Sunday, December 24, 2017

Winter Wonderland

A light dusting of snow last night meant I woke up to a Winter Wonderland this morning. There was already some snow down, but this last sprinkling made everything sparkle.

The Sampler Garden looked its picturesque best:
The driveway was a new and exciting landscape:
The sun came out briefly and lit up one of the young spruces near the marsh;
Of course Rosie had to stick her head in the snow to investigate something of interest to dogs:

And so, home to make tomorrow's Yule Log and enjoy a lazy day in a warm cosy house. I hope all of you are able to do the same thing, and I wish everyone All the Best For 2018.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Checking In - A Word from the Trowel

I know you haven't heard from me in a while. That's because I've been having a fantastic summer!

First it was pretty nice out, lots of rain, everything growing like anything. She made me do some transplanting and we moved a lot (groan) of small plants into larger pots... but then She had a sort of a sale and people actually came and bought most of them which meant that we didn't have to transplant the rest of them and I got to have a nice rest in a wheelbarrow full of potting soil. Then it rained some more and I heard rumours that some places were getting kind of flooded but it didn't affect us as we are about 20' higher than the marsh here. At least the house is. The marsh got so high it was almost up to the driveway in a couple of places. I was kind of worried because the wheelbarrow I was in was filling up and I couldn't see any way to get out and make for dry land but eventually She came along and tsked and hmmmed and moved me into the old seed-starting shed.

Not that the rain didn't come in there as well, but at least it drained away.

Then darned if She didn't get herself a puppy. So you can imagine how much attention I got. It was raining too much to transplant anything anyway so I got another nice long rest. In this way June, July and most of August went by nicely. Didn't do a lick of work. It was wonderful.

September kind of blew up my nice lazy life. Didn't the sun come out and the air turn warm? What kind of September is that!! Naturally She had an attack of plant moving and away we went. Why does She insist of moving huge root balls using only a wee trowel? Too lazy to get the spade, I guess. But you know how good natured I am. I did my best and got through it with only a minor crick in my neck. A bit of leverage against a rock soon straightened that out. Getting on a bit, you know. This is my seventh (or it eighth) summer.

Then it was, apparently, time to pot up a mess of baby ferns. Yechhh. So fiddly. So precious. OK, we did about 50 of one kind and maybe 30 of another kind. Can't think why. All I got to do was scoop potting soil into little pots, but that beats being used as a crowbar to move huge things like Asters and getting a crick and getting it straightened out against a nasty sharp rock.

Anyway, that was my summer. She says it's going to get more interesting again soon, something about having finished some sort of business of changing rooms around in the house and setting up a new computer and getting various things fixed and sorted and re-organized and somehow there seems to be a second lady around lately. A tall lady but she seems nice and I'm pretty sure she doesn't garden. We'll get along pretty well I'm thinking. Apparently she's going to be staying for a while and that's why we had all this moving around of 'stuff'. The puppy is no problem either, not really, not since she decided I was too hard to chew.

 I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Comes the Day

Comes the day the Blue Jay calls of Autumn... a mist hangs in the trees in the morning... and the Goldenrods begin to bloom.

Summer is over, we must move on.

No more wandering around the garden, coffee cup in hand, looking to see what new treasure has come into bloom overnight. No more debating the purchase of that irresistible new plant which might look wonderful in a certain corner but is there room for it.  And no more of that lovely luxurious feeling that a whole long summer stretches ahead.

Summer is over, we have work to do.

High on the list of work is the dead-heading of all the things that bloomed in the last few weeks. In my garden, that means masses of Lamb's-ears, Ornamental Salvias, Geraniums, Shasta Daisies and many others. I always have to wait to trim the Lamb's-ears as the bees love them and every stalk has at least one bee on it. Lamb's-ears self-seed something fierce if you wait too long, so once the bees are finished with them it is a race to get them trimmed. Shastas are the same in so far as they ripen their seeds about five minutes after the flowers fade... but the bees don't care for them at all! There were a lot of Salvias in the Herb Garden (self-seeded of course), enough to fill the wheelbarrow twice over. They have a strong rather rancid odour, not my favourite. Usually working in the Herb Garden is a pleasure with the scents of Mint, Sage, Lavender and all the others.

