04 July 2016

To our American Neighbours--Happy Independence Day!

 Yes, I know our neighbours to the south spell neighbours as 'neighbors'. That's not the point...

Wherever you are today, whether travelling or at home, celebrating with friends and community, on vacation or at work (not everyone gets a holiday), 

Here's wishing you a joyous, safe, and peaceful Independence Day!
Three  cheers for the Red...


And blue!

29 June 2016

Mostly Wordless Wednesday: Catching up with closeups

Suddenly, it's the end of June, and it's been almost two months since I've posted. Good reasons for that--it's gardening and nature photography time! Plus it's a busy time of year for work. So today, you get only a bit of a slide show, with captions and a couple of info notes:
1. I continue to donate a column to Local Xpress, the news website set up by the striking journalists of the provincial newspaper, the Chronicle Herald. I don't wish to have my name affiliated with what is left of that paper, so I write a column for my friends who were forced out nearly six months ago. Since I AM donating, it only gets done when I have time, but you can find them here.

2. This is going to be the last year for Canning Daylily Gardens to be open, as Wayne is retiring. I'll have more to say about that soon, but in the meantime, he's having a real sale at the nursery. The nursery website is not updated, but you can find contact information on it.

That's it for this time! Now to the photos:

 Clematis 'Diamantina'.

Echium 'Red Feathers'.

 Asclepias 'Monarch Promise'.

 One of several currently unidentified penstemons. I'm working on figuring them out.

 Finally blooming, yellow Jerusalem sage (Phlomis fruticosa)

 Petunia 'Picasso in Purple'. A vast improvement over 'Pretty Much Picasso.'

Primula vialii with stupid white crab spider. Soon to be ex crab spider.

White, nightblooming angel trumpet, Datura. 
Oh, and at the top? Meconopsis x, aka the Himalayan blue poppy. Of course. :-)

03 May 2016

Succulents don't suck!

It's been close to 40 years since I first fell for succulents in a big way. Probably the first one I ever saw would have been the common but beloved Jade tree, Crassula argentea, although I cannot be sure of this. I know I was smitten with them when I was in my first year at the Agricultural College, and that smitten-ness has never waned. Back then, there were a number of succulents including several massive jade trees growing in one of the greenhouses, and I learned how to propagate these easy, colourful and rewarding plants for myself. 

I remember the challenges I had finding a lot of different types in stores, and the challenge of finding just the right container to make a 'dish garden' of succulents and cacti. It was also a challenge to grow these plants in a dorm room, but since I usually had dozens of plants in my room, I persevered. Some died. Some prospered. 

Flash forward to today, and the popularity of succulents has come surging back in recent years. There are so many genera, and species, and varieties, so many colours and textures and forms...they're hard to resist! Or so I tell myself as I look around my house, where dozens of plants are waiting for warm weather so they can bask outside for a few months. 

Here's an example of some of the great colours--succulents aren't 'just' green! This is related to the faithful jade tree, a different species, cultivar 'Campfire'. Look at that colour...

 The big secret to growing succulents well? Plant them in a well-draining medium (extra perlite or coarse sand is helpful) and don't plant them too deeply. Most importantly: Do not overwater them. They contain moisture in their leaves and related structures, and if they get too much water, they will rot and collapse, and that will make you sad. I tend to water mine about once a month in winter, and they do very well for me. This is Fenestraria, also known as babytoes, which is one of the odder looking species.

I also love cacti, although I don't have nearly as many as I do succulents. All cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti--the term 'succulent' refers to any plant with the ability to store water in specialized tissues for long periods of time. And although you may think of succulents and cacti as being plants of deserts and other hot, dry areas, the truth is there are species found in many different climates, and numerous species that are hardy to Atlantic Canada. I have an opuntia (prickly pear) cactus that is hardy here, and numerous sedum and sempervivum varieties grow outside in my gardens. But I find the more exotic and tender species more alluring, which is why I have a houseful of them. 
Several of my cacti are flowering at the moment, which pleases me greatly. What does NOT please me, however, is the penchant that some succulent growers have for gluing strawflowers onto their cacti to make it look like they are flowering. Then there are the dyed ones, but that's just so appalling I can't even rant about it. 

