30 June 2007

A LONNNNGGGG weekend to catch up on many things

Those who work regular weekday jobs have been reveling in a long weekend, which either began when they had Friday off, or will take place officially when they have Monday off. Technically, tomorrow is the holiday, July 1st, Canada Day—or as many of us still refer to it, Dominion Day—whatever you cal it, happy birthday to our country, 140 years young. I won’t go on a political rant about Harpenistas and other icky things; let’s just pause to admire our neighbour and his mare, Lizzy, all decked out to go to the Bay Day Parade here in Scotts Bay. Normally Bay Day is Canada Day but since Canada Day is on Sunday and all the churchy types couldn’t possibly miss out on church and run Bay Day too…they held Bay Day on Saturday. Clear as mud?
Anyway…those of us who work for ourselves can take days off whenever we want—providing the work is done that needs doing. That’s why I was able to skive off on Tuesday and go visit Bayport and Captain Dick. But I made it to two other nurseries that day before making my merry way homewards. The first is called Oceanview Garden Centre and Landscaping (www.plantcrazy.ca) in the beautiful south shore community of Chester. Formerly known as Natural Expressions, it’s a marvelous place, with a really fine selection of perennials, shrubs and of course lots of flamboyant annuals. I thought the prices were extremely reasonable for the things that climbed into the trunk of my car; including Heuchera ‘Crimson Curls’, Euphorbia ‘Blue Haze’ and ‘Rudolph’; Astilbe
Bumalda’ and Nepeta subsessilis. Oh, and joy of joys, they had lots of my favourite Acupulco orange hummingbird mint (Agastache), so I had to get several of those for our hummers and butterflies.

The nursery had a really EXCELLENT collection of Heucheras, which reminds me…I must go write down the names of those I have now. Some of them are so close to being the same (Keylime Pie and Lime Rickey, for example, or Peach Melba and Peach Flambe…) I’ve noticed other garden writers have had troubles with some of the heucheras, but mine have been very well behaved—the secret is to give them good winter drainage, and to replant them if they start getting too long-crownded and spindley. I know that’s not good scientific description for how they sometimes behave, but so it goes. It’s a long weekend, after all!

I decided to carry on down the #3 back to the #12 rather than go up the road to Windsor, and suddenly I spied this remarkable place with all kinds of wrought iron art around it. Stop right there! This is Walter Downey’s nursery, Pitcher Plant Nursery, also in the Chester area. Walter hails from the Rock of My Heart, (also known as Newfoundland), hence the Pitcher Plant nursery name. He’s a busy, going concern, one of those really positive people, says he’s having a great season and lovely customers. He grows everything without chemicals; and his annuals and other plants look great. But what REALLY got me excited were the wrought iron things he makes; hangers and peony supports and signs for holding those blue civic number plates, dozens of unique and wonderful items. Good thing I had only a little money with me, and the car instead of the truck…or else I’d have come home with a LOT of interesting items. As it was, I contented myself with a nice little iron holder for a half-circular planter or a six-inch pot. I’ll show it off when I get it up—after the house is painted (and yes, it’s going to be yellow—now we’re deciding on what shade of yellow…)

Speaking of yellow…time for a few bloomin’ photos from our garden, where I’m slowly getting things weeded and planted. This dandy little darling is Yellow Jacob’s ladder, Polemonium pauciflorum. I really like this because it’s so different from the other Polemoniums we have in the garden—although my favourite remains ‘Stairway to Heaven’. But I love the delicate red tint on the outside of the flowers and the soft yellow of the trumpets.

So far, the roses are looking quite good (those that survived—we only lost a few that were bud-and-grafted, and like a friend of mine, I’m not buying any more of THOSE!) and having profound blooms. This beautiful creature is Souvenir du Philemon Cochet, which I bought from Bob Osborne at Corn Hill nursery several years ago. It’s a sport of Blanc du Coubert, but I love it even more than that tough little rose; look how it’s so packed with petals that it’s got that quartered look, and there’s a pink tinge and a green ‘eye’…how wonderful is THAT?

Last year, the white tussock moth caterpillars raged through the North Mountain and ate a heck of a lot of plants, including all the leaves off my young Paul’s Scarlet Hawthorn. My longsuffering spouse was sure the tree would die—and I just kept saying, ‘nope, it’ll be fine…trust the tree.” Sure enough, this year tis gorgeous—and even has two little clusters of flowers. They’re more pink than scarlet, but hey, who’s arguing?

I’ve written before about how much I love bellflowers—except for the really rampant ones. This is Sarastro, which is like Kent Belle on steroids—bigger plant, bigger bells, and LSS just loves it. He loves bellflowers in general, but he was really pleased to see this one take off. Terra Nova Nurseries reports this is not a runner, but a modest spreader, and that it reblooms. I can see it will become a favourite (tis new, from my recent trip to Lowland Gardens)

And THIS is one of my favourite plants of all time. It’s Lindelofia, and the best way I can describe it is to call it a giant blue forget-me not. It grows about 3 feet tall, and has these lovely clusters of really blue flowers that last a good long time. It doesn’t spread or selfseed like Myosotis, but makes a nice clump and has been a consistant performer since I bought it probably five years ago or longer at Maple Hill. I plan to divide it after it finishes flowering, and put a couple smaller clumps elsewhere, because it IS so lovely and well behaved. It doesn’t reflower, but with our garden that’s never a problem—there’s always something in bloom.
Well, the sun is sinking in the west, and I am also fading…time to retire to read my latest fluffy mystery novel, and rest up for another day’s gardening. Happy Canada Day, everyone—eat a maple sugar candy for our country!

