28 December 2014

End of year roundup--favourites and more

Slightly belated Christmas greetings to all--we had not a drop of snow in Nova Scotia, and in fact had record breaking mild temperatures and torrential rains this year. It made travel easy, and we spent a very happy Christmas day with family. Since then I've been on an actual time-off from work, allowing myself a few days of just doing whatever I want, which has mostly been playing with photography, sorting through my image libraries, reading, and catching up with people I care about. 

We often have end-of-year retrospectives on many topics, including, of course, on gardening. I decided to do one primarily because most of my favourite plants this year, with one or two exceptions, have been around for a while and still remain some of my favourites. 

Let's start with the photo above, which is mostly of Echinacea 'Cheyenne Spirit'. There is a double flowered form in the background so that's why I say mostly. Otherwise, all those blossoms in the foreground, the orange, the yellow, the deep red-pink, are all from Cheyenne Spirit plants. These were planted in 2013, sailed through the winter, and bloomed their faces off this season, in these and other hues. I like them so much I bought several more, and now have no less than 8 different hues from the one cultivar. The only drawback, of course, is that you have to wait until they flower if you have a specific colour in mind. Hardy and vigourous and highly recommended. 

15 December 2014

Gold foliage for brighter gardens

Hello, fellow gardeners! Where have I been, you ask? Well, it's been a busy, busy few months, with lots of projects on the go. Now, with only 10 days til Christmas, the main deadlines are under control so I can do some catchup tasks, including updating my neglected blog. It's like that for gardeners, though, so often: during the main gardening months we're outside in our gardens, planting, weeding, harvesting, puttering, designing. Now that frost has come and things have stopped growing and we've gotten our bulbs planted (yes! I did! Before December, even!) we turn to the season of indoor gardening, which includes, of course, planning for next year.

When I was a plant science student at the Agricultural College, to see yellow in foliage often suggested a nutrient deficiency or other problem. It took me a long time to embrace the colour gold, or cream, or yellow, in ornamental plants, but here's what turned the tide for me:
Hostas. Of course it would be hostas, with their splendid foliage that utilizes only a few colours--cream, green, yellow, blue--in such dramatic ways. I love the flowers of hostas, too, but the fresh, perfect foliage is what really does it for me. They are calming plants with their tidy clumps of leaves (especially if they're slug-resistant or you've done battle to keep slugs at bay), and if you have a shady spot, they really brighten it up. It's true that deer adore hostas so if you live in an area where deer are a problem, you may have to opt for hostas only in containers out of reach of hungry bambis. 

Pretty much any plant with gold foliage is best suited for a partially shaded site; from a practical point of view, many need some protection from full sun sites because their foliage will otherwise burn. The golden colour just glows in a shaded garden, as demonstrated with this 'Dickson's Gold' campanula. 
Many gold-foliaged plants include the name 'aurea' in their botanical or cultivar names. This is a golden form of meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria 'Aurea'), which does well in dappled shade in my garden.

Because I went to the Agricultural College where the school colours were blue and gold, I do have a particular fondness for that colour combination (even when the blue is more lavender, but you get the point). This is creeping speedwell Veronica prostata 'Aztec Gold', which has been a good performer for me.
 This is the spiderwort Tradescantia 'Blue and Gold', also sometimes also called 'Sweet Kate'. It was one of the first replacement plants I purchased to put in my new garden because I so love it.
And this is Brunnera 'Diane's Gold'. I had it for several years but didn't take it with me when I left my former home, and haven't sourced it again. I miss it, as it did very well under the azalea where it was planted.
Plants that are bombastic or invasive in one area of the country (and beyond) are not necessarily so in other areas. This is Tansy 'Isla Gold', a golden leafed form of the common wildflower tansy. It is a vigourous grower but easy to control, and it's deer resistant to boot. Some like to dry the flowers to use in arrangements and wreaths. 

Sometimes, new cultivars of a perennial or shrub fail to perform up to a gardener's standards, and disappear quietly from catalogues after a couple of years. I was initially suspicious of 'Eos' geum, but it has done very well for me--I had it in my previous garden and planted it again last year in my new yard, and it grew beautifully. The bright orange flowers contrast fantastically with the gold-green foliage.
I really like weigelas, although I have yet to add any here in my new garden. When I do add one next year, it will be this golden-leafed form, 'Rubidor', which I had in the past and absolutely loved. You'll also find several other cultivars available, including 'Jean's Gold' and 'Ghost', depending on where you live, and where your nurseries source their plants.
To wrap up this post on gold foliage, I leave you with one of my favourite trees: Metasequoia 'Ogon', aka 'Gold Rush', the golden dawn redwood. The dawn redwood is a star in my books in its normal, green foliaged form, but this one leaves me breathless at its beauty. It absolutely glows, and it can take full sun, to boot.

