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! 

14 March 2016

In the Pink (mostly)

 It's a brand new week, and we're thinking about spring. This past month has been pretty gentle, weather wise, with nothing like the snowstorms we had last year. Last winter, the mantra was, 'If it's Wednesday, there will be a storm'...for weeks on end! But as always, it eventually melted.

This week we're celebrating some of the many shades of pink that we enjoy in our gardens. I have been known to say I'm not really a fan of pink flowers--then I look at what I have in my own garden, and how many I take photos of, and I have to change my mind about that statement. It all comes down to the flower and the colour in question, doesn't it? Like peonies--I don't care what colour they are, I love them. All of them. All the peonies. All the time.

Campanula 'Cherry Bells' is considered a bit of a thug by some gardeners, but I've never found it hard to control. I love its long bloom period and its ability to cover itself in pink, nodding flowers. 

 I have told this story before, and I'll share it again as I told it recently on my personal FB page.

My late beloved husband used to argue with me about purple coneflowers. "They're not purple they're pink!" 
"I know, dear."
"So why are they called purple? What about the white ones? Are they white purple coneflowers?"
"Don't ask me. I don't make up the names." 
And so on.
And as the variety of colours available increased, it grew more hilarious. "That orange-purple-coneflower-that-ain't-purple is bloom!" 

And I love all the coneflowers, including those fabulous cultivars, but the basic, straight up, pink coneflower that isn't purple is still the very favourite. 

This clematis was growing beautifully in a yard on a garden tour in Chester last summer, and I really enjoyed its vigour. I suspect it is 'Nelly Moser' although the gardener didn't know the name. My own collection of clematis is gradually increasing, and they make me extremely happy. 

Although I personally prefer blue mophead or lacecap hydrangeas if I have a choice, the pink ones are pretty fabulous, too. I actually bought a dwarf one at the grocery store this week, pre-Easter, and it's a pink/green one that is pleasing me greatly. This photo, however, is a mophead outdoors at a nursery, name unknown. Incidentally, I don't bring lilies into the house ever, because of the cats, but I love having a small hydrangea inside as we lurch toward spring. 

The luna hibiscus variety 'Cherry Cheesecake' gobsmacked me last summer with its brilliant colouring and the way the colour flows into the veins of each petal. I did not purchase this one--not yet, anyway--but the hardy hibiscus varieties have been doing well for me here in Wolfville so I think this summer I'll add this one.

Another hardy hibiscus shrub, but I couldn't find the name of this variety in my notes. Normally I can figure out where it was based on where it is in my photo library, but I was visiting someone else's garden (again on a tour) so it remains a mystery. It's inching towards lavender in colour, especially as the petals age, but it's a beautiful thing. 

All the hollyhock relatives like mallow and lavatera make me happy, like this annual variety blooming its face off in another private garden. Some of them selfseed, but I've never found them probelmatic. Pollinators also love them so that's another great reason to embrace them in your pink plantings. 

This portulaca relative is called Purslane, and this is one of the Yubi series of cultivars. I love the incandescent colours of portulaca and purslane, and plant them in containers for brilliant pops of colour throughout the garden. 

This is an old photo, but I wanted to include it, speaking of flamboyant flower colours. This is annual ice plant (Mesembryanthemum), also known for its iridescently gorgeous flowers. Gotta love those African daisy species. It's a bit fussy in growth habit and behaviour but I have to grow it every summer for those colours! 

 Pink isn't just for flowers--there are plants with pink in their foliage, perhaps the most commonly known being the dappled willow, Salix 'Nishiki'. But there are also houseplants that feature amazing pink in their foliage, like the bloodleaf in this container planting. It perfectly echoes the hot pink impatiens, and is more gently echoed by the softer pink flowers of the pennesetum grass (likely 'Fireworks'). I really like this container (it was in a public planting in Mahone Bay, NS.)

