Monday, December 21, 2015

I Was Expecting Winter...

I was expecting Winter, but instead we have had a very long Autumn! Still, Winter seems to finally be here (a dusting of snow on the pines and a crunch underfoot) and now it is time to say:

red felt christmas ornament in pine
I hope you have a Wonderful Christmas!  More soon!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

All the Shades of... Brown

It's late Fall, and everywhere is brown, so lets enjoy brown!

brown tones of autumn collage

Have a Happy Brown Day!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Taking Another Look

Bright sunny days are all very well, but I think you notice things more on a damp and cloudy one. Yesterday I was putting a few last things away in the shed and happened to go by a small shrub that lives under the Japanese Lilac. I don't usually pay much attention to it but this time the yellow leaves caught my eye. Not their bright yellow although that was nice enough, but the 'lines' made by the leaves, especially those at the tops of the stems. I'm not sure what the shrub is - it could be a kind of flowering almond - mostly it's just a short slightly spreading shrub with plain green leaves and small puffs of pink flowers for about fifteen minutes in the Spring.
shrub flowering almond yellow leaves
I liked the curves of the leaves and the way they sprang away from the stems. Repeated as they were on the multiple stems they had a rather nice rhythm to them.

That got me looking at other interesting 'lines' in the garden. How often do we look at the colour of something, or the shape, while not noticing what interesting lines it has? Look at all the lines in this collage of some things you might find in a late Fall garden:
brown leaves stems collage
Graceful curves in the grasses... bold veins on leaves... crisp curled leaves on Goldenrod stems... repeated zigzag edges of Bracken fronds... sinuous curves of the edges of Oak leaves. Even the collapsed stems of a Hosta was interesting when I looked at the lines.

.Of course there are lots of colours too: many, many, browns from palest tan to darkest chesnut, with a an excursion or two into red or yellow. But it was all the different 'lines' that intrigued me and made me look at my garden in a slightly new way.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Fall, Fallen, and Falling

One thing I've often said is that if a tree falls in the forest, and there is nobody around to hear it, it will fall across your trail. Not that it won't do this if you are around to hear it, but the point is, it will fall across your trail.

Or on to your best patch of Trailing Arbutus.

I happen to have three nice patches of Trailing Arbutus, Epigea repens, one of which is right beside one of my trails and is much larger and lusher than the others. Of course the dead Spruce fell right on it. It happened a few weeks ago in one of our wind storms. I inspected the situation, tsk'ed and walked around it.

So today I asked myself, 'self, what would you like to do with this fine cold windy afternoon' and the answer was, 'get that d... spruce off the Trailing Arbutus'. Right. I got out my old shabby green coat, which is warm and can't get any worse no matter what I do to it, my work gloves, my old saw and my trusty axe. I grabbed the biggest and reddest apple out of the fruit bowl, and set off for the woods. There were a few other things to clear along the way: a dead Balsam Fir top blown across the path, a large Cedar bough standing straight up as though it was a tree, and some Maple branches right at hair-snagging height. Once I got to the Arbutus patch I got right at it and hacked all the branches off the Spruce and moved them on to an existing brush pile. That left a long bare log lying on the ground, clear to view. A rather daunting view, given that it was about 15" across at the base, and me with no power saw. I'm scared of those things so I don't have one.Besides, it would be one more thing to store and maintain and anyway I hate power tools.

For no real reason, I jumped on the log near the top end. To my amazement, there was a loud cracking noise, and the log broke into three pieces! I was able to drag all three to the brush pile!

Then I stood quietly under the Maples nearby and enjoyed the yellow leaves planing down around me, mixed with some fat white snowflakes that were starting and finished my apple.

yellow maple leaves falling

Friday, October 9, 2015

October Observations

There's a lot to be said for October. Spring may be a fine sweet song, but in Autumn we can let go and find some peace. We've come through the frenzy of September, when we were assailed at every turn by chores not done, ideas not realized, plans not achieved, and now we are ready to let things be, do a little here and there, and just appreciate what the summer has left with us. Instead of thinking that maybe we can squeeze in a few hours of work tomorrow and get some particular mess tidied up, we are ready to say, well, I'll get to it next year.

