30 August 2007

The NSAC Rock Garden

Here's a little 'eye candy' or 'gardenporn' from the NSAC Rock Garden in Truro. A few of these photos are from earlier times of the season.

One of these years I hope to have a thyme walkway, but in the meantime, I'll enjoy the one that wends through the Rock Garden.

Trough gardens are something I'm just starting to get into. I love the delicate textures and colours of the plants, although this platycodon isn't what you'd call subtle, is it?

I do not know what sedum this is. I intend to find out and get one for our garden. The foliage colours are subtle, moreso than some of the purple or variegated ones, and the flowers I would call soft yellow--as opposed to the usual brilliant yellow of some of the creeping types, or the flaming hot pink of some of the tall species and cultivars. Whatever it is, I WANT!

I can't find in my notes just how many tons of rock were brought in to create the topography of the rock garden, but it was an impressive amount. This was always a hillside, sloping down from some of the campus classroom and admin buildings towards the farm, but it was grassed with some trees and shrubs and a few plots of annuals in my day. This has all been built in less than five years, too!

There is always something in bloom throughout the gardening months, that's for sure! I love the rich colours of the dianthus and veronicas.

This courtyard features a number of trough gardens, a crevasse garden, a lovely pergola and places to sit and dream.

Taken earlier in the season, with lots of brilliant colour and texture among the boulders and pea gravel.

Matching planters grace the entryway to Cumming Hall, the administration building and home to Alumni Theatre. I spent a lot of time in this building back in my day, studying in empty classrooms or looking at the class portraits from graduating classes of years gone by.

This dish garden of succulents stopped me dead in my tracks when I saw it, and an instant flush of plant-lust came over me. Succulents really appeal because of their unique shapes, colourations and just tidy ways of growing. I have to confess that mine have suffered over the past few months, through benign neglect--but I will make amends!

If memory serves correctly, this is an Echeveria species in flower. I love the subtle colours around the flowers, don't you?

This might be a naughty species of ladybird beetle. I don't know--but I got a great charge out of watching it delicately nibbling the edge of a leaf.

If I'd been thinking, I would have set something down beside this plant to show the size of its leaves, which are, in a word, minute; each leaf is about the size of the head of a pin. In fact, my first look at this dish garden I didn't even notice this succulent, and if you go back and look at the photo of the whole dishgarden you'll see why. And if you click on this one to enlarge, you'll see an oxalis leaf among the plant, so that gives you some scale too.

And this entry shows just one more reason why I love plants--the huge variation in colours, forms, textures, sizes, etc just keeps me appreciating, and learning, more about these marvelous organisms. I hope you enjoyed this little trip to the Rock Garden too!

27 August 2007

Aggies Once, Aggies Twice....

I was supposed to be a veterinarian.

It's true. The plan was to go do two years of pre-veterinary (the first two years of a B.Sc.in Agriculture) at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College (also known as NSAC), then be off to Ontario Veterinary College at Guelph. I had scholarships, was really good in biology and a few other subjects, and thought it was all going to be just as planned.

Well. Things don't always work out as planned, do they? I hit an obstacle called Calculus. It might as well have been Russian. Heck, I would have done better in Russian, no doubt. After failing to grasp the concepts of calculus not once, but twice, I conceded defeat, and switched to plant science.

It's probably just as well. I would have ended up bankrupt but with seven thousand, four hundred and fifty seven cats, a couple of dozen (nice) dogs, eight hundred and twenty three rescued horses, and an iguana or two, no doubt. (No goats, and definitely no miniature horses, though. These things are just annoying.)

So I did plant science, worked in agriculture for a while, did some other stuff, got married, had child, blah blah blah muffin, then went to Acadia just because it was nearby. Collected two degrees from there in English, and somehow along the way started writing in earnest. And getting paid for it. Oh, and of course gardening my butt off. The rest, as they say, is history. I'm still proud to be an Aggie--and still remember our absurd (and rude) cheer.

Click on all photos to enlarge for detail and colour)
Yesterday being gardeners mental health day, we headed off on a little road trip, and since we hadn't been to Truro in a while, went to AC to check out the gardens there. First we went to the Alumni gardens for a look around. The college colours are blue and gold and while that bed IS winding down, there were still some late-summer blue-and-gold flowers happening. I love the big round courtyard, with bandstand/gazebo, and the long sprawling bed of perennials beside it.

In the blue-and-gold border, we found Inula that impressed even us. We have it here, and it has grown to about 6 feet but with some shade. Here's what it does in full sun! My long-suffering spouse is six feet tall. The inula is somewhat taller than he is.

There's a lovely quad garden with four separate sections, and a lot of herbs, some clipped box and evergreens and lavender; and this amazing woven fence. They've obviously just replaced it as there's a pile of saplins laying nearby.