Speaking of scents, I once told someone that Hyssop smelled like a dead cat and she was very puzzled, wondering how I knew what a dead cat smelled like. I never admitted I made it up, but Hyssop does smell nasty. Worse than Salvia. All the Onion tribe smell good to me - Garlic, Chives, Garlic Chives, as well as the many ornamental Alliums. Tarragon needs to be rubbed to give its scent, delightfully licorice-like, and of course Anise Hyssop is a wonderful combination of licorice and lemon. Lemon Balm, which by the way you must dead-head and dead-head early and thoroughly, doesn't smell very good at all. Perhaps it smells better in teas. Lemon Verbena is very sweet, much better. I have one in a pot which is about 30 years old. It is deciduous so drops its leaves all over the Studio counter where it winters and then looks quite dead for the rest of the winter. Visitors wonder why I have a dead plant in my Studio, and if I like them (the visitors), I explain. If I don't, I don't.  A unique gardeners' revenge!

Some plants need dead-stemming rather than dead-heading. Things like Centaurea montana, with its sparkling blue bachelor's-buttons flowers, will die back after its first flush of bloom. If you cut the old stems right to the base, it will put up fresh new ones and likely bloom again. Lady's Mantle and some of the Salvias have the same trick. Others, like Mulleins and Salvia Argentea, need to be cut back so that they don't die off completely. They are really biennials, but you can trick them into behaving like perennials by cutting the old growth right back like that.

Another big job for this time of year is restraining those plants that are taking far more real estate than they are entitled to. Goldenrods are a case in point. I like to let them bloom, then pull out the stalks that are moving into their neighbours' space. Asters, while they can look huge right now, and take over a lot of the air space above the garden bed, are not really a problem as they grow in a fountain shape. Their 'feet' are really quite narrow. Asters need to be restrained in the spring.

Then there is trimming the bushes, planting bulbs, collecting spores and seeds, moving the things that you've planted in quite the wrong place... cleaning the pond, picking the last beans, the list is long.

Yes, summer is over. Time to change gears, get some tidying done, and enjoy the Asters, the Goldenrods, the Lobelias of Autumn.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

May the Fork Be With You

Also your spade, your trowel, your secateurs, your gardening gloves, your cell phone...

What do you carry around with you as you work in the garden? And how do you carry it? I've been gardening for decades and the perfect solution still eludes me.

I've seen, and tried, a number of arrangements for carrying gardening tools around. One is to attach them to a belt. I think this might work very well if you aren't elderly and slightly plump. In my case an actual belt was most uncomfortable, especially when I bent double as I do constantly. Not to mention that doing so made the secateurs slide out of their fancy holder and bang me on the chin.

Attaching things to my waistband didn't work much better. The weight pulled my shorts down and the phone banged into the trowel. I think wearing things at your waist only works if you never bend over. You only work standing or kneeling. Since kneeling only works if you are going to be working in one spot for some time and I tend to have to cover a lot more ground than that, I don't think wearing my tools is going to work.

I've tried keeping them in the wheelbarrow. This works fine, right until you pile weeds or other debris on top, then dump the lot on the compost heap, and only later think, 'hmmm, where is my trowel...'. Not a good solution either.

You can buy charming canvas tool carriers. A pocket for each tool. Space to add accessories such as sharpeners, pens, labels and so on. They're lovely in the catalogue, the shop and the garden shed. In the field they sag, fall over, get wet and muddy and accumulate dead spiders. And putting the tools back in is such a pain that you tend not to do it and the secateurs get lost under the peony bush.

A kind person once gave me an antique wooden tool box which has a nifty wooden carrying handle. Sadly, it is so heavy it pretty much has to go in the wheelbarrow, which sort of negates its usefulness. I like it at Christmas, though, as it looks great filled with greenery and pine cones.