28 June 2007

meme-tag: Seven Random things

Last night we had a completely spectacular lightning storm for hours on end--from the Environment Canada satellite and radar views, there were a lot of cells around, and while we don't get the sorts of storms that cities like Orlando Florida get, this was pretty impressive. It went on til after midnight, when I went to bed, but then woke me up again about 0430 going like there were giant strobe-lights happening outdoors. Went back to sleep after daylight, so thins morning I'm a bit slow to get into my routine.

As a result of that sluggishness, I thought I'd carry on with the meme-tag started somewhere and picked up at May Dreams Garden , with seven random things.

1. My former husband, our son, and I are all blue eyed and left-handed--and my son and I are both ambidextrous but mostly left-handed.This trait used to come in quite handy when I played badminton or table tennis (or even, occasionally, tennis) and could switch hands to make a blistering return on my opponents. It's also handy in the garden where I can switch hands for doing tasks if I want.

2. We have the stupidest donkey on the planet. Her name is Jenny many-lumps, so named because she's old and portly. When donkeys get overweight, they do so in pads, including along their neck topline; which when it gets too heavy, falls over on one side and stays that way--solid, perfectly fine and healthy, but looking like a cross between a melting innertube and a camel. Jenny gets lost between the barn and the pasture, a distance of maybe 35 feet. However, she keeps the horse in the pasture and the coyotes and deer out, so we excuse her her sessions of donkey senility.

3. I have only ever been seasick on one vessel in all the times I've been out on boats or ships. The Canadian Coast Guard ship Cygnus, a fisheries patrol and search and rescue cutter, is nicknamed The Sickness, and it's pretty well a badge of honour to have hurled on her during a gale of wind. Fortunately, I'm the sort who heaves away and then it's over and done with. Yo ho ho!

4. The only plant I absolutely truly cannot stand is goutweed, Aegopodium podegraria. It ought not be allowed to be sold at garden centres. Of all the questions I get asked by email or at gardening talks, the most common is "How do I get rid of the goutweed in my garden/ditch/lawn/pasture/bathroom?" (okay, maybe not bathroom--no one has reported it arriving in their house--SO FAR. Yesterday we did goutweed abuse. My longsuffering spouse bushhogged the area where it's heading for the pasture, after I hit it with extra strength glyphosate about ten days ago. Today, after the ground dries, I'm spraying it again. I make no apologies for this, because I don't want it in the pasture and I've tried digging it up, covering it, spraying it with salt and vinegar, which only made it into a salad green. If this doesn't work, I may have to resort to an excavator. Did I mention I don't like goutweed?

5. My longsuffering spouse and I are currently in discussions about what colour to paint the house, which definitely needs doing. It's currently 'Nordic Sea', which is exactly the colour of the ocean when it curves away from the bow of a fishing boat, but it's been that colour for nearly eight years and it's time for a change. He's leaning towards barn red, while I'm thinking a lighter colour, like a nice sunflower yellow, would be a great choice. Who do you suppose will win this discussion?

6. I thought the ending of the Sopranos was brilliant--once I figured out that it wasn't a case of my satellite going out, that is. If you're not a Sopranos fan, this random point won't make any sense, so don't worry...just fuggedaboudit! i do wonder what all the Soprano lists and webboards etc will do not that This Thing of Ours is finished. Or is it?

7. My favourite writer of all time is/was the late Canadian author Timothy Findley, who died in 2002. I wrote my master's thesis on him, and met him several times back in the 1990s. He wrote to me several times as well, and he even sent me a galley-copy of The Piano Man's Daughter, some months before it was published in hardcover, so that I could include it in my thesis. When he died I started the Memory Garden in his honour, planting a hardy Explorer rose for him--then one for his partner, Bill Whitehead, who is still alive but I didn't want Tiff's rose to be lonely in the garden. I mention this because I read in the paper this morning of the passing of William Hutt, a Canadian stage and film actor said to be among the finest Shakespearean actors ever. Hutt was a friend of Tiff and Bill's, acted in stage products opposite Findley and starred in Findley's play The Stillborn Lover. We shall not soon see the likes of either of these artists again.

There, that wasn't so difficult. I think I'll do the same sort of thing that Carol did: the first seven bloggers to read this posting, leave a note sending us to your blog and do a seven random things too.

26 June 2007

Heading south--to the South Shore

Woke up this morning, looked at my computer, looked out the window, and declared to my long-suffering spouse, “I’m taking the day off to go see Dick. I’ll be back tonight sometime.”

LSS nodded. He had plenty to do, lots of local strawberries and cream in the fridge to sustain him when he got hungry, and so he waved me off a little after 930.

