29 January 2009

Apres Storm...more views.

Like so many others along the east coast (and probably, further west/centre Canada and the US) we got royally pasted last night with an assortment of weather. First, a bunch more snow, then assorted ice and rain, and then it got cold again. Oh, and the wind is blowing, full tilt screaming gale off the Bay of Fundy. Yee hah. So the windows have even MORE stuff on them. But Yolanda of Bliss was correct in her comment on the previous post--I neglected to add the nose and tongue prints from little cats that are on most windows in the house, at least those where Cat Television viewing is best. 

Today we have sun at times breaking through the clouds scudding overhead. My spruces are pointing the wind direction, and now the snow has a hard crust on it so the birds aren't leaving tracks. Hubby just told me that the wind was so bad earlier this morning and the roads so icy that several people driving cars were blown right OFF the road; one above us on the flat stretch, one down in the Bay proper. No one hurt, but that's just a bit of commentary on what the wind gets like. It isn't Les suetes winds like scream around Cheticamp in Cape Breton, or the wild wind I saw in the Labrador two summers ago, but it's still vicious by times. More on that presently. 
Ten years ago next month, we decided to buy our house before we even went inside, based on the barn, the greenhouse, the view, the yard--and this window. It frosts up, of course, because it's not insulated. But I look at it from my office every day, and the coloured and textured glass panels inevitably make me grin and grin and be happy. The staghorn fern likes it too, though I move it on very cold days. 

Yes, that is snow drifted up almost to the deck doorknobs. Don't worry. We have two other doors we can use, although Rowdycat will be annoyed because he generally comes to THIS one when he wants to come in. Since the snow is now a frozen mass of ice, I don't expect it's going to get cleared off any time soon. Longsuffering Spouse had enough to do chiselling his way into the barn doors and cleaning enough of the driveway to get out. And I don't do snow shoveling. 
No picnics here anytime soon, that's for sure. And the Christmas tree, out there since 4 January, still hasn't had to be cut up and used as mulch on the fussbudget plants in the gardens, because they're all buried in snow. 

A wider view from upstairs, showing the still-horseless pasture (peeved horse in barn kicking stall walls), and the more-restless waters of the Minas Channel, part of the upper Bay of Fundy. If you're interested in this phemonenal body of water and the lands around it, you can see a geography lesson about where I live at this post from our Geography Project of last year. 

This is a photo from another day, another gentle gale of wind, down at the wharf in Scotts Bay. It gets a trifle bombastic down there. But yeah, I love where I live and I wouldn't live anywhere else. Most days. Sea people need to be able to keep an eye on the sea or else we get decidedly out of sorts. 

Though it's sunny today, I've declined to go outside, deciding instead to work on assignments, read blogs, drink coffee, and be cajoled by Spunky Boomerang, who thinks we should go for a nap. Of course, Spunky's role in life is to nap most all day and night, follow me around, and assist with working by laying or sitting in front of my monitor. And yes, that's my foodie friend Charmian's blog on the monitor, and a World Wildlife Federation calendar of penguins on the wall. It was a random shot so I didn't fiddle with exposures or anything, hence the outside is washed out. And Spunky is tired. I might just have to help him nap. 

Rooms with Views...

One of my favourite photographers in the world, David Perry, challenges me with every post and every photograph he shares. Tuesday, he took it one step further, challenging us to show him something of our gardens. Not perfect. Not pristine. Not even sun-shining.

I promised to do that today. And today was a grey, grey day. But I promised. So I walked from room to room with my camera, mostly from a couple of the upstairs windows, and let the camera see whatever it wanted to see. I had my zoom lens on initially, and left it on just to see what it would be like.

One discovery: the windows seriously need washing. Fog, rain, snow, sleet, wind, and salt-mist will do that to a window on the outside. Wood stove heat, flies and general living-life will create window-art inside. For the photo above, of clematis on the front arbour, I opened the front door. 

