Thursday, May 24, 2012

Work on the Fern Garden

There was a nice surprise waiting for me at the Fern Garden.  I hadn't been there for a couple of weeks (too much work at home) and only got back there two weeks ago. To my surprise, I found a lot of good wildflowers growing there!

I am surmising that they were planted but I don't know by whom.

Flowers past: Viola pubescens, Trillium erectum, Asarum canadense, Trillium grandiflorum, Caulophyllum thalictroides, Sanguinaria canadensis.

 I was there to cut down the emerging shoots of Dog-strangling Vine. Most of these were about 4" to 6" tall and I used a sharp hoe to chop them off at ground level. My idea is to do this repeatedly and even if it doesn't kill the plants, it will allow the other things in the Fern Garden to grow while we get around to digging them out. It's not a huge space, but 6,000 sq. feet is still more than one or two people can dig over in a few spare hours. As it was, it took me almost 3 hours to chop down the visible shoots. Mind you, I spent a bit of time moving piles of old branches and such to make it easier to get my hoe in. It's hard to chop something off short if it is growing up through a foot of loose brush!

That was two weeks ago. This week I was delighted to find more good things blooming.

Flowers present: Podophyllum peltatum, Actaea pachypoda, Arisaema triphyllum, Tiarella cordifolia, Viola cucullata, Mitella diphylla.

I chopped down Vine shoots again.... only took an hour and a half this time.... but I was disappointed to see quite a few taller shoots in among the Jack-in-the-pulpits and the Ostrich Fern. I must have missed them before. I had to pull these by hand as I couldn't work with a hoe in among these good plants but that did give me a chance to look closely and inspect the ground under them.

Certain Vine plants that I had marked the week before were all only a couple of inches high, so my hacking effort has at least slowed them down.

There were also a surprising number of Garlic Mustard seedlings, and my hoe came in very handy on them. That darn thing is a biennial so will be coming up from seed for years... of course, so will the Vine. We are going to have to cut down any that reach flowering size in a wide margin all around the Fern Garden to slow down on them seeding back in. As they say, "One year's seeding means seven year's weeding".

Seeing all the wildflowers that are already there made me decide to change the plan about where to put the Holman bogs a little. I had planned to put two fairly large ones more or less in the centre, but there are good plants there, so now I think a number of smaller ones closer to the new path will be better. Easier, too! It's not hard to dig these things, especially not in the sandy soil there, but it is hard to find a bare spot to put the soil while you dig the hole and get the liner in! Nearer the path we can spread a tarp and put the soil there.

There were lots of other native plants as well, some of which were still small such as Trout Lily, Clintonia, and Bunchberry, and others that will bloom later such as Zig-Zag Goldenrod and White Snakeroot. All in all, I listed 30 different wildflowers already established among our ferns!

Hopefully, next week we can dig one or two of the bogs and then D.F. can transplant his ferns.... he has large plants of things that need damp, such as Cinnamon Fern and Interrupted Fern, and these bogs are an attempt to provide that in a dry area. His Marginal Wood Fern has survived it's move last year and is showing many of it's charming scale-covered fiddleheads. Most of the small ferns I planted last year have also survived, with the exception of some Maidenhairs which have not appeared, at least not yet.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Dandelion Doings

I'm taking a new approach to the Dandelion problem.

When we first moved in here there were very few Dandelions. But within a year or two they were starting to appear along the driveway, then around the house, then in the garden..... Darn things spread like, well, like Dandelions.

Every Spring I tried to get ahead of them by weeding like mad but it hasn't worked. Full forward assault doesn't work if the enemy outnumbers you 1000 to 1. I couldn't dig them fast enough - by the time I had part of the garden cleared the others had all gone to seed.

I tried a flank attack using that vinegar/soap/salt spray but that was too hard,  too slow, and too expensive.

A rear-guard attack by digging them out later in the season didn't do much good either because they had already spread their seeds far and wide.

So I'm going aerial.

I just spent a couple of hours pulling all the flowers and buds off all the Dandies around the house and garden and up the driveway a piece. Hah. Now they can't go to seed and I'll have all summer to dig out the plants. I know there will be more flowers in a day or two, but I'll fly over again nipping them off too. I tried to get as many buds as I could but the really small ones were too short to grab and I didn't want to pull the whole plant. If you do that the flowers still ripen seeds and you have a big pile of stuff you can't compost. This way, with the flowers pulled off short, no seeds will form.

