28 April 2008

A much needed day off!



Whew. It's a good thing I don't have to TALK today, as I'm a wee bit on the hoarse side. Not to mention wayyyyyy tired. The 4th Annual Saltscapes Expo was a huge success, due in no small part to all the effort put in to it by show staff, team and of course exhibitors. I only took a few photos because I was so busy and when I did get a chance to go around to booths, I didn't want to drag camera gear through hordes of people.

As the show grows, I expect to see more nurseries smarten up and have a presence at the show. This year, Baldwin's and Bunchberry were the only two nurseries, along with The Chester Gardener a very smart and talented garden consultant/designer/gardener from (where else?) Chester, on the south shore.


I suspect they're all as tired and hoarse as I am, because they were in their booths pretty well all day every day, except when staff or relatives/friends spelled them off for brief periods.


While I enjoy talking with people about gardening, I'm glad I'm not in sales. While I always say there are no stupid questions, there were a couple of exceptions, both having to do with the lovely, choice, and pricey weeping spruce at the top of this post. One woman asked, "Is that a plastic tree?" (to which I would have probably said something really sarcastic like, "no, this isn't WallyWorld!) But the best comment I heard was an older man looking at that same tree, and saying, "What's wrong with your tree? It looks like it's wilting!") I just looked at my friend who was manning the booth, and tried hard not to laugh. And actually fled!

This display of herbal jellies is from Grand Pre gourmet herb producer Tangled Gardens; Beverly has a wonderful garden with interesting plants and garden art, plus her products are awesome.


This frog mobile made of stained glass was a delight to look at but far too rich for my budget...plus I'd sooner put that sort of money into plants.

The same artist made these clever decorations for plant pots--and I planned to get one, but didn't get back before the show closed (ran out of energy, somehow...)


However, Pam Frail makes amazing jewelry, using silver, copper, semi precious stones and beads...so of course as I do everywhere I go, I succumbed to the urge to buy a pair of hers-with flowers and leaves, of course!


When I see art like this, I feel a real pang for my Dad--he would have loved these birds.


I've bought several of this company's designs as gifts for others, but I find the owner abrasive so I didn't bother to chat with him. Sometimes business owners don't realize that they really ought to be more positive to customers and potential customers, as well as wholesalers.

Although I liked this tee shirt, I didn't get a chance to find out more, because there was generally a flood of people around this booth.


The town of Shelburne, Nova Scotia, is proud of its Loyalist roots, and is celebrating the 225th anniversary of the Loyalists landing this year. It was really fun to watch these reenactors dancing, though I wonder how they would have done rocking out to American Idol's David Cook? (yes, he's my pick to win...rockers always get my heart!)

And with that...I'm off to putter around the garden a little bit. More when I feel a bit more rested!

26 April 2008

My Annual Obsession


We're just easing into day two of the highly successful Saltscapes Expo, and I'd just like to thank all of you who've offered good luck wishes to me for this hectic event. I love this show, just as I love working with the people who own and work at the magazine, so it's all good. A couple of intense days leading up to, but once we're into it, things just run so smoothly. It's a terrific showcase for all that is awesome about Atlantic Canada, and it's fun to be a part of it. My talks went great yesterday, mostly because I have such nice audiences, and we have conversations rather than me being El Plant Knowitall (which I sure nuff AIN'T) and inevitably I learn a few new things too. It's all good.

I didn't take my camera for a walk yesterday, something I'll correct today, so I thought I'd give you a break from my conifer/evergreen obsession and move on to my next obsession--annuals.

Annuals are something I primarily use in containers, as observed before. We do have some annuals tucked into the garden beds, like annual poppies, nigella, sunflowers, Verbena bonariensis (which doesn't come back for me, unlike my talented friend Robin's Nesting Place who gets it to reseed!) Every year there are certain annuals that I especially have to have, but also every year I'm compelled to try some new colours and colour combinations in my plantings. So I thought I'd show you a few of the annuals that followed me home the other day from Gerry's Nursery in Centreville. We'll start with Ageratum Artist's Blue Violet, which became a plant I like only a couple of years ago based on this colour, which to me is leaning towards wine. There IS one even darker, but I can't remember the name without my journal of plant names.


While I dislike petunias--for my garden, I like them just fine in other gardens--I love calibrachoas, which are tidier, less smelly, attract hummingbirds, and bloom like gangbusters without me fussing about deadheading. This one is called Apricot Punch.


Lobelias do fine for me because I do deadhead and shear them fairly regularly, plus the cooler air temperatures (thanks to the fog) helps them. There is a Techno heat series that is very heat resistant which I quite like, but this is from the Laguna series, and it's Laguna Blue.


