31 July 2009

Blessed bee the pollinators...

I'm with Irish poet William Butler Yeats who extolled life in the 'Bee loud glade' in his poem The Lake Isle of Innisfree.

I WILL arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet's wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements gray,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.

Now, Yeats was talking about the simplicity of life and its pleasures, and while he wasn't fixing particularly on pollinators, they're one of my fixations. Be they bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, beetles or flies, I'm a fan, although of course it's the hummers, the bees and the butterflies that get most of the love in most of our gardens.

Ours is a pollinator friendly garden, and always has been even before the word hit in the media that many wild pollinators were in trouble. I long, long ago chose to be an organic gardener, although I've succumbed to chemical warfare on occasion (yeah, goutweed, I'm looking at YOU!). But we choose to grow the plants on our property without using pesticides or chemical fertilizers, and to create a haven that is pollinator friendly.

Because we have pastures and paddocks and adjoining woodlands on our property, there are lots of places where we simply let the wild plants grow; so you'll see thistles and nettles, goldenrods and asters, alders and mountain ashes and other plants that some might not adore.

There are also plenty of deliberately planted perennials, annuals, shrubs and trees to entice pollinating creatures. One of my favourite pollinator-magnets is flat sea holly, Eryngium planum.

This sea holly is a real bee-magnet. I can sit and listen to the various wild and honeybees as they go about their beeesnuis in the plant, and this seems to be one that especially attracts the yellow banded bee, Bombus terricola, a threatened species of wild bumblebee. I got very, very excited several years ago after experts with The Xerces Society identified that we had B. terricola hanging out in our garden.

We have several different climbing honeysuckles in our garden, all of which are much appreciated by the hummingbirds that hang out here all summer. We have no idea how many hummers are here, but I provide nectar in feeders for them each day along with myriad flowers.

Pollinators are especially attracted to purple, red and orange flowers, and we happen to have plenty of those growing around the gardens. One of my personal favourites is Monarda, or bee balm, and we have four or five different varieties. This is 'Jacob Kline', which is extremely red and doesn't show it nearly well enough in photos.

Astilbes attract many different bees and flies, and they began to attract me three or four years ago. My biggest problem is that I don't remember which astilbes I have...there's a white one, and a light pink one, and a deep magenta one, and a wine one, and and and...no matter. The garden is good to them because they'll take sun or shade as long as the soil is moist. Moist is something we have in great abundance this summer especially.

Although not as showy as astilbes, or echinaceas, or some of my other favourites, astrantia, or masterwort, is one of the most beautiful of perennials and one more people need to embrace. The flowers are so geometrically attractive, the colours wonderful, and the bloom profuse. I rarely get a picture of one of my astrantias without a fly or bee on the blossom.

As I said above, we have a lot of different kinds of plants, and mix many of them together in each bed around the place, so the whole property is a pollinator friendly garden. These knautia or pincushion flowers will bloom for a long time especially if I'm diligent about deadheading, which sometimes happens.

We all want to have a full season of colour in our gardens to please our own selves, but also to help support the pollinators. This 'Blaze' geum is in bloom now, nearly a month after some of its relatives finished up, and is a bee magnet. In the spring, I don't mow or kill the dandelions or coltsfoot, because these early blooming wild plants provide vital nutrition for those early awakening pollinators such as some of the bees.

I know that some are allergic to bees, wasps, etc, and for that very good reason aren't crazy about having them around. But in the more than a decade that I've been gardening here, I've been stung exactly once by a bumblebee, and that was because I stepped on her in my bare feet. I've had one wasp sting too, but far more encounters with the nettles, and the nettles bother me more than an insect sting. The hummingbirds greet me like part of the garden (and come to the window to complain if we're slow in filling their feeders), and the butterflies just do their thing. And I get to feel like I'm giving back something to nature by creating this bee/hummingbird/other pollinator-loud glade. And that's one of the reasons that I garden.