It’s only about 130 km from my place to Dick’s, and you’d think I’d get there more often than I do. I wasn’t sure what sort of reception I’d get on arrival, or even if he’d be there. But when I went to the header house door and asked the two young fellows, “where is HIMself?” , they nodded to the potting room behind them. I tiptoed through the greenhouse, stuck my head in, and said, “Is it safe to come in?”

“Get in here, girl! Good to see you!” Big hugs all around.

Those of you who don’t live in or near Nova Scotia probably haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Captain Richard (Dick) Steele, C.M., D.S.C. If you haven’t, perhaps you have gotten a glimpse of this living legend if you’ve seen the episode of Recreating Eden that was done several years ago. (I still haven’t seen it, and must track it down.) Dick is a retired naval officer who served in both World War II and the Korean War, and has seen much more than most of us can even imagine. He’s now in his early 90s but looks and acts 30 years younger, and he is the best plantsman I’ve ever met, as well as a gentleman and a fun, wise, and generous soul.

Here’s an excerpt from the episode of Recreating Eden explaining Dick’s reasoning for gardening:

In the Korean War, Captain Steele was Commanding Officer of HMCS Nootka, when that Destroyer served on both the East and West coasts of North Korea. In these northern enemy waters they held and protected all of the Islands and spent many long, cold, grey, dark winter months facing dangerous and at times quite furious weather.

However, upon returning to Sasebo harbour in Japan, just as the sun was rising on an early May morning, all the rice paddies up the hillsides were light, bright, and shining green. Clean and vibrant new color was creeping out everywhere. Upon seeing this wonderful sight, Steele said to his key helper, "Off-You-Go ashore and round up lots of good bright color for my cabin". A delightful and competent Flower-Lady was found who quickly and thereafter, whenever the Nootka returned to the Base, kept the Captain’s Cabin awash in many hued flowers.

It was from these episodes that Steele fully realized how much Nature’s colours can soften the harsh and gruel stress of difficult times. But this was still not enough. Surrounded by the brutality of war, Steele soon needed to find regular escape from the aggressive, combative military atmosphere, so would work from 6am-4:30pm and then change out of uniform and seek a garden to go to relax, unwind and replace the horrendous visions of war with a kind of serenity only a garden can provide.

A founding member of the Atlantic Rhododendron Society and recipient of the Gold Medal of the American Rhododendron Society, Dick has been all about plants for over fifty years. In 2004 hewas named a member of the Order of Canada for his outstanding contributions to horticulture in North America, particularly in his work pertaining to hardy rhododendrons, azaleas, and other ericaceous plants. Bayport Plant Farm, down behind Lunenburg, is home to some 30,000 (or so) plants, including many rhodos, choice conifers, magnolias, unusual perennials, rock garden plants…

There are only two plants I know of that Dick doesn’t like: goutweed, and Japanese knotweed. Good choices, both of them. And he can propagate, grow, plant and move any plant, I'm sure of it. The lovely lady at the top of this entry is Cypripedium calceolus, better known as the Yellow Lady's slipper--known only to grow natively in a couple of parts of Nova Scotia, including the threatened Avon Peninsula Watershed, but grown masterfully and happily under some conifers at Bayport, too!

And it’s in no small part because of his enthusiasm and encouragement that I’ve gotten into heaths and heathers as well as rhododendrons and azaleas—in a very small way, compared to many in this province who are ardent collectors and growers—but I’m a bit plant-fickle…I love just about any plant too, other than the dreaded evil bad goutweed.

We spent several very pleasant hours drinking tea and catching up, and I committed to going on his annual plant-hunting expedition to Labrador in September. We didn’t go up through the hills of the farm today; instead, I contented myself with strolling around the nursery part of the farm and talking with Diana, Dick’s daughter who manages the garden centre part of the farm. They have some amazing plants here, many of which you’re unlikely to find anywhere else—some, of course, they’ve bred themselves, like this lovely azalea (currently named RSF 81-011).

The plant material they collect in the Labrador (usually seeds) is propagated to develop new, hardy and interesting plants for gardeners, especially those who like ericaceous plants and alpine/rock garden specimens, and is added to the ever-growing collection of specimens from all over the world. Of course I spied the heaths and heathers, though I restrained myself and only bought three; but then a gentian-like campanula, several sedum and hosta caught my eye, and this amazing, delicate yet robust Bolax glebaria (originally from the Falkland Islands, apparently). It reminded me of an alpine dianthus, although these little yellow knobs are its flowers—insignificant, but the plant is very cool and is going in my concrete planter!

After I left Dick’s farm, I headed for Chester, and two interesting nurseries there—but they’ll have to wait til next time, because now of course the deadlines are calling me again…

22 June 2007

a half day off....