One of the conifers I don't yet have (one of many, but one I really want) is the Korean Fir. It's a beautiful thing all year long, and then there are its cones, which are shades of purple and blue.

This was growing alongside the big pergola in the upper part of the Alumni Gardens. I've never seen it before--anyone know what it is? (this is obviously my week of mystery plants.)

Across the road, we went to the NSAC Rock Garden. Completed last summer after about 4 years of work, it's my favourite garden in the province (even more than my own). There are gazillions of choice plants there and you know what? I don't know what a lot of them are! And that's delightfully exciting, because it just means that there are all kinds of things that I can still try here in my own garden--when I have room, of course!

I mentioned in an earlier post that I love conifers, and here's a good reason why. A collection of lovely healthy trees and shrubs in a range of colours and textures. Some of these were already here when Dr. Bernard Jackson (who was formerly at MUN Botanical Garden in Newfoundland) began his labour of love along with the Friends of the Garden and help from the hort. crew and students at AC. I forget how many tons of rock were brought in and how much earth was moved to create this--but it's a masterpiece and worth a trip to Truro anytime you're in the mood.

This is part one of my postings on AC; because there are so many photos to show, and I have to dig up some from earlier in the season to further colour things for you all. What I really love is the contrasting sizes and shapes and textures. We have huge, mature hardwoods and conifers, then there are trough gardens with loonie- and nickel-sized plants some sort of alpine/succulent, and I don't know what it is--but I love the textures here!

I got very excited when I saw this shrub--it's a witch hazel, Hamamelis, and I don't know if it's a cultivar or the native--BECAUSE SOME IDIOTS KEEP STEALING THE NAMETAGS FROM PLANTS IN A PUBLIC GARDEN!!!--yes, that was a mini rant. Whew. Anyway, I went home and looked at MY Hamamelis and told it I hoped it was planning to turn such marvelous colours too. I am assuming this is a countdown to autumn foliage change. We all know it's coming....

Part two after I finish another deadline that's urgent.....

25 August 2007

The Bee-loud garden

Thursday morning after I'd caught up on sleep, I went out to inspect the garden. Sunlight had warmed everything and I was delighted by the many sounds of buzzing. Not just from divebombing hummingbirds, stuffing themselves on nectar and feeder-juice, but from bees. Both honey bees and native bumbles, etc were indulging in collecting nectar and pollen from bee balm, daylilies, coneflowers, and oh yes, the still blooming poppies. There were six bees in this poppy when I started to focus, but a few were camera shy and left!

Cimicifuga (or Actaea, depending on who's doing the labelling) is a glorious plant. It doesn't even have to flower, but it does, and it does it late in the season; none of ours, including this 'Black Negligee' have flowered yet; we also have 'Atropurpurea' and 'Pink Spike'. All are about to bloom, though.

Put on your crocks or other sloggers, now, and come along with me on a tour of the garden. Some photos are from this morning, when we were bathed in fog; others from this afternoon as the fog gave way to sunshine. This is part of the back border, where we have coneflowers, daylilies, phlox, teasels, and an assortment of other things still blooming merrily--and even some yet to come; butterfly bush (buddleia), fall asters, and helenium are yet to take the stage.

Oh, I do ADORE blue flowers, and gentians especially tickle my fancy. While the willow-gentian isn't in bloom yet, this showoff is doing just fine; it's G. septemfida, possibly a variant or cultivar, but it's doing the LoLa routine.

Currently, the butterfly/sunset/memory garden is awash in all kinds of rudbeckias, from the politely clumping Goldstrum to the rowdily self seeding nameless one, to a big clump of 'Herbstsonne' (that I thought had died, but that turned out to be something else that expired!). The hot colours are cooled down by the massive clump of flat sea holly (Eryngium planun) and a chorus of bee balm and lavatera in shades of rose, pink and magenta.

I know I've posted photos of masterworts (Astrantia) before, but this plant is becoming a definite favourite. Though the two that I bought and planted this year are finished flowering, this one, which has been in for a year or two, is still blooming like crazy. Something about its flowers remind me of an Escher painting, maybe because they're so mathematically complex and repetitive. Whatever, I love them.

While I was away, my longsuffering spouse worked diligently on the house, which is now over halfdone. How do you like it?

A little change of pace now, while I do my promo for foliage. This time we're focusing on evergreens, like this 'Rheingold' Cedar. It's my favourite; globular growth, lime green new foliage that turns orange-yellow as it matures, and then this amazing coppery orange colour in winter. Marvelous plant.

Although my heathers are nothing compared to those at Kingsbrae, they're growing and doing well; this is Silver Knight, with silver-green foliage to counter the lavender flowers.