Then I went upstairs and took photos from the room directly above. That's ice in the bowl of Scotts Bay, with the tide half-in. Or half out. 

Further out in the water, no ice. Since we were at about half-tide, there wasn't much water screaming around Cape Split. When the tide is running, the riptide is around 8 knots. 

In the back yard, we have snow sculptures where the snow is mere inches deep in spots, and several feet deep in other areas. Petitpoint of bird feet under the rosebushes and birches. Tangle of grapevine with punctuation of teasels around the obelisk. 

The only real colour in the yard right now is the blue blue arbour in the back yard. Everything else is in shades of white or black, sepia or cream. The hollyhock sculpture is made from recycled oil drums. The horse hasn't been out in the pasture for over a week--there's ice under that snow, and that can be treacherous for a horse. 

Outside my office window, east: The big Catawbiense rhododendron acts as a thermometer, hauling its leaves down and rolling them tightly, offended by cold. In front of it, feeders on the metal hangers provide me with lots of views of birds feasting, and provide the cats with bird television, of course. 

South office window. Grey grey day, with just a momentary glimpse of an anemic sun, almost eclipsed by the blown glass orb hanging from the curtainrod. Normally, my office is washed with light if there's any sun at all, and cascades of rainbows from the crystal snowflakes. Today, the sky was exhausted, and so was the writer. 

Same window, different lens, straight out window and hoping the dirt on the glass won't show. Those marvelous spruces bound our land, act as huge moody windsocks, and brood in even the finest, fairest of weather. I love the spruces. I love our views, most days. 

Tonight, the weather is raging. Tomorrow, we may well be encased in crystal outside, and the views will have changed again. 

27 January 2009

Plants We Love to Hate

Our friend Stuart of Gardening Tips n Ideas (and founder of Blotanical) had a delectable rant about a recent encounter with plants he doesn't like. Well, actually he calls them his most hated plants, because Stuart is not one to mince words. His posts, coupled with the recent arrival of assorted catalogues of garden porn, and coupled further with our recent discussions in the blogosphere about signature plants and desert island plants, prompted me to think very carefully about plants I hate. Or dislike heartily. Wouldn't have in the garden or in containers for any reason.

There really aren’t very many of them. But there are a few which set my teeth on edge—in MY garden. I might like them perfectly well in YOUR garden, especially if they give you joy. I’m all about supporting others in their gardening passions, after all. But some of these plants are on my don’t like list because familiarity breeds contempt, and when something is overused (petunias) it will induce a little eye-rolling in me.
So what’s on my bad plant list?
Petunias. Petunias annoy me for a number of reasons. They’re messy, with their sticky, smelly foliage. Many of them need deadheading and fussing with in order to keep them looking great. The striped ones make me cringe. They bore me when I see them in unimaginative white plastic hanging baskets, a profusion of Purple Wave or anemic yellow or red white and blue. If other plants are combined in the container, I like them fine. But if I never see another purple wave type petunia, that would be fine with me. Conversely, I LOVE other members of the same family, including Callibrachoas, which I faithfully put in containers every summer, along with a mixture of other annuals. I didn’t say my likes and dislikes would be necessarily logical, did I?

Cleomes. I have never grown these and never will. The smell of them is the first thing I don’t like. They smell like skunks, and while I happen to like skunks roaming wild (cats, being smarter than dogs, don’t chase or bother skunks, and I don’t mind the skunks aerating the grass in our yard while seeking grubs), I don’t fancy having them living in the house with me. I don't like their flowers, their growth habits, their tepid colours. Blech. So many other plants that are much more interesting. But again, if I saw them in YOUR garden, I'd probably like them. So long as I didn't get too close.

Impatiens. (see photo at top of post) I don’t hate impatiens. I just think they are seriously overused, especially in shade gardens where there are all kinds of other options for flowering plants. I DO like the New Guinea impatiens with colourful foliage, or the newer varieties with different coloured flowers (like yellow). Ironically, I also love the wild jewelweed (touch me not) and even Policeman’s Helmet although it can get weedy, because hummingbirds and other pollinators like them both. And just recently I saw a new-to-me one that cracks me up because of its botanical name (I. niamniamensis). I may need to grow the Congo cockatoo (photo above) because it’s pretty cool.

