Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Joy of Weeding

Oddly enough, I love to weed.

First of all, I find it relaxing. That sounds odd in itself, given that when I come in after a couple of hours of weeding, I'm hot, bug-bitten, dirty and aching in more places than a younger me knew I had. But somehow yanking 'nasties' such as Bugleweed, or Dandelions gives me great satisfaction. It's a real pleasure to see a section cleared; it looks tidier and more organized. I guess weeding is a bit like tidying up your desk, it feels good to improve things.

Not that weeding feels all that good, especially not after a few hours. I don't weed, or indeed do any work in my garden, wafting around wearing a pretty dress and a sweet hat... I  tend to do it the way the old English gardeners did, bending in the middle like a hinge and reaching down to pull the weeds up. That way I can place my feet in safe spots and reach a reasonably large area to work in. If I kneel, I can only reach a very small area, besides which, kneeling in a garden as densely planted, or as rocky,  as mine is pretty well impossible anyway.

Now if I had every plant separated from its neighbours by bare ground, I could weed with a hoe, but I don't seem to be able to have that kind of a garden. I let things self-seed, and spread, and mix together, too much.

Secondly, weeding is a great way to really 'see' your garden. You get up close and personal with each and every inhabitant of your demesne. You observe them as you never do when you just stand back and admire the view. There's much to be said for views, of course, but if you're a plant collector as I am, you love to inspect each and every one of them, and hand-weeding is the best way to do it. I learn about my plants when I weed them.

And then, of course, there are the surprises!

I was delighted to discover a plant of Iris setosa, Arctic Iris, in a neglected corner of my rock garden. I thought I had lost it as it had disappeared from where I had planted it, an exuberant white-flowered Geranium having appropriated its space, but here was a nice sized clump about 20' away.
dwarf iris setosa purple flower
 It must have grown from a seed because I sure hadn't planted it there! In fact I haven't planted much of anything there yet, it being one of those 'what can I do with this little corner' kind of a spot. Well, now it has an iris in it.

Iris setosa, by the way, is only about a foot high. It blooms at the same time as the large bearded Irises, but it is fibrous-rooted, more like the Siberian Irises, in fact.

Another lovely surprise was a white  Blue-eyed Grass, Sisyrinchium albidum. This I had planted, at least, I had put some seeds near where I found the plant, some years ago, but I never noticed any plants. That happened because I had gotten a whole lot of seeds from a seed exchange and couldn't manage them all, so in the end I just planted some of them in what seemed like likely spots. I guess in at least one case, it worked!

If I hadn't been weeding in that spot, I'd never have seen it.

And I'd never have seen this tiny Orchid, either. Liparis Loeselii is only about 6" high and green!

It was growing in a mat of Thyme and I was patiently pulling seedling Forget-me-nots out of the mat when I found it. Then I looked around a bit and found three more!

Be sure to admire the tiny leaf-hopper near the top of the plant, he's a bit blurry, but you can see the gleam in his eye!

Nearby, in a spot shady enough to encourage a nice crop of moss among the rocks, a tiny mushroom sparkled up at me. Only a couple of inches high, it was shiny and seemed to have a powdery coating. There were a few, so a small colony. Seems early for mushrooms, but I guess they grow all summer.

I had quite a project going last summer, trying to photograph and document all the fungi I saw around the place. It ran to hundreds of different species, and I eventually had to put the project away until I had more time. Taking the photos was easy enough, sorting, cataloguing and labeling them was another matter. Maybe I'll get to it this winter.

After a good weeding session, you're allowed to wander and just admire your lovely plants, both where you were working and elsewhere. For example, I wondered if the Showy Ladyslippers near the marsh were blooming yet. They were!
orchid flowers ladyslippers showy pink and white
You see why I love weeding!

Friday, June 7, 2019

Of Violets, and Ferns

The last few days in the garden have been so beautiful you just want to walk around and stare at everything. The ferns, especially, are at their most beguiling. They always start a bit later than the rest of the plants, coming into beauty after the Trilliums and the spring bulbs. We've had it very wet and cool this spring, so the early flowers have all been, while late, quite spectacular. The ferns around my little pond are outdoing themselves:

Looking back from the same spot:
This is particularly gratifying because when I started this garden, I dreamed of a woodsy place with  an understory of ferns. I'm thrilled to think it's working!

In among the ferns, and liking the same damp conditions,  Swamp Violet, Viola cucullata (what a name!), raises it's perky flowers.

It has a number of colour forms, at least here it does. Many plants have the plainer mauve/purple blooms, but some are white with a blue eye while others are pale purple or even almost a pinkish mauve. All have the characteristic blue 'eye', as you see here. A very similar violet, Le Comte's Violet, V. affinis, differs by being slightly taller and more slender, and having flowers of a softer mauve, with no 'eye' and a tuft of small hairs on the lowest petal.

 Both are good garden plants, maintaining healthy foliage but quietly 'disappearing' once their day in the sun is over.

 Here's a  Fragile Fern just starting to grow again. This clump is in my Sampler Garden and is a clone of a clump in my woods, which is much larger and lives entirely on top of a large flat boulder. It's been there for many years, and seems to be thriving. So I winkled a tiny piece off and brought it home and planted it on top of a similar chunk of rock in the garden. This is it's third year, and it seems quite happy.

No soil to speak of, a puddle when it rains and then drought when the puddle dries up.

And they call it 'fragile'.

The Interrupted Ferns near the marsh are showing their fertile leaflets. This fern, instead of having its sori on the undersides if the fronds, has them as specialized leaflets partway up the stipes, that is, interrupting the sterile pinnae. This is one of my largest ferns, reaching 6' at maturity.

Viola pubescens has charming yellow flowers. It self-seeds all around my garden and I just leave it alone. Yellow Violet goes dormant in the summer so it doesn't take much real estate!

There are two forms of this violet: one is fairly 'furry' all over, and the other, V. pubescens scabriuscula, is smooth all over. It's particularly obvious on the seed pods.  I only have one plant of the smooth form and it's not spreading.

 Back in the rock garden, the Marginal Wood Ferns are bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. A robust fern, it likes rocks, survives drought, tolerates a lot of sun, and stays healthy looking all summer. What's not to like?

Now, feel like a challenge (or two)? Can you identify the three fiddleheads below?
Or these violets?
Both of these little quizzes are quite challenging! Give yourself one point for each one you know, and if you send me a comment with the answers, I'll select one person to win  a framed photo of one of my violets!

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go back out to sit and gaze at my ferns some more.