So if I can't be faster than a Dandelion, or meaner than a Dandelion, or tougher than a Dandelion, maybe I can be smarter than a Dandelion!


Saturday, May 5, 2012

Warmer Weather

Of course gardeners always say the weather has been weird. But this time it really has! It's been so cold the mosquitoes have been wearing earmuffs....

But now it's finally more Spring-like and I took a good long walk-about. Never mind the various things that have probably departed southwards, there were lots of good things to cheer me up.

There was a small plant of Hepatica americana blooming late in the fern bed. Most of the Hepaticas bloomed (and froze) earlier, so it was a delight to come across this one. I'll move it to a better spot once it gets big enough to travel.

After a lengthy search, I did find a few of the Saxifraga virginiana a friend had given me as small plants last year. Then, as so often happens, I found the others very quickly. It has to do with the idea of 'search image'. Once your brain has a 'search image' to work with, it quickly spots matches. That is why you can look and look for something and not find it, and then, once you have seen one, you find others with no effort. I've had that experience with wildflowers that I had not seen before. Seeing pictures in books is never the same as seeing it in 'real'. Once you have a good search image, then you find them.

Anyway, the plants have all made it, and the squirrels missed the flowers on several of them. The ones I had planted in the woods were larger, but every flower had been nipped off. This one is in my rock garden. I really hope it produces seeds so I can sprinkle them along my Ridge Trail, where I think they'll do well.

This plant is only a few inches high, but Early Saxifrage can be a bit taller.

Down by the marsh the double Marsh Marigolds were blooming. I also have one (one measly) plant of the regular Caltha palustris but it seems to be struggling. Maybe not enough sun..... must move it to a sunnier spot after it finishes blooming this year. Usually I'm not too zipped on double flowers, but the double Marshies are charming. The plants are low and tend to sprawl but in a good year they are covered with flowers which, like most doubles, last a lot longer than the singles.

My neighbour has an acre of Marsh Marigold, why do I have so much trouble growing it???

On slightly higher ground Viola adunca, Hooked Violet, was blooming nicely. This is one of the tribe of stemless blues - but easy to identify because of the long, slightly 'hooked' spur on the flowers. It is also one of the first to bloom. V. labradorica (Dog Violet, silly name) blooms at the same time, but it's flowers are a soft pinkish lavender, and it invariably grows in the open. V. adunca likes deciduous woods and snuggles among the fallen leaves of the previous summer.

Northern Violet, V. macloskeyi, was in bloom everywhere. It seems to follow the marsh edge or the beaver pond edge, but grows in sun or shade, down by the water or up on the drier banks. The leaves are round to heart-shaped, bright green, shiny, and neatly scalloped. The flowers are tiny but numerous.

You could easily confuse this one with V. renifolia, the Kidney-leaved Violet (who named these things?) but the leaves and where it chooses to grow are very different. In V. renifolia the leaves are kidney-shaped, thick, a greyer green, and covered with fairly long hairs.

Back at the house I was surprised and delighted to see a pot of Viola Selkirkii in full bloom. I got some seeds from one of the seed exchanges last year and they germinated nicely and grew into good little plants..... but the leaves were grey and green variegated and I didn't think they could be V. Selkirkii. I planted them here and there (where, I now wonder?) in the rock garden. Then during the winter I did some searching on the web and discovered there is a variegated form of V. Selkirkii in cultivation. So I figured that was what I had. Nice, but not the native plant. So I was a bit surprised to find these:

Where I got them I do not know. But they are definitely Selkirk's Violet and I'm glad to have them.

The big winner of the day was a single stem of Spring Beauty, Claytonia virginiana. About ten years ago I had some seeds from Gardens North and, not having a pot handy to sow them in, scratched them into the ground in my Sampler Garden. I checked the spot a number of times, but never saw any signs of Beauty, in Spring or otherwise.

So it was a big and happy surprise to find this one. It isn't much of a picture, but you can see the sprawly growth form and the narrow leaves (the lower ones belong to the Spring Beauty). Sometimes the flowers are a bit pink, but this one was quite white. I moved leaves aside and hunted around a bit and was pleased to find more plants.

Maybe I'll get my patch of Beauty yet!