Saturday, August 31, 2013

Fall Planting Sale, Fern Walk, and Quiz

Friday was one of those super-busy days; you know, must do this, must do that, go here, do that, all day. All I had time for in the garden was a quick walk around with the camera.

It struck me that I have a lot of native plants in little pots waiting to either be adopted or planted out. I really need to pot them up into larger pots if I want to keep them over the winter, but every time I think I'll do some, I can't find my darn trowel. And every time I look at them all, I think, 'I really should have a Fall Planting sale'. Don't know why, but the thought just kept coming into my head every time I went near the pots area.....

 Fall is a wonderful time to plant things. There is still two good months of cool damp growing weather ahead so new plants can get well established before winter. Also, you know exactly where you need to add something to your garden! August, the great leveler, will have made any gaps, holes or weak spots quite evident. Not to mention that working in the garden in September is very pleasant - we gardeners like the cool weather too!

So, Sept. 8, from 10am to about 2pm, all my small potted plants will be $1 each. There are ferns, different kinds, Bloodroot, Ginger, Trilliums and much more. Also some non-natives such as a few (very cute) miniature hostas and so on. There are not many of any, but some treasures. The address is 6114 Carp Road. (email me if you need directions.)

After 2pm, I'll take anyone who wants to come, on a Fern Walk, either around the garden, or in the woods. Where we go will depend on the weather and our fancy. Some of the ferns, such as the Botrychiums. are dormant right now, but others are looking particularly good with the cooler weather we have been having. The Walk should take about 2 hours, give or take a digression or two.

It also struck me  how many fruits I saw, and how beautiful some of them are. I've put together a collage of 12 of them, numbered, and I challenge you to identify them! The first person to send me an email with all 12 correct, genus, species and common name, will win..... let's see, how about a genuine, hand-made, stoneware, one-of-a-kind, custom-made (have I belaboured this enough?) Pine Ridge mug? I'll even paint the native plant of your choice on it! So get out your favourite field guide, dust off the braincells, and have some fun!

(PS. Looks like I talked her into it, heh, heh! Signed, The Trowel....  )

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

An Excursion - Eagles' Nest

They say that leaving something behind means that you intend to return. For sure, I always intend to return to the Eagles' Nest area near Calabogie. It is one of my favourite places. But I didn't leave my hand lens there on purpose.

I went there a week ago Sunday, looking for Fragrant Fern spores. I approached the area where they grow from below because, while I can scramble up the steep slope, I can't climb down! The lookout, Eagles' Nest Lookout, is the top of a sharp escarpment. The rock face is at least 200 feet high and cantilevered out over the ground below. There is a secondary trail, unnamed, at the base, which gets quite close. It ends, more or less, in an area of rockfall, and the Ferns grow in the face of the escarpment a hundred or more feet above. Here you can see some of the boulders that make up the rockfall. Can you imagine the noise when these broke off the rockface and fell and rolled? And the  forces that must have been involved?

Unfortunately for me, the area was over-run with young people on some sort of rock-climbing exercise. At least some of them were. The pair busy at the bottom of the area I wanted to climb up where not practicing rock-climbing....

So I went on by, pushing my way through quite dense undergrowth, and scrambled up beyond where they were and then bush-whacked my way back. Needless to say, by the time I got to where I wanted to be, I was hot and scratched and not a little peeved. But I found the ferns and they had ripe spores, so then I was happy again. Only when I got back to the truck did I realize that I had left my hand lens where I had inspected the ferns. Since it is a $90 Bausch & Lomb 14x lens which I gave myself for my birthday, I wanted it back!

So last Friday I went back.

The lens was right where I thought it would be, whew.

I was there early and the day was lovely and cool so I decided to explore. Since I had the escarpment on my left and a shallow meandering pond on my right, I wasn't too worried about getting lost. It was dense going but I eventually came out on an open hillside, overlooking the top of the pond, where it becomes more of a swamp or marsh. The perfect place for lunch! (Note to self - next time pack two sandwiches!)

First thing I saw on the hillside (you always see the interesting things when you stop for lunch), was the leaves of Spiranthes lacera, spp. lacera, or Slender Ladies'-tresses. I was sitting there, feet braced against a rock so I wouldn't slide down into the marsh, munching my (boring) sandwich and thought to myself, 'those look like the leaves of Slender Ladies'-tresses'. Now these leaves are not the least bit distinctive, so I suspect part of this was just wishful thinking, but this time I was right. I soon saw a lot of stems with well-developed seedpods on them. The clearing must have been a great sight a month ago!

The next thing I saw, which I found when I was trying to make a quick count of the Ladies'-tresses, was Blue Ground Cedar, Diphasiastrum tristachyum.

I have lots of Southern Ground Cedar, D. digitatum, and a few Northern Ground Cedar, D. complanatum, at home, but no D. tristachyum. If there had been more than one group of fruiting cones, I would have taken some home and sprinkled the spores in a likely place with a small appeal to magic, but I could only find one. Maybe next year.

In the marsh, I was impressed by the Joe-Pye Weed and the Boneset. Both used to be Eupatorium, now they are, I think, Eutrochium, but I'll have to leave sorting them out for a January project. I used to think there were three native Joe-Pyes, now I believe they are all grouped. Anyway, they were a lovely sight and I'm glad I planted some in my garden. I never paid any attention to the them before, but now I think they can be a great addition to the 'things that bloom in August'.