Lately, I've been using a basket my daughter gave me for Mother's Day. The basket wasn't the gift, it was what the gift came in - but the chocolates are eaten, the jam has been spread, the flowers have  wilted and only the basket remains. It's nothing fancy, not even painted, but it has a nice high handle and seems large enough to hold most of the things I need. Putting stuff in is easy - just toss whatever it is on top and don't worry about it. The handle of the trowel sticks up because the basket is just a little bit too small and the secateurs are easy to see because they are red. The phone lurks in the bottom and the sweat-mopping towel lies on top. I can hang it on the wheelbarrow handle or a tree branch, put it down beside my feet, or put it on a rock.

Not waterproof, though. Today it was sunny so Rosie (the new puppy) and I were out pulling grass out of the Goldenrods on the Hillside when a large black cloud suddenly pulled up overhead and drenched us. I took Rosie in and dried her off and then remembered the basket. Oops. Luckily the towel had kept my cell phone more or less dry. Note to self: put the darn phone in something rain-proof.

Nor is it Rosie-proof. Usually she goes after the towel (she likes fabric, hey, she's a girl) but the other day she went after the trowel. She likes the rubber handle, very chewy. Unfortunately she took it away for a good chomping session and it took me three days to find it again.

But other than that, it seems to be working. It holds my trowel, my secateurs, cell phone (now in a nice sturdy case), a ball of string, some labels, a waterproof pen, and a towel. Gardening gloves just have to take their chances - either on my hands or piled on top in the basket. Notebook I've given up on. Proper weeding requires a sort of zen-like state of mind, so I'm not going to worry about important thoughts that need writing down.

Have I just invented the Canadian version of the English 'trug'?

Thursday, June 29, 2017

A Garden Surprise (or Two)

I love that early morning garden walk-about. The air is cool, my coffee tastes good, birds are singing all around, Rosie is full of joy, and sometimes there's a nice surprise.

The first one was a nice plant of Loesel's Twayblade, Liparis loeselii right in the middle of a huge patch of Thyme. It was at the bottom of my Rockery right next to the driveway, shaded by a fast-growing Maple. It does get some sun, but that spot sometimes gets stepped on when people park there, so it's not a good spot for a delicate orchid. Still, there it was, green and perky. It's only about 8" high, but that is actually robust for this small species.

Loesel's Twayblade is unusual in that it's form can vary depending on the growing conditions. In a damp and shady spot the leaves are much narrower and longer. Flowering is apparently much the same, though. I had it  higher up in the Rockery up to last year, but then it disappeared. It was very close to a path so I was afraid I'd stepped on it! I was quite cheered to see it again.

My second happy surprise was a bright orange, almost red, lily leaning out from the Coneflower it was growing through. I planted that Coneflower there last year, and had no idea there was a Lily of any kind lurking in the pot. Or was it? I have no idea where it came from, and I also don't know what species it is.

The leaves are very narrow, dark blue-green, and in whorls (more or less) around the stalk. The stalk would be a good 4', should it stand up straight, but for now it is curved over and around the Coneflower. It would probably be less lanky if it got more sun so I might have to move it. There were two flowers, both on long stalks.

I have a small group of white Martagon lilies nearby. The flowers are similar in shape, but the leaves and the arrangement of the blooms are completely different.

Another surprise, Rosie is a very good digger! Here she is wondering why I'm speaking sharply to her. She dug all around the huge boulder that serves as the doorstep to the Studio. It's about 600 pounds, so I don't think she'll shift it... you can see some of her sticks here too. She collects any stick or branch she can carry and piles them in the doorway. Hmmmm. I need to work on my woods trails next week, maybe she can help.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

A Happy Anouncement!!

Yes, I am delighted to announce that Elphin Rosie, the world's smartest, cutest, most lovable puppy is home!

She arrived on Monday and has already, in her perfect puppy way, changed life for myself and Pepper, my faithful cat and longest-standing employee.