Most begonias. I have a curious relationship with these gaudy flowers. My father grew them in a rock garden when we lived in St. John’s, Nfld, and I thought they were fantastic back then. And they somewhat resemble other flowers that I do love: roses, camellias, pinks and carnations. But I really dislike them. They have no fragrance, and yes, I know lots of other plants don’t either.

They’re messy, dropping those huge flowers as soggy browning clumps. And the less flashy ones, the wax hybrid? Boooooooorrrrrriiiiiinggggg. The only begonias I do like are the Rex types with their gorgeous foliage and minimal (if any) flowers.

Goutweed. Interestingly, this is the only perennial flowering plant in the list. And hands down, this is a plant I do utterly hate. I’ve waxed on and on and ON about it in the past, have had articles published about my disdain for it and my wars with it. My theory is that when the world ends, due to nuclear holocaust, global warming/freezing/insert disaster here, or whatever, there will be three things still existing on planet Earth. Cockroaches, clumping cat litter, and goutweed. Whether you call it by its botanical name (Aegopodium) or variously bishops-weed, snow-on-the-mountain, goutweed, ground elder, it’s a bad bad bad plant.

It’s not so bad when it’s in its variegated form, where a less-than-full leaf of chlorophyll is kept down to a dull roar. But when it reverts to all green—and it will—it takes the bit in its teeth and goes madly off in all directions. Bad, bad, plant. Have I mentioned that I hate it? Especially since I’ve found it in wooded areas where it’s overrunning native plants and covering great swathes of ground. And my contempt for nurseries that SELL it knows no bounds.

I hope this isn't a negative sounding post, and again, I stress that I'd like all of these plants (except goutweed) in other people's gardens or containers, because obviously others like them or love them and plant them for those reasons. So you can have my share. I didn't touch on shrubs or trees because I think they warrant another post. Not that there are many on that list either.

Now, what's on YOUR list of Not In My Garden plants?

24 January 2009

Watching the Eagle-watchers watching eagles watching the eaglewatchers....

Lots of people dread winter in Nova Scotia. I'm one of them, some days. However, one thing that we're glad of, here in the Annapolis Valley, is the annual Eagle Watch festival. Now in its 18th year, the event draws people from all over Nova Scotia, and beyond, down to the communities of Sheffield Mills, Kingsport, and surroundings. This part of Kings County has the largest overwintering population of bald eagles in eastern North America, or at least it did. Populations ARE growing elsewhere, both in Canada and the United States, and that's to be celebrated.
Kings county is home to around 85 % of the poultry producers in Nova Scotia, and for many years, they've been feeding their offal to the eagles that overwinter here. That's been part of the reason for the eagle revival in our province, as has a reduction in pesticide use.

Some of the eagles live here yearround. We have a number that live in Scotts Bay, raising their young here and fishing on the mudflats of the Bay. It doesn't matter that I see eagles pretty well every day, especially if I'm out and around. They make me instantly happy to see them. One of the best places to watch them from is the Look-Off, a few miles up the road from here. The eagles catch the air currents and soar on them, and it's simply awesome to watch them. Obviously, I didn't take the above photo today! And I was cold by the time I headed home, so I didn't stop to see if there were any eagles playing in the wind there today.

Several times a day, producers will put out 'dinner' for the eagles, in several fields that also can be safely viewed from the roadside. You might not see any eagles at all initially. And then suddenly, they're arriving, one after another. I say they have ESP: Eagle Supper Perception. 

They get into squabbles with seagulls, chasing the gulls off briefly. There will be complex aerial ballets, swooping in on the gulls, the gulls taking off, ravens also following to see what they might be able to get. Other raptors, primarily redtailed hawks and others that live here year-round, also hang around to pick up a little chicken-to-go. 