The yellow-flowered succulent in the clay pot (photographed last year) is a Aichryson laxum, tree of love. Apparently, this plant is a biennial and dies after flowering unless deadheaded. The plant I have has not got that memo, because it has never stopped flowering since last summer, and today I trimmed all the scraggly flowers off it and put it outside for a few hours to wash it off and rejuvenate it.

 Who needs fake flowers when the blossoms of succulents and cacti are so gorgeous? Mine flower quite faithfully, like this Pachyveria 'Claire', which is just starting its bloom cycle. Pachyveria? What's that? It's apparently an inter-generic cross between Echeveria and Pachyphytum. There are also Graptoveria, (cross between Echeveria and Graptopetalum) and Graptosedum (cross between Sedum and Graptopetalum). And probably more inter-generics coming down the pike, too!

This is Kalanchoe tomentosa, also known as the panda plant, which is one of those succulents I've known and loved forever. I try to keep it far away from my cats, or else it will become the cat-hair-panda-plant! 

One of the many charms that succulents hold for me is their patterning. They grow in spirals, called Fibonacci spirals or the golden spiral, due to some mathematical stuff that makes my head hurt, so I just say they grow in spirals and aren't they awesome? Other plants exhibit this as well--think of the seeds in a sunflower, or the cones of evergreens, the petal arrangement of a double rose, and so on. They please me--maybe if someone had pointed this out to me when trying to drill math and geometry into my head, I would have done better at it! 

 It has been many years since I've had a grafted cactus (the orange and green one on the right of the photo. I succumbed to one a couple of weeks ago in part for use in my talks on succulent container gardening at Saltscapes Expo, and I'll use it at other talks coming up at Bloom and Scotian Gold. The colourful cactus on top is a Gymnocalycium, commonly called a Moon Cactus, and can be red, yellow, or orange like mine. The bottom is usually a section of Hylocereus, one of the less spiny, night-blooming cactus. It is vital not to overwater these plants, and to remember that if the top dies, it will NOT grow back, as with any grafted plant.

 This tree of succulents is on display in the greenhouse at my friend Alice's Ouest-ville Perennials, and is made up of a number of different succulents, planted into moss wired around an inverted tomato cage. I love it, although it has to be freshened up in the spring as the large echeveria rosettes can get straggly looking over winter.

About the only problem I sometimes have with my succulents is some aphids, but they are easily enough controlled with some insecticidal soap or a good bath of cool water over the plant (then making sure it is well drained and dries back out quickly. In the winter, some of them get stretched looking but I move them from window to window to make sure they all get plenty of light, and that gets them through. Another couple of weeks and I will move them outside, and put them on a wire shelf unit with no saucers under their pots, so that if it does rain, they drain out quickly. And I'll be dividing some of them to share with fellow succulent fans!

What about you? Do you have a fondness for succulents?

17 April 2016

Local Xpress, Expo, and plants galore

 We are only a few days away from our 12th annual Saltscapes East Coast Expo, so it's really, really busy in my world. More on the Expo later.
However, I had to catch up with a blog post both to tell you that and to tell you about my column in the Local Xpress.
Here's the thing. I don't belong to a union, never did and never will. However--I support the journalists who are out on strike at the 'paper of record' in Nova Scotia (which I will not name nor link to, but I have written a column there for many years). As long as my friends and colleagues are out on strike, I am withholding writing for the paper. I did, however, offer to provide columns to the web-based paper the journalists have formed, the Local Xpress, for the duration of the work stoppage.
Now, I am tremendously busy, and gardening season is begun, so I don't know how often I will be able to do these columns. But the first one is up today and I wanted to include hotlinks to the nurseries involved in the first story, plus more photos. I've decided to link to their Facebook pages because they're all on there, and some don't have regular websites anymore.

The photo above is of hellebores, and one of the best selections you'll find anywhere is at Briar Patch Farm and Nursery in Berwick.

Arkansas bluestar (Amsonia) was perennial of the year a few years back, and rightly so. This is 'Blue Ice', a cultivar of amsonia that looks fabulous in mass plantings, with its pale blue, starry flowers. It's a favourite at Oceanview Home & Garden in Chester

I acquired a very fine plant of Bear's Breeches last year from a private collector, and when my friends from Ouest-ville Perennials in West Pubnico saw it they had to add it to their nursery offerings. 

 I've shared my enthusiasm for Bidens 'Fireburst' in the past, and I'm very pleased that several nurseries have it this year, including Bloom Greenhouse and Garden Centre in Hammonds Plains.