This is its sister, Laguna Blue Eye.


Lantanas are a staple of my containers because despite the smell of them, which I don't care for, butterflies and hummingbirds love them. This is Lantana Fruit Punch.


Nemesias have been underused in past year, but they do seem to be gaining in popularity, thanks to some work by plant breeders. This beauty stopped me in my tracks, and I bought four of them: it's called Opal Innocence, and while it's a bit pastel for my usual tendancies, it's just so lovely I needed it. It's also fragrant, quite nice I think.


Proven Winners has a nice series called Sunsatia Fruit, and I had great success with them last year. This star is Sunsatia Raspberry, though I also brought home Cranberry.


I don't know how you fair with torenias where you live, but I like them for their unique flowers and intriguing colour combinations. This is the well named 'Lovely Yellow' ; the soft yellow colour works as great contrast to its purple-blue throat, and while I don't know yet what will go with it, chances are there will be plenty of good options that I haven't seen yet. (after all, I've only hit one nursery with Annual Urgent Plant Seeking Madness).

This one is called Catalina Rose, and again isn't my usual colour choice, but I'm going to work it in with Sunsatia Raspberry, Opal Innocence, and a rosey Diascia that also got into the car trunk.

That's it for this morning. Oh, and a tip of the ol' gardening hat to my enabling plant chums. We'll see what happens when I get a day off next week to go working on UPSM at some other nurseries!

24 April 2008

Conifers, Hellebores and mystery plants


It was too good to last, the spell of nice weather! Today the cold rain, fog and drizzle arrived, but I was gone to the city in preparation for the marathon of activity that is the fourth annual Saltscapes Expo. I'm leaving in the morning to go back to the city, and the show opens at noon, running to Sunday at suppertime. I give two talks a day, plus I expect there will be lots of potential articles to write about; there usually is. The Expo isn't like your typical (boring) home show or anything dull like that. NO plastic siding or tacky carpet or vendors hawking crap; there are plenty of interesting vendors with unique artisan jewelry, pottery, soaps, foods; talks and demonstrations, music, food to sample...it's like the magazine is dumped into the Exhibition Park and brought to life. Hectic, tiring, but a lot of fun, too.

While the good weather did last things grew insanely fast this week. Including, of course, the weeds, but they'll keep til I get home; LSS doesn't do weeds, and he'll be busy here holding down the fort. As a little present, that Helleborus purpurascens decided to open its first blossom for me. I'm very excited, and of course, have had a flareup of Urgent Plant-Seeking Madness. (UPSM, not to be confused with GADS)


When I was at Briar Patch the other day, I oogled and ogled and drooled over the hellebores that Lee and John have on hand. How do you like 'Goldfinch'?

Or perhaps 'Kingston Cardinal'? No, I didn't buy either of them...but given that my big hellebore has at least half a dozen buds and seems to have survived brilliantly...I just might succumb to buying ONE more.


This is one of my must have plants this year. Meet Sciadopitys verticillata, also known as the Japanese Umbrella pine. I've been thinking about this handsome, slow growing evergreen for a year now, and finally I've decided where to plant it (it's a bit marginal here) and am going for it! Of course, I'm also getting a small gold Korean fir, too--emphasis on small, so I can afford it and so it will settle and grow nicely--and some more conifers. And some more shrubs. And some more perennials...


This is one of my 'I have to have this' plants from last year. Juniperus horizontalis 'Lime Glow' is delicious, with brilliant gold and green foliage, tipped with burgundy in the late winter and spring. It's not a big plant, working well at the front of a border with a collection of other perennials and shrubs, but somewhere up front where it can catch your eye.

Congratulations to Ewa, Adrian and Layanee, who all identified the mystery shrub as Thujopsis dolobrata! AJ, of course, you didn't point out you were there the day I got my Staghorn Cedar from Bunchberry...and Layanee, since I don't have deer problems, I'll enjoy mine and hope the deer leave yours alone.

I'll try to post over the next couple of days, and get caught up on my blog reading, too!

23 April 2008

Heath or Heather? Do you know the difference?


Someone asked in an earlier post--and I'm really tired tonight so can't go back to check--about the difference between heaths and heathers. I'm no expert on these plants, though I do love them and am slowly building a collection. But I can tell you a bit about them.