I tend to hang way back at the feeding sites, content to watch from a distance and snicker at some of the people who come to watch and take photos. Some of them come from the city, and have no more idea of how to dress for such activities or how to behave. They might have camera equipment that costs more than my car, but they don't know how to drive, how to park, or how to act around wildlife.

Invariably, some will stop in the middle of the road (with no warning), or will pull off to the side of the road, and into the snow covering the ditches. Whoops. And of course children get excited and squeal and run around, and then the birds all take off, which seems to mystify some of the watchers. Granted, I didn't see any women in high-heels today, but usually every year there's at least a couple of them tippy-toeing around the snow and ice trying to get closer to the majestic but skittish birds.

I generally watch the birds and the people for a while, then get in my car and go off to another spot where I know there are also eagles. Maybe only one or two at a time, but that's fine; and one or two don't mind if one person quietly sets up her camera and takes a few photos, then as quietly steals away. 

Down in Sheffield Mills, the heart of the indoor festivities centres around the community hall, where they have the best pancake breakfast you can get (aside from homemade). What I love about this meal is that everything is sourced locally, from within the county or at least the province. The sausage comes from the Village Meat Market in Canning, which is where we buy most of our meat (and not just because the owners are related to my Long Suffering Spouse); apple cider from local organic apple grower Richard Hennigar; pancake mix and maple syrup from Acadian Maple; wild blueberries for the blueberry sauce from Oxford Frozen Foods; coffee and tea from Just Us! Coffee Roasters Co-op. The breakfast includes live music from a variety of performers, and afterwards you can go upstairs and take in the art exhibit, craft sale and other displays.

This amazing sculpture made me intensely happy to look at it.

While this more whimsical folk art made me grin. The Eagle Watch weekends run this weekend, and for the two following; there are a host of luncheons and suppers at various locales around the Canning area, which you can find out more about by consulting the website.

If you're in Nova Scotia, it's well worth your time to come down to the Valley during the Eagle Watch weekends; the best time to see quantities of the birds is January-February; as the days lengthen, many of them return to their summer nesting sites in Cape Breton and elsewhere, although as I observed above, there are always eagles around here year-round, just not the populations you see in the winter. And if you've never heard an eagle cry as it soars on the wind...I hope you get to. And if you want to see more photos of eagles, do check out Linda of Crafty Gardener; she also has photos of these marvelous birds on her blog today, from a trip she made last summer to the West Coast of Canada.

22 January 2009

Plants of Hope

Many of us have been having a blast with our Desert Island Plants, and big cheers and kudos to Shirl for having started this little discussion. Elizabeth of Gardening While Intoxicated (one of my favourite blog names ever!) took the thought a little further, suggesting three new-to-her plants she intends to plant this spring to symbolize the hope and change we’re all longing to embrace and believe in. I think that’s a splendid idea, and sat pondering my choices while watching the snow blow in off the Bay of Fundy. I decided to go with a perennial, a shrub, and a tree, because we have the room here to add many, many more shrubs and trees. But which ones?

There are heaps and heaps and heaps of plants I want to try, and I’m limited only by availability, cost, and time. I have a post upcoming on some of the new plants I’m drooling over, but these may not be available to me for a year or more, or may not be viable here. So I’m limiting my choices to things that I KNOW I can get, at Lee and John’s or Jill’s or Rob’s or Alice’s or Jane’s or a few other places I love that don’t have websites (yet).

I actually decided to claim one of Elizabeth’s choices, but I have slobbered over it in this post last fall, so it won’t be a huge surprise to some of you. Many hydrangeas grow very well for us, but the oakleaf hydrangea is one I haven’t attempted. It’s marginally hardy here. It doesn’t tolerate wet feet. But the benefits when it’s happy? Wonderful flowers, doubled in the clusters if we opt for Snowflake, which is the one I’m after (see top photograph) The flowers are just sooooo pretty, even when they're almost past like in the photo. But actually, it’s the show the foliage puts on in the fall that really floats my boat. The colours are almost indescribable. It was almost a tie between this and the equally gorgeous ‘Golden Spirit’ smoke bush.

