18 August 2007

After the storm

While our Nova Scotian weather can be somewhat robust in nature, with cold winds, fogs and other challenges, we don't normally get too many thunderstorms in the run of a summer. We might average between six and twelve throughout the spring and summer months, although I've seen thunderstorms here in March and in November. Normally they're wonderful to watch, attractive weather tantrums that just cause us to pause and watch mother nature at her elemental best.

Not last night. Or more specifically, yesterday morning. I was reading an Ian Rankin book about 0130 (the pain in my legs often keeps me awake so I sleep til they give in) when I thought I heard thunder. I trotted downstairs and looked out the patio windows--and watched as the sky lit up time and again in a matter of thirty seconds.

Uh oh. Gonna be a bad one. I pulled the plugs on electronics, pulled on my crocks and a sweater, and ran to the barn. No rain was coming, but there was a lot of lightning, and I needed to bring in Leggo and Jenny. Well. I hadn't stopped to seek out the flashlight, and the horse was not coming...and there I stood at the gate, hollering my head off and hoping that the lightning would pause out over the Bay for a little while longer. Jenny sauntered up while Leggo was doing powerturns around her, whinnying and prancing and just being a nervous hairball, but I finally cajoled him into coming to me and got them into the barn.

And all hell broke loose.
I haven't figured out yet how to take photos of lightning storms. But I wouldn't have tried last night anyway. For the first time in three or four years, we were nervous during a thunderstorm. In fact, I have never been as nervous as I was last night about a storm--nor have I ever in my life seen such a storm. It was like a strobe light was flashing constantly--lightning so brilliant you could see the colours of the garden when the sky was lit up. At one point, the kitties and I all contemplated heading for the basement, but we decided to keep my longsuffering spouse company in the kitchen. Actually, Tigger slept through the entire performance, even when strikes very close by rattled the house with jet-engine roars of thunder.

Today everything was washed clean, and although the rain came down too hard and washed out some gravel roads and roadsides, things look fresh around the yard. There was one sad note, as my neighbour's old pony was found tonight dead in the pasture. Whether she had a heart attack or was struck by lightning or something else, we don't know--his donkey is fine--but this is why I bring our animals in when cumulonimbus clouds move up the Bay or the cats are too weird. Tonight it was humid and I brought the critters in early--which should guarantee a quiet night--and as I watched the sky and the placid waters of the upper Bay, I was reminded that we humans are pretty puny. No matter if we build mcmansions and drive gas-guzzling SUVs and otherwise try to make ourselves look important. We can't control the weather--other than to make it worse with global warming, that is.

Okay, that's enough pensiveness/ranting out of me. I promised more blooms (and other things) so let's get to the good stuff!

The heathers are just starting to bloom in my conifer-ericaceous bed; if you can't tell heaths from heathers, use this as a mnemonic. Heaths rhyme with Easter and bloom in the spring: Heathers wait for summer weather to do their bloomin' thing.

I am simply silly about the vibrant neon colours of annual ice plants(Mesembryanthemum). I plant them out in containers so they won't get overly soggy if we have a wet summer, and they reward with dozens of brilliant blooms.

I caught this caterpillar in the act of going into his pupate form; it was really fun to watch the chrysalis thrashing as the caterpillar made his transformation. I've found more chrysalids in different parts of the garden, which leads me to declare a moratorium on all deadheading, weeding, etc until the nursery has done its hatching.

I'm slow to get into alliums, other than having had 'Hair' and Nectaroscordum for some years. This is A. flavum, I think; the pot was full of tiny bulbs and shoots, and the yield was a cluster of yellow fireworks and one purple-pink one.

Perhaps the oddest coneflower in the garden is Rudbeckia 'Black Beauty'; not really black but definitely a striking beauty in its own way.

The elegant design of the blue scabiosa flower makes me intensely happy. The white one is lovely, but this one is even better.

Ditto the blue woodruff as opposed to the white. They are actually two different species; white sweet woodruff is Gallium odoratum, while the blue is Asperula orientalis. I love them both, but I hope the blue will selfseed this year.

Cherokee Sunset is a double rudbeckia, and as you can see it has striking autumn colours to its blooms. I THINK I grew this from seed last year, but I was still surprised to see it when it began flowering.

False Mallow, Prairie Mallow...sidalcea has been a tough performer for years, selfseeding a tiny bit but not excessively, and making the bees very, very happy.

I bought this two days ago at Blomidon Nurseries; it's the Mexican hat Ratibida 'Red Midget'. I've added it to the coneflower collection out front.

To my mind, bloom day includes terrific foliage; hence this porcelain vine, which has the same delicious colours to its foliage as does Nishiki willow. I hope it will flower and fruit this year, but maybe not til next.

Here is probably the strangest plant in my collection. It's buttonbush or silversand, Calocephalus, a plant from Tasmania. Dana at Glad Gardens grew some from seed last year, and I have this one; it's truly silver looking and prehistoric in appearance (although I think it's a member of Compositae). I have it planted with bronze hair sedge, Carex comans, in a terra cotta planter, and I"ll overwinter it in the house.

Finally, a teaser; this is Lavatera 'Silver Cup', and while I can grow this and Malva Zebrina and Hisbiscus trionum 'Flower of an Hour' for fun....there is a Mallow relative that stumps me regularly. You'll hear about that soon!


  1. Yikes, that had to have been quite the storm! I love a good storm too, but that one sounded a bit too close for comfort.

    Your annual ice plants are certainly a cheerful bunch, I don't blame you for being so happy with them. And I'm curious to hear about the mallow relative!

  2. I came across these pictures on Webshots of the life cycle of a Monarch Butterfly and thought you might be interested:


    Do enjoy reading your blog and column in the Chronicle Herald!

    After seeing your picture of the Echinacea Green Envy, it's on my list for next year's garden!


  3. jodi - i love the mexican hat! hi, my name is gina and i'm addicted to coneflowers.

  4. Hi Jodi,

    It's fun to see your variety of plants including the Ratibida - they grow wild here, and were one of the plants the deer left alone at my last house.

    Your mnemnonic won't work here, Jodi - we'd have to say something like Heaths and Heathers whine Where the soil's so Alkaline !
    And that won't even rhyme for those of you who use whinging instead of whining.

    I know I've seen that Calocephalus on some garden tour somewhere and thought it was wonderful. Good luck with overwintering it - and stay safe from those lightning storms.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  5. Hi all: Thanks for your comments and for visiting bloomingwriter!

    lostroses, I love those annual ice plants; I've tried the perennial one too, but it just isn't quite punchy enough for me.

    Anonymous, thanks for the link and for the kind words, too. Yes, Green Envy is a dandy, and if it overwinters as well as do its relatives, it will definitely be a hit.

    Gina, I hear you...I too am addicted to coneflowers. But hey, I always say if my worst habits are plants, cats and books....it can't be that bad. My longsuffering spouse agrees, too.

    Annie, that's too bad about the heaths and heathers disliking your soil. I suppose you could try growing them in containers, but they might not like that much heat either. I love that you use the word whinge--it's a favourite of mine, though some people look puzzled when I use it. Hopefully we're done with major lightning storms for this year--but of course hurricane season is just starting. I hope we all stay safe through the season of storms.


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