12 December 2012

A blast of colour for a December Day

 Suddenly, we're well into December and Christmas/Yule/Solstice and winter are rapidly approaching. There are deluges of posts and articles all about Christmas plants and winter interest and other seasonally appropriate topics. However, I'm not that keen on talking only about winter topics right now,   so instead, I thought I'd offer up some observations of favourite plants past and present. Starting with this 'Forest Pansy' redbud (Cercis canadensis), which will be one of the first purchases I make to plant in my new garden. I've already told Jill at Bunchberry Nurseries to put a good one aside for me next spring! This is its fall colour--in spring, its foliage is a rich wine-purple colour, and it doesn't even have to flower with foliage like this.
 Anyone who reads my sites and articles knows that I am besotted by blue flowers, be they annual, perennial, biennial--so long as they're really blue and not dyed or painted. Not a fan of those hideous dyed blue phalaenopsis, but I love this annual, Anagallis, also known by the common names blue pimpernel and poor-man's weatherglass, because it closes up in cloudy or wet weather.

22 November 2012

Wabi Sabi, or the beauty of a November garden

 It's not exactly news that November is not usually my favourite month of the year. The winding down of the outdoor gardening year, and the changes in the natural world, have conspired with my tendency to be affected by SAD. But that isn't to say I don't appreciate the beauties that this month has to offer.

 Several years ago, there was a theme-meme that went through the gardening world, about Wabi-Sabi, the Japanese art of finding beauty in imperfection, and of accepting the natural cycle of the seasons, with growth, decay, death, and rebirth. This has been a year that has certainly taught me about wabi-sabi, especially the cycles of nature.

11 November 2012

Art in the Garden, or the Garden Artist

 Last year, one of my friends introduced me to the amazing metal artist, Al Simm of Avon River Metalworks. I'm so glad she did, and you will be too.
Al has been called "the reluctant artist", although there's nothing reluctant about his work ethic. Or his skills. He takes ordinary metal, in many cases recycled from oil tanks and other metal that would otherwise end up in landfills, and creates garden sculptures of all sizes and kinds. Like these metal cattails...

09 November 2012

"...Can you come out to play in my empty garden?"

If you had told me a year ago that this would be my garden view, I'd have told you you were nuts. After more than thirteen years in the home and garden that I created with my late beloved, this is what I see now when I look out my windows. 

Quite a different vista from that which I lavished love, attention and money on for so many years. To every thing there is a season...and the season of living where I lived is now over. I won't go into details, other than to say karma will sort it all out. Meanwhile, I won't look back. 

An almost-blank slate is not a bad thing. The 'bones' are there, in all those native trees, especially the splendid native sugar and red maples. The meadow in the above photo is waiting to be planted in the style of Piet Oudolf. There are ready-made areas for shade plants, and native plants. 
 There is a nice collection of Japanese maples and several Gold Rush metasequoias (dawn redwood) in the front garden...
And a lovely big magnolia (I don't know which species just yet) which will be joined by other magnolias as time and energy permits. 

Some of my special plants went with me, of course, like this 'Cosmic Traveller' daylily. Some went to friends, who will propagate more plants for me when my knees are finally fixed and spring returns to our shores. 
With an almost blank slate and different growing conditions, now that I'm on the warm Valley floor rather than on the cold Fundy shore, I will be developing beds for some of my favourite types of plants, including the alpines that currently are mostly hanging out in troughs and planters. 
Extra special plants, like this species rhododendron from Captain Steele's Bayport Plant Farm, made the trip too and are waiting in holding beds for me to decide on the right location for them.

 I'm not the first gardener to uproot from home and relocate, and I won't be the last. I look at friends who have come across country, even across oceans and from other countries, to put their roots down in the fertile soil of the Annapolis Valley, and I take courage from them.

So that's what's new with me, and why I've been largely silent here on bloomingwriter these past several months. It took a lot of time and energy and courage (and HELP from beloved friends and family!) to organize myself and make the move. Now the cats and I are here, and we're focusing on the future.

From songwriter James Keelaghan, I take great comfort:

In a recent future, what is now
Somehow becomes before,
As though we're always rushing through
Some huge revolving door.
For the present what will be
Will be here ever after;
May that bring joy for you,
May that bring laughter.

 Stay tuned, friends. There will be many more posts, lots of garden talk, and maybe even some blue poppies.

Yeah, definitely some blue poppies!

02 September 2012

Enraptured with Echinaceas

It's no secret to regular readers of bloomingwriter that I am hopelessly addicted to coneflowers. They've been putting on a show here in my garden, despite the dry weather, for the past 4-6 weeks, and while there's a bit of a pause right now, they are pushing new buds and preparing to show some more once we've had a bit more rain. 

