28 June 2008

Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens

When I was in Annapolis Royal a couple of weeks ago, I took some time to go to the Historic Gardens for a visit and research for an article I'm working on. If you've never been to Annapolis Royal, it's worth a visit at any time of the year because it's steeped in history. Samuel de Champlain overwintered in the area back in 1605 and established a colony there before moving further into North America and establishing further posts.

Certainly the jewel of the town is the Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens, now in their 27th season of operation and a beloved destination for visitors as well as locals. The Gardens are unique in that they are a series of theme gardens, including a number that reflect periods in Nova Scotia's history. There are also collections, including the vast and glorious Rose garden, the rhododendron collection, and a fine collection of ornamental grasses that is partially responsible for my own growing love for these plants.

Although it was still early June when I was there, plenty of things were blooming (some of which are STILL or JUST starting in my Bay garden). The courtyard directly welcoming visitors from the admissions area/gift shop is cleverly planted with a sea of iris wedged between the stone pavers.

One of the most beloved spots for photos (especially of proms and weddings) is at the Laburnum arch. It also boasts several massive and wonderful rhododendrons near it for further colour.

This is the Governor's Garden, because from 1710 to 1749 Annapolis was actual the capital of Nova Scotia. The formal geometric plantings aren't my cup of tea, but they work very well for the setting and that's how they would have been planted back in the day.

This magnificent fountain is made of a variety of rocks quarried here in the province. It's one of my favourite parts of the garden.

The Knot Garden features interlaced patterned plantings of lavender, dwarf box and other low-growing plants. It's at its best when the lavender blooms, of course, and I was a few weeks early for that event. (Which is a perfect excuse to go back again soon!)

One of the wonderful things about the Gardens is how the site is on a sloping property, with gentle meanders here and there from the courtyard down to the Dyke walk. At one boundary of the Gardens is the Rock garden, built on a hillside and featuring alpines, dwarf shrubs and a few very fine Japanese maples.

There are several pond features throughout the Gardens. This one boasts a number of daylilies and hostas as well as beautiful flowering shrubs and mature trees.

The rhododendron and azalea collection includes a number of varieties developed at the Kentville Research station by Dr. Craig, as well as plants bred and tested by my beloved friend Captain Dick Steele, plantsman extraordinaire.

Minas Gold is a gorgeous cultivar bred in Kentville.

While I didn't get the cultivar names of all the rhodies and azaleas, they are bred to be cold-hardy as well as sporting magnificent colours. I become more and more enamoured of rhododendrons and azaleas with every passing year, and am preparing to add a few here this summer. (No, haven't done it yet. Not enough time. I need High-speed LIFE, not just highspeed Internet!)

At the base of the gardens is a walk out onto the dykelands that hold back the Annapolis Basin from covering some highly fertile and arable land in salt water. The dykes were originally built by les Acadiens pre-expulsion (1755) and include remarkable aboiteaux, or sluiceways, which they constructed using hollowed-out logs with one-way gates in them. There's an Acadien cottage featuring a potager garden in the Gardens, but I was in a hurry the day I was there and didn't get to that area. Yet another reason to go back soon.

And this is a remarkable barberry, the species or variety of which I don't know. The shrub was about twelve-fifteen feet tall and quite glorious. Anyone know what it is? I could ask the horticulturists at the Gardens, but thought it might make a good puzzle for readers, too.

If you're in Nova Scotia this summer--if the price of gas as set by our greedy asinine governments (federal, provincial and elsewhere) doesn't traumatize you into staying home...Annapolis Royal is always well worth the visit. Bring lots of film or a big memory card, because these are just a few of the photos I took--and as observed, the rose garden and other gardens weren't yet in full colour. The Gardens director also does a regular bloom report throughout the season, which I believe you can sign up for via the website.

22 June 2008

Random thoughts in the garden

It's always a great hoot to discover that I've misidentified a plant. About four or five years ago, I bought this little twig of a tree sapling at a fundraiser plant sale at a local school. At the time, the foliage looked to me like it was Siberian pea shrub, as it was small and pea-like. I planted it, tended it carefully, and waited. No, I planted it and ignored it, basically, other than to give it a bit of a haircut in the spring if there were dead twigs. Figured it would bloom when it was ready to.

I was sitting on the picnic table the other night, drinking tea and forcing my fingers to remember some guitar chords, when something yellow caught my eye. Well. Guess it's not a pea shrub at all but a gold chain tree. (Laburnum anagyroides)That's actually pretty exciting, though I'm going to have to watch it to make sure it doesn't get too bid where I put it.

