28 August 2010

Drifts in the garden...Other People's Gardens.


It can be said that I read too many blogs and websites when I can't remember who coined the term OPG (Other People's Gardens) so that I can't give them proper credit here. Let's just rest assured that when I remember, or when that person pokes me to remind me, I'll make the correction.

Anyway. The point is that I love visiting Other People's Gardens almost as much as I love puttering in my own. If you scooped up a dozen people from around the province--or a hundred from around the blogosphere--we might grow some of the same plants but interpret how to plant them in very different ways.



A couple of weeks ago, I went to visit the garden of a woman I've corresponded with intermittently over the past number of years. For a while we had lost touch with one another, but I actually met Betty back in the spring, and finally got to visit her garden in mid August.

In a word, Betty's garden is spectacular. She lives in a rural spot and has plenty of space, and actually began building the garden long before she moved there to a permanent dwelling. She used to have a small travel trailer on the site, where she camped out to do her gardening, while working and living in another community.

When you have plenty of room, you can create broad, sweeping gardenscapes of colour, texture, form...and Betty has done that masterfully here. She has the art of creating 'drifts' down to a fine science, incorporating wildflowers, perennials, ornamental grasses, shrubs and even some annuals into this (to my mind) perfectly created garden.

She uses a huge variety of perennials, including many with colourful foliage, such as 'Golden Jubilee' agastache, which has become one of my favourite perennials for its long bloom period as well as its luminous foliage.

She also has a wickedly fun sense of humour, with amusing and charming bits of garden art and other accents throughout the property. How do you like her 'lawn chair', made of sods?

Of course there would have to be a photo of one of her several drifts of coneflowers. This garden is awash with colour, and also with life, with bees buzzing through the flowers, butterflies winging around on the mild summer breeze, and birds chattering in the shrubs and trees.


Long perennial borders incorporate plenty of new cultivars along with old fashioned favourites and more than a few native plants.

For example, her bed of chicory both delighted and caused great envy in me. She laughingly said some people ask her why she's growing 'weeds' (chicory grows along the roadsides throughout several counties in Nova Scotia). I understand perfectly. Pale blue flowers, wildly attractive to pollinators...what's not to like? (My chicory drift has a long long way to go to be as fun as this).

Betty has several perennials that I love but that don't do well for me. In a photo above, there's an impressive drift of Gaura, which is often best used as an annual or tender perennial in our province. But Betty has good drainage and other conditions that suit it, and it has come back beautifully for her. She also has several fine plantings of various balloon flowers, which I have given up on. They're late breaking dormancy here, and I've probably dug them up half a dozen times, thinking they were weeds or dead. So I just enjoy other people's balloons now.

I was delighted to see a big drift of Mexican hat, Ratibida, another type of coneflower, in one of Betty's borders. She also has a lot of perennial grasses, but most of them were just preparing to put up flowerheads, so as I've lamented before, they're a challenge to photograph well and look appealing.

Some people get intimidated or even discouraged by visiting OPGs. I do not. I love to see what other people are doing with their plantings, how they cope with weather or other growing challenges, what they like for plants...it's a treat and a joy for me to visit gardens like Betty's, and I plan to put up more posts of OPGs in the coming weeks.

What about you? What happens when you visit OPGs? What's the best inspiration you've taken away from visiting a fellow gardener?

26 August 2010

Wildflower Wednesday on Thursday...


I've never been much in the way of a trendsetter, and often am slow to sign onto doing something that others are doing already. So I'm not-exactly-fashionably late in joining in with the Wildflower Wednesday meme, started and hosted by Gail of Clay and Limestone. Because I spent so much time on Wednesday reading other blogs that were doing Wildflower Wednesday posts, I got inspired and went out to see what's blooming around the wild parts of our property right now.

In the collage above, we have a mixture of wildflowers both planted by me and left to grow wild in the undisturbed parts of our property. From the top: A bee darts from one evening primrose flower to another; some sort of wild mint alongside the pasture; a big clump of Eupatorium (Joe-Pye weed) in my gardens; a former 'holding bed' that has been given over to all kinds of wildflowers for the bees and other pollinators; my Cornus sericea is blooming again; and centre photo, the striking flowers of pink turtlehead, Chelone, are beginning to open.