A few words about the weather, before I move on to talking more about echinaceas: July and August have been the driest months I've ever experienced in the 13 years I've lived here at my home. July wasn't so bad, but August saw so little rain, and so little fog, that even my 'lawn' pretty much stopped growing. And unbelievably, I stopped planting about 3 weeks ago, because the soil was so dry and I decided it was easier to tend plants in containers than drag the hose all around the yard watering them. We've had some rain now, but much of eastern Canada could use a lot more rain to bring up wells, irrigate crops, dampen down forests, and otherwise return things to normal.

02 August 2012

Hydrangeas, hydrangeas, hydrangeas

 The heat of summer is upon us with August's arrival, in case it hasn't already been wearing you down where you live. Actually, as I write this we in my part of Nova Scotia are in day 2 of cloudy, drizzly day, and the gardens are looking much happier for it.

This past weekend we were busy at The Blomidon Inn in Wolfville, doing tours of their gardens (which are open to the public, dawn to dusk daily. You don't have to be a guest, dining or shopping there, although I highly recommend the Inn and its House of Gifts for all those things and more). Among the highlights of the gardens are the 'Hydrangea Hill' plantings outside the Inn's Conference Centre. We had quite a few questions about hydrangeas, so I promised a blog post. And here it is.

25 July 2012

There's Lilies and then there's Daylilies...

It's that time of year when daylilies are popping out everywhere, and sure as eggs are eggs, someone will innocently refer to them as 'lilies'. So I thought that it was time to have a quiet chat about some of the differences between the two families of flowering plants. 

Daylilies: Botanical name is Hemerocallis, which translates from the Greek to "beauty for a day". Which, coincidentally, is the length of time each individual flower on a plant lasts. There are a few different species of Hemerocallis, but thousands, and I do mean thousands, of named cultivars.

Lilies: Botanical name is Lilium. These are the true lilies. There are a number of different species of lilies, including Orientals, Asiatics, Martagon, and many others. But they're all true lilies. 

(Golden Stargazer, an Oriental lily, highly fragrant and gorgeous.)
Daylilies grow from thick, fleshy tubers or rhizomes. Here's a photo of some daylily roots. Each one holds one crown, or "fan" of daylily leaves.

True lilies grow from scaly bulbs. The above photo shows a typical lily bulb, with its fleshy scales. Roots grow out of the bottom of the bulb, while the new plant emerges from the growing tip. (from The Suburban Gardener's blog, a useful resource with lots of photos of different types of lilies).
Daylilies have grassy foliage. The flowers are held on sturdy stems called scapes, which emerge from the crown (growing point) of the plant. Each scape can hold many individual flowers, and some scapes are branched and have even more flowers. The first year or so of a daylily's life it may only have one or two scapes, but as the plants multiply they produce many more scapes and many more flowers. (This is a fancy variety called Spacecoast Gone Bulldogging', at Canning Daylily Gardens here in Canning, NS.
True lilies have a central stem with leaves arranged in a whorl all around the stem. The flowers are born at or near the top of that stem. (I've had this Asiatic lily for years and have no idea what its name is. Big, vigourous and deep pink, no scent of course).
At a place like Canning Daylily Gardens, you'll see hundreds of different varieties of daylilies, in a huge array of colours. It's a great place to go to get excited about growing these wonderful plants, which are quite easy to grow.

This is 'Luzia', a white Oriental lily, showing its cluster of buds arranged at the top of the plant. Some true lilies are dwarf and suited to growing in containers, while others are best grown in a garden setting. 

('Starman's Quest', one of my favourite daylilies. It is quite near another favourite, Timelord. Alas, there is no Tardis daylily, yet.)

The flowers of daylilies are edible and often used as garnishes or in salads. However, if you're a pet owner, please be aware that the aerial parts (the stamens and carpal, or the sexy bits) are moderately toxic to animals. That said, the entry on Hemerocallis in Mind-Altering and Poisonous Plants of the World is very brief.
This species of lily has been in my garden since before we bought the place, so I'm not certain of the species and don't know the variety at all. It's lovely, and a later-bloomer.)

The flowers of true lilies, however, are toxic in all their parts, especially to cats. I have a friend who very nearly lost one of her cats when it got pollen on its coat and, being a cat, groomed it off. While I grow all kinds of lilies and over a hundred different daylilies in my garden, I leave all of them outdoors to be enjoyed, and leave the cats indoors where they are safe. It just makes sense to me.

There, hopefully this brief primer will help people to understand why daylily enthusiasts correct those who refer to their plants as 'lilies.' Both families have plenty of amazing cultivars to choose from, but neither of them have true blue flowers. So maybe that's a project we can work on!