Where do you fall on the spectrum with golden leafed plants? Love or not?

22 September 2014

Falling into autumn...

 Suddenly, it's September 22 and I haven't posted for a month. Why is that, you ask? Well, for sure I'm always busy and never bored, but there was a lot going on in August, some of it personal in support of a friend, and given that my friends have always been there for me when I need them, I pay it forward gladly. And the days are getting shorter, and suddenly, autumn is but hours away. (Top photo is of blue leadwort, Ceratostigma plumbaginoides, a terrific groundcover with gorgeous fall colour).

Autumn is not without its beauty, to be sure--some would say that the coming month or so is the most radiant in the natural world, for the explosion of foliage colour, the brilliant last blooms of the season. I agree with all that--and love the cooler night temperatures now that the worst of summer heat and humidity is gone. The shorter days, longer nights, and the knowledge of what is coming in a couple of months? Not so much.

22 August 2014

A Midsummer Miscellany of Colour

 It's now beyond 'Half Past August' and I thought you might need some encouragement because this is the time of year that I hear "there's no colour in my garden" from some folks. Sure there is--and you can add more! I keep adding as I see things I want to change or acquire plants that I have been looking for.
You may remember I talked about plants that I purchase and treat as annuals, including this 'Cherry Brandy' rudbeckia. THIS is why I buy this plant every year if need be--look at that colour. Nothing else quite like it.
Amazingly, all the buddleia I had planted in my garden last year survived the winter, probably thanks to the six foot snowdrift on top of that garden. Thus encouraged, I bought two more this year, including this gorgeous 'Bicolour' which I found last week at Ouest-ville Perennials. As the clusters of flowers open, you can really see a difference in the individual florets--younger ones don't have as much gold-orange. It's striking and beautiful. 
Much more after the jump. 

12 August 2014

It's easy loving green...flowers!

 Perhaps no colour in the floral world is more polarizing than the colour green. Many people dislike green flowers, saying they don't show up well enough--others adore them. Put me firmly in the 'adore' camp. Let's kick off the festival with one of my favourite coneflowers, 'Green Jewel'--which is fragrant as well as gorgeously green.

01 August 2014

The joys of daylilies

 This is the time of year where I regularly have people saying to me, "You have something on your nose." It is almost always either true lily pollen, or daylily pollen, because once those beauties start to flower, I can't help but check for fragrance. (Beautiful Edgings)
 So, you know the difference between daylilies and true lilies, right? (I'll save lilies for another post). Daylilies have foliage that looks like wide, large grass, and flowers grow up on stems arising from the foliage. Each flower lasts for only a day, and the proper name for these plants is Hemerocallis, meaning beauty for a day. And daylily is all one word. (that's me being editorial). (Celestial Song)

24 July 2014

Singing the Blues...of the Garden

 While flowers in any colour are quite lovely and sometimes fantastic, the blue flowers are definitely my absolute favourites. True blue flowers are quite rare, and as anyone who has ever browsed a seed catalogue, a plant website, or a nursery can attest, those who describe flower colours often play fast and loose with what they define as being blue. This flower, blue pimpernel (Anagallis 'Skylover') is for real blue.
 Often, the so-called 'blue' flowers are more purple than they are blue, which is fine because purple is a great colour, but when you have your heart set on something really blue and you get purple...well, it can be a little disappointing. This is an agapanthus, and it's fairly blue, but I see purple tints in those flowers, too. My other agapanthus is white with a blue stripe, and somehow, it seems more blue. Go figure!

15 July 2014

Colour Echoes in the Garden

One of the great joys of gardening, of course, is the chance to play with colour. It's like painting with plants: you get to create wonderful colour combinations that please your eye, and that can be changed up yearly, or by moving a couple of container plantings around. 

We all have particular colours that please us, or that we use a lot of in a garden planting. Myself, I am fond of pretty much all colours in the garden,  but I have made a dedicated effort this year to creating drifts of colours. I'm doing this for several reasons. 

30 June 2014

Red & White for Canada Day!

Happy birthday to the best country in the world, Canada, my home and native land! To celebrate Canada Day, July 1st, here are a selection of flowers in our flag's colours of red and white. (The flags above are at Grand Pré National Historic Site lookoff and feature the Acadian Flag, the United Nations Flag, the Canadian Flag, the Nova Scotian Flag, and the Mi'kmaq First Nations flag.)