We now return to our regularly scheduled bloomfest. These are 'free-range' sunflowers that volunteer themselves year after near. I didn't get around to planting the new cultivars I got, so these nicely filled in. Well, actually they got a little carried away with themselves, but sunflowers make me smile instantly, so I didn't thin them any more than necessary.

A closeup of one of the lavatera flowers; this might be Silver Cup. Or it might not be, given that it was in a flat of 6 seedlings that I transplanted out.

While I have not been at ALL impressed with the performance of Hydrangea 'Endless Summer' which has been more of an endless disappointment this year, 'Limelight' is putting on a stellar show!

Yes, I know this is plume poppy, (Macleaya cordata) and that it has aspirations of taking over. But where it is, it has to wrestle with globe thistles, monkshood, and daylilies, which tend to keep one another in check. And the fog on the flowerbuds was just too good to resist.

One of the performances just getting started: bluebeard, or caryopteris. I have two new cultivars here that I'm testing out, but this is the one I put in last year. If I can find the label, I'll confirm the cultivar, but I think it might be 'Longwood Blue'. I have Petit Bleu and Sunshine Blue getting ready to do their thing, too.

We grow clematis really, really well--I think it's the fog that keeps things cool that makes our various species and varieties go snaky. This is C. orientalis 'Golden Tiara', and i love both its flowers and its funky seedheads.

The monarch chrysalids continue to pop up in curious places; this is a section of staging that Longsuffering Spouse has used in painting; and he had hauled it up and down and all around the yard earlier in the week til he noticed this little fellow. We're still waiting for the first monarch to emerge, but a few of the chrysalids seem to be elongating and getting more translucent.

That's it for now...the deadlines are reminding me that I need to attend to them if I want to take tomorrow off! Good thing I have my supervisor, Mungus; he's now migrated from the window to snoozing in the other chair in my office, but he's keeping watch anyway.

21 August 2007

Kingsbrae and a Review

I'm really tired tonight, so this is just a bit of a snapshot precis of Kingsbrae Garden, one of the top ten gardens in Canada--and probably in the world. No, it's not as old as Dixter, or Sissinghurst,(though it has its own white garden, above) or Butchart Gardens, perhaps; but it's a marvelous tribute to the variety that can be found growing in gardens around Atlantic Canada (with a few pushing the zone games too!)

This is a public garden with private funding from the Flemer family, who continue to support its growth in so many ways. It's a rare jewel, and my only sorrow is that it's a bit far from my home (about a 7 hour drive were I to drive all the way around) so I don't get to visit that often.
This summer is seeing something new at Kingsbrae, with a sCAREcrows Fight Hunger display and contest. There's a People's choice award to be voted upon, and my vote went to this Mercrow (complete with bycatch!)

Here are a few photos from my morning at Kingsbrae, featuring a rainbow of flowers and foliage: part of the butterfly garden,

Bright borders of perennials belie any idea of the 'August meltdown', don't they?

There is a huge perennial area, with plenty of blooms, and lots of interesting foliage texture and colour too,

The highly imaginative kitchen garden features a unique way to both grow salad crops and make an ornamental statement. Don't you just love these cabbage and lettuce containers lining the walkway?

This is part of the heaths and heathers display; while you can see something of the brilliant colour, what you CAN'T see is all the happy, happy bumblebees feasting on flowers.

One of my favourite gardens is the Blue Garden, which is presently filled with gentians; and they truly ARE gentian blue...

Tonight, in Fredericton, the capital city of New Brunswick, I got to observe the Inspection of the Guard, which takes place several times daily several days a week during the summer. The man who looks after training the 'guard' (students between the ages of 13-25) is a retired Sergeant Major; what he does is pick someone from the audience watching the review to do the inspection; in this case it was a mother with her two young sons who accompanied Joe on the inspection.

What's particularly moving about this colourful ceremony is that many of the troops just returned from Afghanistan are from Canadian Forces Base Gagetown, in nearby Oromocto; and a number of those brave young men already returned--in coffins. Fredericton and surrounding area are fiercely supportive of their troops, but so are other parts of the province, including Kingsbrae, who have this floral tribute at the gate to the garden;

Tomorrow, I'm off to Falls Brook Centre first thing in the morning, and then back to Saint John to catch the ferry back to Nova Scotia. Talk about your whirlwind trips! I may well not post tomorrow, but will catch up in the next couple of days. Glad you've been with me on this trip and enjoying my commentary--now come and visit New Brunswick (and of course us next door in Nova Scotia!)

20 August 2007

Chocolate whales and flowers all over

Day two in my New Brunswick Excellent Adventure. I slept pretty well last night (a major accomplishment for a person with fibromyalgia and other assorted pains) and while I didn't sleep exactly sideways, I made full use of the space--and the pillows.
First stop on my adventures today was the Irving Nature Park. This is an amazing gift to the residents of Saint John and surrounding environs, by the Irving family. The company's website tells it best:

Irving Nature Park, a 600 acre (243 hectare) site, was created by J.D. Irving, Limited to help protect an environmentally significant, endangered area. This special part of the Fundy coastline, minutes from Saint John, a major urban centre of New Brunswick, is now a place where the public can enjoy and experience the various ecosystems of the Southern New Brunswick coastline.