What does a hardworking freelance writer do when she’s written seven articles for various publications (the equivalent of a month’s worth of work) in four and a half days?
She takes Friday afternoon off and heads to a friend’s nursery, of course.
This time, I was smart and took our Tacoma. And an umbrella, given that the sky turned amazing colours just before I was ready to head to Windsor…

Drove through the thunder and lightning and major rainfalls, and when I reached Windsor, things had settled down there. Rob Baldwin, owner of Baldwin’s nurseries, had called me earlier in the week to say that the milkweed seeds I’d given him had germinated and grown on into nice sized plants and did I want a flat? Since I had it in my head that it was time to get a few trees…and as I said I’d worked very hard all week…

Rob is one of those plant people who can propagate anything; this spring he seeded a whole pile of Japanese maples from seed he’d collected…and I think every one of them germinated. He has baby trees everywhere…gave me a flat of seedlings to take home, divide into half, and plant out to test for their hardiness in my windy cold locale.

We went over the entire nursery, starting in the prop house and working our way up through the various areas where his shrubs and trees are. Like me, he’s very partial to Nishiki willows…but he has dozens, where I have one…

The Preston and Miss Kim lilacs were blasting fragrance all around the nursery yard, and we sneaked up to see how many tiger swallowtails were hanging around one stand of lilacs. The answer was—only three or four at that moment; but they were very happy with themselves.

About the time we finished poring over the plants and deciding what I needed to bring home, the sky turned those amazing bruise colours again. Lightning split the sky and it began to absolutely thunder down torrential amounts of rain. (yes, my Ohio friends, I thought of you and hoped you were having some too) We were a little less pleased when the wind swirled up like a banchee all of the sudden, and when hail entered the mix, but it gentled out again after a few minutes into merely rain. We’d already gotten my truck loaded, though, and what’s a little wet among friends?

So what did I bring home today?
A flat of milkweed seedlings
A flat of Japanese maple babies
3 Japanese Larch
1 Black Lace Sambucus
1 Nugget Ninebark
1 Bigleaf Linden
1 cutleaf sumac
1 red oak
1 Ohio buckeye (a nod to my Ohio gardening/blogging friends, of course!)
Tomorrow, it’s treeplanting day. These aren’t large trees, but that’s the way I prefer them; I bring home 2-3 gallon pots with plants that are three or four feet tall, and they establish themselves very nicely. Mind you, I was deeply, deeply awestruck by this one weeping, tricolour beech…stunning colours, but also a bit higher priced than I can afford. I’ll wait til Rob propagates them and buy a young one in a few years time.

Back home, the rain had only lasted a brief time, while there’d been major flooding in other parts of Kings and Hants counties. The sun was out and I wandered around looking at the freshness of everything.

I know I’ve mentioned being besotted by foliage shapes, colour and textures before; here are some of my favourites. After several years of thinking about it, I brought home a male hardy kiwi vine a week or two back; it’s just starting to get its really awesome colour now, though I haven’t planted it yet.

During the Yarmouth trip, you’ll remember I mentioned collecting a few new plants (okay, maybe more than a few…) Here are some of them: ‘Gold Nugget’ Lamium; ‘Harvest Burgundy’ heuchera; Hosta ‘Reverse Patriot’; a gold aruncus, I think it is (the Junebugs are out and I don’t wanna go outdoors with the flashlight to look at the tag); Heuchera ‘Peach Melba’; and there’s a fuchsia of some sort leaning over too. In the background (I know it’s there) is the variegated porcelain vine I got last year. It’s much more demure than its all-green cousin, but I hope we’ll have berries this year, because they are SO amazing.

Up in the back we have a small but growing bed of conifers, heaths and heathers; including ‘Rhinegold’ thuja, ‘Heatherbun’ chamaecyparis, ‘Blue Star’ juniper, ‘Jeddeloh’ eastern Hemlock, ‘Sunkist’ thuja and ‘Sherwood Frost’ thuja. Regular emerald green cedars bore me to small bits, but I love my funky coloured ones! The heaths and heathers have settled in admirably, and have changed from their striking winter colours to their summer glory. I love the flowers too, but just the foliage makes me gleeful. You can’t see the dawn redwood, Metasequoia glyptostroboides, but it’s there, and doing nicely.

Out front there’s an exuberant mixture of flowers and foliage both, including my black and gold mixture of plants; and a whole lotta flowers in containers. In the past week everything that’s been in the ground for a while has gone slightly nuts. Probably in part it’s due to the mushroom compost I feed the beds, along with seaweed meal. It would give many gardeners a trauma, all that colour and textures and floral mayhem, but it makes me happy right down to my tired and dirty toes.

There’s one mystery plant in the front bed, and I do NOT know what it is. I can’t remember where I got it, if it was a gift or a purchase. It’s woody, it hasn’t flowered yet, it isn’t all that big, and it’s very, very gold. The leaves are bigger than the various blazing neon spireas (I have a few of those, too!) and I’m stumped. Do you know what it might be?

I spent a good part of the evening cleaning out more of the big mixed bed out back; tomorrow it gets straw, manure and soil to raise it a good six eight inches in places, then the planting will begin again.

17 June 2007

More nurseries I can't do without

Just back from a restful weekend away with my longsuffering spouse as we visited friends near Yarmouth. Naturally, Flora and I spent a good deal of time visiting garden centres as well as other people’s gardens in and around the area. I’ll have more to say about that all in future posts, but right now I’m behind in my real (paying) writing and must turn my attention to that. Suffice it to say that more plants followed me home from Yarmouth County, Shelburne County, and Digby County. (Surprise surprise surprise).