22 June 2014

Love them & Leave Them: Tricky Plants I Enjoy Tormenting Myself With

 We all have plants that give us challenges. The dry-soil loving perennial that pouts at cold wet clay soils. The blue poppy that wants exactly what it wants or it will die without blooming. The yellow hollyhocks that taunt us by blooming any other colour but yellow. The zone 7 plant that we try knowing full well we are a zone 5b, MAYBE 6a with winter protection...

You get the picture. And I know you have had the plants. And the challenges. And the losses. I have absolutely no idea how many plants I've killed over the years, but I am quite sure it is hundreds, if not thousands. (Not including annuals, or even houseplants!)

15 June 2014

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day: Getting passionate about penstemons

It's been quite a while since I participated in Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, and since I have a new plant obsession to talk about, might as well combine the two! 

It's always exciting when we as gardeners discover some aspect of gardening, or some particular type of plant, that we hadn't really gotten excited about in the past. One of those for me is the genus Penstemon. 
Formerly, this genus was in the Scrofulariaceae family, the figwort family, which includes Verbascum (mulleins), Buddleia (butterfly bush) and Diascia. But DNA typing has reclassified penstemons as well as relatives Digitalis, (foxgloves) Chelone (Turtlehead) and Veronica and Veronicastrum to the Plantaginaceae, or plantain family. Isn't that fun? 

10 June 2014

It all starts with one...primula

For years I have been very fond of certain primulas, also known as primroses, and sometimes as cowslips, although those are a particular species. There have been some I've had challenges with, and some I've been besotted with, and some that have been hardy and some...that I haven't found the right spot for just yet. 

The fascination started in earnest a few years ago when I saw these auricula primulas (right photo) in bloom at the NSAC rock garden. Then I was given several auriculas by my late friend Diana Steele (left photo), and shared them with Rob Baldwin, who obediently propagated them. And then...

A bunch of us plant addicts had the absolutely pleasure of taking a workshop from Pam Eveleigh of Primula World several autumns ago--a wise, knowledgeable and generous authority on primulas haling from Calgary--and that pretty much sealed the deal for my love of primulas. Now I have a steadily growing collection--it had to be restarted after my relocation, but it's well underway, now. 

07 June 2014

Public Service Announcement: Don't dig up that (not) dead plant!

It happens to the best of us, it really does. We dig up a plant that we think is dead, not realizing that it's just a slow starter. We toss it in the compost, and go get another one, or decide we can't grow that particular plant. 

OR, even worse we take it back to the nursery where we bought it, where it is determined that it ISN'T dead. In which case we take it back home and replant it, and it doesn't prosper, having been disrupted, or even dies for real this time. 

There's been a lot of this happen this spring, and I've been hearing from nurseries whose staff are complaining about having living plants returned to them. So I'm here to address that on their behalf, and remind us all to be patient with plants. Here's a few of the usual suspects in our region. As always, late-waking plants vary with where you live and your hardiness zone. 

03 June 2014

Great Nurseries in Nova Scotia

 I'm back! It's been a busy, busy two months, what with Saltscapes Expo in late April, all the nurseries kicking into high gear, and putting my own garden into gear. But a conversation I had on Sunday at a nursery prompted me to write a new post.

We have some great nurseries in Nova Scotia...growing top quality plants, with knowledgeable and helpful staff. There are others that I don't patronize, either because I don't know about them (it does happen) or they are big-box or other knockoff type places, or they just aren't all that great. I have nurseries I visit regularly and highly recommend, and a few I get to once or twice a season and will mention here even though I've not been yet this year.