27 June 2012

Once Again, Open Garden

It's that time of year again. Despite everything that has been going on in recent months, I am doing my Open Garden again this coming weekend. It's for a highly worthwhile cause, and last year was such a success, we thought we'd do it again. 
This year preparing for the event being a particular challenge, not only because of the loss of my beloved spouse, but because we've had challenging weather. It's been very dry the past several weeks, and very warm; on Saturday, the rains began to come, and continued Sunday and all day Tuesday. Things are now well-watered, but it's a bit squishy around the garden in places.

22 June 2012

Rekindling my romance with roses

 Is there anyone in the world who doesn't like roses? I can't imagine such a person, although certainly there are many who might not like growing roses. Over the years, I've gotten excited about these glorious plants sort of in fits and starts. I'll buy some new varieties, they'll thrive or not, I'll get caught up with other plants and neglect expanding the rose growing sites for several seasons.

Last year, I gave in to my desire to have more roses after spending a wonderful afternoon at gardener and rosarian Pauline Jacob's fantastic garden not far from me. Pauline has well over 100 different roses, including many of the Austins, and I felt the urge stir to start experimenting with roses again. Like the wonderfully coloured Cinqo de Mayo, above. The only trouble with roses that I have is getting accurate colour representation in some images. This particular rose is more spectacular than you can tell here. There are tinges of purple, orange and red in this beauty, which I picked up along with Sally Holmes and Morden Fireglow from den Haan's Garden World in Middleton, NS.
 My friend Catherine Neily is another ardent rose-gardener, and when she saw the photo of Distant Drum the other night, she grew very excited. This gorgeously coloured rose stopped me in my tracks a few days ago when I was at Blomidon Nurseries, and I had to have it. Catherine told me this is a Griffith Buck rose, who bred hardy roses with great fragrance. I don't know yet about the hardiness of Distant Drum, but its colour coupled with its fantastic fragrance totally caught my heart.
 I call this double white Scotch rose 'Dominion Day', because it normally blooms around Canada Day, July 1, and its buds are red and white striped. Hopefully it will still be blooming next weekend, Canada Day weekend, when I'm holding the second annual Open Garden here at my place.
 Linda Campbell is another one of those roses that is hard to photograph accurately for colour. Her rich, red blooms come out in generous clusters. Although she is a rugosa hybrid, she has no fragrance but she has definitely bright, true red blooms. I just repurchased this rose from Baldwin's Nurseries in Falmouth.

While the flowers of Rosa glauca don't overly excite me, I grow this rose primarily for its blue-green foliage and bright red autumn hips. The flowers are single and pink and not fragrant, but they do show up well against the foliage. 
 One of the best rosarians I've ever met is Bob Osborne of Cornhill Nursery in Petitcodiac, New Brunswick. Bob is the author of the wonderful book Hardy Roses, and his enthusiasm for growing own root roses has excited me and opened me to a world of new varieties. I bought this rugosa hybrid, Polareis, about 8 years ago. The shrub is now massive, and the flowers change from pink to white, with great scent. A highly recommended choice.
 I planted Roseraie de l'Hay ten years ago, in honour of the late Timothy Findley. It is without a doubt one of the most fragrant rugosa roses I've ever encountered. The flowers resemble Hansa but the scent is utterly divine.
 If I could have only one rose, it would be Snow Pavement, which is another highly scented and very floriferous rugosa hybrid. This particular plant has been trained to grow like a standard, and I got it from Skye's creations at Springvale Nurseries. This is the third Snow Pavement in my garden, and all are doing fine.
I was told by rosarian Peggy Ann Pineau of Old Heirloom Roses that this fabulous rose, 'Alchemyst', can be tricky to overwinter. Don't anyone tell my plant this, because it is currently holding ten-foot tall canes, that are covered in buds. The flowers change colour from apricot to yellow-peach to pink as they mature, and yes, this beauty is fragrant, too. 

Harison's Yellow is supposed to be a tricky rose to propagate from cuttings. I collected a number of cuttings from a farm some years ago, and one of them has survived and is thriving nicely. The beauty only lasts for a few days, but when the rose is in bloom it's just such a dazzling show. 
Pristine Pavement is a close relative of Snow Pavement, though without the wash of lavender colour. It is very fragrant, and the pure white flowers contrast well with its deep green foliage. 

I can't remember where I bought Robusta, but she is well named, presenting me with dozens of single, deep red flowers. Despite my fondness for double or quartered rose blooms, I also have a deep fondness for the clean, unfussy look of single roses.