I comfort myself that a friend has a few of these new cotinus and I can probably cajole one out of him and plant it to cold test it here. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Of course, just to madden me further, there’s a lovely golden-coloured oakleaf hydrangea called Little Honey, and Dugald Cameron of GardenImport, whose opinion I value, says it’s hardy to zone 5. Hmmmmmm….

There are a lot of trees I have yet to plant here, from the Korean fir to the golden Metasequoia (I have the regular one) to more red and sugar maples. But as I was contemplating trees, I happened upon a photo I took in a friend’s greenhouse last summer. This friend is a spectacular propagator of plants, primarily trees and shrubs. And it came to me in a flash what would be a terrific experiment as well as a tribute to my American friends: The American chestnut. My friend has seedlings of both this and the Chinese chestnut. As far as I know, we’re beyond the range of the chestnut blight that decimated the species in North America. It’s certainly worth a try putting a couple of seedlings (of both species if I can talk the grower out of them) up here and see how they do. After all, what’s planting a tree if not about planting hope?

The most challenging decision was what perennial to try. Because any one who has visited the chaos that is my garden can attest, we have a LOT Of perennials. And of those that we don’t have, chances are I’ve tried them once or twice or three or six times and they’ve defeated me each time, or else they aren’t available without mailorder and a second mortgage. Kniphofias, for example, hate my garden and come here to die. So do Stokesias, which is a great pity because they’re so beautiful and there are new cultivars that send me into bad cases of Plant-lust. Like this cultivated goldenrod, 'Little Lemon', which I also found at GardenImport. Oh, I'm tempted. Last summer I saw 'Fireworks' goldenrod planted throughout Powell Gardens in Missouri, and I've wanted that for nearly a decade and never seen it here. So I'm not holding out hope to find this goldenrod locally any time soon, probably because of the misinformation that goldenrod causes allergies, which it does not.

And then it came to me what I'd really, really like:

Meet the incredible Itoh Peony Kopper Kettle. Itoh peonies are described as having the best qualities of herbaceous and tree peonies. This one makes my head spin. They're not cheap, but they apparently sometimes rebloom if deadheaded promptly, and I know two nursery owners who have carried them in the past couple of years. I've resisted...so far. But this could be the year.

What interesting plants are you going to 'plant in hope' this year?

21 January 2009

My Desert Island Plants

Shirl of Shirl's Gardenwatch came up with a great topic for discussion: what three plants would we take with us if we were to be on a desert island? I decided to take part in this, not so much as a meme (I'm like Joy and others, declining to take part in tagging memes and all these 'awards', as they got to be too much and to many) but because it's a really good topic for a blog post.

And it's not nearly as easy as you might think it would be. Nope, not at all. Let's go with what I WOULDN'T take with me, to begin with:

Even though it's most decidedly my signature plant, I wouldn't take the blue poppy. It is more finicky than a teenager looking for her perfect prom dress, and like that prom dress, is only on display for a short time before it's gone. I like flowers that last and last and last.

I spent a fair bit of time going through photos, looking at blog entries I've made, even consulted some of the articles I've written. And then things just clicked into place. Here are my choices and my reasons:

Lavender is my favourite fragrance, followed closely by roses. But it's lavender I need to have around me; lavender soap, handcream, flower sachets, body wash, essential oil. I love the sound of bees, bemused and besotted by lavender flowers, as they hover around the blossoms feasting.I love the colour of the foliage, the colour of the blooms, the scent of the leaves when we run our hands through them. Definitely a plant I need around me, even though I don't grow it perfectly well.

I neglected to add that the photo above is not from my garden; it's part of a herb garden at the Alumni Gardens of the Nova Scotia Agricultural College in Truro, my alma mater. Truro is colder in winter than Scotts Bay, so I live in hope of doing better with lavender--as soon as I transform all my clay to something more genial.