The list is not ranked--I love them all!--so it's alphabetical. In many cases I don't have wide angle or landscape photos of the whole business so I am inclined to post photos of something special or interesting. I'm also hotlinking to their Facebook pages wherever possible--most have actual websites too, but social media sites are more immediate to update and are a wealth of information, too.
 Baldwin's Nurseries: 500 Mines Road, Falmouth. Disclosure: Rob and I have been friends for years, but we became friends because of his business. He grows a LOT of shrubs, trees, perennials and ornamental grasses, many of them propagated by him. Has especially fine collections of magnolias, rhodos and azaleas, perennials for pollinators, ornamental grasses, and evergreens. Does not sell annuals other than a few herb and tomato transplants.
 Blomidon Nurseries, Greenwich. I live less than five minutes away from Blomidon, which means I'm there multiple times a week. Now, in my defence, they do have Stems Cafe, where I often have lunch or coffee or frozen yogourt...but they also have an extension collection of plants (excellent perennial and annual variety), giftware and planting supplies in the main shop, knowledgeable staff, and a welcoming atmosphere.
 Bloom Greenhouse & Garden Centre, Hammonds Plains. Cathy Oulton has built a thriving business in Hammonds Plains, with a full lineup of plants and planting supplies, custom designed containers (bring your own and have staff plant it up for you!) and regular workshops and seminars. Her Christmas Open House is a must-attend event in late November or early December!
 Briar Patch Farm and Nursery, Berwick: Another family-run nursery, with spectacular display gardens and huge selections of many different types of plants, including hostas and roses, Japanese maples, shade plants, hellebores...okay, pretty much anything you could want. Great staff, very knowledgable and helpful. They also operate a landscaping business and it's so obvious, when you see one of their jobs, that it's been done by people with a passion for plants.
 Bunchberry Nurseries, Upper Clements: Jill Covill loves plants, and it shows, both in her nursery and in the display gardens around the nursery. Those gardens feature heaths, heathers, and rhododendrons, evergreens and ornamental grasses, among other plants. Jill has regular workshops during the growing year, including the popular Gardening with Gordon series, and she has also helped organize the Rare and Unusual Plant Sale for the past 5 years.

Gerry's Nursery, Centreville: Gerry's was the first nursery I started going to regularly when I started gardening in earnest after moving to the Canning area 19 years ago. Gerry is mostly retired now, with health issues, but he and his associate, his adopted kitty, check out the staff and the greenhouses pretty much every day. Gerry's carries pretty much everything--perennials, annuals, trees and shrubs, and they use SeaBoost on their plants, which is why they're so big and healthy. (this photo was taken by one of their staff about a month ago, so things were still a little small. Not so now!

 Glad Gardens, Waterville (not far from Berwick) Another family-owned and operated nursery, with multiple generations of the Budde family working there! They have fantastic annuals and perennials, great containers pre-made for you in the spring, and several years ago expanded to include a shrub and tree yard. Some lovely display gardens, including a huge water feature they built two years ago. Also hosts to the Giant Vegetable Competition each fall.
 Hillendale Perennials, Hilden (Truro) Lloyd Mapplebeck is one of the MOST knowledgeable plant people I know--and is very generous in sharing his knowledge in an encouraging, often humourous manner. He is a master of plant puns, as you'll see from his Facebook Page. Lloyd carries primarily perennials, but also has cut flowers and containers of brilliant annuals, salad greens and herbs. He sells at the Truro Farmers Market on Saturdays, but to appreciate his huge selection, you really need to visit the nursery.
Lowland Gardens, Great Village (not far from Masstown and Truro) Tony and Gerrie have operated this family owned business for many years. They have an incredible selection of annuals, a varied selection of perennials, and staff who know and love plants. Tony also has quite a sense of humour, as you can see from the photo above! Well worth the drive. Open seasonally. 

Neily's Greenhouse & Gardens, Bridgetown: I don't think I've met Will Neily in person yet, but we 'know' each other through Facebook, and I've been to his greenhouse several times already this year. Another of the small, family type nurseries, primarily annuals and transplants with some perennials too. The plants are always well grown and healthy, which with the spring we've been having is sometimes quite a challenge. 
 Oceanview Garden Centre & Landscaping, Chester, NS: I always plan at LEAST an hour visit at Oceanview...and usually much longer. This family operated business has a huge inventory, an enormous gift shop, ice cream and cold drinks for sale on-site, and the best collection of glazed ceramics and garden art around. Many of the staff have been there for years, and are knowledgeable and friendly. A destination for sure!
 Ouest-ville Perennials, West Pubnico: Like Jill of Bunchberry and me, owner Alice d'Entremont is a graduate of the (former) Nova Scotia Agricultural College, and it shows in her passion for plants. As the business name suggests, she specializes in perennials, including alpines, daylilies, and pollinator plants, but also carries annuals, some veggie and herb transplants, and a selection of shrubs. She carries many organic plant products, including from SeaBoost (my personal fertilizers of choice) and Growing Green Earthworm Castings (another favourite). Alice is probably the farthest away from me of any nursery, and she's a dear friend, so I wish I could get there more often in a season!

Scotian Gold Country Gardens, Coldbrook, NS: Part of the Scotian Gold complex in Coldbrook, this seasonal greenhouse has it all--gardening supplies, seeds, transplants, perennials, annuals, shrubs and trees, including of course apple trees, as well as garden art and accessories. Manager Mike Weir has a huge passion for what he does, and is part of the younger generation of gardening enthusiasts, carrying the torch for the future.