I have a very laissez-faire attitude towards many wildflowers, letting them bloom where they are unless they're starting to be a little too populous. There's a lot of jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) around the moister parts of our yard and garden, and they're regularly buzzed by hummingbirds. Bouncing Bet (Saponaria officianalis, centre photo bottom row) blooms alongside the pasture but also in one part of the garden where it's been for years. And then there are the asters. I have wild and cultivated asters all over the gardens, and sometimes the wild ones aren't supposed to be where they are, but they're terrific pollinator plants and pretty into the bargain, so I often just pretend I've planted them where they are.

Not every wildflower is a great blessing, even to me. Lady's Thumb (Polygonum cespitosum, top photo) is a real nuisance plant for many people, as are others of the smartweeds/polygonums. The tiny flowers of American willowherb (Epilobium ciliatum, side photos both white and pink flowers) aren't as showy as fireweed (E. angustifolium) but they're a real nuisance plant in my garden. Hemp nettle (Galeopsis tetrahit) is a huge problem to some gardeners and farmers, but doesn't bother me unduly. And the little plant in the centre is a mystery--I can't for the life of me remember what it is, and it's not a particularly showy or pesty plant, just a pretty little thing.

Goldenrod gets much maligned by some people, so let's set the record straight. If you have allergies, don't blame goldenrod, which is insect pollinated, not wind-borne. Its pollen is too heavy to drift, but it flowers at the same time as do several species that do bother allergy sufferers, such as ragweed and some of the asters. Goldenrods are important wildlife supporters, and they're very pretty too. There are now a number of cultivated varieties of goldenrod, including 'Little Lemon', a very attractive variety that I have just coming into bloom in my garden (bottom left photo). A number of wildflowers are now popular with gardeners, or have been the basis for new cultivars of ornamental flowers, and that's never a bad thing. At least, it isn't in my worldview.

These are some of what's blooming around our property in these last days of August. I have mixed feelings when I see the asters and goldenrod and Joe Pye and turtlehead; as much as I love them all, I know that they are also harbingers of autumn. Which I'm not prepared to deal with yet, so I'm going to stick my fingers in my ears and sing loudly so as not to think about that any further!

25 August 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Fogflora, or my garden in the mist





20 August 2010

Skywatch Friday: Cape Split at High Water

For this week's Skywatch Friday, we're returning to the waters of the upper Bay of Fundy, for another trip around Cape Split. The Split has a popular hiking trail that snakes its way over 6+ kilometres of woodland paths, across the end of the North Mountain and out to the collection of sea stacks that give the trail its name.

Last Saturday it was really, really hot, and also very calm. Hubby suggested we go fishing, but the flounders weren't co-operating, so we went for a jaunt out around the Split instead.

That grassy and wooded area on the right? That's the Cape Split trail's terminus, on a cliff that is over 400 feet high. You can't go out on the other stacks unless you can fly, so we leave that to cormorants, gulls, and Search and Rescue helicopters. Personally, I prefer the boat because there's no traffic, no garbage from careless hikers, and there's this awesome view the whole time.

Beyond those first couple of stacks are a succession of lower, but still very impressive, piles of columnar basalt. There's quite a tide races through there twice a day, as the tides turn, but at or near high water, there's more than enough water for a motorized boat run by an experienced operator to go 'thru the Split.'

Longsuffering spouse is a retired lobster fisherman who worked in these waters for more than 25 years, so he knows what he's doing. This is the first time I've been out around the Split in several years, though and the thrill is just the same as it was the first time I went.

It's really hard to see what is going on here, but bear in mind: this is not a river, but the Minas channel, part of the Bay of Fundy with its world's highest tides. The riptide runs at around 8 knots when it's racing around the end of the Split, and it does some weird things: waves, whirlpools, 'dancing water', like rapids on the ocean. Not for the inexperienced boater.


LSS said to me, "the boat is likely going to move sideways here in a second," and just like that, she did indeed skitter sideways like a spooked horse. No problem, of course, with a good motor and a sensible helmsman. I just braced and kept taking photos. Hard to keep a level horizon when you're on the water, though.