Last but not least is another feast for the eyes and the nose, the white rugosa hybrid Souvenir du Philomen Cochet. Closely related to Blanc Double du Coubert, but with even more fragrance. The only thing I find difficult about these white rugosa types is that they tend to "ball" in foggy or rainy weather, turning into a mass of soggy, tissue like petals. But aside from that, they're pretty much perfect and I think everyone should have one. 

So far I have come home with about 8 different species this year, and I suspect more will come along as  the nurseries show off more and more varieties. What about you--do you have a romance with roses going on? (Please tell me yes. I don't want to be addicted to these fantastic plants all by myself). 

04 June 2012

Meconopsis & Other Favourite Things

 What a spring we're having here in Nova Scotia! Although today is chilly enough that I put a fire in the wood stove to take the damp and chill off inside, we've been treated to what I can only describe as a real, old fashioned, normal spring. You know, where May actually is warm and pleasant for most of the month? I don't know when we last had frost, but it was long enough ago that I feel confident in putting out the annual containers. More on those in a bit.

It's always nice to watch a plant flower in one's garden for the first time. I bought this spring clematis, 'Fragrant Spring' last summer at Bunchberry Nurseries and it's now covering itself in fragrant, softly pink flowers. And yes, it has a pleasant, spicy-sweet scent. This is the first clematis to flower here, but others are forming up buds and I look forward to a wash of colours throughout the growing season.
 The secret to growing great lewisias? Perfect drainage, and a gravel mulch to keep the leaves from rotting from being against wet soil. Since learning this, my lewisias have done brilliantly. The upper one is from the Rainbow mix collection; the salmony coloured one is 'Little Peach.' They bloom for a long time, too, and I'm hoping they'll multiply now that they're happy.
Betty magnolia is in bloom--and has huge blooms this year, about the size of dinner plates, with their long, sprawling petals. I love this shrub, though I may have planted it a little too close to the walkway for comfort.

'But you mentioned Meconopsis in the title,' some of you might be complaining. 'Why is this about pink and orange flowers?'

Patience, patience, everyone. We'll get to that, presently.
 As I remarked to someone recently, although I love irises in other people's gardens, I don't have a lot of them myself. But this one tried to seduce me at Briar Patch earlier in May, and I had to have it. It's called 'Cat's Paw', of all things. That's why I needed it. Yes, it is.
 I seem to have developed a fondness for pink-orange-yellow flower combinations, which is curious because I'm not normally fond of pink. But these plants in one container do please me--dahlietta 'Cherry Sunrise', lantana 'Sunrise rose' and there's another lantana peeking around the edges of the photo, but I can't remember if it's 'Sunrise Red' or another strain.
 Every year I think I have organized my plant purchases well enough that I can find their names and where I got them again. Hah! This is a double primrose, but I have absolutely no idea where it came from. None at all. It's pink and yellow, continuing with that curious colour combination.
 Aquilegia 'Firecracker' caught my eye at Den Haan's earlier this spring, and I bought two of them. I'm glad I did, as they are festooned with many colourful flowers, and have wine-tinged foliage to add to the pleasure.
Although we're barely into June, all of my tulips are in bloom. That may not be surprising to many people, but quite often, I have tulips flowering into July. But that isn't going to happen this year. So the garden is festooned with plenty of colourful tulips, including this delightful fringed tulip that I'm pretty sure I bought at Blomidon Nurseries last fall. I love fringed tulips, and they often flower for three or four years before they dwindle away. 
 All these hot, bright colours are getting hard on the eyes, aren't they? Let's cool down with some cool blue, shall we? Like this Gentiana acaulis, the spring flowering gentian. I bought this little plant last summer, recognizing it as a gentian but not sure which one it was. I whooped and did a happy dance when it started blooming several weeks ago. That rich colour is just soooooo...well, you know.
Equally delightful, although more contrary to grow for me, is California bluebell, Phacelia campanularia. I have several of these in containers, as they are annuals here, and cranky annuals at that, but Laura Budde of Glad Gardens said that they need a little sweeter soil than do many plants. So I've added a little lime to the containers they are in, and hope they'll oblige by blooming for a while. That periwinkle blue is wonderful, isn't it? 
And...here it is, what you've been waiting for. Meconopsis grandis, one of the blue poppy species. It's about three weeks earlier than it has been in other years, and it popped open on June 1...about 5 days earlier than I thought it might. I was expecting it tomorrow, which would have been my beloved's Lowell's birthday, but I guess he thought I needed a little cheering earlier, so he arranged for a much needed 'gift' from him. This meconopsis has several more buds on it, so the show will continue for a week or more yet. It'll be done by the time of my Open Garden on June 30-July 1st, but you can enjoy it indefinitely here. 

Happy June to all of you. Happy plant hunting and planting...

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