Her she is sitting and looking bemused by this new and rather wet world:

 In true Border Collie fashion, she soon set out to explore. Notice that she already has 'the stare' down pat. All she needs is some sheep.

Or maybe this juniper can be induced to go somewhere:
Today it was sunny and we did some gardening. Rosie helped by dragging the trowel about 100' down the driveway and then going off with my phone (no, Rosie, bad girl...). We had a lovely time but got pretty tired:
So now we're back inside, I'm typing and she's curled up under my chair sound asleep. Just for a few minutes my toes aren't getting nipped and nobody's barking at the mosquito that's buzzing around. Life is good.

 Welcome home, Rosie!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Ladyslipper News

As usual with news, the Ladyslipper News is  mixed.

I'm absolutely disgusted, disappointed, furious and otherwise miffed off that three of my  Yellow Ladyslipper plants in the Sampler Garden have not appeared this spring. They were doing so well last year... now, nothing. I strongly suspect Enemy Action, that is, chipmunks. Chipmunks are a scourge. They tunnel everywhere and eat everything. They upend my pots and dig up anything freshly planted. This is the second time I've lost Yellow Ladyslippers in my garden while those in the woods are fine, so I'm sure it's them.

On the other hand, I'm delighted to report that my one plant of Ram's Head Ladyslipper, Cypripedium arietinum, is looking bigger and more vigourous than last year.

Not sure if it will bloom this summer, but it might. The top leaf is still tightly curled and I didn't want to risk damaging anything so I didn't check. You can see a small Oak Fern, some stems of a tiny Polygonatum and a Hosta in the background.

Fingers crossed!

The Showy Ladyslipper clump is showing above ground.
The clumps in the woods (in my Bog area) are looking healthy too. One of these was under a foot of water for a week, so I'm pretty impressed that it is even alive.

Not so sure about the Pink Ladyslippers. The ones in the woods haven't appeared yet, although the ones on the hill are up.  Odd that the ones which had good water last year might be gone while the ones that got really dry in the drought seem to have done alright. Not as many plants as two years ago, but still some. Looks like more fingers will have to be crossed although I suppose removing some of the small trees nearby which are shading them too much now may be more effective.

Now, nothing to do with Ladyslippers, more like one of those snippets of news they use to fill out a page in the newspaper, my Wood Anemone, Anemone quinquefolia, is spreading nicely beside the cedar it chose to get friendly with. I planted it some distance away, but it seeded itself at the base of a large cedar and has thrived there ever since. It's not a native form, being semi-double, but totally charming.
Back to Ladyslippers, one more good thing. Connaught Nursery has beautiful large potted plants of Showy and Yellow Ladyslippers at the Carp Farmers' Market. I'm going to be there early to get a couple new Yellows for my garden, although since this is the second time I've purchased plants to replace some eaten by Chippies, I may have to grovel a bit...

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Plant Sale News

Good news and bad news.

The bad news, not that it's so very bad, is that I have postponed my Wildflowers Day plant sale. It has been so cold this Spring that the plants in the pots are only now blinking and yawning and thinking about getting out of bed. For example, my Goldenrods are about 1" high... hopefully by May 28th the things in pots should be ready for the new season.

I will have a selection of native plants, many of them good for pollinators, and a limited number of Trilliums, both White and Red. Hours are 10am to 4pm, address is 6114 Carp Road. Contact me (see the left sidebar) if you have something specific you are looking for or have a question. Hope to see you!

The good news is, actually there are two pieces of good news. One, I am getting a new puppy! Her name is Elphin Rosie and she's a Border Collie. She'll be coming home the first week in June. She's mostly black, with a white stripe on her face, one white-tipped ear, a white-tipped tail and 4 white paws. She's totally adorable and I'm totally excited! Her main job will be Friendly Greetings, so if you come to visit you will see how talented she is at that!

Second piece of good news is, my Double Bloodroot is blooming. I bought this plant some years ago, but due to good management on my part, it first dwindled and then nearly disappeared and then gave it one last effort and succeeded!
It's blooming a bit later than the singles and I understand the flower will last a bit longer. Most Bloodroots bloom for about 15 minutes, so that is good news too!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Opening Notes

Ah, it begins.