It's also very well known that I adore echinaceas, and many nursery operators share that enthusiasm, too. One of those is Lloyd Mapplebeck at Hillendale Perennials in Truro, who thinks that the All Americas Selection 'Cheyenne Spirit' is simply fantastic. All the flowers in the above photo, except the double in the background, are from several plants of this echinacea. You can see why it's a winner in our books! 

 Several of the nursery owners are excited about baptisias, and I love their gorgeous, elegant flowers and foliage so this is just a gratuitous chance to share another image of Baptisia 'Dutch Chocolate'.

Here's a unique, hardy and beautiful tree that we're seeing in more streetscapes as well as gardens. Ginkgo is an ancient species and a gorgeous one, with elegant foliage that turns butter yellow in fall. It's a favourite and new-to-Scotia Gold Country Garden in Coldbrook

Oxydendron, also known as sourwood tree, is native to eastern North America and related to rhododendrons, pieris, and blueberries. It has cascades of lily of the valley-like white flowers in summer, then its foliage turns incandescent in the fall. It's no wonder that Jill at Bunchberry Nurseries  in Upper Clements is enthusiastic about it. 

Yellow Waxy-bell is a gorgeous and late-blooming perennial, with soft yellow, nodding flowers. It likes a little shade and good moisture, and does well in my garden--and now is available at Baldwin Nurseries in Falmouth. 

This is a unique and very attractive annual called Silver Sand, (Calocephalus), which I first saw at Glad Gardens in Waterville some years back. Daina was not able to source seed for a few years but has it again now. Glad Gardens reopens for the season this Thursday, but I'm going to get my plant tomorrow...because I need it for this weekend!

Daina at Glad Gardens and I share a deep and abiding love for succulents and cacti, especially in container plantings. One of the talks I'm doing this weekend is about gardening with succulents in containers, so I'll be toting a variety of plants with me to Halifax Exhibition Centre to show to others. I'm really pleased to let you know that there will also be gardening talks by Cathy of Bloom Greenhouse, Allan Banks of Harbour Breezes Daylilies and Japanese Irises, and Carol Goodwin of Beneath the Boughs Woodland Plant Nursery and Pottery. Hurray for the gardening season. 

One final note: There are many other nurseries in Nova Scotia, but I didn't hear back from several of them, and some of them I just didn't have time to contact before deadline. But hopefully I'll have more to say about those soon. 

02 April 2016

Spring is springing in Nova Scotia!

So I missed a blog post earlier this week, but with good reason--we're getting ready for our 12th Saltscapes Expo, April 22-24 at Halifax Exhibition Centre (the former Exhibition Park), and to say we are busy is an understatement. We're also busy getting the magazine ready to go to press. For those who have never been to an Expo, it's kind of like the magazine comes to life at the Park. Here's a short video to explain it a little. 

For more information, tickets, etc, you can check our our website.  

I'll have more to say about Expo probably next week, (a teaser about my seminars at the show, but now, let's get back to plants. I've mentioned before that we've had a relatively sensible winter, and we've had some very mild spells. So it's beginning--spring is unfolding slowly outside. If you go inside greenhouses, like I did today, it's unfolding a little more quickly. Let's take a peek indoors and out! 

 I took today off from fact-checking, copy editing, social media work, newsletter writing...in fact, I took off, first for West Pubnico and Ouest-ville Perennials, my friend Alice d'Entremont's wonderful nursery. As soon as I got there, spring greeted me (even more quickly than did Alice and her cats!). The first thing I saw was the quilt of spring bulbs, primarily snowdrops and crocuses, in the front yard.

 This Corkscrew Hazel (Corylus avellana 'Contorta') is in full glorious catkin production. I noticed some trees alongside the road earlier today also in catkin, probably poplars. Hurray for spring!

One of the hellebore species, I think the so-called stinking hellebore (Helleborus foetidus), and so-called because the flowers can be fragrant, but the foliage smells pretty skunky when it gets crushed. We can deal with that with such striking flowers. 

In Alice's rock garden, a cluster of dwarf iris (probably I. reticulata) are guarded by a stone cat (as opposed to the real ones who live there).

I confess to a small bit of winter-aconite-envy, as I have never been particularly successful in getting these to grow for me. Alice has the right idea--she has them planted in her rock garden, where they get good drainage. Note to self for this fall...try, try again. They are such dainty little bulbs and so cheerily yellow. It was raining today but I didn't care--I was just happy to be out among plants! 