The grasses on the Sand Hill have not been cut down. I'll just have to do them in the Spring. Meanwhile the waving seed heads, including one on the Miscanthus which isn't supposed to set seed, look thrilling sprinkled with raindrops and the occasional red Maple leaf.
maple leaf in grass

Along the Marsh edge the Cinnamon and Interrupted Ferns have turned various shades of yellow and, well, cinnamon.
fern fronds coloured in autumn
There are a couple of Royal Ferns which have appeared, tucked in among the Cinnamons, which I really should move. They were very small last year but have gotten a good bit bigger this year. The beavers chewed down a couple of small Maples nearby (you can see part of one trunk lying here) and the added sunlight has given the ferns a real boost. I'm trying to see the good side of beavers, and the way they keep the marsh edge open is probably good. I'll have to move the Royal Ferns, though. Next year.

symphyotrichum ericoides
A few things are very late bloomers. Sometimes it is because they are in too much shade, or in a spot too dry for them, but sometimes they are simply things that bloom late. A native Aster that is always late is Heath Aster, Symphyotrichum ericoides. I've been wanting one ever since I saw a plant at the Fletcher Wildlife Garden. It was huge -  about 3' tall and 6' across - and an absolute magnet for bees and wasps. I kept looking around the Valley, expecting to see some, but I didn't until a few weeks ago when I happened to be driving to Kingston. Near Carleton Place I found a small field, really a meadow, with many Heath Asters. Several were growing right up near the road... and there were ripe seeds on many of them.

Heath Aster is easily recognized, unlike the other Asters, due to its thickly filled flowering wands, tiny florets, and many very small leaves up and down the stems.

I've got seeds in pots, ready for next year.

Something else that often blooms late is Japanese Anemones. All the ones available at nurseries are cultivars, mostly of Anemone japonica. Many were developed in Europe where the summers are longer and warmer, and when they emigrate to Canada they have a hard time blooming before it gets too cold. So we end up with Anemones in October. The basic A. japonica blooms much earlier, July, but many of the varieties seem to be later.  There are white ones, pale pink ones, pink ones, single ones and double ones. It pays to try a few kinds and to move them around until you get what you want.

anemone japonica pink flower buds
But be warned! Japanese Anemones always remind me of  those bold-eyed boys that foolish girls like, dangerous and exciting, but impossible to live with. These plants put down massive roots and can lay claim to entire  gardens. Unless they are in a spot they don't care for...  like the double white one I accidentally put under a Crabapple tree and which can't seem to get its feet under itself. Guess I'll move it. In the Spring.

Last but not least of the things I've been admiring today are a couple of the New England Aster varieties sold in nurseries. Again, they were developed in Europe, Germany in this case, and they bloom too late for us here. By the time 'Andenken an Alma Potsche' and this unamed dark purple one bloom, they are alone in the border.
symphyotricym novae-angliea Andenken an Alma Potsche

dark purple aster flowers
I've already moved bits of Alma (as I call her) to better spots - one in front of the Yuccas on the hillside, and one to a sunnier spot, but I'll move the main plant next year as well. Maybe put it in front of some pale Japanese Anemones, and put the dark purple aster nearby. If they bloom together, they should be a nice spot of colour in the mainly yellow and orange of Autumn.

Next year.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Diggin' It

One of the best parts of gardening is digging! It's hard, or can be, it's messy, or can be, it's hot sweaty work, or can be, but it's fun! At least when you are done you can feel you've actually had an effect on something. Not like spending 2 hours on the computer trying to pay your phone bill (this morning's entertainment, not) or glazing pots in the studio (good useful work but no payoff until they are fired) or phoning people who really don't want to talk to you... just get out there and dig something up!

It was gorgeous today, sunny, cool, leaves turning red on the maples over my head, and I just felt I had to work off some of the cobwebs I'd picked up the last few days. So I attacked the bit of terracing at the back of the Hillside Garden today. The path, at Studio level, takes a right-angle turn around the Studio to the bottom of the Sand Hill Garden with a steep slope to the left. Under this bit of slope is the huge granite intrusion the builders found when they were digging for the Studio footings. In fact, this lump of granite is why the Studio is slightly off-square in relation to the house. It was either move the rock, tricky since it is attached to China, or move the Studio. Anyway, there isn't much soil there and what there is, I brought in, by wheelbarrow.

Right at the beginning of making this garden I stuck some rescued Yucca plants up there - they seemed to suit. And they've been very happy there, blooming magnificently in June and July and being a good dark focal point in the border. Unfortunately, some Lily-of-the-Valley pips must have come with them and they have been happy there too. Not to mention some seeded in Asters, Japanese Anemones, one lonely Helenium, and any number of weeds. A spurge of some kind went a bit mad there too. So it was a mess, not to mention that a rather nice Bearded Iris, with a soft yellow flower, was looking sad and neglected in among the jumble.