A quiet note sounds in the distance. A light breeze, a hint of song...

Along the edge of the marsh, the deep and dusky notes of catkins on the Alders. The catkins sway in the breeze below the much smaller red cones of the female flowers. Last years cones persist.

Buds are enlarging, ready to sing of leaves.

A thrilling run of deep notes of purple from Iris Reticulata sound. One of the first flowers to bloom and a sustained note  in the cool weather.

A throb of yellow becomes just audible as the Cornus Mas shrub covers itself in its curious small flowers.

Snowdrops appear above the leaves on the forest floor, introducing the opening notes of the garden's theme.

Light high notes, rising briefly, so briefly, above the deeper concerns in the background.

The Iris hands off to the bright blue-purple blooms of Anemone Blanda.

White Trilliums rush to add their voices.

  Bloodroot doubles them along the fence row.

A quiet counterpoint of fiddleheads begins beneath the theme.

Hepaticas, delicate and ephemeral, join in. 

 Trout Lilies nod over their contribution.


In a garden, deep in the woods, Spring begins.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

First Walk-about

Every Spring I go through the same thing: a period when I both want to take a nice long nap, and want to go dashing off in some direction to do something energetic.

Best thing to do is go for a walk, but there is still a lot of snow, very icy snow, in the woods and around my garden. Out in the open, the snow is basically gone, but under the trees winter hangs on for at least a week longer. I was able to walk everywhere in front of my house, but was stopped by a 3' high pile of ice crystals at the back. Maybe that was just as well, as not all the news was good.

I saw that the mice have really chewed on my prostrate junipers. There is a whole swath of them along the front of the house and they do a great job of being a very low foundation planting. I did have to evict a mouse from the house earlier this year - she had moved into my kitchen dresser and started a nice nest in my favourite napkins - and, not knowing what else to do, I had tossed her outside. (It was on one of the warmer days.) Maybe this is her revenge.

 And garbage, garbage, garbage. Where does it come from? I know  Snowblower Man had an unfortunate encounter with a bag of garbage I must have left out (the results were not pretty), but I don't smoke so where do cigarette butts and other stuff like that come from? Is there a Garbage Fairy?

It always surprises me how flat everything gets under the snow. Logically I expect it, but when I see it, it is still a shock. Sort of like when someone you know gets his hair cut. You know what it will look like (usually) but when you see it you still feel jarred. The leaves blown onto the garden are packed flat, stems of perennials I didn't cut down are flat, even the garbage I was talking about is flat.

The small pines in the woods are comically bent over, having been under the snow for months. They look dire, but I know they'll soon straighten up.

Speaking of trees, I looked up and didn't see that the buds on the Maples were much enlarged yet. Only the one Red Maple near the house showed fat buds, and these Lilac bushes.


Daffodils and Peonies are showing their noses above ground.

Down near the marshy bit, Ranunculus ficaria, a thug of the first degree, is growing and ready to burst into bloom. The shiny bright yellow flowers are attractive, but the little bulblets help it to spread like the dickens. There is no such thing as one Lesser Celandine!

Snowdrops! The Snowdrops are out!
These are Nivalis morrowii and they are in a spot where the snow melts early. I noticed that the little knob on the top of the flowers, where the stem attaches, is green in most plants, but yellow in the one in the foreground. I'll have to keep an eye on that and see if it stays that way.

I also see this blog needs a new Spring header. Hmmm.... maybe after I have a short nap.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Pollinator Plants

I'm usually the one who insists that the weather really isn't all that unusual, so I'll just remind you that it is late winter, moving into early spring and we should expect some variation. We are having a perfectly normal winter, and a perfectly normal spring... it's just that we are getting them in alternate weeks. One week highs of +11C and lows above freezing, then a week of highs of -18C and lows so low I shiver to think about them. This is giving even my rationalization skills a severe test.