26 July 2009

Blessings in many forms

Today felt like summer, in earnest; hot sunshine, little wind, and the garden smiled in relief, stretching towards the warmth. And the gardener smiled too. There's been a lot of wind and rain damage, and some plants are looking traumatized and threatening to rot because of all the wet. But others are doing just fine, thank you.

I roamed around the yard this morning for a little while and just looked around. Instead of fretting over the wet and the mildew and the slugs and weeds, I focused on the beauties we have. Like the delightful echinaceas that are beginning to get going, including 'Coconut Lime', which is pleasing in its vigour.

And 'Harvest Moon', which for some reason is one of the coneflowers that appeals to me the most in an architectural sense. Plus it's lovely, it smells nice, and it seems to do pretty well here.

Before we left this afternoon to attend our awesome Member of Parliament Scott Brison's annual Barbecue, I was out in the front porch and this coneflower caught my eye. Intense excitement! I hadn't noticed it this morning (in my defense, I hadn't had any coffee during that first morning walk), and I charged out to snap a hasty (and not colour-perfect) picture of 'Tomato Soup.' As Kylee noted in a post a couple of weeks ago, it really IS the colour of tomato soup.

To some people, this is a weed. To me, Queen Anne's Lace/Wild Carrot (Daucus carota) is one of the most beautiful wildflowers we have. I can (and do) spend a great deal of time delighting over the complexity of the flowers, the bees and butterflies and other pollinators that enjoy it, the sweetness of the fragrance, and later, the delightful seedheads. It's a pretty, pretty thing and it makes me happy to see; which is why I have a few of them scattered through the garden.

It's a good indication that I'm feeling much, much better that I actually want to go out and see people and do things. After puttering around here for part of the day, longsuffering spouse and I headed off to Cheverie, to go to the barbecue, and ended up seeing assorted friends, including the amiable Rob Baldwin of Baldwin's Nurseries (left, beside my LSS).

Our federal riding is called Kings Hants, and is a big, sprawling area comprised of the two counties of Kings (where we live) and Hants. Cheverie and other parts of Hants County are across the Minas Basin from us, which is part of the Upper Bay of Fundy, and as I've observed before is home of the World's Highest tides.

We are very blessed to live in this part of the world. Sometimes, I forget that when I get caught up in the morass of not feeling well or work challenges or other misadventures. But since I'm feeling much better with each passing day, I'm starting to remember just how blessed I am, and how wonderful it is to be able to live beside salt water. We get to harvest and enjoy treats like the dulse (yes, it's a seaweed) that my better half picked off the rocks by Cape Split (seen here drying in the sun outside our barn.)

After we left the barbecue, we went down the road a ways and visited the lighthouse in Walton. I know that Nancy of Soliloquy has written about this lighthouse and this part of the province before, and I'll just add that it's a lovely area and a wonderful place for a picnic, or just a stroll. The lighthouse and surrounding area is all maintained by volunteers, which just shows what a small community can do when inspired.

This beach is actually between Cheverie and Walton, and we happened on it because I said, "Let's go down this road and see where it leads." We knew it led to the water, but didn't know whether we'd have access or not. It was cool to find this shale-covered beach, though we didn't scramble down the rocks to the beach.We were a little too full of chicken, and pleasantly sun-weary.

All in all, it was about as perfect a summer day as we could have asked for. Suddenly all the unpleasantries and challenges of recent months seems to have cleared away like fog on a hot summer's day. Blessings take many forms, when we stop to consider and be grateful for them.

24 July 2009

Jodi's Gotta-have plants, Part 5: Dazzling Designer Daylilies

As I mentioned in my previous note, daylilies are a plant propagator's delight, which is why there are more than 60,000 named varieties out there. There are some very famous breeders, including the late Steve Moldovan, whose partner carries on his work; Frank Smith, whose plants are simply awesome in the extreme; James Marsh, who created the 'Chicago' named series of hybrids (and others) such as Chicago Sunrise and Chicago Scintillation; Pauline Henry, who was responsible for the 'Siloam' series, including Siloam Frisbee and Siloam Plum Tree; and many, many others.