This prompted me to make a small list of more garden centres and nurseries I like, to add to the previous top ten (which was really 13) nurseries in the province that I really like.

There are a number that aren’t here—either because I’ve never been there or I’m not terribly fond of them--and of that latter, there are only a couple of places that fall into that category.

Briar Patch 4568 Highway #1,South Berwick, Nova Scotia B0P 1E0 Tel: 902-538-9164 Fax: 902-538-1176: It’s always a treat to visit Lee and John at Briar Patch and the geese, and Willow-the-dog, and the horses, rabbits and ducks…and the PLANTS! There are always choice, exciting and healthy plants to be adopted, from spring bulbs to shrubs and trees. The Dickies have a great selection of conifers (which I’m very fond of) and also of standards (which I’m less fond of ONLY because they’re too formal for my rambunctious non-designed garden. These people love plants, and it shows.

Den Haan’s Garden World: Highway 1, Middleton NS 902-825-4722: A fullsized, full service nursery with a lot of garden ‘giftware’—my only complaint is that most of it is sourced and manufactured offshore—I’d like to see some Nova Scotian/Atlantic garden art and giftware in there. The den Haans also grow hothouse tomatoes, which in the middle of winter taste utterly, completely divine. They’re pretty fine now, too, but only til I get a field-ripened tomato into my hands.

Foggy Hollow Farm: 3949 Hwy 215 Noel, NS (902) 369-2568 We are 3 km west of Noel on Hwy 215. May - October: 7 days a week, 9 am - 9 pm. I met Richard and Marjorie at the Saltscapes Expo, where they had a booth, and a couple of weeks later I made the trek to Noel to see their place. Wonderful selection of very robust and enthusiastic plants, and the farm also supplies other nurseries with annuals.

Garden of Eatin’ Plants, 5716 Highway # 201, Paradise. 902 584-3514: A delightfully punny name for a delightful farm; gorgeous annuals that filled much of the back seat last time I was there, veggie transplants too. Closing for the season in a couple of weeks, so do go visit them!

Gerry’s Nursery: RR#2, Centreville, NS Tel: 678-1255: Gerry’s is one of the first places I started visiting regularly when I finally had a home of my own where I could give free reign to my gardening obsessions. I still visit a number of times each summer and always come home with a variety of perennials and shrubs, but also some great annuals for container plantings. Gerry has been in the nursery business for more years than he would probably like to admit, and he’s seen it all—he and his business partner Joyce are two of my favourite garden people because they are knowledgeable, generous with their wisdom, and never, EVER talk down to people.

Lavender Hill Nursery 373 Lake John Rd Jordan Falls, Shelb Co. NS B0T 1J0 (902)875-4600. This was one of those happy finds that another gardener put me on to a couple of years ago, and I can’t WAIT to visit the nursery each year. Madeline and Alison (can’t find their card so not sure if I’ve spelled their names correctly!) operate this nursery from spring until into summer, and they always have unique annuals as well as shrubs and perennials. I’ve made it there twice this year, quite an accomplishment, and each time some other interesting plants climb into the car with me. Yesterday I agonized over a couple of shrubs I really liked, and I tried to tempt Flora into getting a couple she was drooling gently over. But we were both very good and just bought annuals and perennials instead.

Lowland Gardens 8844 Hwy 2 Great Village, NS (902) 668-2309. I wrote about visiting Lowland earlier in the week—I expect to be going back there soon, too. Marvelous place to visit and terrifically helpful, pleasant staff (and owners) to boot.

Pine View: Pine View Farm Inc.145 Harold Whynot Rd, Bridgewater, NS Telephone (902) 543-4228 or 1-888-850-6136. This is a huge operation, and a pretty nice place, although my trip there several weeks ago was marred by the rudeness of one of the staff members to my spouse, as I observed before. He doesn’t want to go back—I however, will, and will chat with the owners about customer service.

Scotian Gold Country Garden Centre 7033 Highway #1 Coldbrook, B4R 1B6 T 902-679-6786 F 902-679-1055 Another of my regular stops, and I feel guilty because I keep forgetting to include them in lists. Of course I’m partial to this place because it’s part of Scotian Gold Co-operative, celebrating 50 years in business this year. Co-ops RULE, in my opinion—and I like that the garden centre gets as many plants from local suppliers as it can.

St Mary’s Bay Gardens/Le Jardin de la Baie Ste. Marie: Riverview Drive, New Edinburgh 902-837-7413. Open til the end of July regular hours, by appointment following 31 July. For years, every time I go to Yarmouth and come back the Number 1 highway, I’ve seen this sign and wanted to go in for a visit; today I finally made it to St. Mary’s Bay Gardens (which I like better in French because it rolls beautifully off the tongue, and salutes the land of l’Acadie. Wonderful selection in this family owned nursery, good prices too on annuals and perennials especially. I’ll be back!

West River Greenhouses: Central West River Pictou County, N.S. Tel: 902-925-2008 Exit 20 to Route 4 to Route 376. Another of those places I rarely get to visit, but like for its quality plants.