A few weeks ago I attended the Seedy Saturday event in Almonte. It would have been a fine event except for the weather. Freezing rain the night before meant very slippery roads early in the morning and even though conditions did improve during the day we had very few visitors. Which was a shame as there were lots of great vendors there and lots of interesting seeds to buy or swap for. I was impressed by one seed company, Beaux Arbres, from Bristol, Quebec. They specialize in native plants. Naturally I had to buy some... which I quickly planted in pots and stuck outside under a thick blanket of snow. Just dug a hole, put the pots on the ground, and covered them back up. Should work to stratify the seeds; let's just hope they get long enough in the cold for it to work. Beaux Arbres will be speaking at the Nepean Horticultural Society  meeting this month (March 16) and they do have a website, maybe more of a blog, as well as being on Facebook. Search on the name and you'll find them.

Mostly I got a few different pollinator-friendly plants that I don't have yet. There is a great interest in pollinator plants right now and rightly so. Our pollinating insects are critical to much of agricultural, for which, think 'food'. No bees and no apples. No bees and no strawberries. No milkweeds and no Monarchs. The list goes on. Of course humans are not the only ones needing food, but we need to remember that the lack of food for birds and other small critters reverberates right up the food chain and we all suffer.

Pollinating insects need food sources, and they need them close enough to other food sources to be able to find them. This is tricky to put into words, but just think: how is a bee going to find a patch of New England Aster, say, if it is isolated in the middle of a huge area of, say, houses and pavement? How will a Monarch find your Milkweed patch if it is miles and miles from any other Milkweeds? The answer is corridors - pollinator plant corridors. If enough gardens, fields, road verges and the like contain suitable plants, then the insects can move from one source to another easily and find enough to keep themselves fed. This is encouraging news for any gardener wanting to grow a few pollinator plants to attract them.

I found a good website called The Pollinator Partnership which has a lot of information about this. It includes lists of recommended plants for various regions. There isn't a list specifically for the Ottawa Valley yet, but I am told it will soon be added. The list for the 'Algonquin/Lake Nipissing' ecoregion is pretty close. This site has lots of potential as a teaching tool, too.

The Canadian Wildlife Federation has great info as well, including some really nice coloured handouts. You would have to email them to get copies, but again, they would be a terrific teaching tool. You do have to register and sign up for their newsletter, but it's actually worth reading. And you can always unsubscribe once you've read everything! (They also have an office in Kanata, on Michael Cowpland Drive, where you may be able to pick up the handouts.)

Another site, which includes a lot of information geared to Monarch butterflies, is the Xerces Society. I found a nice list of Monarch-friendly plants on that site. I was pleased to see I have quite a few of them! And with the seeds I got from Beaux Arbres, maybe I will soon have more.

Speaking of soon, we ought to soon see the buds on the Maples swell and burst into bloom.
early spring flowers red maple trees
Flowers on Red Maple
I looked up Red Maple, Acer rubrum in my trees book and was interested to read that the flowers can be pollen flowers or seed flowers, or both. The different types can be found on separate trees, separate branches on the same tree, or together. That's either an example of extreme gender confusion or of extreme gender confidence! I will have to inspect these flowers more closely when they appear. For sure I have already noticed that some trees are much redder than others, and that some bloom earlier than others. There are several large Red Maples right near my house, and for sure the ones in the Rock Garden set lots of seeds. In theory, there might be one with no seeds and I wish I could have that sort in the garden and not the sort that leads to me pulling out hundreds of small seedlings every year.

When I say 'soon', I use the word loosely. Given the current temperature outside and the 2' feet of hard crusty snow covering the ground, 'soon' may be a ways off yet! Lots of time to read up on pollinators and pollinator food sources and list the ones you wan to get this spring. I'll have quite a few at my plant sale on Wildflower Day (by the way, May 21 this year, see the sidebar), and I expect the other wildflower sales this year will as well. And did you know that the Plant of the Year for 23017 is a Milkweed, Asclepias tuberosa?