Echinaceas. I'd have to have them. But not the fancy coloured ones, much as I adore them. No, I'd want the most vigourous and undemanding varieties possible, the standard species. Why? Pollinators love coneflowers. Birds love coneflowers at all times of year. (for proof of this, go see the wonderful photo at Notes from a Cottage Garden and see Connie's "birdfeeder." And I love coneflowers for their long period of bloom, their winter interest, their handsome architectural shape...you get the hint.

And I'd have to have a tree. Well, you can debate whether this is a large shrub or a small tree, but you can't deny its beauty. You may call it, variously, shadbush, serviceberry, chuckly pear, chuckleberry, saskatoon, Indian pear...the botanical name is Amelanchier canadensis, and it is one of my favourite plants on the planet. It's one of the first trees to flower here, (in showy blooms, following the red maple and a few others with less showy flowers). It's native to my part of Canada. The spring foliage is a gorgeous bronzy colour. The fruit is delicious. The fall foliage is glorious. Birds love it. Bees love it. I love it. It's one of my highly recommended plants, every chance I get.

On reflecting, it wasn't really that hard to pick three plants. They are all important to pollinators. And pollinators are important to our survival. So I want to make sure there are lots of bees and butterflies and birds hanging around on that desert island with us. Because without pollinators...we'd have a desert, for sure.

Of nothing but sand.

20 January 2009

Joy Across the World

It’s Tuesday, 20th January, 2009. Inauguration day in the United States of America. The country next door—our best friend and closest neighbour—is celebrating en masse. And so are we, and people in countless other cities, towns, communities, in countries across the world.

President-elect Barack Obama—he’s still about 30 minutes from taking the oath of office as I write this—is a human being. He can’t fix everything wrong in the US, in the world, over night. He knows this. Most of us know this. But he embodies a hope that has been long missing for many of us, of all races, of all nations.

I’m a bit of a political junkie, although I keep most of my political thoughts to myself in most regards. It’s no secret that I despise our current Prime Minister, but he also is just a human being, doing what he does. However, as a Canadian and a citizen of the world I’ve been pulling for Barack Obama for well over a year, and I’m so happy and excited and proud of our US neighbours right now. What I like about this man is that he doesn’t do ad hominem attacks on opponents. He has been respectful of the 43rd president, and kind and respectful to his former opponent in the presidential race. In his dignity and respectfulness, his intelligence and kindness, he represents a spirit that we know is at the root of most humans, but that sometimes gets suppressed as we get caught in the rat race, in stress and worry and fears and concerns.

It’s kind of fun to watch three different stations (BBC, CNN and MSNBC) all roughly at the same time as well as scanning various sites and blogs on the Interwebs. Keith Olbermann just called this “a cold but hopeful morning” in Washington, and so it is across the US, across Canada too. I love Obama’s spirit of non-partisanship, his reaching out across party lines. I hope that continues through his presidency, and that those who are his opponents in doctrine continue to also reach out and work together in common concern for their country, and for the world.

There are touchstones of time that we can remember across the years. We know, those of us who are old enough to remember such instances in history, where we were when John F. Kennedy was sworn in. When he was taken too early from all of us. When Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I have a dream” speech. When Elvis died. When the Million Man March happened. When 9/11 happened. Some happy stories, some terribly, terribly sad stories.

We will remember where we were when the networks called it for Obama, and we will remember where we were today, when he is sworn in as the 44th president of the United States. I’ll be sitting here, laughing and crying at the same time, as I was the night he won.

May God—whoever or whatever you conceive that to be—bless Barack Obama, his family, his government, and his country.
And because this is normally a gardening blog…a patriotic bouquet for all my US friends.