It took me a few hours, but a small section of this area now looks much better:

newly dug-over terrace
The bit I planned to work on is the lower of the two dug-over strips you see here. It was about 6' long and 2' wide, so not huge. It was hard going, though, because the soil there is solid heavy clay and it was packed with Lily-of-the-Valley pips and roots. My plan was to get it ready, then lift the Iris and re-plant it in the new space. But when I came to do it, I realized it would look wrong anywhere but one level higher up, so I had to dig over a second bit the same size. I had a time getting the rocks out, but they lined up nicely and they'll hold the soil back just perfectly. Remember that under all this there is a huge rounded granite outcropping!

Now tomorrow I'm planning to move a brighter yellow Iris over to the left of the pale one, behind the aster you can just see, and then maybe, maybe, add in a bit of a beautiful white Iris I have. Not sure if that won't be entirely too pale, but it might also be quite dramatic. Then I need to think of some short leafy things to put in between the irises and the other things for next year. I don't like looking at the iris foliage in the summer, too shabby. I hadn't planned on having any Bearded Iris, told myself, definitely NO IRIS. But then a friend arrived and said she was splitting her Irises (she's serious about Iris) and here were my share... (She also brought me a pail of strawberry plants and I dutifully planted them and they were doing fine but a bear came and ate the plants so that solved that problem. Bears don't seem to eat Iris.)

Now just so you don't worry that I might run out of digging opportunities, here's a view of the whole 'bit':
rock terrace
Two more levels to do! But no more Lily-of-the-Valley, whoo hoo!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Words for Kip

       We walked our woods,
          Cedars stitched with rain,
    Pines edged in mist.

                        You had today, and were content.
         I, still having yesterday,
       wanted tomorrow too.
        We walked our fields.
                                             Arches, steeples, songs and bright windows,
All were grass.

          The pale wind brings,
   And takes away.

These Words for Kip are for my beloved dog, Kip, whose life ended yesterday. Good-bye, dear companion, your today was too short.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Two Solidagos and a Turtle

Well, a Turtle-head. Chelone glabra, White Turtlehead, seems to be having a good year. Not sure if it is a perennial or not, but most years I only see a few along the marsh edge, and this year there are many. One of the best plants is this one:
You can see the water to the left - these things are tricky to photograph if you are wearing sandals. There were actually a number of stems and each had quite a few flowers, but I was reluctant to step into the water. I just did not want to risk sinking to my knees and losing my sandals on the way out! The name, which is a little puzzling, could be a reference to the flowers' profile, but looking at this group of four flowers, I'm wondering if it isn't really a reference to the shape of the flowers as you look straight down on them. Don't you think they look a lot like tiny white turtles heading off to the four different directions?

Chelone glabra, and its (non-native) cousin Chelone lyonii, are both good garden plants. White Turtlehead needs a bit more water - a damp area will keep it happy - while Pink Turtlehead does fine in normal conditions. Both like a sunny spot and both are about 30" tall.

In a shadier area, two Solidagos are starting to bloom. One is S. caesia, Blue-stemmed Goldenrod.

One plant I put near some hostas has filled in beautifully and is starting to show real presence and personality. I love the way the stems arch over to fill their space, and the way the leaves hang down below the flowers. The tiny curls on the ends of the leaves are charming too. S.caesia is easy to grow - a dependable perennial, not fussy except it doesn't like too much sun (half a day, or dappled by a high tree is fine) and not too 'spread-ish'. It does expand, and it does offer a few seedlings now and then, but it is easy to control. A mature plant will be about 2' tall and will fill a space twice that wide.

Solidago flexicaulis, Zig-zag Goldenrod, on the other hand, will attempt to monopolize more real estate than you might wish to allow it.

The plants don't seem to self-seed much, but they keep getting wider... and wider... and wider. You just have to be more determined than it is, and chop it back in the spring. The big thing about this Goldenrod is that it does well in solid shade. The plants are about 18" high, dark green, and healthy looking all summer. In September it is covered with typical Goldenrod flowers held high on ziggy-zaggy stems.

Both of these 'Goldies' are worth having in the garden - interesting form, bright flowers at a time when flowers are becoming scarcer, and extra 'garden points' for having something unusual!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Late August Walkabout

Finally had a chance to take a good look at the garden. The entire summer seems to have disappeared in a rush of work and other commitments, but now at last I can turn back to one of my favourite activities.