I stopped by Canning Daylily Gardens last night on my way home from somewhere else, because I liked the light and because Wayne and Wayne were still at the field. I wandered around with my camera, snapping photos of some of the cultivars I just gotta have one of these days, although some of them are a bit expensive for me yet. This beauty above is called 'Smile Again', and is one of Frank Smith's new releases from 2006.
The Waynes bought a whole series of Frank Smith daylilies new releases in 2006 and I've been slobbering over them ever since, watching them as they (slowly!) multiply. This is the strikingly gorgeous 'Voodoo Magic' which is not yet for sale in Canning. But gazing on it is free...

I actually have this one but didn't have a good photo of it for my previous post: this is called 'Russian Easter' and is a David Kirchhoff release. (There's also a daylily, hybridized by Henry, called 'Siloam David Kirchhoff', and I THINK I have it somewhere in my garden....)

Sometimes I just adore daylilies for their names, which can be hilarious, touching, or just plain whimsical. This one is called 'Lies and Lipstick'.

And this is Green Flutter, which I know I have somewhere in the garden too. Big Wayne told me to bring down flowers of the ones suffering from Lost Label syndrome, and he'd identify them.

Of course, if you have lies n lipstick, it's inevitable, perhaps, that there'd be a daylily called 'Beloved Deceiver'.

And if you're very, very good, perhaps you'll become 'Forever Redeemed'. (I did roll my eyes at some of the names, but this is such a gorgeous daylily I had to include it. )

This is another of those "I'm pretty sure I have this one, but I'll wait til they all flower or else I'll buy this and find it already in the garden". 'It's called Etched in Gold.'

Since it was late in the day when I took my photos, some of the blooms were just starting to lose their splendor, while others had faded to mush, and still others were yet to open. I like the softly yellow ones, such as this, which is called Dianne Lee Longson.

This is my most must-have daylily. My father's name was Ivan, so it goes without saying that I'd need this Frank Smith introduction, which is called 'Crazy Ivan'. But it's still very expensive, and I can get a dozen other daylilies for the cost of one fan of this. I'm patient. I'll wait.

This is called 'Circle of Fire', and I'm not sure why, but it's 'right some beautiful', as the saying goes. I like the cultivars with frilled or ruffled edges, especially in contrasting colours.

I've been admiring 'Artiste's Favourite' for a few years and I don't think I've bought it yet. Of course, it's possible that I'll go to get it and find it's sold out. The Waynes do a huge business and now with so many varieties in bloom, people come in to look at the display beds and snap up plants as fast as they can. So I'd best check it out today!

Rounding out today's rainbow of "I want that!" daylilies is the very striking 'Art Imperial.' I stress that's today's group of those I want. It's raining so I won't go to the garden today, but I know full well that when I do, I'll come home with another batch of photos of my must have daylilies. Hopefully this is enticing you even more, too.

22 July 2009

Dazzled by Daylilies

I met a lovely woman the other day while I was out poking around a couple of nurseries. She confessed that she didn't particularly care for daylilies. I suggested that she take some time in the next week or so and get to Canning Daylily Gardens during their official open garden week (though visitors are welcome anytime, it's just that they're heading into peak bloom shortly) and see if she didn't change her mind about that. I think she'll find that there's more to daylilies than the ol' ditchlily that we all know and (mostly don't) love. Take 'Pride of Canning,' above, which was bred by Wayne and Wayne of Canning Daylily Gardens. What's not to love about this happy lovely flower?

There are somewhere in the vicinity of 60,000 named daylily cultivars. Gardeners love to collect them, breed them, crossbreed them, swap them with others. They've come a huge way in the past thirty or forty years, and now you can get daylilies in every colour but blue, pure black and pure white. Some come close to black and white, though. And most have fascinating watermarks, contrasting edges or throats. How about 'Roses in Snow'?

I have dozens of daylilies, and some of them have no names. I was given them by friends, or bought them from someone's garden, or (ahem), managed to lose the labels, in some cases. I'm sure someone recognizes this beauty, but I cannot find its label, remember where I got it, and haven't a hope in hades of figuring out which one it is by myself.