Woodland Farm Nursery Highway No. 1 Annapolis Royal Nova Scotia, Phone: (902) 532-GROW or (902) 532 7617. This nursery was one of my stops on my last trip to Yarmouth, and there wasn’t time to visit again today—but it’s not far from Annapolis Royal so I’m sure we’ll get there before the season is out. The purple beech I bought from Sheila and Richard has settled in nicely, and will be a star performer, I’m sure.

Enough for tonight: garden eye candy will return next posting, I promise, and I might even get my Garden Bloggers Bloom Day report done…

14 June 2007

a garden of miscellany

Since the heat and warmth of the weekend, the sun has become more rare than a federal Conservative politician with integrity, (and we’ll save further details on that rant for another day). It’s been rainy, drizzly, foggy, and just grey, grey grey…despite that, things are leaping ahead in the gardens, in the containers, and in the department of unloved plants (also known as weeds).

Tuesday, my mother and I went on a plant-hunting expedition. Not surprisingly, we filled the car YET again with plants, although I’m proud to announce that MUM bought way more plants than I did—that day, anyway. Our first stop was a place that is new to me, though it’s been there for 22 years. Lowland Gardens is on the way to Bass River, a few miles beyond Truro, and wow…why did it take me this long to discover this wonderful nursery?
I love nurseries that take the time to create display gardens around their properties—turns them into a destination as well as an inspiration. Lowland has a child’s play area, complete with playground equipment, and rabbits and goats to look at, plus lovely plantings, ponds and a dandy giftshop in addition to the impressive greenhouse area. Tony, the owner, took me and Mum on a bit of a tour, and it was fun to watch Mum learn about how plants are grown by nursery operators. Plus it was fun to see this owner’s innovations for potting soil,

We half-filled the trunk with wonderful plants at Lowland including the dazzling Sunningdale variegated masterwort, before sallying forth to further destinations. Masstown Market didn’t have the selection it had in previous years, which surprised me—or maybe they just had a busy weekend—but Springvale’s nursery in Bible Hill was a glorious array of plants, and Mum did her bit for the economy there too.

Next stop was the Truro Co-op, where I smelled the distinctive scent of seaweed fertilizer—someone had been tending the plants there with Seaboost, I think, which would explain why they looked so great. More plants followed us out of the centre and into the car there…
Hillendale was closed on Tuesday, but we just figured that gave us an excuse to come back another day; on we went to do some other things, including going to the cemetery in Shubenacadie to visit Dad’s gravestone, which made us both sad. The only reason cemeteries bother me is because I despise plastic flowers, and so many graves are festooned with them. Unfortunately, a lot of cemeteries won’t allow annuals or shrubs to be planted, which I think is a big loss to them.

In the Stewiake area there are several garden centres; Mum likes Miss Fancy Plants quite well, and I was just sort of following her around until I spied wallflowers. I adore wallflowers (Erysimum) and they’re hard to find! I have bright orange ones at home, and here we found not only cheerful yellow, but one of the funky new shades—Pastel Patchwork, which changes colour quite brilliantly.

There are always really interesting plants to try for the first time…like this bacopa, which is green and gold in its foliage, with the mauve flowers. The only problem with this plant? I have NO idea where I bought it!

Still on the green and gold theme, here’s one part of the front gardening, featuring yellow corydalis, green and gold Japanese Forest Grass, very green blue corydalis foliage, and pulmonaria. You can’t see the green and gold lamiastrum behind the rock, but I find it sometimes a challenge to take photos of a large area of garden and make it look terrific.

Another new heuchera threw itself at me the other day while we were out. This is Heuchera ‘Ginger Ale’. I’d never heard of it, but it caught my eye at Mum’s, and since I like ginger ale a lot…..

Finally, in the green and gold series…one of the most perfect roses that ever existed is
Father Hugo (Rosa hugonis), which covers itself in these dainty, canary yellow flowers. It blooms only once, and for a couple of weeks, but its fine ferny foliage (like a pimpernellifolia) looks great all year long, and the plant is very hardy and vigourous. Perfect rose, indeed.

The only good thing about four days of grey weather--I'm getting my deadline work all caught up, so that I'll be able to spend more time in the garden in coming days--when the sun remembers to visit again.

11 June 2007

In Memory Yet Green...again

Two years today since my father won his fight with Alzheimers. I remember my mother saying to me a year or so back that he had lost his fight—and I corrected her to say that he won it by being free of it. So I’m pensive today, but I hear my father’s wise, funny voice whenever I’m out in the garden. I’ve written about him before, of course, and so much of the memory garden is due to him. Dad is one reason for the lacy froth of Myosotis everywhere, in blue, white and pink. And for why I plant mint in containers, always!

Still on the subject of lost loved ones, my former mother-in-law’s birthday is only a few days away, and her Butterfly memory gardening is doing well. I realized, too, the other day, that the edging done by my darling longsuffering spouse has shaped the bed to be quite like a butterfly itself. It wasn’t intentional on his part, but we both agree that it’s neat that it worked out that way.