Wait a minute. These aren't pink. 
No, they certainly aren't. They're snowdrops. And they're blooming now, and have been for several weeks. 
Definitely an easier March than we had last year! Last year we never saw the snowdrops before mid April--and even later in some areas. 
We'll take this weather. 

06 March 2016

Fleur Photos du Jour: Spike, spike, Baby!

 Want to add some height and drama to your plantings? Select some plants that hold their flowers on tall stems, or spikes. These generally include many flowers arranged either individually or in clusters around the stem. I like them in drifts when possible, but depending on your choice, one plant may put up a multiple of spikes. Above is yellow Jerusalem Sage (Phlomis), an elegant relative of bee balm. I am hopeful mine will finally bloom this year. 

One thing that needs to be addressed off the bat--many perennials with tall spikes of flowers need to be staked in order to keep them upright and tidy during bloom time. I always say that the blooming of the delphinium and peonies coincides with the annual Delphinium and Peony Wind and Rain Storm, which of course tends to knock them down. I have both species planted in among shrubs, to help protect and support them, but I do have to resort to stakes sometimes.

I love the elegant stems of Monkshood in my garden, which also are much more reliably perennial for me than their relatives the delphinium. They also bloom at different times; this white one comes in mid summer, but I have two fall-blooming varieties as well, in deep blue and bicolour blue and white. They offer a nice, cooling counterpoint to the normal autumn palette of golds, reds, oranges and bronzes. 

 I've mentioned this plant before but it bears repeating. New in my garden last year was Digiplexis, a cross between Digitalis (foxglove) and a non-hardy tropical relative. This won't be hardy here, but it bloomed like crazy and in different hues than the traditional foxglove, so I hope to find it again next year. Maybe it will self-seed but if it does it will likely revert to Digitalis form. We'll see!

 I like to tell people not to be too hasty to deadhead their perennials, because some have very nice seedheads. Dictamnus, the dittany or gas plant, is a good example of this with its star-shaped seedheads.

Here's the Dictamnus (the white form) in flower. Not only are the blooms lovely, they are extremely fragrant with a lemony scent. Slow to establish but worth waiting for. 

Here's a striking perennial that ought to be grown more often: Kniphofia, also known as red-hot poker, foxtail or torch lily. Most varieties come in shades of yellow or orange, with some colour changing as the flowers age. It is drought tolerant once established which also means you need to plant it where it will have great drainage. 

I used to be rather neutral about penstemons, because 'Husker Red' did not thrive for me in my former garden. Then I tried a couple of annual varieties that flowered like crazy, which prompted me to try a perennial form or two again. This was fed by friends who are very fond of penstemons and grow numerous species. Now I have...a bunch of penstemons. This one is called 'Dark Tower.'

And this is one of the species, Penstemon strictus, Rocky Mountain penstemon. With those colours in the flowers, it's no wonder I'm fond of it! 

Lambs ears (Stachys byzantina) may be an 'old fashioned' perennial, but it's one everyone should include in their gardens. For starters, it's deer-resistant, for those plagued by bambi-itis. For seconds, its foliage is grey-green and fuzzy, adding a distinct colour and texture to your garden as well as the vertical effect. And if you do plant it, don't cut the flowers off--maybe they aren't the most showy, but pollinators LOVE them. 

There are many different types of lupin and their relatives out there. Here in Atlantic Canada, we have lupins growing wild in many places, along roadsides, in meadows, and of course we grow them in our gardens, too. They are imprinted as one of the first flowers I learned the name of, in part because my maternal grandmother grew them in her garden. There are numerous hybrids and colours now available, but I find the unusual colours like red and yellow don't tend to last. 

To get around that problem with yellow lupins that don't act perennially, I grow two different types of Thermopsis, or yellow false-lupins. They are related, obviously, and as an added bonus, the species I grow produce rather handsome black seedheads which look quite striking in flower arrangements or just standing in the garden. 

This has highlighted just a few perennials with spiky stems--there are many, many more, and of course there are annuals too, and I didn't even touch the grasses! What's your favourite for adding vertical accents to your garden? 

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