27 May 2008

The Garden Symphony: Prelude and sonata

First of all, I hope all my American friends had a wonderful, long, relaxing Memorial Day weekend. Hopefully the weather cooperated for you as nicely as it did here, although I had a bad few minutes watching a live video feed of a tornado on Saturday. Good grief. My hat is off to everyone who lives in Tornado Alley, because that is the stuff of nightmares!

I was thinking this morning, as I strolled around the yard and listened to the music of the wind and birds and frogs and bees under the sheltering sky and its warm smiling sun, that our garden is like a symphony performance. When not listening to really loud rock or pop music, I'm a bit of a classical music nerd (goes along well with being a Word Nerd, hah!), with Bach, Mozart and Chopin being my favourite composers, depending on moods. While I don't profess to be a music expert, this time of spring seems like the opening and building of energy in a long musical performance.

Despite my preoccupation with other things over the past several weeks, even when unable to do anything in the garden, I've been watching it carefully as it goes about its natural unfolding of life. The amelanchier that has already bloomed and gone in most of the rest of the province (at least the mainland) is just opening in our garden and in the wild places around our garden. This is one of my favourite of native plants, and one I highly recommend to everyone with a garden and a little space.

The lily-flowered tulips I planted in my former mother in law's memory garden are doing very well, I must say. From being quiet green buds just a few days ago, they've erupted into this gracefully flowing display of floral fireworks. Must plant more next year!

One of the most curious plants in my garden is Darmera, which sends up stalks with pretty pink and white flowers on it, THEN puts up its leaves--its ginormous, umbrella shaped, handsome leaves--from an equally ginormous and enthusiastic rhizome. You need a LOT of room for this plant, not because it runs but because its leaves do cover a lot of territory. And you need a pickaxe and saw when it's time to divide it.

The Chocolate garden is a good demonstration of how things are doing. The Stellata magnolia is in bloom, as are more tulips and the daffs are winding down; the ornamental rhubarb is getting ready to flower, (unperturbed after I rudely moved it several weeks ago) and the cranesbills and monarda are doing very, very very well; while the copper beech has yet to unfurl its leaves. I'm glad that everything doesn't happen at once here, or I'd be more overwhelmed than usual.

These primulas tickled me tremendously when I planted them and they're doing terrifically this year. I need. More. Primulas. It could be a spring obsession, but watching a big happy bumblebee burrow into a primula flower this morning, I just found my love for these happy plants growing all the more.

These graceful windflowers will form nice clumps in time, IF I stop inadvertently digging them up; they're slow to emerge here, and I (ahem) forgot where they were!

The hummingbirds arrived just over a week ago now- first the males, who came looking in our windows as if to say, "Well! Get those feeders out here!" I've been filling the feeders daily--sometimes twice--and though I had the wrong lens on this morning for catching them, it was fun to watch them divebomb me and each other.

Most of the annuals in our garden are planted in containers and with hummingbirds and other pollinators in mind. I've mentioned before that I don't care for petunias at all--in MY garden--but I love love love Callibrachoas. This is the lovely and well named 'Rose Star', a favourite from last year and already wowing the hummers.

The containers I have done so far this year tend to be in colours that attract hummers and other pollinators; lots of reds, roses, orange and purples, with nemesia, callibrachoa, verbena and lantana as some of the top choices so far. I have to go get more annuals for a talk I'm giving this weekend, so I'll be picking up some of my favourites, including Venidio, Anagallis and Agastache, of course!

We're not sure just HOW many hummingbirds we have, because they're really, REALLY active and voracious right now, but this one paused long enough for me to get her photo briefly. After my work is done, I'm going back outside with the long lens, to hide in the holly and see what they're up to.

Isn't spring wonderful!?

23 May 2008

The Advantage of a Cool Climate

As promised after Wednesday night, it's time to return to our regularly scheduled programming--er, make that blogging--which naturally has to do with plants. Now, this has been a week of much rain here at Sunflower Hill, which is good for the crops and the woods and gardens and so on. But it makes it hard to get anything down in the garden, so things are growing at an alarming rate, including the weeds, of course.