After all this excitement, I climbed back to the main trail, Manitou Mountain Trail, exchanged greetings with several people enjoying the view from the Lookout, and headed back to the road. But luck wasn't done with me yet! First I got buzzed by one of the Eagles - I heard the whoosh of his (her?) wings and saw the shadow, but didn't really see him. A young couple walking the other way got a picture on his cellphone and he told me the Eagle was no more than 25 feet above me. We watched him circle for a while, tight circles right above us. Maybe a nest was near?

Walking back to the truck I was surprised by one more thing - a pair of stems of Pinedrops, Pterospora andromedea, sticking up out of the small scrub beside the ditch.

Already only seedpods. I've never yet managed to see this plant in bloom, only in seed!

I had some seeds of this a couple of years ago, and I sprinkled them under the tall White Pines beside my driveway. So maybe that was the right place, and maybe, who knows, they might yet appear. It is supposed to take years for them to show above ground.

All in all, an exciting day!

Will I return?

 Of course!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Giant Swallowtail

I was thrilled to see the Giant Swallowtail visiting my garden again. It was here, briefly, last summer. I tried to get a picture, but this thing moves very fast! I guess with wings 6" across you can really motor! Also, it needs to keep its wings moving while it feeds because otherwise it would bend the flower down. Just think of all the energy that must take.

Still not a great picture, but at least you can see the butterfly. I understand it doesn't live here, it is just passin' through.... it is established in Southern Ontario, but considered a bit rare in the Ottawa Valley. I'm honoured that it likes my garden!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Beloved of Bees

There are some plants in my garden that just seem to appeal to bees. Lavender is one - when it blooms the whole Herb Garden is alive with buzzing.  Sometimes there are several bees on one spike, every one of them concentrating madly on getting that nectar and not noticing that their spike is tipping right over. Another one they love is Lamb's-ears or Stachys. I like it too and have lots of it in my Hillside Garden. It looks so good with gravel that I can hardly pull out the seedlings that come up in the path.... But I have learned to cut the flowering stems down before they go to seed. The challenge is to do it without annoying too many bees!

Later in the season, the bees love the Coneflowers. I suspect they come for the pollen. If Echinacea flowers have nectar, and I don't know if they do, it seems to me it would be out of reach for any but the largest bees. But I'm not a bee, and don't speak 'bee', so I don't know.

I have six species of Coneflower in my garden. Of course the main one is E. purpurea, of which I have several cultivars. The original plants I grew from seed. They germinated easily and bloomed a year later. What surprised me though was that the next generation of seedlings (and there were many of them) included quite a lot of white ones. By this time, I had purchased a plant of 'White Swan' and was able to compare it with my white seedlings. On the whole, the seedlings are more attractive. They have yellow cones instead of White Swan's orange ones, and the petals are longer and more graceful.

A closer view of a white Coneflower, with bee

Both in the closeup to the right and in the larger image above, you can see that the cones on the white flowers are more yellow than the ones on the pink flowers.

I do find Coneflowers hard to place in the garden. They are an unusual sort of pink, pink with brown undertones, if you can imagine such a thing. August is the month of Phlox and Yarrow, and both of these clash dreadfully. I did once think an orange Daylily would be good with the Coneflowers, but not so. Together, they both looked dingy. Then I tried a yellow Daylily, and that was worse! The Coneflowers are rather muted colours, and are not enhanced by brighter flowers nearby.  Really, the best combination I have come up with so far is with the Ninebark 'Diablo'. It's leaves are a dark maroon-purple, but with brown undertones. These two are very good together. And because the shrub is always there, you have the bonus of not having to worry about it blooming at the same time as the Coneflowers. Actually, Echinaceas look their best with grasses, ornamental and otherwise.

Grasslands are in fact their natural habitat. There are nine species of Echinacea, all from the prairies or drylands of the middle of the North American continent.
Three of the species, E. atrorubens, E. laevigata and E. sanguinea, are native far to the South of us, and do not survive our cold winters.

E. tennessiensis, which is considered 'endangered' in its native state, will survive here, although I have only managed to get blooms on it once and the plants eventually dwindled to nothing. I must try them again, if I can get seeds. 

 A big difference between E. purpurea and its cousins is that it has a spreading root system while the cousins have taproots. The taproots make the plants very drought-tolerant, but also mean that nurseries find it hard to produce the plants in pots for the home market and that the gardener can't move the plants around easily. You have to put tap-rooted things where you want them and leave them there! That's a problem in a garden like mine, where the smart plants carry their passports at all times.

The difference between E. pallida and E. simulata is apparently in the colour of the pollen. E. pallida has white pollen (good match with the name!) and E. simulata has yellow pollen. I haven't been able to see this, as to me to pollen on both seemed a sort of pale yellowish-whitish grey..... maybe I need a bee to help me with this.

E. angustifolia is much like E. purpurea, but smaller, tap-rooted, and maybe a bit pinker in flower.

Of course, every family has one oddball, and the Echinaceas have E. paradoxa. It is yellow!

Probably, E. paradoxa has the genes that allowed the plant breeders to develop so many yellow, orange and red cultivars!