Village Nursery, Pleasantville, NS: A few miles outside of Bridgewater, but a destination for sure. Two things I especially like: the Dazee Dome, a huge greenhouse jampacked with annuals; and the fact that they sell seed-grown perennials in 4 or 6packs, perfect for filling in a part of your garden for next year (many of the perennials won't flower til the following year, but we are patient). Excellent selection of perennials.
Woodlands & Meadows Perennial Nursery&Gardens, Black Rock Road, Old Barns (outside of Truro). Jane Blackburn sells her plants at the Truro Farmer's Market ever week during the growing season, but to really get a sense of the nursery, you have to visit. The property combines her love of plants with her husband Andrew's huge passion for trains--there are two train cars on site, and countless memorability. Jane specializes in woodland plants and succulents/rock garden plants--she has a great collection of primula and sempervivums, among many, many other plants. 

Other great places to visit: 
Wile's Lake Farm Market and Bakery, Bridgewater: Although they don't have Garden Centre in their name, Elspeth and her husband have a great garden centre at their market, with plenty of annuals, perennials and supplies for gardeners. 
Cosby's Garden Centre, Liverpool: Sadly, Ivan Higgins has neither a Facebook page nor a website, which is a huge pity, because along with the terrific plants he sells, he is a master of the concrete sculpture, and I mean master. He doesn't just make troughs--he makes human sized statues, castles, dragons, all of which are displayed around the property. 
Downey's Pitcher Plant Nursery, Chester: Downey's is a small family business, and they have great plants--but they ESPECIALLY have fantastic ironwork--signposts, windowbox holders, and many other items, made by the owner. I have bought numerous pieces over the years and they all hold up brilliantly. 
Spencer's Garden Centre, Shelburne: It's not a great idea to have a Facebook page and not update it, so I'm not hotlinking to it here. Spencer's is a wonderful nursery, although those of us who aren't from the Shelburne area have to remember it's the mildest part of the province and some of their perennials might not overwinter in colder areas. 
T & D Nursery, The Forties (New Ross): Originally started as a nursery to grow tree seedlings for the Christmas tree trade, expanded to carry a huge selection of annuals, good perennial and shrub selection, too. A bit off the beaten path, but worth the trip, always. 
West River Greenhouses, Pictou/New Glasgow: I haven't been there this year, but I've always found terrific perennials at West River. 
Pleasant Valley Nurseries, Antigonish: Likewise, I haven't been to Antigonish for several years, but a road trip is in my near future! I always find treasures at Pleasant Valley, and I especially love that they have a butterfly/pollinator section in their perennial offerings. 

There! Hopefully I have redeemed myself by offering up this resource! Now if you will excuse me...the garden is calling me. 

01 April 2014

Exciting breakthroughs in blue flower varieties

Blue is the rarest of colours in the flower world, which is probably why true-blue flowers like gentians cause people like me to gasp and lose my mind, and collect them wherever I can find them. The spring gentian, Gentiana acaulis, shows off each May with breathtaking, gentian-blue flowers, and will cause me to stop what I'm doing, sit down, stare and the flowers and just smile. 

I don't grow a lot of morning glories, but I always, always have to have the perfectly named 'Heavenly Blue', with its huge blue flowers. I especially love the brilliant yellow eye and the hint of lavender in the star radiating out from the centre of each petal. 

 There have been some colour breakthroughs this year, introducing shades of blue to annuals, perennials and an exciting rose announcement. First up is Lantana "Bandana WannaBlue", where as with other cultivars, the florets start out one shade and change to lighter hues as they mature. I believe they introduced Neon Blue lungwort into the genes for this one.

 When the Itoh peonies became widely available and more affordable, we were all excited because it meant we could have long-blooming yellow peonies instead of just the short flourish of Paeonia mlokosewitschii (aka Molly the Witch). Recently, Professor Itoh announced the launch of "Bartzella Blushing Blue", and we are sure this will be in high demand.
 Of course everyone knows that plant breeders have been working very hard on developing floriferous new colours and forms of coneflowers, so I'm sure you're as excited as I am to see the delightful echinacea 'BlueSky Black n Blue'!
 And last but never least, finally a blue rose we can enjoy: Bred right here in Nova Scotia by subjecting a delicate hybrid tea to frigid temperatures then crossing it with a more robust rugosa, we have the well named Rosa "BlueNose".  Blooms early, starting on April 1st every year!

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