We're now well into May, and the weather is mostly warm, with no frosts for several weeks (at least not here on the hill.) It has been chilly at times, and very windy. Every time we have a big rain, we usually have a day or so of strong winds too. Now, I'm talking about weather here on the hill, with winds off the Bay a lot of the time. In the Annapolis Valley below us, the temperatures are quite a bit milder for the most part. We're generally two weeks or more behind the Valley, but there are advantages to this.

In the first place, our cooler weather may bring things on slower in our spring, but plants also last in bloom much longer. I still have plenty of daffodils, though this glorious yellow double daff is at my friend's place year Yarmouth, also right on the water. In the Valley, the daffs are mostly done, as are many of the tulips and fruit trees are starting to bloom.

Many of you may well remember how long our autumns go, with some plants lasting well into November.

Most people won't see grape hyacinths now until next March. Ours, on the other hand, are doing just fine, and some are just getting around to opening.

This little pink Corydalis is a charmer, and fragrant; but it goes dormant after it flowers. I'm hoping it will spread and selfseed itself the way that other corydalis do, because I really like it. I'll like it even better if I can get 'Berry Exciting' to go along with it.

This pink-flowered lamium intrigued me, and I neglected to get a piece from my friend. I have white and purple flowered lamiums, and yellow and white flowered lamiastrums, so why not add another one to the mix?

I love the colour of the new peony shoots, especially with the 'pink' daffodils growing beside them to contrast them sharply. Our peonies always do very well, except we invariably have a major rainstorm with lots of wind while the peonies are flowering. Naturally. That's just Murphy's Law of weather.

While the species tulips are still doing just fine, the big showoff tulips are just starting to come into their own, shining like jewels throughout the garden.

I LOVE checkered fritillary (these are the white form, so they aren't too checkered) They politely form clumps and provide an unusual floral display compared to the other springflowering bulbs. While I also love the big showy fritillaria, they're a bit iffy for our garden, and they're quite pricy too, so I stay with the small beauties.

Time for me to head to sleep...the plan is to work in the garden all weekend, and the weather is supposed to be decent. We'll see how things work out, but my next post is (finally) a report card on what survived and what went to sleep.

22 May 2008

Way to go, America (and some crazy Canucks, too)

Every now and again, things turn out the way they should. Behold your weeping American Idol, David Cook, with his mum. (photo via one of the DC fan sites. )

Way to Go, David Cook! Way to go, America! Congratulations all around.

Regular 'programming' will resume here next post--after I get some sleep, that is. Four hours of Gizmo last night, lots of reading and vid viewing...and of course preordering music vids off iTunes. Whew.

Oh yah....and Dylan was awesome, but watching DC with ZZ Top was even better.

20 May 2008

Off Topic, Unpaid, Unpolitical Announcement

I rarely go offtopic from gardening, at least not too far. But right now, I'm gonna do so.

The image above is is Eta Carinae, said to be one of the most bright and massive stars in the sky--and due to go supernova one of these days in the future.

This is a rising star about to go very big too. I've watched David Cook on American Idol All. Season. Long. I don't DO reality shows. Normally I watch the tryouts for the sheer delight of the weirdness and of Simon's sardonic wit. This year, I got hooked by several of the performers, and this guy with the Les Paul guitar has excited me like no musician since, oh, I dunno...Bono of U2, I think. I started rooting for him in earnest in Top 20 week, and have been fascinated and excited for him ever since.

Because I believe in talented young people blazing their way through hard work into success. And this guy has paid his dues. He also appears to be a screamingly nice guy, with a good stage presence, 'easy on the eyes', as even producer Nigel Lythgoe has acknowledged, and oh yeah, he's a Word Nerd. Gotta love smart musicians.

Anyway. Tonight is the final two showdown. And everyone who likes this guy HAS got to vote. Because he's the most talented of the two, though they both have their merits. NO slight to DA, but it's not his time yet.

