Sunday, February 26, 2012

Winter Walk in the Shaw Woods

Now that Winter is back, I'd like to tell you about a little snowshoeing excursion I went on last week. Funny how our minds work. Several warm days with the snow melting and all I could think about was Spring, then a good snowfall and a couple of cold nights and I'm back in Winter mode. Anyway, I went along on a short snowshoeing tour of the Shaw Woods.

The tour was a preliminary to a workshop on trail-making. I won't go into the specifics of the trail designing exercise, except to say that it is a protocol to help a group of people with diverse interests reach consensus on some of the aspects of a nature trail. It's a new and proprietary protocol developed by, among others, the Friends of Bonnechere Parks. It is called Footprints in Time, or FIT which is a wonderful name given their goals of encouraging fitness while respecting local history. I have to say the procedure seemed to work very well. At the end of the morning's work, we had a pretty good starting list of points to be made on the interpretative signage along a future FIT trail in the Shaw Woods.

But back to the snowshoeing. Here's a shot of us heading into the Woods:

The trail was pretty well packed down at the start, so we carried our snowshoes! I used the opportunity to sneak looks at people's snowshoes and the various bindings they had. My snowshoes are fine, but the bindings leave a lot to be desired. They are attached using rubber straps that just don't stay done up. The straps are too short, for one thing. I saw one system that involved a flat rubber sheet with a keyhole cut out for the boot and two long rubber arms used to tie it to the snowshoe that looked really good. Now all I have to do is find some suitable rubber.....

As you can see, it was sunny and warm . I loved the way the sun lit up the understory in the Beech/Hemlock forest. Young American Beech, Fagus grandifolia, hang on to their leaves all winter -  kind of a shabby effect when there are only a few trees, but looks perfectly reasonable in a Beech woods. I wonder why the leaves don't drop. Young Oaks do this too. Does this mean they don't go dormant the same as the more mature trees? Is it that young Beeches, like young Humans, don't want to go to bed? Some of the Beeches in this grove must be quite old as they are a good 2' diameter at the base. Large Eastern Hemlocks, Tsuga canadensis, are interspersed with the Beeches, and you can really see them in the Winter. In the summer, you don't notice them so much.

My favourite spot is the Hemlock grove. Hemlocks tower over the trail here. Stop, close your eyes, listen to the wind,  feel the cool moist air on your face. With a little imagination you are in a dense coniferous forest, a forest of 'hushed coniferous giants'.

 It works best on misty days, but you can practice.

My Hemlock Grove at home consists of one tree 10' tall and one seedling about 2' tall. There are 4 or 5 fairly large trees on my neighbour's side of the fence, but they don't look that healthy. The beaver pond must flood them most years. At least my two are higher up and safe from that. But they have a long way to go before they are a Grove!

Fallen Hemlock twig

Friday, February 24, 2012

Scented Clivia

When I opened the Plant Shed door just now I was met by a wonderful soft sweet flowery smell. The snow falling heavily outside made it all the more welcome. And what was sending out this fine fragrance? A yellow Clivia!

Describing a fragrance is difficult. All one can really do is compare it to some other fragrance.... so I'll describe it as  sweet, lightly floral, with a hint of citrus, all supported by a deep underlying note of earthiness. Sounds like a wine, doesn't it!

Describing the colour of this flower isn't much easier. It's yellow, yes, but yellow overlaid with a soft pinkish orange-y buff. The flowers are a good size, have very good texture, and are held well above the foliage. There are 14 flowers on the stem, and this for the plant's first blooming. It's one of the five plants I grew from seeds which came from South Africa described as "yellow crossed with Vico Peach". The peach parentage certainly shows.

 Altogether a very fine Clivia for my collection.

 I got the seeds three years ago through The Clivia Website, which acts as a broker for Clivia seeds. They arrived in an envelope, six large seeds loose in a plain paper envelope. The envelope looked like the end of a bad day, but the seeds were alright. All six grew but I did lose one last summer. The plant rotted off at the base, then re-rooted and grew again, then  rotted off again. Maybe it had a disease or maybe it had a weakness, anyway, it died. The others all grew like, well, like Clivias. These are vigorous plants and not hard to grow. Some people call them bulbs, but they aren't really. They are more like Leeks, but Leeks that multiply by stolons. Clivias can become very crowded in their pots and re-potting a mature Clivia can be a bit of a job. I had one, years ago, that burst it's pot. The pots were on a bench in the bedroom, enjoying the light from the big window there, and one night I heard a 'bang'. In the morning I found the Clivia on it's side on the carpet with two pot halves neatly one on each side of it. Another thing they'll do is climb out of the pot - the roots just push the plants up and out. Seedlings especially will do this, so you have to expect to re-pot them several times until they get big enough to stay down. Clivias have character!

Other sites that are fun to visit are The Clivia Society and the American Clivia Society. These are all fascinating sites to visit - so many delectable new Clivias. Here am I, excited to have some yellow ones, and the hybridizers are busy creating white ones and, yes, yes, yes! pink ones. And then there are the variegated ones.... and the miniatures (actually I may have one as one of the seedlings seems to be staying quite small).  I need to win a lottery!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Colour Inside

We gardeners are never happy, are we? We no sooner get a good covering of snow, which we've been begging for to keep the garden cosy for the winter, than we start to want colour. I found myself feeling that very much after taking Kip for a cold and snowy trudge yesterday. I could hardly wait to get into the plant shed (can't call it a greenhouse anymore, it's too dilapidated) and see if there were any flowers open.

And there were!

I have quite a few pots of Amaryllis, and while only a few apparently plan on blooming this year, one was gloriously open. This is Bolero, a medium-sized semi-double.

Such a fabulous bright scarlet! The main bulb has this stem, with 6 blooms, 4 open so far, plus a smaller one coming up fast. It is surrounded by 5 other slightly smaller bulbs, one of which is also showing a nose. I don't know why they don't all bloom at the same time - maybe they will next year. I started with 3 bulbs and now there are 6. Not too shabby.

On the other hand, most of the other 50+ Amaryllis won't be blooming this year. My guess is that  I left them growing too long in the Fall and thus they haven't had a long enough dormancy. Getting Amaryllis to re-bloom isn't quite as bad as growing Morning Glories (I know 50 ways to kill a Morning Glory) but they do have to be treated exactly right or they just don't bloom. Usually I leave them outside only until October, at which time I tell them firmly that they are going dormant, cut all the leaves off, and lie them on their sides in the back of the plant shed where it is warm and dark, but this Fall was so warm I didn't bring them in until late November. I brought them into the light in January as usual, but so far there are a lot of leaves and very few flower stalks. Guess I learned something.

Another of the Clivia seedlings is showing buds. These seeds were from a strain bred to give yellow flowers. One bloomed in the Fall, and truly was yellow. Maybe this one will be too!

Several of the orchids also have buds developing.

It may finally be cold and snowy outside, but it's warm and colourful inside!