Friday, September 27, 2013

A Few Things....

 Well, only two.

You've heard me talk about the Shaw Woods. It's a very special place, with an old-growth maple/beech/hemlock grove, huge glacial erratics, a pine plantation, a steep rock ridge, nesting Eagles..... and now, trails and interpretive signage for visitors.

On October 6th, a week this Sunday, the Woods will host a series of guided public tours. One hike will concentrate on nature photography, with an experienced photographer sharing his tips to improve your photography, another will be specially geared for families with children, and others will offer short or long hikes to suit every interest and fitness level.

Shaw Woods is less than 90 minutes west of downtown Ottawa, near Cobden. Getting there is simple - just take the 417 (which becomes Hwy. 17) West to Cobden, turn left at the traffic lights on to Eganville Road/County Road 8, turn right at the stop sign 12.3km later onto Bulger Road, and look for the parking lot at 2065 Bulger Road. There will be signs!

You do have to pre-register and it does cost $10 per person, but the money is for a good cause, building a shelter for school programs to use when they visit Shaw Woods.

You can get more information, and register, at Shaw Woods.

I'm looking forward to it - signed up for the Long Hike - hope I can walk that far.....


 I'm getting some feedback about my little quiz about Fall Fruits. Not all of it good! So I'm giving you the answers here, but I warn you now, next year I'm going to make it hard!

In order:  1. Hairy Solomon's Seal, Polygonatum pubescens. There are two very similar wild Solomon's Seals; you can tell this one by the short hairs along the veins on the undersides of the leaves. OK, maybe I can see why nobody got this one.
                2. Cedar cones. A bumper crop this year! The squirrels love them and the ground under some of the cedars (Eastern White Cedar, Thuja occidentalis) is a carpet of short fans of foliage with cones attached.
                 3. Cranberry, Viburnum triloba. My bushes are so filled with berries that the branches are bent down to the ground.
                  4. Aha, gotcha. Maybe that was tricky of me, sorry. These are the fruits of the elegantly named (not) Horsemint or Wild Coffee, Triosteum aurantiacum. The flowers aren't much, small and dingy purple, but the fruits are quite showy and the bush itself has presence. It gets about 3' tall and has large yellowish-green leaves. Easy to grow, but will flop if it is growing in easy conditions. Neglect is the answer.
                   5. Riverbank Grape, Vitis riparia. There are other species of wild grapes, but we only have this one. The others grow south of here. The berries are too sour to eat, but make great jelly. 
                   6. Doll's Eyes, or White Baneberry, Actaea pachypody. Sorry, I know it has been re-named but I can't find it's new name just now. The berries look spooky and can cause serious stomach upsets but taste so bad nobody is ever going to eat a second one.
                   7. Spikenard, Aralia racemosa. These have been huge this summer! One in my Sampler Garden is about 6' tall and 8' across. I have to salute and click my heels together before it will let me by on the path. It's sort of neat how the berries ripen - one cluster at a time in a random sequence.
                    8. False Solomon's Seal, Smilacina racemosa. It doesn't seem quite fair to call something after what it is not, but there we are. The flowers are pretty in the spring, and have a strong lemon scent. The berries stay long after the leaves turn yellow and give a welcome touch of colour in the woodland.
                    9. A Red Trillium berry. T. erectum is the only one with a dark purple-red berry. This particular berry has a hole in the top and somebody (wasp? ant?) has removed all the seeds.
                    10. The beautiful laquered red berries of Jack-in-the-pulpit, Arisaema triphyllum. These are so acrid nobody will eat even one. If you plant the whole berries the seeds germinate in the spring. If you clean the seeds off it seems they have trouble germinating, so just plant the whole shebang and step back.
                      11. Blue Cohosh, Caulophyllum thalictroides. The flowers come very early and are nearly black, small, but black, but the berries are beauties. The foliage isn't bad either, a neat clean shrubby thing about 2' high all summer.
                        12. This is the trickiest one, but the one most of you knew! Virginia creeper, Parthenocissus quinquefolia. The leaves are a deep wine-red in the fall. The fruits, so oddly arranged on their stalks, have that sort of ugliness which is cute.

Sadly, nobody dared try to win the mug. We'll do it again next fall, and you have all winter to study!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

So long, summer. Hello, fall.

Not that I'm exactly happy about it being fall. I'm sorry summer is over, and there is so much to do in the garden right now that I don't know whether to go out and work like a mad fiend or become a hibernating animal. Almost as bad as spring fever! Still, there are compensations.

One of the best is the Asters. I know they are not really called 'aster' any more - most have been re-classified into Symphyotrichum, Oclemena, Eurybia and Doellingeria - but we can get away with using the name in its friendlier, gardeners',  fashion. The New England Asters, in particular, are at their superb best right now. I just took a jog around the garden and photographed some.

Photographing them is a matter of taking one picture, then seeing a better one, then another better one, then one even better, then..... then you had better calm down because every stem has its bees, wasps and hover flies, and you don't want to get them all upset!

My pure white New England Aster was swarming with bees.

I found this aster growing in a pile of road scrapings a few years ago. I figured the pile was due to be moved to some sort of dump, so I felt no guilt in winkling out a small piece. It has done well, having dozens of stems this year, and next year I'll have some to share. Notice that even the stems lack any kind of pink or blue pigment. In all the others the stems are reddish.

Another one I lucked into, this time growing under a friend's fence inches away from his hungry sheep, has pale purple petals that fade to white. It too is getting large and ready to divide.

Still in scavenging mode, I found a very pale pink this year, I won't say where. If the tiny piece I dug out grows, I'll share when there is enough.


 The basic New England Aster, the one found in every ditch and every neglected field, providing food for so many insects, seems to mainly come in a dark pink/rose colour and a darker, bluer purple.

There is a lot of variation in the petals, too. Most are flat (strap-like, the botanists say), but some are quilled and many are twisted and give a charming shaggy effect.

Just so you don't think I've cheated on the colours, here is a shot of a small piece of my Hillside Garden showing both the pinkish and the bluish Asters.

Don't admire the Rudbeckia behind them too much. That is R. fulgida 'Goldsturm' and it is not one of the compensations of autumn. Even the bees don't care for it, that should tell you something. Another digging session..... just as soon as I finish this (yawn....) nap.....