Speaking of summer, it does seem to be over. One of the Maple trees near the house is turning red at the top, the nights have a nip to them, and the sun is down by 8 in the evening. I'm sensing an early fall. The last few years we have had long drawn-out autumns; this year I suspect we won't.

I checked the tiny meadow where I've been trying to establish Fringed Gentian, Gentianopsis crinita. It's a biennial and actually not easy to grow. I know a place where it grows by the acre, mixed with White Goldenrod, Solidago ptarmicoides, various grasses and low shrubs. It seems to like the alvar-like conditions there: dry, thin soil, little competition from other plants. On the other hand, I also know a place where it grows beautifully in a mixed woods with seasonally damp spots. So you would think it would be flexible, but I have found it tricky. I've gotten the seed to germinate, but every time lost the seedlings when I tried to transplant them. They are really tiny! So then I tried sprinkling the seeds in what I hoped might be suitable spots and had slightly better luck. The little meadow I mentioned  had about 30 plants in 2014. This year there is one. I'm not sure quite what this means. There weren't any in 2013, so perhaps I should consider it a 100% increase over the previous blooming year, given that it is biennial, and hope for the best in 2016!

The strip behind the Studio and below the Sand Hill seems to have reverted to swamp. Purple Loosestrife (yikes), the unending Field Horsetails, various reeds and sedges, and several Swamp Beggar Ticks, Bidens connata. The Beggar Ticks are over 8' tall! They reminded me of being a teenager in Northern Ontario. We called them 'Stick-tights'  because the seeds would get into your socks, or your horse's tail. I once spent the better part of an hour combing just a few of the seeds out of my dog's fur. Tootsie sat patiently the whole time, but my orange and pink plastic comb had combed it's last. Poor Tootsie, he was a big and handsome dog, and my brothers and I gave him a big and handsome dog name, but my Mother called him Tootsie and of course that was the name that stuck. She really wasn't safe when it came to naming pets.

Coming back around to the Rockery I saw a Monarch. At least, I'm pretty sure it was a Monarch. It was quite large and flew strongly, unlike the Viceroys which are smaller and fly in fits and starts. It swooped around me and landed nearby a few times, but never opened its wings when it was sitting so I couldn't check the lines on its hind wings. But I'm pretty sure it was a Monarch. The fall migration is supposed to be going through right about now. That's only one this summer, but I guess that's better than zero.

A Hop Vine has seeded itself into the edge of the woods and has scrambled a good 30' up a pine. When I looked up I saw dozens of tiny yellow hop heads hanging down all up and down the vine as it spiraled around the tree trunk. Striking, but it is such a weed. The yellow version has pretty much taken over a bramble patch nearby and I try not to look at it, knowing how hard it will be to remove. The roots are like cables, stretchy rubbery un-cut-able cables. Tarzan could use them.

 The Asters are in full glory. One plant of New England Aster at the front of the Crabapple Garden has been in bloom for a month, very early and a long time, and I wonder if it will do it again next year so I plan to keep it and try pieces of it in other spots. If it is consistently early, it will be a useful 'find'. But it could just be a fluke. I love the aster colours, 'jewel tones' is a phrase made for asters. Most of them are lavender-blue, but a few are amethyst pink and a very few are white or pale mauve.

The other Asters are as confused as ever. I keep trying to identify them, but I think it is hopeless. They cross and re-cross, leaving me with plants that have leaves like one species but flowers like another...

One short white-flowered one, possibly a form of Symphyotrichum (most of the Asters are now Symphyotrichum) novi-belgii, is blooming merrily pretty much in the driveway. Must move it someplace as it looks worth keeping.

There are entirely too many Goldenrods... not enough Closed Gentians... the Pink Turtlehead is gorgeous... Cosmos has filled many gaps, as it does so well... we won't look at the weeds... do I dare order some Tulips?

Friday, July 24, 2015

Ah, July. Ah, Chaos

Every year, the July garden astounds me. There is so much bloom I can hardly imagine what will be left to bloom in August... or September. We've had a very 'grow-ish' summer so far, rain just when we needed it and not too much heat so the flowers are the happiest I've seen for a long time.