We've been experiencing some highly unsettled weather the past couple of days, with thunderstorms arbitrarily rolling in unannounced. And fog. Lots of fog. Today we had a storm roll in, have a hissy fit for a while, track off to the southeast...and then tonight, a dungeon of fog was lying around--but we could see stars overhead. Just like it was on solstice night. I suppose this means we're going to have a lot of fog this summer. Oh well, it keeps things from drying out.

The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation put me onto a project last year, tracking several different endangered bee species. Now, I happen to be a very happy fan of bees, especially native ones but also honeybees, and just take their pictures because I like them. Late last summer I took a photo that turned out to be the yellow-banded bee, Bombus terricola, which is one of the bees that are diminishing in populations. Now on calm days I stalk around the garden, camera in hand, trying to casually sneak up on bees and photograph them and figure out who they are. This little cutie hanging out on one of our gazillion columbines appears to be B. terricola, but I'll send a clearer photo to Xerces and see what they say.

While I love the irises that some of my fellow garden bloggers have, I don't grow many myself. Some spring-flowering Iris reticulata, a few dwarf bearded and standard beardeds, and a few Siberian iris. But while roaming around the garden earlier this evening with my Macro lens on my camera, I decided to look at flowers from a different angle. THis one is quickly becoming a favourite. I think I'll get it enlarged and put it on the wall in here.

I love 'Butter and Sugar' Siberian iris, though it hasn't been real reliable for me. Something about the soft colours really appeals, although normally I go for more, shall we say, 'robust' colours.

Like this 'Blazing Sunset' geum. I had to have it. Three of them, actually, because their colours just rocked my world. The secret to growing good geum, I have discovered, is to give them good drainage. And not mistake them for a weed and dig them up in the spring. Ahem. Yes, I have done so in the past.

I've been muttering a bit about some nurseries not carrying a whole lot in what I'd call new and interesting plants. This isn't the case everywhere, mind you, but I was quite annoyed to go to one of the largest nurseries in the province the other day and find only a couple of perennials that I would consider purchasing. Especially since that particular nursery is getting ridiculously priced. Not all of us are rich doctors or lawyers from the city, after all. Here's one plant that did follow me home--Blue Fountains malva--more blue than the standard Zebrina malva, and I'm sure it will be as floriferous, though I don't expect it to selfseed like its sibling does.

However, I found lots of good things at one of my favourite places to visit, Briar Patch Farm and Nursery in Berwick. Mind you, I didn't bring home everything I fell in love with. I haven't brought this gorgeous, glorious, magnificent Metasequoia 'Gold Rush' home with me yet, but I think I will bring it instead of the Sciadopitys (Japanese Umbrella pine) that I had been thinking about for a while. This will be more reliably hardy, and besides that--Metasequoia is one of my favourite trees. Bar none.

Ah, Thalictrum, or meadowrue. A lovely plant for shade or moist areas, and a fabulous butterfly magnet too. This isn't mine--it's not flowering at home yet, but it was putting on a splendid display at Briar Patch.

Yet another reason I love to make pilgramages to Briar Patch--they have excellent display gardens. Now, this particular bed might not excite some people, but it puts me into a fit of nostalgia. The lupins and poppies were star performers in my grandmother's yard, in her big old house which was and still is in Berwick. While we moved a lot when I was growing up because of my father's job as a pilot, we had two places that rooted us--our grandparents homes, in Lunenburg county and here in the Valley. My grandmother sold her home many years ago to some lovely people who were still living there a decade ago, when I stopped by the house and introduced myself, and Vivian kindly showed me through. It was really, really strange to go through a house I hadn't been in for 25 years, and have neat memories triggered as a result.

Today, I was out in my garden, and a car pulled in, and an elderly lady stepped out. "We're looking for jodi DeLong" she said.
"That would be me," I replied. I get this sometimes, people reading my columns and wanting to visit. No problem, though I warn them this isn't Martha Stewart's garden.

She then told me who she was. She and her husband are the people who bought my grandparents' home all those years ago. They still live there and are in great health. But they had acquired this old book from a cousin of hers, and she had thought of me and thought perhaps I would like to have the book.

