What a good thing that 'Goldsturm' isn't blooming!

Finally, some Rain

It's been very dry for a couple of weeks. First we had oceans of rain, then none. Most of my garden is well mulched and has stayed damp and workable, but the Hillside is solid clay, faces South, and slopes. It turned into a rock. I put the tines of the garden fork on the ground, stepped on the fork, and nothing happened. It wouldn't even go in, it was that hard. Weeding was impossible, and moving plants was not to be thought of. A fine soft rain has been coming down for an hour now, so it should be good for working there tomorrow.

Weeds, you have been warned!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

My Garden-making Secret - Potatoes

Sometimes it's the small things that give you the best sense of satisfaction. Never mind if I accomplished anything serious today, I did at least plant my potatoes.

Last spring I planted peas and lettuce and as soon as they came up the raccoons dug around and ate the seeds and trampled the seedlings. I was so mad I gave up and didn't so much as look at the veg patch again all summer. But it bothered me. I kept feeling I hadn't tried hard enough. And to live in the woods in the middle of a large garden and not even have any fresh peas.... well, I wasn't happy about it.

So far, my peas are climbing up their sticks nicely, thank you, and we have already had several salads of lettuce, spinach and assorted nameless greens. I like those packages of seeds called Mesclun. You get a variety of lettuce-like leaves, and the mixture both looks good in the bowl and tastes good. You can add regular lettuce leaves, if you have any, some green onion and maybe a tomato and you have a fine salad. And you can have some fun when you collect the leaves by tasting the unfamiliar ones. Some are very spicy!

My veg patch is pretty small. It's basically 20' square, although a corner is taken out to accommodate an inconveniently located Crabapple tree. That's quite enough for only two people, except that there isn't room for potatoes. So I have been eyeing the area beside it. There is a space there almost as big, but roughly triangular, and sloped steeply to the South. At the bottom of the slope there are Daylilies and Canada Anemone, and at the top and along one side, the woods. I've had a compost pile there, and have periodically hacked down the thistles and mulleins that seem to favour the spot. Today I dug it over. Yes, that is my crowbar standing up on the left - a vital gardening tool in my rocky garden. I found several fine rocks! The soil looks pretty good, though, and I had no trouble digging it.

Then I planted 10 pounds of Yukon Gold seed potatoes.

This is one of my favourite tricks. When I want to make a new garden, I get it roughly dug and tidied and plant potatoes in it. They come up quickly,  nice dark green plants which look pretty good, and they fill the space until I can get other things to plant there. You're not supposed to plant potatoes in soil which has stones in it, but I haven't found it a problem. A root hits a rock, it just detours around it. Not good with carrots, but fine with potatoes!

There was some space left, so I put my two large and several smaller tomato plants, and my one squash plant there too. Only one squash seed germinated, and I don't know if one squash plant will grow any squashes, but I might as well plant it. Here's the spot as it looks now:

Those little green things are the tomatoes..... you can see the space is larger than it seems at first. It looks kind of rough, but I'm pretty sure I'm going to be enjoying tiny new potatoes soon!