I believe in people who deserve to come first, coming first. And David Cook deserves to get the boost that being the American Idol will give him. So, like the saying goes, folks...vote early, vote often. (People get more than one vote with this, unlike with elections.)

And hopefully, tomorrow night you'll see David Cook win.

I say you...because i'll be at another Idol's performance. Bob Dylan is in Halifax tomorrow night and I have a date with my son and some friends to see him.

Can someone text me the results, please? I can't wait til 2 am to find out! :-)

18 May 2008

Late Bloom Day: My Internets have been naughty....

One has to wonder why there are people in this world who have, apparently, nothing more important to do than to create malware programs that attack Internet Service Providers' equipment. Yup, we've been going through another week of fun with our internet. At times, it's been nonexistent. At other times, it's been about dialup speed-not exactly conducive for doing anything more than downloading email--assuming it's all been getting here, of course.

In my mindset, when things like that happens, it's karma trying to tell me something. A project I've been working on that isn't going well? Time to let it go. More importantly, after the wretched day I had on Thursday, it was time for a mental health day of the highest order. So maybe it was a good thing that 'The Internets' (yes, I'm poking fun at Shrubby) decided they needed mental health day too. I spent most of Friday in the garden, puttering--cleaning out weeds, preparing to divide things that haven't already gone skyward, moving a few plants around. Friday evening, Leggo and I went for a long contemplative ride in the woods, where I studied the wildflowers in bloom. Saturday, it rained all day, and today, LSS and I are going to go visit friends for a few hours. Monday is a holiday for some, but I'm going to assume that the now-partially recuperated ISP will continue to work as it has most of the time since Saturday afternoon, and get back to work.

Bouquets of brilliance to all of you who wrote such sweet and supportive notes about our loss of our dear furball friend Tigger. I did indeed plant a catmint clump under the viburnum that I added to the garden for him, and somehow, that brought great comfort to my heart.

This really ISN'T a proper Garden Blogger's Bloom Day report either; with so much going on, and with our garden being so far behind just about everyone else in the continent, I just decided to show off a few photos to let you know that we, at least, out of the snow zone for the year. And bizarrely, some parts of the province area already extremely dry, though we received much-needed--and cold!--rain on Saturday.

Despite the chilly days we had last weekend and early this week, my Stellata magnolia is just fine, and has covered itself in flowers. They have a slight fragrance, but nothing like some stellatas I've seen. Nor like 'Yellow Bird', which I discovered the other day down at Baldwin's had a lovely lemony fragrance. Still tempted to bring one home...

Of course for the next six weeks or more, our garden will be festooned with froths and petitpoints of forget-me-nots, one of my favourite flowers. I like the pink and white ones that pop up periodically in the garden, but the blues are my favourites, of course.

I'm really LOVING this Geum 'Mango Lassy'! It's still in its pot, so it's ahead of the geums in the garden, which are just starting to push up flower buds.

It's not a secret that I'm quite crazy about euphorbias, and while 'Fireglow' is one of my absolute favourites, this would be a close second. It's the well named, 'Fens' Ruby', and with the deep rich foliage and the strikingly neon bracts, it just appeals to my sense of fun.

The primulas are just starting to pop in earnest, and this makes me happy. I don't have a huge collection of primulas, but there are probably a dozen different species and colours out there. This purple one is a favourite; now, if I could just remember where it came from and what it's called!

A few more days and I figure everything will be UP in the garden and I can report on mortalities and successes. For now, I'll leave you with several comments:

Echinacea 'Green Envy' is up and doing just fine.
Weigela 'My Monet' sailed through the winter with flying colours.
You already know that I have FINALLY had hellebore successes;

and I have HOLLYHOCKS! Hollyhocks, of all things. Popping up everywhere. Will any of them be yellow? Doubtful. Could this be the year, though, that I break my yellow hollyhock curse?