I nearly fell over in delight. The book is The Wildflowers of Canada, which was created as a supplement to the Montreal Star newspaper many years ago. I can't find the exact date right now, but it was a big deal at the time, and though Lee Valley does a facsimile edition, I have a passion for old gardening books and I was really, really touched that Vivian would think of me and come looking for our place. We showed her, her husband and cousin around the garden, and she invited me to stop in the next time I'm in Berwick. Which I will surely do, as I'm there every few weeks, visiting my hairdresser...and going to Briar Patch, of course.

17 June 2008

Bloomingwriter in the 21st Century...

Well this is cause for celebration!
EW may be trailing along a little late with the Garden Bloggers Bloom Day celebration here at Sunflower Hill, but we have happy news to report. Thanks to the dedication of Cross Country Television, our locally owned Internet Service Provider (and television provider, obviously)...our Intarnets is fixed. We now have genuine highspeed blazing along here. Steve installed some new equipment here on the hill and at the tower in Scotts Bay, and while he'll be working his way through the community, we got done first. And it works blazingly well. Whoo hoooooo!

So to celebrate, a look at the chaotic glory that is the garden here in mid-June. Those of you further south of us will be fascinated at what is STILL in bloom here, compared to what's happening in your gardens. We had a cool spring--no, at times it was damn cold, actually--and we've had a fair bit of fog and rain here too with the weather warming up several weeks ago. Things grow really, really well in such conditions, but then the cool evenings (and more fog) hold them longer, in a lot of cases. Mind you, there's also been a LOT Of wind this spring, and last week I was having great ranting tantrums because the wind was so strong it was breaking a lot of the lush growth. And the weeds have been a remarkably prolific and daunting collection this spring, too.

However. I'm keeping to my mantra of "One bed at a time." For the most part. But people would spear this was a garden of benevolent neglect, for sure, the way it's looking. I can only hope that they notice the splendid blooms and not the...um...other stuff.

These tulips and some others in this garden have done a very strange thing. Instead of having a dozen or so large flowers from the dozen or so large bulbs I planted...I have whole bunches of flowers of all sizes. I think, if my notes serve me correctly, that these are called 'Jackpot'

And this is Carousel, a fringed tulip with red flame. I can look out my office window and see these, and they make me happy. They've produced a lot of flowers, too.

These are Marilyn lily-flowered tulips, planted in loving memory of my former mum in law...whose birthday would have been today, I just realized with a jolt. Miss you still, Marilyn. Your quiet grace made this world a richer place while you walked this earth, and a poorer one for your leaving too soon.

Trillium luteum, the yellow trillium, isn't as showy as its red or white relatives, but I just love it for its own eccentric self. And its foliage is great whether it's flowering or not.

The first of my decidious azaleas to flower, 'Golden Lights' makes me--and the hummingbirds and bees--very happy.

Finally put a flowering crab in this year, and it's called Makamik. It's not as dark-flowered as I had hoped for, but that's okay. I've finally got one, and that's the main thing.

Along with my besotted affair with blue poppies, I love every other colour and type of poppies, too. These are alpine/Icelandic poppies, which will quite literally pop up wherever I scatter the seeds, including outside the garden bed.

Aronia melanocarpa, the black chokeberry, a lovely native plant and beloved of birds. It's planted with an Ilex verticillata, an Amelanchier canadensis, and an assortment of other shrubs.

The last of the fragrant viburnums in my garden to bloom, this is Burkwood, and a beautiful thing it is, too. It's actually just finishing after the wind beleaguered it last week, but still fragrant.

One of my favourite euphorbias though it does have tendencies to want to spread, Euphorbia 'Fireglow' is just so striking with its coppery-orange flowers and bracts. It really shows up in the garden, especially since it's near a 'Black Lace' sambucus and some brilliant tulips.

I should know which Heucherella (foamy bells) this is, but nope...not remembering. Possibly Skelton Key, r something with Mercury in the name. Or something else completely!

On the other hand...I DO know what this is. Meconopsis betonicifolia, my precious blue poppy. Several of them aren't blooming yet, and I'm not sure if they're going to or if they're putting their goodness into enlarging their crowns. They're in a slightly more shaded spot, so I'm not worrying about them anyway. This particular blossom is pretty well shot, compliments of the wind, but new buds are coming up behind it. So it's all good.

That's it for this Bloom Day report--there are plenty of annuals in containers doing things, but I really DO want to visit other blogs and catch up a bit, so twill have to do for us. I hope you're having a blooming good June, whereever you're gardening.