Heaths (Erica genus) and heathers (Calluna genus) are both members of the Ericaceous, or heath, family, which includes Rhododendrons, Azalea, Ledum (sometimes seen as Rhododendron) Andromeda, Pieris, Gaultheria, Vaccinium...all of which are acid soil preferring plants, woody shrubs, some evergreen, some deciduous.

Nova Scotia, like the rest of the Atlantic provinces, is mostly well suited to growing ericaceous plants because we have a lot of acid soil. The exceptions to that would be the areas with more calcareous soils, which are alkaline, such as around the gypsum quarries near Windsor. But with some regular soil testing and amending, gardeners can make their soil agreeable for ericaceous plants.


Ericas, or heaths, bloom in late winter to spring. Heath rhymes with Easter, which is how I learned to remember which flowered when. Heaths also have foliage that looks like little tiny evergreen needles. Of course, both heaths and heathers do amazing things with their foliage in fall to winter. This one, Mary Helen, is an Erica x darleyensis hybrid, and as you can see has fantastic colour. I bought this plant yesterday to celebrate Earth Day. No, not really--I bought it because I wanted it! and to go with it, a second heath called Darley Dale, because when I was cleaning up around my heath/heather bed, I realized I had more heathers than heaths, and I wanted to add more plants for bee and other pollinator encouragement.


Heathers start to bloom generally in midsummer, and can continue throughout the fall. This particular beauty is Con Brio, I think--my labels have lasted well but I'm still getting mixed up with some of the varieties I have. Notice how the leaves of heather are more scaley than needle-like; that and their flowering period is mostly how you tell the difference between the two genera; and no one will scold you if you call them all heathers. At least, I won't.


Both heaths and heathers work marvelously well with conifers, perennials including perennial grasses, broadleafed evergreens, and well, okay, most any other plant you choose to add to your bed. Just bear in mind not to plant things that will overwhelm the heath plants, which tend to spread out into handsome mats but not get too tall. This is one of the display beds down at Bunchberry Nurseries, and it may explain a little bit why I am so obsessed with evergreens, and urge others to try evergreens as well. I'll be writing more about them in future posts.


Another one of the display beds at Bunchberry. Jill will have a booth at Saltscapes Expo (only three days away! Ack! I'm not finished my talk preparation yet) so for those of you in the area, do drop in to the show on Friday-Sunday and see Jill. I plan to go back down in a couple of weeks and collect a few plants that I've been salivating over. It's just hard to decide on ONLY a few...one must pay other bills and so on.


I leave you with a bit of a puzzle. Last year, this was one of the plants Jill brought to the Expo. I took one look at it and went into complete and utter plant lust mode. It's not the most showy of plants in the garden, but it's strikingly different, and one of the reasons I think conifers and other evergreens are so interesting. Talk about texture. This is a fascinating plant, and doing very nicely in my garden. Well, yes, of COURSE I had to have it! I'll post the answer with my next post.

21 April 2008

Hope Springs Eternal


While I was at Bunchberry Nurseries on Saturday, my friend gleefully told me I HAD to see this white thing in Jill's garden. Of course, everyone knows about my mishaps with hellebores so it really wasn't too much of a surprise to find this pristine white hellebore blooming happily in one of the display beds.


A weekend of warm weather, and even in beautiful upper Scotts Bay, things are popping up everywhere. Where on Saturday there was only green, suddenly the Iris reticulata are in bloom.


Though they're small and dainty, I like these irises better than the big showy ones. They are like petit point in the garden, with those delicate edgings of contrasting colour on their falls.


The pink chionodoxa started five days before the blue ones popped up, and while I like them very well, I adore the blue ones. This china blue colour makes me very happy; they're a little less cobalt than the Scilla, which aren't showing up yet, but the only thing I can think of in a comparable colour would be the sky blue delphinium we have later in the season.


I had to go to Falmouth this morning to do an interview, and since I was in the neighbourhood, I dropped in to see my buddy Rob Baldwin at his nursery. Things are livening up there with plenty of healthy new growth and oh yes, bloms. Some are quite subtle, like the flowers of Acer rubrum, the native red maple...

Or decidedly un-flowerlike, like the greenish yellow catkins of Corylus avellana 'Contorta', or Harry Lauder's Walking Stick.


In the propagation house, there are exciting discoveries. Rob is growing American chestnuts from seed. No matter how many times I look at a tree seedling, I'm always dazzled at how a magnificent tree begins with the emergence of tiny growth from a seed.