One could almost ignore the weeds. Not quite, but almost. Parts of my garden aren't too bad. The Sampler Garden, which is a shady woodland filled with ferns and spring wildflowers, looks fine. A few stray Fleabanes, a small patch of Enchanter's Nightshade, a rambling white-stemmed Rubus that needs to learn to behave itself, but overall it is in good shape. If anyone came to see the garden today, I could take them there and not be embarrassed.
coneflower purple echinacea

Elsewhere, however, it's a different story. Behind the Studio the horsetails and the primroses are engaged in deadly battle and the Baptisia has taken over more real estate than many a small city garden. The Hillside, while spectacular, is dense with seedling Foxgloves, errant Phlox, and Coneflowers. But such Coneflowers!

They all started from one plant of Echinacea purpurea purchased years ago. It promptly seeded and I soon had a whole patch. The patch included some lovely white ones (and I'm a pushover for the white version of anything) which are nicer than the white one usually sold as White Swan. White Swan seems, to me, rather stodgy. The flowers just don't have grace, and a Coneflower is all about grace.

Below the pink flower you see a yellow Coneflower. This is E. paradoxa. I grew it from seed. A whole package of seed exchange seed gave me one plant, but it has become large and energetic. The flowers have unusual drooping curved petals in a shiny clear yellow. They have elegance as well as grace.

Two years ago I got four seeds from one of the heads on E. paradoxa. It either doesn't set seed much, or else the birds beat me to them. Anyway, I planted the four seeds and the following spring three of them germinated and grew into good-sized plants. I planted them out and this spring two of the plants returned. One bloomed, and I was amused to see that the flowers have the gracefully drooping form of E. paradoxa, but the colour, more or less, of E. purpurea. Actually not quite the colour, it is a bit more yellow, almost a peach colour. The plant is also tall, has narrow leaves, and flops. We can tell which block this chip is from!

purple conflower

The nurseries have had great fun with Echinaceas, putting such cultivars as these on the market. I like this soft pink 'fluff butt' one, but I'm not so sure about the reddish one. There are a whole swarm of orange/rust/red Coneflowers, many of them named after hot foods like Cherokee Pepper or Hot Lava, well, I guess that's not a food. I think this one is called something with Paprika in the name. It's attractive, but even harder to fit into a colour scheme than the usual Coneflowers. I'm thinking of moving it next to some yellow Daylilies. Since those are blooming up a storm now too, I can walk around and pick the one that needs a little Paprika in its life.

One good thing about these garden Echinaceas, they have fibrous roots and are easily moved. There are a number of other species, such as E. pallida, E. simulata, E. tennesseensis and others, which are quite hardy here and have seeds which the small birds relish, but they have tap roots and you'd better be very sure of where you want them before you let them get large. I tried to move an E. angustifolia and not only did I have trouble getting it out of the ground, my efforts were rewarded as they so often are and I haven't seen it since.

In addition to the E. paradoxa cross, I also accidentally got a lot of plants which I surmise are crosses of E. purpurea with E. pallida. The latter is very tall, has stunning large flowers with drooping, twisting petals, and very narrow leaves. The patch of Coneflowers which came up beside my Crabapple Garden (I probably left some gone-to-seed stalks there and the seeds tumbled out) is a grand mixture of all different plants!

The top picture is of a plant which has uniformly 'dance-y' flowers. They open flat and stay more or less so, but the petals twist a bit. The plant is fairly short (for this group) and compact.

The next one I like because the flowers are darker than most and the stems are a beguiling dark red.

The bottom picture is of a plant which has soft pink and white blooms.Their petals never droop, it stays with the crisp daisy shape throughout the flowers' lives. This one will look very good with a pale yellow Daylily and some Shasta Daisies, of which I also have about a million. They seed too, but there isn't a lot of variation in the offspring.

Shastas are a large part of the chaos of the July garden. They don't bloom for long and you'd better deadhead them as soon as they turn shabby or you'll never get to the end of them. Looking at the patch of them on the Hillside I see that discipline will be required, not in the flowers, but in the gardener. I'd better get those seedheads off and not get side-tracked into general weeding.

And now, just to relieve all that pinkness, here's a picture of one of the bluest flowers I know. I'm going to call it Willow Gentian because there is no hope of me spelling its botanical name. No matter, it's a wonderful plant, and unlike my Coneflowers, never clashes with anything.
Ah, blue. Ah, July!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Letter From Home

Dear Friend and Reader,

I'm sorry not to have written for so long, but it has been pretty busy around here. Not anything amazing or earth-shaking, just busy.