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Bah, humbug

Soft fluffy snowflakes gently falling... evergreens transformed by snow piled on every twig... tracks of a solitary fox down my driveway, already quickly filling in...

Bah, humbug.

Enough with the Winter Wonderland! Except for the times when it's been raining, or the times when the wind was whipping the trees around at hurricane levels, I think it's been snowing continuously since before Christmas. Alright, there was probably some sunshine in there somewhere, but I must have been having a nap just then.

It's hard for this gardener to find much entertainment this time of year. Watering my houseplants takes all of about 10 minutes... alright, maybe 15 if you include putting my small collection of Tillandsias in the sink for a good soak. Add another 2 for reminding my geraniums that they will get sunshine next month and to just hang on until then and that's it for Fun With Houseplants. Actually I spent a bit longer then that on them this week if we count a little event that began with a light-bulb shattering, causing a small piece of glass to hit the glass globe that one of the Tillandsias was living in and smashing it, thus knocking a precariously balanced Fuchsia  over on to the desk, and spreading Fuchsia bits and globe bits and pot bits all over my paperwork, desk and floor. Clean up was interesting given how crowded my office is. If anyone ever wants to inspect my expense receipts for 2016, I Can Explain!

I could order seeds. In fact, I did. I ordered vegetable and annual flowers from Vesey's and fern spores from the British Pteridological Society's spore exchange. My spores have already arrived in the mail, and I'm happy that I got almost all the ones I asked for. This is a totally volunteer-run outfit, so I'm very grateful to them to allowing me to get spores of ferns I might otherwise never get close to. I've requested a second batch of Dryopteris campyloptera, Northern Wood Fern, because the last batch gave my only three plants and they look identical to the D. carthusiana I already have. Either I made a goof, the spore donor made a goof, or I can't tell Campy from Spinulose. So a re-try is in order. I'll plant them up just as soon as I get some potting soil, which I'll do as soon as my driveway is cleared...

Last year I did not order my vegetable seeds from a mail-order catalogue and ended up buying them at a big-box store. Little choice, no clues as to whether the varieties offered were any good for freezing or not, and the Green Bush Beans were anything but. I had some green pods, yes, but they were on long skinny sprawly stems that got tangled up with the nearby basil and parsley. Most of the pods were yellow and only two plants could be called bushes. The worst part was, they didn't taste very good either. This is the times we live in. Every store sells everything... sort of. Back when I was a young gardener, you could think of what you wanted, then decide which store was going to have it, go there and buy it. Now you might as well go to any store and see what they have. Don't bother wanting anything specific, they won't have it. You can then go to another store and they won't have it either in exactly the same way. Try to buy warm black socks, for example. Go ahead, try. Every store you go to will have socks, they will all be different, and none of them will combine the obvious characteristics (desirable for socks) of being both warm and black.

So I guess we had better support the few mail-order seed houses we still have.

Another thing a restless plant person can do in January is read.

I thought it would be fun to find some new gardening blogs to follow. Well, I don't know if anybody else has had the same experience as I just had. Several hours of 'surfing' to find gardening blogs has come up empty. I'm amazed at how many of the results of the search, when clicked on, either came up  'page not found' or led to blogs that hadn't posted in years. I'm also amazed and saddened by how many blogs have become little more than paid advertising. Some of these blogs must have large staffs. They promise hourly posts, links to everything in the world (see my views on today's stores above) and everything is 'Easy', or 'Instant' or 'Exciting' or some other breathless adjective. And, you know what? I hate all the re-directs. Click on a title that sounds interesting and then sit there and wait for 5 minutes while your computer visits every country in the world to follow the chain to whatever bit of prose is at the end. Then of course the prose turns out to be yet another paragraph leading you on to another subject without ever touching on the one you went looking for. All headlines, no content. Five million sites telling you to prune your roses (It's easy, it's fun, just follow the directions) and then no directions. I haven't given up, but it's a scary world out there.

Sort of like this endless snow. And it's not even February yet.