Although I was really good at Jill's the other day, temptation was NOT to be resisted today. Walking in one of the greenhouses, a wall of scent smacked me like a wave. Mayflowers, I thought? No, Rob doesn't propagate mayflowers. Oh, well, then it MUST be...Viburnum bodnantense 'Dawn (used to be called 'Pink Dawn' but you get the point). And I MUST bring it home this time. Did you know you can get a five foot tall, 3 gallon shrub into the front of a Yaris? And my longsuffering spouse, bless him, hasn't yet asked me that famous question...

"Where are you going to plant THAT?"

19 April 2008

Road Trip and Return of the Glunkers


Today I went to Upper Clements to Bunchberry Nurseries to give a talk on pollinators. It was like Old Home Week, with a dear friend and several of her dear friends coming up, and other good gardening chums also being there, and of course Jill, who owns Bunchberry, is a master plantwoman and garden designer. She specializes in heaths and heathers, evergreens, grasses, but also has alpines, Japanese maples, perennials, and lots of other interesting things. I wasn't on plant-purchase mode today because we need to do more garden cleanup and moving of plants before I can even think about buying new plants, but the first thing to incite plant lust in me today was this golden Korean Fir, wearing its best spring plumage. Isn't it delicious? The regular one is beautiful enough, but this one sent me into happy plant dance mode.


Jill gave me this hardy cyclamen to try in my garden, and I can't wait. Its foliage is wonderful, and while the flowers will be gorgeous, with leaves like this who needs flowers?


After the talk, I spent some meaningful time with the plants, wandering around the display garden, and was very happy to see plenty of deliriously happy bees bobbing around the heaths. I also added other plants to my 'I can't possibly live without these' list, all of which will get here eventually; mostly delicious conifers, heaths and heathers, sedums and semps...well, yeah, you know how it goes with me. I'm a plant addict.


Doesn't this just look like stained glass? It's the cover of a journal I had to have! I found it at this wonderful store I go to in Annapolis Royal, a few miles from Upper Clements. My plan is to leave it right here on my desk by my computer (and yes, Lisa, I DO work with two monitors--makes life a lot easier for me to have several programs spread out over two screens) where I can jot down the names of plants, where I got them, and so on.


In the same shop, these paper napkins spoke to me. Of course I had to have them-lavender and blue poppies being two of my favourite plants, as many of you know.

Yesterday, I had a joyous note from Soliloquy's Nancy Bond, gleefully announcing that the spring peepers had commenced their song at her home in Windsor, about forty minutes drive (or ten minutes as the hummingbird flies) from here. Having spent part of the evening in the garden last evening as a treat for having been insanely busy all week, I knew that things were warming up rapidly. I tore outside and stood on the deck listening, and heard the first of several sounds I've been waiting for: the banjo-string plucking of the green frogs (Rana clamitans) that inhabit our pond. Tonight, they're chuckling deliriously, singing their come-hither songs to one another. We're still a few days from the spring peepers (Pseudacris crucifer) but if I had any doubts that we've made it into real spring...those doubts have vanished on the gleeful wave of frog-song.

17 April 2008

Feeling the kiss of the sun--and the ouch of the muscles!


We've just had the second of two warm days up here on the mountain. Yesterday, I had no time to go outside and play, so I convinced myself it was better to let the yard dry up a bit more while I slaved away indoors on my assignments and projects. Today, with some things under control, and having had to go to pay my respect's at a friend's father's wake, I figured the garden needed me for a little while--and I needed to be with it. So with my intrepid assistants Tigger and Mungus (on his harness) in tow, I headed out to see what new surprises might be seen.


Not only have the pink chionodoxa opened, but there are pollinators out and about already! Good thing we also have the hamamelis in bloom, and a few more days like this and the poplars and red maples will be starting. It was just SO nice to get up close to this bee for a photo. There were at least half a dozen of them around, and that was simply music to my ears. Especially since the frogs are still silent. A look back at past years shows that they've been this shy before, so I won't panic.


Well, whatever might THIS be? Hmmmm...imagine my surprise when I saw the tag-Helleborus purpurascens. I bought this plant several years ago, and thought it had shuffled off its mortal coil and become, a la Monty Python, an ex-hellebore. But no! It must have just grown leaves last year quietly, in behind the more boisterous plants and gotten strong enough that it.IS. GONNA. FLOWER. Whoo hooo!

Watch the weather gods dump some enormous cold front or seven feet of snow on me for this.


Although we spent only a couple of hours outside working, we accomplished quite a bit (one bed at a time, remember!) and after going back to work for the past six hours, (and not sleeping much the past few nights) I'm actually pretty tired out. So I'm going to listen to Spunky Boomerang, my personal office assistant, who has been trying to get me to go upstairs to bed for some time...good night, all!

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