15 May 2008

Over the Rainbow Bridge to Catnip Land

The Rum Tum Tigger-Tugger, January 1996-15 May 2008

It's a perfect spring day here--the wind has exhausted itself, the sun is a warm balm, things are growing faster than the price of fuel...and I'm in a pool of tears. Our senior cat, Tigger, our big orange bobtail cat, died sometime overnight; I found him in the garden, no marks on him or signs of distress. I suspect it was simply a heart attack and he went to sleep. That's some comfort...but still my own heart feels like it has been ripped open. It's been nearly a year since we lost Quincy, and of course the upset with Dexter is still tender.

My son and I got Tigger and his sister JennyAnyDots from friends of ours who had six kittens. The three males were all orange bobtails; the females, all mackeral tabbies. Tigger had a strong personality, intensely affectionate, inclined to climb into a lap and then put his paw up on our faces. And purr! He was always a champion at purring, but even more he was a champion at putting the other cats in their places. He had, we would say, the fastest paddy-paws in the east.

Tigger was always my gardening companion, and I never saw a cat with more of a taste for catnip. He was obsessed with it. When we moved here 9 years ago, the first spring there was a giant catnip plant in the back yard, with gazillions of babies under it. Tigger was in catnip heaven as a result, and he ATE. EVERY. PLANT. He even ate the roots of the little plants. Now, granted, this took him quite a few weeks, and he did have help from the other catchildren, but he was the chief eater of catnip. The next year the big plant did come back a bit, and he finished it off; but he always went back regularly to the spot where that plant was, even this spring, remembering his glory days of overindulgence, I guess. He'd eat catmint in a pinch, too, but his main love was for his drug of choice.

Over the Rainbow Bridge, there are probably big fields of catnip, and cream and all the other delights that our beloved companion animals love to share. I'm sure that Tigger has already been greeted by Captain Sam Bucus and other members of the Bliss Dream Team, and by those beloved cats lost by Kylee and Joy and others (at the moment I'm in no shape to go check other blogs or I'll simply saturate my keyboard).

And the rest of the catchildren? They KNOW I'm sad. They're sticking to me like honey to velvet. Mungus and I will go out in a little while to bury our friend and to plant a shrub in his memory, of course. So there's no Bloom Day report from me today. The only happy note of course is that my Idol pick is in the top two...but even his music isn't lifting me right now. Though as I was writing this, one of his Axium songs came on my iTunes mix, and some of the lyrics seemed fitting for a final farewell to Tigger.
Walk away, it's your time
Deny the tear in my eye
Your memory will never die
At peace I trust in you every step of the way
To stay with me 'til the end of the day
So move on to your tomorrow as we all say goodnight
…Your memory will never die

"Balance" by David Cook

We miss you, Tigger. Your memory will never die.

11 May 2008

They followed me home...honest!

Is anyone else having a May like this? We went through a spell of very nice, warm and sunny weather for a few days in a row; a little bit of rain or fog here or there, but nothing serious. I was planning to clear up some time so I could work in the garden this weekend, and what happened? The temperature dropped, the wind came up out of the north-east, and YUK! I don't wanna go outside. And I haven't, not at all on Saturday. Perhaps today, but we'll see what the morning brings.

Life has been madly busy, which explains both my lack of posting here, lack of answers to comments, and more seriously, lack of visits and comments on my favourite blogs. But I think most of us know what that's like; suddenly, the good weather comes that we've been waiting for (even if for some of you it started months ago) and all those things we wanted to do outdoors we can now do. But with the weather this weekend, I guess i'll stay inside and catch up on the indoor work and play, then take a day off next week when I can go outdoors.

On Wednesday, I went to Annapolis County to give a talk at the Clementsvale Garden Club, and that was great fun. Of course, I also had to stop at a few different nurseries and check out plants, though I resisted the urge to bring home very many. In the past week, however, there have been some great temptations throw themselves at me, so, smitten as I am by Urgent Plant Seeking Madness...I brought them home.

Top photo above, 'Sooty' Dianthus is such a lovely rich coloured flower, and while I had it for several years, it didn't come back last year, so it was time to add a couple of new plants to the chocolate-and-wine garden.