Spring happened. It took about 10 minutes one sunny day. All my daffodils opened at once. Usually I have a long daffodil season, starting with the super-early Tete-a-tete and continuing to the very late Actaea. This year, Tete-a-tete and Actaea actually overlapped. One morning Tete-a-tete opened and the next Thalia and Actaea joined them. If you don't know these varieties, get them.

I finally piled up the small stones I've been hoarding and disguised my wellhead as a bird bath. That tangle of stems behind it is a Stephanotis, not a good shrub for a small space, but useful on my rocky hillside. It is barely leaved out in this picture, but soon covered itself in its tiny three-pointed leaves and white flowers. The stems arch, and root where they touch the ground. I did fix the birdbath base later, didn't like that obvious hole, but it does the job. Only problem is that a pair of robins have claimed that Japanese Maple, and they dive-bomb any bird that tries to take a bath. Robins seem to be cranky birds.

pottery and rock birdbath
Joan Darby and I got the Fern Garden at the Fletcher Wildlife Garden more or less finished in time for the dedication by the William Cody family. Here it looks pretty bare - just enjoy, as I do, the rare sight of bare earth with no weeds.
The ferns were much further along on the day and it looked fine. I was worried about the weather as it started cool and damp, but by the time the guests were assembled on the grass in front of the (now) William J. (Bill) Cody Fern Trail, the sun came out and it was warm. Big sigh of relief all around!

The Lupines (Lupinus perennis) along the driveway bloomed. Last year I was a little disappointed that so many of the flowers were pink, but this year there were lots of blue and purple ones. I like this two-toned pink one:
wild lupine lupinus perennis
Right about that time, the weeds overwhelmed me, as they do every year. At first, every spring, it all seems quite possible, perfectly do-able, no problem... then the weeds really get going and overnight it becomes more than I can possible handle. I did the only sane thing and took a day off and went to Eagle's Nest trail near Calabogie. Look at the Marginal Wood Fern in the bottom left here, is it any wonder I love ferns? Could you grow in a crevice in a wall of granite?

The upper right is a patch of Walking Fern on a boulder about 20' high. Not a great picture, but you can see the ferns are impressive. They do well, I think because of the constant humidity rising from the marsh and stream below them. Bearberries are interesting too and they really stood out among the Reindeer moss. The berries grow during the winter, under the snow. I read that in a science magazine years ago and it still impresses me.

The peonies bloomed. The rain fell. There are piles of petals under the skirts of the peonies now.
I planted potatoes in the Herb Garden. I haven't been happy with this garden for a while, it just didn't seem to be pulling its weight. It's the highest maintenance in the whole place, and was starting to not seem quite worth it. You don't expect a flower garden to be useful, but you do expect an herb garden to be and what was useful about mine? Not much, once I'd done my once-a-year chives omelet. So when a friend gave me some potatoes, nicely sprouted, I put them in there. Then I planted 6 beans, a dozen or so radish seeds (bread and butter, sliced radishes, a sprinkle of salt, oh yeah) and two tomato plants. I never said I was consistent.

Well, that's all my news for now, dear. Hope all is well with you, and do write when you get a minute.


PS. If you happen to see my Trowel anywhere, could you tell him to call home? He's needed.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Trillium Facts, Myths and Mysteries

The White Trilliums, Trillium grandiflorum, are in full and glorious bloom at Pine Ridge. There are hundreds, all along the driveway, in the woods, and in my garden. They come up in the shady woodland garden, the hillside garden, the rockery and even the herb garden. Clumps, clusters, sweeps and swaths of white all around me.

This coming Sunday is my Trillium Day and I have advertised in the local paper and some other places so I really hope the Trills stay beautiful until then!  The rain and cool weather we are having should work in my favour. Naturally, this means that I have Trilliums on my mind - trillium designs on some of the pottery, trillium pictures, trillium conversations on various blogs and groups and lists. There is a Trillium group on Facebook, too, and since it is Trillium season everywhere, the images are coming in thick and fast, each one more beautiful/interesting/amazing/awful than the previous.

I include 'awful' because I am surprised by some of the ignorance and misconceptions out there. On Saturday at the Carp Farmers' Market I had someone tell me very seriously that it was illegal to pick a trillium... this bit of misinformation simply will not go away. NO, it is not illegal to pick a trillium. Or dig a trillium, or step on a trillium, or whatever - assuming it is YOUR trillium. If it is yours, you can do whatever you want to it. Naturally, I don't think you should but you are totally allowed. On the other hand, if you do not own it, you are not allowed to do anything to it other than look at it and maybe photograph or paint it.