Several years ago, the Nova Scotia Rock Garden Club had Pam Eveleigh of Primula World for workshops and presentations.  Some of us came away completely smitten with primula, and those of us who attended her workshops also came away with plants and seeds. Alice has propagated quite a few of them, including the gorgeous yellow auricula...

And this species, which I bought but which is still out in the car and it's raining too hard for me to go back out there tonight! 

And another auricula primula. These three all came home with me (they insisted--but in my defence, I will use them at Expo in a couple weeks time.) There were a bunch of other plants that followed me home because I also stopped to see my friend Jill Covill at Bunchberry Nurseries in Upper Clements, but those will have to wait for the next post. 

21 March 2016

Interlude: My fondness for old buildings (& other things)

Long ago, I lived in a farmhouse with a huge, round-roofed barn in the back yard. The barn was in tender shape, gradually worn down over the years of use, elements and neglect. One day, it collapsed in on itself, and that was that. I wrote about that barn, and it was well-photographed in its day. 
I'm not sure if that's where my fascination with old buildings began, but it was certainly nurtured by that event. 
So I've been spending a fair bit of time in the past number of months making pictures of various buildings. Many are abandoned, and gone beyond help, like the famous one in Earltown in the photo above. Some are conserved by local groups, and some are well kept but elderly, with stories to tell.
Truthfully, they ALL have stories to tell, although I'm not sure who is around to share those stories.

Look at this house with the carefully built railing. Someone loved this place once. Now it, and its half-dozen outbuildings, stand empty, or at least uninhabited.

There was a time when many of us went to small schools such as this one (now, I believe, used as a hall, but possibly in private hands). My late grandfather owned a former schoolhouse in his community for many years before he finally sold it. Today it is a home, and well cared for by the look of it. So old schoolhouses draw me in. 

I know nothing about architecture. Zip, zilch, nada. I have an appreciation for older, well built buildings in part because they do stand the test of time. This barn further down the Valley is a beautiful thing, well cared for and still used, although I'm not sure for what. 
When I go on my jaunts around the province, I tend to go down sideroads just to see what's there. Sometimes, I find real gems, like this tiny crooked house at the end of a lane. Is it for kids to stand in and wait for the bus? Just an attractive thing to mount a civic address on? I don't know, but I do like it. 

I will never be a wildlife photographer. I don't have the patience, nor the gear nor the ability to trek off through the wilds looking for wildlife. I do, however, have the ability to see eagles on a daily basis, and with a good lens and a fast shutter speed, I can get fairly good captures. 

 Water soothes me, being a child of the Fundy/Atlantic as I am.  I'm learning to shoot moving water in a number of ways, and it's a lot of fun--on a decent day when the wind isn't screaming sideways, of course! This is a waterfall at Baxter's Harbour, going through a man-made culvert under a road and then cascading down the rocky face to the beach. It's always a fascinating place to make pictures.

To go along with the old buildings, I have a fondness for old equipment, be it rusting cars, or farm gear like this ancient rake. This would NOT be a fun thing to ride on a hot summer's day!

 An old pump, someone told me this was. I was just charmed by the name. Darling pump. At an old farmstead. I'm surprised it hasn't been toted off and sold for scrap metal.

One of the oddest things I saw on my trip back to Newfoundland last summer was the abandoned Trinity Loop amusement park. I'll do a whole post about that in the future, but had to share this image of the Trinity Loop railroad track that used to run to the local communities off the main railroad line. When Hurricane Igor blew through the area in 2010, the flooding washed out the track quite badly, and further degraded the once busy park. It's kind of surreal to go back this road and find the remains of a ferris wheel, train cars, and other oddities. 

 Another place I got to explore, although briefly, last summer was the Iles de la Madeleine, aka the Magdalen Islands. I fell in love with the place and the people, and want to go back. Soon. It's an incredibly beautiful place, part of the province of Quebec, and well worth the 5 hour ferry ride there to spend a few days.

To wrap up this little essay of randomness, I always tell people it's good to keep your camera on hand at all times. You never know when you are going to discover a piece of 'found art' like the ice sculpture around this well. You just never know. Keep your eyes open and your camera close, and have fun--at least, that's my motto! 

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