Although I have a number of solid-colour daylilies, I tend towards those with contrasting centres, like this 'El Desperado,' which is one of my favourites.

And this 'Destined to See' was destined to come home with me from the moment I saw it in a catalogue or a magazine. It's a bit of a slowgrower, but worth it when it blooms.

There are a few daylilies with double-names that are quite similar, and I get them hopelessly mixed up. I know I have 'Always Afternoon', 'Daring Dilemma', 'Classic Caper' and 'Daring Deception'... but which is which? This is 'Always Afternoon'-- I think!

And this is 'Night Beacon', which shows up really, really well as the daylight fades. You can see why.

'Smugglers Gold' is one I particularly like, although it sometimes gets blotchy when we have a lot of rain. My daylilies are just starting to open, however, so I'm hoping that the weather will settle down a bit before they get blooming in earnest.

This striking beauty is called 'South Seas' and I really like its unique colour. It's also fragrant, if I remember correctly. This time of year finds me walking around with yellow staining on my nose, as I MUST smell all the daylilies to see which are fragrant.

Remember I said breeders were getting closer to getting a real white daylily? Wayne and Wayne gave me 'Swiss Mint' a few years ago, and it's not only nearly white, it's wonderfully fragrant.

Designer Jeans lives in my butterfly garden, and something about it reminds me of butterflies.

And to wrap up this ode to daylilies (the first of probably several I'll do this summer), here's the wonderfully striking 'Malaysian Monarch.' Isn't it wonderful? I'm waiting patiently (or not) for ours to all pop into bloom. And then i'm going to photograph each of them exactly where they are and then see if Wayne and Wayne can identify them all. Then I'll label them all. Maybe.

20 July 2009

Everything's poppin' up poppies!

Yesterday dawned a little foggy but also sunny, and since I was feeling pretty good, we decided to go to Liverpool, collect the rest of my stuff, and put that chapter of my life (happily) far, far behind me. As we got ready, I looked outside, told longsuffering spouse I'd be a few minutes, and took off outside with my camera.

Some mornings we have what I call 'breathing fog.' It's very odd, and seems to come in and go back out again like inhalations and exhalations of breath. One moment the sun is obscured, the next it's breaking through the mist, and the next everything is bathed in sunlight. It makes for a lot of moisture, but also some interesting light and great photography moments.

Those who are regular readers of bloomingwriter know that I adore poppies of all kinds, be they annual, perennial, biennial, or blue. Right now, right on schedule, the big annual breadseed poppies have begun blooming in earnest.

I collect seed every year from the ones I like the best and then cast it around the garden here and there, and let the poppies do their thing. They also selfseed, of course, and they seem to cross pollinate, coming up with some extraordinary shades.

Our absolute favourites in the annual poppies are these deep wine double beauties. Aren't they great? Maybe not to everyone's tastes, but I love dark-wine flowers, and have a number of different plants with rich dark flowers or foliage.

Poppies catch the light as beautifully as do tulips, as they have equally transluscent, silken petals. They don't last as long as individual flowers, but they're profuse and for a few weeks we get to enjoy quite a happy show of colours.

As one poppy finishes and drops its blooms, others are opening up to show off their beauty, while still others are preparing to open or getting in the queue for a performance in a few days time.

One particular bed is host to mostly bright pink, single poppies. I love their foliage too, until the flowers are spent. Then I only leave in the ones that we'll use to collect seed; the rest get hauled out because their foliage gets quite ratty looking.

I spend a good deal of time looking into the centre of our poppies, with or without my camera. Everything about their flowers pleases me, from their showy petals to their complex hearts with the many stamens clustered around the central carpal.

In case you're feeling a bit bludgeoned by all those deep, rich colours, here's a little contribution from the Icelandic poppies, which are never shy about showing off THEIR beauty. These biennial or perennial poppies will bloom themselves almost to death, especially if you're faithful about deadheading. I've had them flower until hard frost before. And they pop up in odd places, so I never know where we'll see them, but we welcome them always.

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