Picking or digging or trampling anything in any park, conservation area, ANSI or other protected area in Canada is illegal. Big fines. Nasty glares from people like me. Do not do it. You know that. And remember that all other spaces are private property. Somebody owns every square inch, even if it is only the government or some developer. The roadsides are also owned, by the property owners next to them, although the roads people have rights-of-way. So please do not pick, dig, trample etc. trilliums along the roads! The plants along the roads belong to all of us.

Another big misconception that gets my shirt in a knot is some people think there are white white trilliums and pink white trilliums. Well, yes, there are pink white trilliums, but what is confusing these folks is that all T. grandiflorum flowers turn pink as they age. The variety (or varieties) of T. grandiflorum that actually are pink are a different shade, start out pink, and open pink, on both the fronts and the backs of the petals. They too turn purplish pink as they go over.
pink trillium grandiflorum

You can see the difference in colour: the pink variety, which occurs naturally and is not that uncommon, is a soft rose while the colour of a fading White Trillium is a more strident, bluer pink. There are varieties, found originally in the US south of us, that are deeper rose than the one here. To my knowledge, it is not available in Canada.

And just to clear up another confusion, there is also a different local species of Trillium, T. erectum, with red or maroon flowers:
flower trillium erectum red maroon
I could hardly believe my ears when I heard it described as 'the pink Trillium'. Pinkish red, maybe, but 'pink'? No, dear overheard person, this is a different species.

There are some 40 accepted species of Trilliums, and a few possible ones. There is much study being done right now so this will likely change in the next few years. In our area we have only 4 native species: T. grandiflorum, the Great White, T. cernuum, the Nodding, T. erectum, the Red, and T. undulatum, the Painted. Quite a few other ones are hardy here. I have T. luteum, T. recurvatum, T. cuneatum, T. viridescens, and T. flexipes and they are doing well.

Much confusion exists around the concept of double flowers in Trillium. Here are four different forms:
And there are others. The one that seems the most common in the nursery trade, called 'Snow Bunting' is like the one in the lower left corner, but a lot more 'ball' shaped. The 4-leaved flower is not really a double. Flowers like this one are more likely the result of bud damage to the growing shoot and will likely not appear the following year. It's fun to find 'quadrillions', but they aren't really rare, and they aren't often attractive. This one is, and the plant has had those flowers for some years now.

Unfortunately, this is not a new and unusual flower form. It is most likely the result of a virus infection. In some patches there may be a number of flowers with green areas, and the infection often seems to spread.
Sometimes the plant or plants will eventually succumb, other times they seem to recover. In any case, these should not be propagated.

Let's end with a picture of some healthy flowers! And if you would like to see lots of them in bloom, come to my Trillium Day on Sunday - details in the sidebar. I'll have some plants for sale as well, and if the weather co-operates, some artist friends will be joining me to show some of their garden-related art. 

Trillium grandiflorum flower plant
Happy Trillium Season!

Friday, May 8, 2015


It is a little bit strange at Pine Ridge today. Every time I look over towards the flower bed with the Crabapple trees in it I feel a little startled. Something has changed, and I am still adjusting.

Basically, some Balsam Firs which had died over the winter have been removed. It really looks much better, but I am still getting used to seeing much further, in fact, having a view!

The adventure started very early in the morning when a large crane truck arrived.

In the next picture you can see the dead trees. The men are setting up the truck, making sure it is level and well supported to the sides.

Here the first of the dead trees, cut out of the Sampler Garden, is being lifted over the large Maple and over to behind the Crabapple Garden. It looks small here, but it's deceptive, that tree was a good 15" at the base.

 I watched as they attached the top of each dead Balsam to the crane, then cut it at the bottom, and then maneuvered it into the pile behind the cedar hedge. The men communicated over their headsets and worked as a perfect team. They got all the dead Balsams down and hidden in no time. Then they moved the truck back up the driveway to work on the more serious dead tree problem. I would have left the Balsams (although I hated the way they looked) but this large dead White Pine was less that 15' from my hydro pole. If it went over and took the pole down, it would be very expensive. Hence the tree service and the crane. Here you can see the dead Pine - it is the front stem of the two. The back one is still healthy. (Hydro, by prior arrangement, had turned the power off.)