Out well beyond, the water looks deceptively calm, and IS calm elsewhere in the Bay. But it boils and mutters and holds its secrets to itself here. Where we went through the hole is on the left: There's the very high cliff, then a medium sized stack, then three smaller ones, this big one on the right foreground, then the little rocks where the cormorants hang out drying their wings.

It's one of the most amazing, majestic, and mysterious places in Canada, if not the world. We're so lucky to live here, and to be able to go out on the water and admire this beauty for ourselves. Or we think so, anyway.

16 August 2010

Echinaceas on Parade!

A few posts back, I promised a roundup of some of the newer and more popular coneflowers that have been firing up gardeners' and plant breeders' imaginations. I thought that it would be nice to do one now, given that my recent column in the paper is on coneflowers but for some inscrutable reason, the photos were printed in black and white rather than colour. It's kind of hard to sell someone on the wow factor of a not-purple coneflower when its showing in shades of grey. So here is a bouquet of some new favourites, some older all stars, with my notes on them to date.

One of the things that happens when you aren't meticulous with labelling, mapping, or even keeping track of where you bought or were given plants is that you then don't remember what you planted where. Even when labels are put in the ground, they can arbitrarily leap out during a winter frost-heaving festival. So you wait until the plant blooms and then hope to be definitive about which variety is where. I'm still waiting on a few late-comers to start blooming, but I've pretty much gotten the rest figured out.

Like the one above. Initially I thought it was 'Sundown', but now I'm sure it's 'Summer Sky', because it's taller at 40+ inches, starts to show the ring of purple with outer, orangy colouring on the petal tips fairly promptly after the petals open. Add to that the dark stems and it seems a match for 'Summer Sky'. 'Sundown' is a little shorter and doesn't show purple colouring; unless this is actually the no-longer available 'Sunset'? Oh me aching head!

Not everyone likes the double-flowered echinaceas, but as I've remarked before, I'm very fond of them. I especially like the way they change colour as the flowers open and mature. This is one of the 'Secret' series that Terra Nova carries, 'Secret Passion.' The flower gradually deepens to a rich deep rosy pink cone and orange-pink petals. It's pretty cool, and seems very vigourous. This is its first year in my garden.

I wonder who comes up with names like this compact variety sports: 'Pow Wow Wild Berry' is doing splendidly from having been planted as a seed back in the spring. It's a good front-of-border plant and seems destined to be popular, providing its vigour includes good winter hardiness. Ask me next spring.

My gardens are a little slower than those of many people, because it's cooler here on the hill, and I do have some shade. A few varieties are later in blooming, whether because they'll always be later blooming or because this is their second year and they're in 'creep mode', I don't know. 'Mac n Cheese' is just getting going.

Not everyone is excited by white coneflowers, but I like them because they're crisply cool and a nice contrast to their more hot-coloured counterparts. This is 'Jade', developed by Piet Oudolf, and doing very well in its third season in my garden.

You didn't think I'd let this post go through without showing off 'Hot Papaya' again, did you? Of course not, even if I did just do a post the other day about this beauty. It get more interesting with each passing day, I swear. The only thing I've decided is that I should move it to another spot where it will get more attention; it's shorter than some of its relatives, at least this year, although it's supposed to grow 30-36 inches. I'm going to mark it carefully and watch it, and see what it does next year.

Another double, 'Coconut Lime' is pretty cool in my books. 'Meringue' is somewhat similar but has a more yellowy cast to the central cone. Or at least it does in my garden.

'Harvest Moon' has been around for a few years now and once established, shows itself to be a fine plant, with a different colour than other yellow or orange varieties. Its petals flex backward as it matures, which some don't like, but which is part of its breeding.

Another Piet Oudolf introduction, 'Green Jewel' is for those of us who enjoy green flowers. You can count me in that category.

'Green Eyes' looks like an 'ordinary' purple coneflower (if there is such a thing' except for the green 'eye' in the central cone. The flowers are a rich dark magenta, not really showing off their charms in this sun-lit photo.

Since it came out a few years ago, 'Green Envy' has held me in its thrall. It's a later-blooming one, just getting going nicely in my garden, but it also blooms well into October. I've been extremely satisfied with this plant and recommend it highly to those with a yen for green flowers.