18 January 2009

2008 in Review, Part 2: Plants of worth

The good news here is that the temperature has climbed out of the frigid depths to something a little more temperate and Nova-Scotia-winterlike.
The maybe not so good news is that it's snowing again.
I'm unphased by any of this, still remaining sequestered in the house for the most part, although I'm decidedly feeling better and more like my old self. So while we observe the flurries where winds blow onshore, which should shortly become significant heaps of 'flurries', it's time to look back a bit more on last year and the plants that performed well for me.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, and not all these plants are the newest on the block. Some are several years old, or have been planted here for several years and are truly coming into their own. All but one in this post are perennials or shrubs; the one exception is the above osteospermum, 'Summertime Blueberry.' I hope to find it again next year, because I loved the interplay of copper, blue and purple colours blending together. It flowered well, like all the osteos, with occasional deadheading and feeding, and of course like the other African-type daisies we grow here, flowered until a hard hard killing frost (and some snow) finally took it to its compost heap reward.

Meet Astrantia 'Sunningdale Varigated' masterwort--I know you can't see the foliage, which is gaily splashed in gold and green, but this second-year plant makes my heart very very happy. I became smitten with masterworts a couple of years ago, and while they aren't my signature plant, I'm gradually adding to the varieties we grow here at Sunflower Hill, and recommend them to others with sunny or partly shaded conditions. This variegated foliage type seems to like partial shade quite well, and of course variegated foliage brightens a shaded spot nicely.

Another second year perennial, Geranium 'Red Admiral' is quite impressive. Its colour may not be to everyone's liking, but I love the sanguineum type cranesbills for their brilliant flower colour. And this one grows large; it was between 3-4 feet where I had it planted, and tangled itself nicely in among Clematis recta 'Purpurea'. I deadheaded it when I thought about it (on days that weren't foggy) and it flowered for a long, long time. I love cranesbills for their hardiness, non-fussiness and variety; we have somewhere around a dozen different species and cultivars, and they just do splendidly here. I must list them all out one of these days when there's nothing urgent going on.

I never met a monarda I didn't love, and I especially love 'Raspberry Wine.' However, a caveat to those with small gardens: this is probably the most vigourous monarda I've encountered and if you have it in a small space, it will rapidly crowd other plants. It's also quite the overachiever, growing more than 5 feet tall in one garden, but in most spaces I cut it back early in the summer and it bushed out more, produced huge numbers of flowers, and of course made the hummingbirds and bees and other pollinators very, very happy.

Peonies are a mixed blessing to some, because they flower for a couple of weeks and then just sit there, big heaps of foliage. In our garden thatny's not a problem; I love the glossy, handsome foliage, especially of those varieties that turn gorgeous colours in autumn, and we have so many other plants blooming here that the peonies being done doesn't cause a problem. Although I don't have a yellow flowered peony--I'm unconvinced that tree peonies will tolerate our conditions, and flatly refuse to pay 100 bucks or more for a species like P. mlokoseveitchii--this is pretty close; Peony 'Primavera', purchased several years ago at Briar Patch, one of my favourite nurseries, and coming into its own quite nicely.

Two summers ago, I received a shipment of plants to trial via Proven Winners, including Hydrangea 'Quick Fire.' I love love LOVE this hydrangea! It's the first PG type to flower in my garden, a good six weeks or more before 'LimeLight', and even before the lacecaps and Annabelle types. Its flowers turn dark very quickly, its foliage is handsome in fall....

And it even put up a second flush of blooms last year in late summer/early fall. A couple of shoots did this, not the entire plant, and I'm not sure if this is normal, but it was fun to watch. It seems to be as tough as nails, and I'm going to be recommending it wholeheartedly to others with a fondness for paniculata grandiflora-type hydrangeas. 

My love affair with perennial grasses continues. Several years ago, my friend Rob Baldwin handed me a pot of Miscanthus 'Huron Sunrise'. "Take this home and try it," he said. Who am I to argue? It has done brilliantly; and it looks particularly beautiful near 'Coppertina' ninebark and my echinacea collection. It doesn't appear to have the wandering tendencies of some Miscanthus cultivars, and it was bred in Canada by grass enthusiast Martin Quinn, who lives on the shores of Lake Huron in Ontario. I may divide it this spring; I never divide grasses in late summer or autumn because they need time to establish their root masses.  