 This next image shows you both how big that Pine really is, and how wild and daring the tree cutter is! What you can barely see is his chainsaw - he has it attached to his belt. The chainsaw as belt accessory!
 At the top, he attached the crane to the tree using some sort of cable arrangement. Then he lowered himself down to where he was planning his first cut, basically rappelling down a good 30'. Once where he wanted to be, he found some branches he could stand on, and attached himself to the trunk with a safety belt. Then he cut the trunk, reaching that chainsaw up above his head! The crane lifted the cut top away from him and over to the side where we had agreed to put the wood. You can see the tree top moving here:
 It took three sections to get the whole tree down. Yes, that line at the top of the picture is my hydro line.
 Then he cut the branches off for me because while I can stack them, I can't cut them! Some of the branches are 6" or more in diameter. Now I am known for taking down trees with my secateurs, but that wasn't an option here. And training the resident beavers would take too long.
Thank you, Gardiner Tree Service! You guys were great!

Now I just have to get used to the new 'look' at Pine Ridge.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Spring Returns

Some people want expensive holidays, some people want fine cars, some people want designer clothes... I just want to spend my whole day looking at what is happening in the Spring Garden now that the warm weather is finally here.

rock garden daffodil
I love this miniature Daffodil. It is Rip van Winkle, a very old variety. I like to think he's been sleeping all this time and has just now wakened in my garden! Of course he does do it every year... Rippy is only about 8" high but his flowers last quite a long time. They start off rather green, and get yellower as they age.

dwarf bulbous iris rock garden
Iris reticulata 'Harmony' is always a surprise. I have it in three spots, and it is fun to watch as the first spot comes out from under the snow, the Iris appears, then the second spot is cleared of snow and the Iris appears there, and then, finally, the last spot is snow-free and the last Irises come up. So while each flower only lasts a few days, I have it in bloom for two weeks! There are a dozen or more varieties of this Iris and it's hybrids, I must get some more.
rock garden ground cover
Still in the Rock Garden, the Alpine Alchemilla is starting. The leaves are softly furred and edged with long white hairs. It makes a green carpet, but rarely blooms.

You may be wondering what this is. I bought a tiny prostrate White Spruce some years ago. It was so small my outstretched hand covered it. I tucked it into a sort of a crevice in the rock garden. It was happy there but unfortunately it soon took off across the main path where it kept getting stepped on. Either that or the poor garden visitor would be left trapped, not being able to see where the path went. I also got the strong feeling Mr. Spruce wanted to cascade down a hillside and it was headed for the nearest one. So I decided, reluctantly, to move him. Then of course I couldn't decide where to, so I changed my mind a dozen times last fall and in the end left it. So the other day I got brave and did the deed. Monsieur Spruce is now at the top of the rockfall area, where he'll be able to cascade at least 15'. That's a prostrate Forsythia behind him. The Forsythia may be an expendable crew member - it never blooms. The small rooted bits I moved up the hill all bloom, but not the main plant. Nice even green all summer, but b-o-r-i-n-g.

This is the other garden chore I did the other day. These early days are wonderful for difficult garden jobs like these, cool and no bugs yet. But what a job it was. The 'victim' (except that I feel like I'm the victim) here is Carex Morrowii. I may have the name a bit wrong, but that is the gist of it. Anyway, it is an attractive sedge, but do not be fooled by that sweet little plant in the 4" pot. In no time at all it will be all over your garden. This next picture shows why it spreads so fast, why it is so hard to remove, and why I don't like it:

It has amazing roots - so dense and heavy it resists every effort to remove it. And it puts out new stolons by the bushel, all summer long. I'm not sure it stops in the winter, actually.

The tops of the leaves are usually browned off.

Yes, that is an axe in the first picture. I couldn't lift the clumps and had to hack them apart.

I took out 4 wheelbarrow loads of Carex Morrowii.

Another spreader, but a much nicer one, is Chionodoxa Forbesi 'Pink Giant'. It likes any situation where it gets good summer drainage and some spring sunshine. Glory-of-the-snow also has a white form, and several lovely soft blue ones.
pink early spring rock garden bulb

At the far end of the rock garden I have a small patch of Anemone blanda 'Blue Star'. It started as one corm and is spreading nicely. The colour, in the early morning light, is so clear, so clean, so very totally self-possessed.
blue flowered bulb early spring

Around the corner from the Anemones, the Fragile Fern croziers are just peeking out from under the dry leaves. Fragile Fern does well in a rock garden and can even handle a sunny spot. It may go dormant in a dry spell, but it returns.

fragile fern fiddleheads croziers rock garden
As Spring does, as we gardeners do.