'Tangerine Dream' is one of the really, REALLY orange-flowered varieties. It is said not to fade its colour as the flowers age, and so far I have certainly found that to be true. It has big flowers with wide petals, and a nice honey scent. Definitely in my top five.

'Hope' is unusual for its soft pink colour, its big flowers with big central button-like cones, and its nice fragrance. It's also later blooming in my garden, just getting around to extending its petals and showing its colour now. But it's worth waiting for.

'FlameThrower' is another of the orange varieties, this one with a darker ring of orange near the cone. So far mine has only produced one flower because this is its first year and I was brave, and cut off all the original stems that were going to bloom, so that it would put its growth into foliage instead.

Coneflowers look spectacular when they are in a mass planting, such as this one. I hasten to add, this isn't in my garden, but in a fabulous garden up near Truro. I hope to do a post on this garden sometime soon.

Is it 'Razzamatazz'? Is it 'Pink Double Delight'? I don't know. I have had both, and somehow planted them near to one another, but another PDD is about to bloom in another part of the garden. So I'll do a compare and contrast and we'll see what we have.

'Tiki Torch' is doing spectacularly for my friend Rob Baldwin, who has some fine plants in the display beds at his nursery. Here, it's a little slow developing, but it's only in its second year and I don't like to rush perennials. The good thing about having such a variety of them is that there's always something going on with them.

Another of the 'Big Sky' series, this is 'Sunrise', which for some people gets quite pale as the flowers age, and for others seems to hold its colour nicely. In my garden, it's preparing to bloom, trailing along with the likes of 'Tomato Soup', 'Mac n Cheese', and 'Twilight'. I also have 'Ruby Star', 'Magnus', and a host of seedlings that could be from 'Magnus' and might be from others, but I won't post them here. They're splendid and wonderful, don't get me wrong--my only wish is that they came a little earlier in my garden season. Because with them coming on in August, I get that sinking feeling that comes with knowing that summer is on the downward slide. On the other hand, they give me weeks and weeks and weeks of delight, so that is a very good thing.

13 August 2010

Skywatch Friday: Black Poppy Blue Sky

Because I haven't done a Skywatch Friday post for a while, and because I'm having a sick day today, this is a very short post with promises to do more later--after I get up again. A shot of 'black' annual poppies at a garden in another part of the province on what was one of a series of perfect August days earlier this week.

Today is much the same kind of day, a day that is perfect for laying in bed, catching up on reading, sorting out photos, visiting other people's blogs...the next best thing to being out in my garden, which will have to do without me for a couple more days.

If I haven't been to visit your blog lately, I'm taking a page from Gardening with Grace, with heartfelt apologies for my lack of visiting, and promises to make up for that very soon.

09 August 2010

Having the Hots for Hot Papaya...

Since I first saw photos of 'Hot Papaya' Echinacea about 18 months ago, I have coveted this plant with possibly even more enthusiasm than I have for blue poppies, 'Green Envy' echinacea, and purple hydrangeas. It's no secret to regular readers that I am totally besotted with coneflowers of all colours, but this one just rang my bells. I love orange flowers...love echinaceas...love the double cones...it was obviously a match made in gardening heaven. (Click for larger collages).
The really fun thing about this particular coneflower is the way it changes colour pretty much daily. This collage shows its changes from the the day I first started tracking its opening flowers--or extending flowers, because they're rather cool the way they develop--about a week ago, until today. This is all one flower, until the photo where you see two of them in the bottom right-hand corner. They're a bit magical. They change from sort of muddy greenish orange to a sunny golden-orange to a deeper orange with tinges of pink...and they just keep changing and getting more splendid.

I have many other coneflowers, all coming into bloom, although there are still half a dozen that haven't yet gone beyond the green button stage. The gold/yellow ones that I have, the all-red 'Tomato Soup', the new 'Firebird', and the always later-blooming 'Green Envy' are still preparing to do their thing in earnest. But for now, I'm just going to crow gleefully over the beauty of 'Hot Papaya'. Here's hoping it is as sturdy as some of the other fancy-coloured jewels in my collection.

And since I know there are more varieties to come...I guess I'd better extend the bed that I have most of them in. Because we all KNOW I will need the newer ones, too. They're my only bad habit. Well, and books. And cats.

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