The peninsula of volcanic rock and forest on the Bay of Fundy is swept twice daily by some of the highest tides in the world. Mud flats and salt marsh are along one side. A long sandy cobble beach is on the other. The area nurtures one of the province’s richest marine ecosystems.

The Irvings maintain the site; sending their own people in to clean up and maintain the park, patrol it...and there are even picnic sites with gas barbecue grills that families can use--not parties, just ordinary families) to cook their meals--with the propane supplied by Irving, of course. And the site IS gorgeous, and well used. Good to see that Saint Johners love their parks--they have quite a few great green spaces, including the marvelous Rockwood Park, and smaller parks throughout the city, too.

After a few misunderstandings with signage and two unneeded trips across bridges before I got in the right direction, I landed in the downtown centre of Saint John; this is where the cruise ships come in, and also where exist some unique shopping experiences, including Brunswick Square, Market Square, and the City Market. I'm not a great shopper (except for plants and books, of course) but I did roam through the areas then went outside to look around at the parks and walking areas. There are a LOT of gardens tucked in here and there, with some pretty nice perennial mixes

As well as beds of annuals, that are looking just terrific. Shirley, my affable host from Saint John Tourism, explained that the department that looks after public plantings in the city are terrifically dedicated, and that's obvious; the annuals are well deadheaded, watered and fertilized, and are still rich with all kinds of colour. The perennials include a nice mix of bloom for the whole season, and new beds have been planted near the waterfront where a new walking trail is being developed. My favourite garden story, however, is about the marigolds.

My friend Carol Matthews wrote about this for Canadian Gardening at some point, but this was new to me. Every spring, schoolchildren in Saint John plant marigold seeds, and then these are transplanted into long meridian beds along Main Street. There are several great things about this: it provides a showstopping band of colour along a very busy thoroughfare, true; but also, it teaches children about growing flowers from seed, and reconnects them in a small way with the marvels of growing things, so that they also can understand more about where our food comes from. You're never too young to learn about gardening, right?

After a fine lunch at Billy's Seafood, we were met by Deputy Mayor Michelle Hooton, who told me more about the history of the city and of its restoration projects, then graciously took me to see her courtyard garden. Many houses in Saint John front right onto sidewalks and have no front garden space to speak of, but have nice back yards which they wall off (in many cases) and plant with perennials, shrubs, and small trees, incorporating the larger trees that already exist in the downtown area. Many of the houses are made of brick, because they were built in the months and years following Saint John's Great Fire of 1877, and the architecture is wonderful to see.
We walked around a lot of the historical part of the downtown, and it was fun to see how any little bit of soil was promptly planted by homeowners or tenants. Heck, I even found a place where goutweed was a good idea--and nicely controlled by a brick wall and a cement sidewalk!

Civic pride is really obvious in this city, and it's fun to see how when one homeowner fixes up a home and plants a yard, others around the area begin to do the same.

At length, I bid my gracious hosts farewell with many thanks and set off on the hour drive to Saint Andrews 'by the Sea'. Located on Passamaquoddy Bay, this town has a history dating back to the American Revolution, when Loyalists relocated from the States to what is today Canada. St. Andrews is primarily a vacationer's paradise with many seasonal residents and visitors, lots of whale watching cruises and other recreational delights. (Golf, if you like it, which I don't, hiking, shopping, and of course, Kingsbrae Gardens, where I'm going tomorrow! So I won't tell you more about Kingsbrae right now other than it's one of my favourite public garden spaces--and one of the top ten Canadian public gardens, too!). But all of St. Andrews is a garden, in my mind.

My home away from home for this night is the magnificent Fairmont Algonquin, surely one of the jewels in the Fairmont Crown. I've stayed here several times before, and am always delighted by the incredible customer service. Everything about the Algonquin is about satisfying guests, and they do it without being ostentatious or intimidating. Look at the care package that accompanied my press kit in my suite (featuring two queen beds, a kitchenette, and a view of the grounds...)

Do not adjust your screens. That's fresh fruit, handmade chocolates, and a white chocolate whale, along with biscotti and more fresh fruit. Well. Despite the fact that I had one of the nicest meals I've enjoyed this year at the Passamaquoddy Dining Room (one of four restaurants at the Algonquin...) I don't think the whale is going to be observed on any whalewatching cruises. Nor would he survive a trip back to Nova Scotia; it's still pretty warm weather, and we don't want him to melt...

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