Another grass I am very, very fond of is Hakonechloa, or Japanese Forest Grass. This is H. macra 'Aureola' which also happens to be perennial of the year according to the Perennial Plant Association. It's a great choice; it's a slow growing, cascading beauty, good in sun or partial shade, and works well at the front of borders, in rock gardens (this is not my garden; it MAY be the front border at Spencer's in Shelburne), and it just grows politely and minds its business.  

I bought this honeysuckle, 'Graham Thomas' several years ago, I think from Jill at Bunchberry Nurseries, because she had one blooming its head off and I fell in love instantly. It's been slow to get started because I planted it near The Bleeding Heart that Ate Scotts Bay, a vigourous Jackmanii clematis, and some other zealots, and they sort of daunted it for a bit. Honeysuckles of the vining variety take a few years to really come into their own; this year past both Graham Thomas and the Canadian-bred 'Mandarin' decided they'd been in the garden long enough, stopped sulking and started growing like 'Goldflame' does. I love the structure of honeysuckle flowers, and the hummingbirds adore them for other reasons. And I like my hummingbirds very happy!

Not the newest or flashiest Hemerocallis on the block, but I wanted 'Destined to See' the first time I saw it in someone else's garden. The first plant I got was mislabeled, (and I still don't know what it is!) so I muttered and sputtered and hunted until I found one in bloom at another nursery, and brought it home, muttering dire invocations against idiot customers who switch tags on plant pots or careless staff at propagating nurseries. Garden karma will get them!

I know that others have reported problems with mildew (either powdery or downy, I'm not sure which) on their 'Coppertina' ninebark. I've had absolutely NO problem, even when there's been powdery mildew on a few phlox, monarda and pulmonaria plants. I adore all ninebarks (and there's a new one I am slobbering over, but that will be another post); their foliage is great, their flowers lovely, their fruit very cool and their bark in winter just awesome to look at. Ninebarks are good for attracting and feeding birds, too, although I'm not sure whether this one will produce fruit; it's flowered for me but I haven't seen fruit the way I do on 'Diabolo'. Mostly it's just the foliage that infatuated me when I first saw this shrub in Ottawa, back in 2006, and I was very excited to get it in 2007.

It's no secret that I am as besotted with echinaceas as I am with poppies. We have the standard E. purpurea around here in good large clumps, but I've been adding the new coloured ones for several years too. In 2007, it was 'Green Envy' that I had to have; it continues to do spectacularly well, better than the Itsaul 'Big Sky' series of orange and yellow varieties. Last summer, I was excited to get my hands on 'Coconut Lime', a unique and fun double-centered cultivar from Terra Nova out in Oregon. It settled in like it had been growing in the garden for years, flowered its head off almost as profusely as 'Green Envy' did, and looked awesome near 'Coppertina' ninebark, 'Huron Sunrise' Miscanthus, and the rest of the echinacea collection. I hope it will overwinter as sturdily as Green Envy, as nothing got mulched here before the snows came, so it's a toughlove winter for everything. 

I love scented plants, so it's no surprise that I have lots of oriental lilies around the garden. This, however, is an Orienpet, a cross between trumpet and oriental lilies. It's called 'Caravan', and I adore it with the adoration of a thousand blazing suns. It grew brilliantly last year, its second season, the fragrance is gorgeous and powerful without being cloying, and its flowers shone even in the fog. I plan to add many more orienpets and orientals and trumpets this year, so as to add even more fragrance to the garden. 

So that's a look at some of the 'best of' plants from last summer. As I observed in an earlier post, I didn't find as many new plants at some nurseries as I had expected to find, and of course I didn't buy everything I saw last year that I DID want. Had to save some for this year, and I know one nursery-owning friend is bringing in a tree that I gotta gotta have. But we'll save that for another post. 

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