It’s a rainy though warmly humid day today, with abrupt drownpours that come and go quickly, washing down the dust and perking up everything nicely. The planting and replanting I did yesterday looks pretty happy as a result; I tackled one of the front beds, moving short plants forward into the new area gained by LSS’s edging an extra foot out of the grass (yippee!), and adding new plants. The Fireball hybrid rhododendron that threw itself at me at Gerry’s Nursery in Centreville on Saturday has been happily installed, and it works well near an offspring of The Bleeding Heart That Ate Scott’s Bay (the biggest old-fashioned bleeding heart in the province, I reckon!)

In a different but equally happy orange theme, here’s another ‘common’ but delightful plant: the orange flowered globeflower. These blossoms are larger than the yellow ones, and I have another cultivar that has huge orange stamens in the middle. Delightful plants, always well-behaved.

The cheerful little English violet Viola cornuta ‘Etain’ caught my eye at Spencer’s nursery in Shelburne a few weeks back, and I brought home two—only one of which survived to be planted out. Not because of the nursery—Spencer’s is an awesome place to visit—but because (ahem) the gardener kept the plants in the house for a few weeks before deciding where to put them—and one was within reach of the always hungry and vegetarian-inclined Simon Q, who munched the plant down to a nub. Fortunately, the other plant has established nicely, and while I don’t expect to have viable seed—or to produce plants that look the same as this one if the seed IS viable—I’ll have to do something to make sure I have these again. They look especially nice juxtaposed with the deep purple Johnny-jump-ups I have everywhere.

We all have plants that we especially love, and one of my favourite families is phlox; especially those with fragrance. This is Phlox divaricata ‘Chattahoochee’ and it has a lovely scent. I haven’t planted it yet (I got three of them to mass together at Gerry’s Nursery in Centreville, if you’re wondering) but it will be somewhere near the walkway or the deck so we can sit and smell them and be happy.

Although most of today’s photos feature flowers, I had to include this shot of two of my favourite plants: barberry ‘Rosy Glow’ and Hosta ‘Sagae’. ‘Sagae’ is one of the big hostas, and while mine is only a couple of years old, it’s got a pretty impressive growth on it already. Because these photos are small, you can’t see the colour echoing going on; there’s a creamy yellow-white columbine in the background, and also the deep chocolatey colours of Geranium phaeum. A purely accidental colour grouping and echo, but it tickled me when I noticed it.

And I leave you with a definitely non-floral photo. My longsuffering spouse is quite a handy guy, and one thing he is very talented at is fixing up fiberglass fishing boats. This Cape Islander isn’t very big, but she's going to be beautiful when he’s finished—and of course his labours will be helped along with the always-helpful Rowdycat, who LOVES to help ‘Daddy’ when he’s working on a boat. This is the fourth one in our yard that Rowdy has claimed for his own. I don’t know that he’d be a good seafaring cat, but he’s a good yard sailor, at least.

09 June 2007

Life on the funny farm

Suddenly it’s nearly Sunday again, and where has the time gone? Well…digging in the dirt is always a way to spend a lot of time around here. Actually, it’s been a case of digging up weeds, digging up perennials and dividing them, digging up manure and adding it to the big bed out back that acts like a swamp, and then adding more soil on top of the manure and rotted straw to create something resembling real soil. Well, it’ll be real soil in a few months; the bed I created this way last year is now soft, friable and delicious looking, although I haven’t sampled it other than in getting it under my nails, ground into my feet, and so on.

It will surprise no one who knows me to find that I’ve been out planthunting again. Yesterday I collected some astilbes and hostas from some people I know in a small community near ours. They have a majorly impressive daylily collection—when I asked Doreen how many they have, she sheepishly confessed, “I don’t know!” Mind you, they just put in some new ones so that may be why they don’t have their count up to date. They also have irises, and while I don’t know if I got this one from them or not, it’s a charmer—a little dwarf that is just too lovely. Pity they flower for such a short time.

To add to the wine and chocolate garden, I had to have this Chardonay Pearls Deutzia. I wish the flowers wouldn’t open—the pearly buds are so charming—but I love the colour of the plant most of all, of course.

In the shade garden, things are still doing well, including the always delightful Virginia bluebells.Mine are young, as I’ve inadvertently dug them up in the past, mistaking them for something else. But this year they’re well labeled and I put two plants close together to start a clump. If they spread—brilliant. Go for it!

I’m not a primrose expert—I’m not an expert on any plant, just a general plant nut—but when I spied this orchid primrose at a nursery, I had to have it. Immediately. And others who saw it as I drove it around with me needed to have one too. I bet the nursery has sold out of them. Wonderful plants! This is my first primrose of this sort, and it’s in the shade garden which stays moist as well as shaded. People are often amazed that under spruce trees could be moist. That’s the benefit of living on clay with springs running through the land, I guess. Astilbes and ferns do well in that bed too.

One of my goals in the past couple of days has been to catch a few of the hummingbirds when they’re swarming. After many attempts, I think we did pretty well with this one, though I have another photo (not as good) with seven in the picture!