Meanwhile, I did read several books I enjoyed. Canadian readers are probably familiar with Des Kennedy, he of the wild red hair and the garden on Denman Island in B.C. I picked up a copy of his 'Heart and Soil' (bad pun, Des) at my local  purveyor of un-rare books. Partway down page 2 I realized I already had a copy, but never mind, I read it again and it was a good read. In this book he looks back over a life working not so much in a garden as about a garden, and he is very thoughtful and philosophical. He mentions having recently had a health scare, and it has made him look back over his life from a new perspective. This is not a new book, it was published in 2014, but obviously still available in bookstores. Deeply personal, thought-provoking, engaging. Worth a spot on your shelf.

After reading that, I went back and re-read his 'The Way of a Gardener'. It's autobiography, and written on a more optimistic day. He has a number of other books, all worth a read, but this one is really his best book Get it if you can.

Well, I had better go shovel my steps now. As I said, bah, humbug.

ps. There must be good blogs out there. If you know of one, send me a comment, I'll add it to my blog roll and we can all enjoy it. And if you'd like a practically new copy of Des Kennedy's 'Heart and Soil', let me know and I'll mail it to you.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Pruning Roses

Today I pruned my roses.

You may reasonably wonder why I should be doing that in January. My garden rejoices in the presence of, I think, 25 rose bushes. Some of these are bush roses, such as Fru Dagmar Hartrup and Harrison's Peach, some are species such as R. glauca, (formerly R. rubrifolia), and R. woodsia the native Smooth Rose, but most of the others are David Austin roses. I find them quite hardy here, although in a winters where the deep cold arrives before the deep snow, they may die back to only a few inches above the graft. Most years they do fine.

This year the roses stayed green and even put up the occasional flower well into December. Some of the later canes reached inspiring heights. Mary Rose went up into the crabapple tree and bloomed between clusters of deep red crabapples. An attractive colour combination, but a somewhat absurd sight nonetheless. Gertrude Jekyll, always an original thinker, headed up into the cedar clump nearby and thrust her pale pink double blooms out from between the green sprays at about the 6' level. For once, I had to reach up to sniff.

Which is one of the fine things about the David Austins - their fragrance. Most smell like the roses of old, that is, sweet and fruity. Very few of the modern tea roses have much in the way of fragrance, and if they do it tends to be a muddle of cheap colognes and aftershaves. The shrub roses rarely have any scent, and most of the so-called Explorer roses, such as John Cabot and Champlain, have no scent at all.

There is one of the Explorers that I like very much. It has clusters of small dark red roses, a very lovely rich colour, and a habit of blooming for weeks. It came labelled Heritage but of course it isn't. It might be Champlain but I have no record of having purchased that.  Seafoam, also not an Austin, has no scent but its small white suffused with pale rose blooms, in graceful clusters, come all summer long. It is one of the last to bloom. In fact, some of the canes I just cut back had (frozen) buds on them. Seafoam, at least the one I have, has a very bad habit of growing horizontally. This leads to lots of bloom, but also seriously scratched ankles. I did cut it back severely a few years ago, but it didn't take kindly to this treatment and sulked for a long time. Only this past summer has it started to forgive me and gone back to its usual rampaging approach to life. For a long time, I thought this rose was Iceberg, but some research has shown me that is wrong too, and it must be Seafoam, which is what I thought before someone convinced me it was really Iceberg. Sigh, and big Note To Self, I really must make good permanent labels for my rose bushes.

Normally, I would have trimmed the roses back in November, but this year it was so warm I was afraid it would encourage them into new growth, so I left them. But they looked fairly silly, not to mention reproachful, sticking up above the deep snow.
rose garden in the snow

Not wanting to fill my boots with snow, I got out on my snowshoes and trimmed them all back to just above the snow. Other than the canes getting caught in my wool coat, it was pretty easy. One cane fell rather far from where I was standing and tumbled over the low fence and I thought, 'darn, now I have to walk all the way around' in true post-holiday laziness, but it turned out to be quite possible to use another long cane to fish it back within reach.

First time I ever trimmed roses on snowshoes.