And as I prepare to develop my rockery this year, this pink pussytoes, or Antennaria dioica 'Rosea' batted its eyelashes at me (sure it did, didn't you see it?) I love the rich flower colour contrasted with the silver-green foliage.

Yesterday on my way back from Berwick, I had to stop at Briar Patch Farm and Nursery for a quick look around. I studied the hellebores for quite a while, but then decided instead to try my hand at growing a Lewisia again. I had one for several years that did just fine, and then I'm not sure what happened to it. The secret to lewisia is to give it perfect drainage, very little organic matter, and in my part of the world, protect it a bit from drying winter winds and excessive wet with some sort of protective mulch like evergreen boughs. And the jewel-like colours really get to me.

As many of you may remember, I'm obsessed with echinaceas, and have a fairly healthy collection of them. They're just starting to push through the ground, and so I thought that was as good a reason as any to pick up 'Lime Coconut' echinacea while I was at it.

On my last trip down to bug Rob at Baldwin's Nursery, I collected three native witherod viburnum (Viburnum nudum, formerly V. cassinoides) but also had my eye drawn to the handsome Judd viburnum. Into the truck it went along with three native red maples (Acer rubrum) and a 'Makamik' flowering crabapple. And a magnolia sapling. And a couple more Ilex verticillata (female Canada Holly).

I used to not do well with geums, but once I developed a bed with real good winter drainage, things turned around for me, and there are both yellow and orange geums to brighten up a midspring planting. I like these as much as I do perennial potentillas, which also began doing very well for me once I added them to the same well-drained area. So when I spied this 'Mango Lassi' geum the other day, I knew I had to have it.

And naturally, since I'm totally thrilled with the dazzling talent and obviously nice personality (and he's not hard on the eyes, either) of one of the three finalists in this year's American Idol (I NEVER watch the Canadian version because I despise Ben Mulroney), I had to have this Geum too. Its name?

Cooky, of course!

I don't think the geum will play a Les Paul guitar any time soon. But it's definitely a star in my books.

Oh, I crack myself up sometimes! :-)

06 May 2008

Good Things in Small Packages

Here we're into about day four of some really nice weather, and I've been inside for the past two days, working like a mad maniac on assorted assignments. Plus with LSS working every day too, he's not here to pick up the housework chores as much so I'm juggling those AND work AND the garden is sort of...well, GROWING without me. Including, naturally, the weeds, but that's to be expected. I won't panic. Not yet. One bed at a time, remember.
I did have time for a quick walk-around and photo shoot this morning when I went out to get the mail, and here's a few of the stars of the morning. The bright fuchsia tulip above is a delicate little species that pops up and opens with little warning--I must try to A. Find the label and B. buy more of them next year. I think they'll colonize but am not sure.

This tiny beauty is a mystery to me, though perhaps when it and its siblings open up a bit more, I'll recognize it. Right now, their charmingly coy, needing a bit more sun and warmth to tease their petals open.

I wish these bicolour muscari would naturalize as fast as do the regular ones--I love the contrasting blue shades. It's planted with some yellow and white daffs and blue-striped puschkinia, both of which are doing better than the muscari, so there may need to be some moving of bulbs after they've finished.

Although they were a bit slow to get going, the hepatica or liverwort have started to bloom at last. If they were in a slightly sunnier spot, they'd probably bloom sooner, but that bed is shaded and often snowcovered for a long time. These delicate little plants make me instantly happy, although also wistful. They were native in Nova Scotia, but have been all but extirpated from our woodlands.

Ahah...I'm not going to sing that earworm about the royal suitor, but patience and advice from Frances has paid off....I give you Ivory Prince,opening up glorious flowers for me to go all googly over. It was definitely worth the wait...and I'm definitely going to get another plant or two to add to the family.

And speaking of music...part of the reason I'm inside today is so I can take time off tonight (well, other than honing my presentation for tomorrow evening) to watch AI Top 4. It's Rocker Night (and I don't mean my rocking chair) but also the race is still not over, so to all you WordNerds out there...don't forget to VOTE for DCook!

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