10 June 2008

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day--The Meconopsis edition

Because Carol is a wonderfully gracious and understanding gardener and blogger, I know she'll forgive me for posting a bit of a bloom day report ahead of schedule. Because with our weather, who knows what will be happening by Sunday, when Garden Blogger's Bloom Day is really scheduled to happen?

Things are chaotic here. Not only am I busy with work, etc, backed up with emails to answer and other things to do, the weather has been moody as all get out. Decent enough during the day--after the fog lifts--warm, even hot, and raining almost every night. As a result the garden is LUSH with growth, from poppy seedlings to perennials and shrubs to weeds. Yes, weeds. I have plenty. I call them native plants for the most part.

However, one part of the garden is in reasonably decent control, because it's planted so profusely that it mostly controls its weeds. This is the part out front by the door. When I go out to fill the hummingbird feeders, I'm invariably smitten by a rainbow of flowers, foliage and fragrance. But I didn't see this coming yesterday.

The photo at the top of this post was taken on Sunday afternoon--less than 48 hours ago. This photo above was taken about an hour ago. What do you see? I thought you might notice it.

Regular readers of bloomingwriter know that there are some plants that give me fits. Yarrow, Russian sage, and others that want perfect winter drainage usually expire for me. Tomatoes ripen ONLY in the greenhouse (after they finally get planted, of course). But there are many things that grow well here, and for inscrutable reasons, I do fine with the coveted blue poppy, Meconopsis betonicifolia. We have a few plants, and normally I add one or two each year just in case some of them arbitrarily die (that happens) or behave monocarpically, flowering and THEN dying (that also happens).

Three years ago tomorrow, my beloved father died of Alzheimers disease. It's hard to believe it's been three years already, and yet he'd really been gone from us since about 2001, lost in the hideous fog of Alzheimers. A few short days later that summer--on Father's Day--one of my Meconopsis bloomed for the first time. I went on to put that flower's photo on the cover of my first gardening book. (Optimistically, I call it my first book. Whether I go ahead and finish a second one is still up in the air).

Tomorrow will be an introspective day. I don't talk to people much on that day, other than family members, and am inclined to disappear somewhere, whether into the woods on my horse or down the road to somewhere else. Or I might just sit in the garden and look at the message that my Dad sent to me today. Tomorrow, it will be fully open.

Thanks, Dad. Still miss you, and always will.

06 June 2008

Livin' la Vida Hosta

Just back from a flying trip to Rothesay, New Brunswick, where I had the great pleasure of meeting with the Fundy Gardeners, a great group of gardening enthusiasts. Thanks to Steve Nason, the president, for the invite, to Lynn and Peter Kinsella for hosting me at their wonderful house, and to the highways of New Brunswick for being so great to travel on.

Lynn had told me that her husband was not only a great gardener, but he was passionate about hostas, and that as a result, they have a LOT of hostas. Well...she wasn't exaggerating. In fact, I would say a LOT is an understatement. Something between 4-5 hundred--different cultivars, not five hundred plants of the same variety. Everything from the miniatures that could grow in a tea-cup to the massive plants like Sum and Substance, in every size and colour combination between. It was blissful to see all these marvelous plants, each one labeled, each one growing at its own size and speed, each one distinct and cherished.

I've been in gardens with a few dozen, or even a hundred or so different varieties. I'd never seen anything like this, however. Peter adds mushroom compost to the soil, which hostas (and other plants) just love. He also sprays a solution of ammonia to combat slugs, and finds this very effective. He's had problems with deer in his tulips, but so far, not in his hostas--whether they don't like the ammonia, or dislike Plantskydd, they're dining elsewhere rather than on a hosta buffet.

The Kinsellas don't just have hostas--they have a host of flowering trees and shrubs, perennials, container plantings, and lots and LOTS of garden whimsies, and it all works really well. I especially like the juxtaposition of neatly-growing hostas, with their methodical and regular patterns, with unique and fun garden art pieces.

Though it was a fun trip, it was also hectic, and I was limited in my Internet access, so once again, I'm behind with visits and comments and replies, oh my. And let's not even discuss the state of my garden, also known as the jungle. But it's a happy jungle. Doesn't have quite so many hostas as this one, but I'm inspired to collect a few more now. Just a few.