Not surprisingly, I’m incredibly sore and tired tonight, but in a blissful sort of way. Because after supper, I initially thought I’d go back to the gardens, but then the big brown eyes of one of my favourite beings (next to my spouse and the cat children, of course, caught my attention:

This is Leggo my Eggo, my Morgan horse. I refer to him as my thousand pound child. He’s a big boy, and a brave, energetic fellow who will go anywhere I ask. Sometimes, he bounces a bit like a dressage horse, doing airs above the ground when we haven’t been out for a while. But he’s a darling. There’s a saying that goes something like the outside of a horse is good for the inside of a human. Three hours on Leggo, up in the woods looking at spring wildflowers, and I’m tired but sore.

And the bad catchildren--four of them, Spunky, Mungus, Simon Q and can you see Toby's eyes? What are they looking at?

Oh. That explains it. Fortunately, they're on the inside, and Mr. Squirrel is on the outside. We don't usually have squirrels up here--they stay in the woods, avoiding the three senior cats that do go outside. Tigger, the oldest of the herd, actually got spry and chased the squirrel last week for about fifty feet before he decided a nap was a better idea.
Tonight, most of the catchildren are in the office with me--hanging out in the windows, listening to the Junebugs glunking and buzzing, and whirring their way up the window screens. Thankfully, the Junebugs are outside, not in...occasionally one gets indoors and it's quite hilarious watching the cats chasing it. Til they catch, eat and recycle it, of course.

More plants next time...but I think it's time for a snooze now. Good night all, and good gardening from beautiful Scotts Bay, Nova Scotia.

06 June 2007

The Gold (berg) variations, or mellow with yellow

Not surprisingly, when I went to Bridgetown yesterday to give a talk, I had to stop at a variety of nurseries yet again. I’ve not yet written down the names of ALL the plants but I will tell you that another Green Envy Echinacea pleaded to come with me…and a Pink Spike cimicifuga did the same thing. As did a Deutzia Chardonay Pearls…with lovely gold-green foliage and pearly white buds. The back seat was mostly full, as the trunk was occupied by assorted electronic equipment. (Thank goodness, says my longsuffering spouse, amazed and bemused at all the plants…

This morning I was writing away at my desk and watching a hummingbird flit around the feeder outside my window. With her were a few goldfinches, and out beyond I could see the flowers of Lamiastrum, or yellow archangel. It happened I was playing one of my most favourite pieces of music at the time (on iTunes, not an instrument) Bach’s Goldberg variations, performed on the piano by the inimitable Glenn Gould. Surely this is one of the most perfect pieces of music ever…

...Though the twittering of goldfinches and the zooming of hummers is pretty fine too.
On a whim I went out and walked around to see what has popped into bloom since yesterday. Over the next several months, this will be a regular event, usually twice daily, as we walk around and savour the joy of green growing things flourishing and pollinating and just giving hope to our world.

If I have a favourite colour in the garden, it’s probably blue—but yellow and gold make me instantly happy. Sunlight made flesh, yellow flowers are, and the perfect anodyne to a foggy day on the mountain. Here’s a look at what’s flowering at our garden (now, hum along with Variation one…Dum dum di di dum dum…

Yellow corydalis. Doug Green rightly observes this is surely one of the longest flowering perennials, starting in late May and going until a hard frost takes it out in mid-late autumn. Self seeds politely, never uncouthly.

Yellow lamium. I like this for the gold in the foliage, and the contrasting shade of pink flowers. This lamium is a politely growing plant, less enthusiastic than its cousin lamiastrum, or yellow archangel. I love the lamiastrum too, however, especially as it’s easy to remove if it’s getting too exuberant

Portulaca is a memory garden plant: I put it in containers and at the edge of beds every summer in memory of my aunt Joyce, who dearly loved this plant—and cats. She was my mother’s twin, and always very good to me, and I miss her still.

I’ve discovered that yellow-flowered rhododendrons and azaleas make me very happy too. Golden Lights azalea came home the other day; this is Capistrano rhododendron, (I think)—not yet dwelling in our garden, but probably by the weekend…

As I’ve surely mentioned before, I’ve never met a poppy I didn’t adore. The various Icelandic and alpine poppies especially appeal to me, although I’m not sure of this one’s species. I must go check it. Regardless, its soft yellow colour makes me peacefully content with life.

Jubilation reigned supreme when I realized the yellow trillium was doing just fine, thank you. It has curious flowers, unlike the more showy painted, red, and white species, but between those dainty flowers and its mottled foliage, it’s a jewel in the shade garden.

Yellow globeflowers. I heard someone sneer about these ‘common’ plants that look like giant buttercups. Well, yes, they do…and they’re lovely, happy, wellbehaved plants, and much loved in my spring garden, common or not.

Last but not least on this mellow yellow tour is Thermopsis, or false lupine. We have lupines too, but they tend to come and go, while this plant politely grows in its clump each year, getting a bit bigger and generally minding its pees and queues. It looks great with the Mourning widow cranesbill that grows near it.

We’re only in to about variation 10 in the Goldberg, but that will do for tonight. Perhaps next I’ll do gold foliage. Won’t that be cheery fun?

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