03 June 2008

Bread and Salt for Gabriel

Like most of us, life gets away from me sometimes, and I don't have time in my day to do all the things I normally do at the time I like to do them. Take reading the newspaper, for example. Normally, I read it while I'm eating my breakfast, assisted usually by a cat or two. Simon Q is especially fond of the paper and has been known to devour sections of it before going to sleep in the middle of the editorial pages. But since I've been eating my breakfast at my computer of late, the newspaper gets read in spurts when I have time. Like tonight at suppertime. I was just finishing the salmon and fiddleheads when I pushed Simon off the obituaries page and found this.

FISCHER, Dr. Gabriel - 85, Wolfville, passed away Saturday, May 31, 2008, at his home. Born in Satu-Mare, Romania, he was a son of a respected lawyer, the late Joseph and Ella (Adler) Fischer. He graduated Doctor in Law (Doctor Juris) from the University of Debrecen, Hungary in 1946. Before becoming a professor and eventually the Director at the Institute of International Relations in Bucharest, Romania, Dr. Fischer was Chief Editor of a Hungarian daily newspaper, "Free Life", in Romania. He later collaborated and edited another Hungarian language newspaper, "Forward", in Bucharest. After the Hungarian events in 1956, Dr. Fischer was forbidden to teach or write and was confined to his native city, Satu-Mare. In 1965, he immigrated to France with his family to join his brother, Georges Fischer. In 1966, Dr. Fischer was invited to the University of Alberta as a postdoctoral Fellow in Political Science. In 1969, he began his long career as a Professor of International Relations (Political Science) at Acadia University. He implemented numerous programs and served on a number of committees. He was passionate about his teaching and his students. He gave all of himself, to his students, to his colleagues, to his wife and to his children and grandchildren. He was an avid reader, a lover of fine objects and a chocolate connoisseur. Together with his wife, he traveled extensively to countries with exciting political situations, such as the Middle East and Latin America. He was predeceased by his wife of 31 years, Dr. Lois Vallely-Fischer.

It amazes me how much can be said, and how much omitted, in an obituary. To the casual observer, you read that this man was a political science at Acadia University, the other of my alma maters, and a writer and thinker from Europe who had seen and endured much. And he was eighty-five, and had lived a good life and full. But that doesn't give even the beginnings of who he was to countless students, family members, friends, and colleagues.

I first met Gabriel nearly 20 years ago, when I was working at the Blomidon Inn in Wolfville. He came in to make a request of the guest services department of the Inn. Some Russian and Ukrainian professors--or maybe they were still USSR, I don't remember! were coming to Acadia, and they were staying at the Inn, and arriving later that day. Would I greet them when they arrived with the traditional offering of bread and salt? I would indeed, though I pointed out I could say only one word in Russian, less in Ukrainian, and had no traditional garb. That didn't matter, he insisted, kissing both my cheeks and thanking me profusely. Of all the people I met while I worked there, Gabriel and the Russian professors--one of whom gave me a little trinket of a horse, with some words in Cyrillic text on the back--were among those I remember best.

My next meetings with Gabriel were only a couple of years later, when I decided to go back to university after a ten-year hiatus. His wife, Dr. Lois Vallely-Fischer, was dean of the faculty of arts, and welcomed me into the BA program with open arms--and later, with open funds, as they kindly gave me scholarships and fellowships to continue my studies. I switched into the honours program, decided to do an overload to get the 4 year degree done in 2 years, and asked permission of Gabriel to take his course in Peace Studies. "It would be an honour to have you there," were his words. No, it was an honour to BE there, listening to and learning from this man of peace.

Gabriel was an engaging speaker, with a prodigious amount of knowledge and experience in his mind, and while sometimes he would wander off topic a bit, he always kept it interesting. I don't remember how many languages he spoke, but they were numerous--somewhere between 7 and 9, it seems to me--and he was interested in everything, including the students who showed an interest in his course. I would credit him with being one of those who shaped who I am today in my beliefs and leanings, especially because he was so non-judgmental of all he met.

His wife died suddenly (to me) in September of 2005, and I was shocked and saddened, because Lois and Gabriel were inseparable, and always seen together out and about. In a tribute to her, one of her colleagues said that 'human rights lost a steadfast champion." So it is with Gabriel's passing. We are all poorer for his leaving this world, but richer for having known him in whatever capacity.

A new tree will be planted in my memory garden for Gabriel, beside the amelanchier shrub that marks Lois's passing. United in the garden as they were in so much of their life. And maybe one day, we'll see the peace that they both strove so hard for.

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