Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Onto each Garden Writers Association event, some rain must fall....

Some, or perhaps the equivalent of several weeks all in one day.

In spite of rain, it was wonderful to meet up with fellow garden writers in Bracebridge, Ontario (2.5 or so hours north of Toronto).  With so few of us in this area going to California this year, it was a perfect opportunity to say hello, and see what we were all up to in an informal setting.  Marnie Wright hosted us mid-afternoon with drinks and nibbles in her gorgeous garden where she's created this paradise for 34 years now.  With quiet determination she has taken this rocky and wet (swampy until the end of May) property and transformed it into something absolutely gorgeous.  To those of you who ever say, "Well, I can't, I just don't have the perfect situation to grow, XYZ."  I give you her garden as an exhibit of what can be done with barren sad soil, hard work, time, compost, determination and an absolute knack with seed starting and growing plants into perfect specimens.

This is just a wee segment above - note how small the normal-sized human appears in the centre of the photo.

And when the rain got really heavy - you could just peer down and see what little surprises she put at our feet.  I can assure you, unlike so many of the rocks in our gardens that are trucked in - these are all indigenous.

Even the rotting logs are working hard:

The Hemerocallis were wonderful - they adore the wet:

Marnie had done these Veronicastum 'Fascination' from seed - looks like someone has taken a flat iron to the tips:

She had so many different types of Verbascum.

Throughout the garden there were those corridors separating the more refined sections from those that eased their way into the forest.

Marnie couldn't remember exactly, but thought this one might have been from Botanus.

I asked if I could take her photo with her favourite plant - and as we all do, "Well it changes, but I guess this one is it for now."  It is Diphylleia grayi has flowers that go completely transparent in the rain and if that wasn't enough of a party trick, they provide lovely blue coloured berries in the fall.

Her shade section was full of treasures - large and small:

Marnie took us for a tour of one of her greenhouses - her tomatoes are grown inside away from the deer & cold spring temperatures - they had a killing frost May 29th.  Here is Dan Cooper, me and Marnie poking through the tomato jungle.

Had to tuck this in as well - this is a Trachelium with dark purple leaves.  Apparently the local greenhouse grows some special items for Marnie - she's in line at 8:30 a.m. the day they open to pick them up.  They have to be started in January in order to be at this size mid-summer.  Even with her 2 greenhouses & light stands throughout her workshop, there simply isn't room to start everything she wants.

At 6:30 it was off to Peter and Kathy Wood's home for a lovely salad supper.  Again more rain, and another wonderful garden in downtown Bracebridge.  The benches have been designed by Peter and are sensible raised gardens.  Unlike those others that are like petting a puppy, this garden is the Great Dane of the raised garden world.  The plastic containers were originally for mixing concrete.  In his next version the containers will be larger for bigger root systems.

It's definitely Hosta season in Ontario right now.

This is from a pretty sitting area looking back into the garden.

And here are 2/3 of our splendid hosts - Marnie, Kathy, photobomb Dan and I lovely lady I said hello to, but did not catch her name.  Peter was outside working on the BBQ.

Such a great event - and so nice to be able to catch up with everyone.  And, when I look at my own garden since I've come back, I'm thinking there's a lot more room and potential for lots of wonderful new plants and ideas.

Friday, July 3, 2015

A Little Weather for Tomato Ripening

This spring and early summer have been a tonic for my casualty ridden garden. Water arrived as if on cue, and it looks as if the hot summer weather is a day or two away - which is a good thing:  The arugula has tasted green, not peppery; aside from the choking hazard, our peppers posed no problems for small children; and the tomatoes are all form and no function.

The grass looks like I almost care.  And, the fat lady has been told to stay in the wings, as I discover on my stretcher-to-the-morgue duty in my big beds - you know those big honking plants - I'll yank you when I have my shovel in hand - are asking for the fridge door to be opened.  "I am alive! you fool!"  Anyone watching me would have thought I was nuts as I exclaimed, "oh look, you're not dead!"

Observations and a question for anyone who might know.  I've been growing a Heptacodium micanioides (Seven Son Tree) for about 10+ years.  Very cool plant - exfoliating bark, blooms in September, smells wonderful, monarchs love it, the calyxes turn red and look like a second bloom.....but is this year I noticed everything beneath it looks miserly.  Kevin's words, "Now Barbara, these all look like weeds, and if they aren't weeds, they sure look like weeds, you know I've pulled out things that look exactly like this that I'm sure are weeds."  They are Phlox paniculata.  There's a bit of David in there, some 'come-with-the-old-house-never-mildews-variety', and one other kind I can't remember, but look at how small and weed-like the leaves are.  It's not as severe as a black-walnut juglans destruction, but boy, it doesn't look good and it's just in one spot.  Perhaps the tree is taking all the nutrients from the soil and the plants are starved?  My first option is to put down some manure and compost.  Fingers crossed that does the trick - has anyone had a similar experience?

I'm asking you to put on your imagining hat with this photo - took one today, but Blogger and iPhoto don't seem to want to look at today's pictures - and let's face it today's photos will soon be yesterdays so no doubt I'll be able to haul them in tomorrow - so what you see is the Heptacodium and the sparse leaves below to the left are the Phlox - in another section of this same garden they are twice the heft and bulk. Today's photos had my nicely done edge as well....

Lots of pollinators in the garden - m.i.a. monarchs.

So much for plant it and they will come.  Where are they?  Lots of other butterflies though.  Found this nice little caterpillar chowing down on some native asters - being a butterfly-identifying-Luddite thought I might have a swallowtail butterfly....had a look at my reference book, and no, I've got a potential moth called Gluphisia septentrionis that spends the first part of its life bald and green, and the second part needing a back wax, and what a marvellous digestive system!

My Loblaw pots are chugging along:

And found one of the stocks of my Tricyrtis 'Lightning Strike' that really does look like its been struck by lightning.

If you are looking for a plant that does well in poor soil, in the shade, in the sun, in dry, in cold, in heat that is enjoyed by pollinators, and seems to never be eaten by any other insects it is Aruncus dioicus:

My tiny little patch of martagon lilies I grew from seed - in honour of my first trip to Mr. Cabot's Quatre Vents.  (He had an acre of them - I have three plants - and several seedlings that never seem to get much bigger.)

The Persicaria polymorpha is in bloom - had to cut a lot of it out after the torrential rains, but fortunately there is still a lot left.  And for those of you who remember, this is the biggest Japanese Beetle draw.  And unlike the Milkweed that hasn't brought in my beloved orange friends, I found my first horny pair having their way with each other.  So far have kept them at bay squishing them while they were busy, no need to reinstate the Japanese Beetle Bucket of Death (J.B.B.o.D) just yet.

A new-to-me-this-year Cosmos 'Rubenza' - starts out red and then fades to one of those other-worldly plumy Heuchera shades.  The little creatures seem to like it as a morning hang-out spot.

H. montana macrophylla:  

First lily in bloom two days ago.  (While H. 'Stella D'Oro' have been blooming for several weeks - this dandelion of the of the day lily world gives me less and less pleasure.)

Another from seed:  Tripterygium regelii that seem to be a real magnet for blue-winged wasps - who lay their eggs in ground grubs.  They absolutely swarm the blossoms.

My Canada Day flowers:

For years this Inula was plagued with insects that chomped down on its blossoms.  In fact I took one of the plants out because it was so ugly post-buffet - strangely for two years, no chomped blossoms. Hooray.

Early spring there was nothing here but weeds.  Because I had so much to do, I pretty much just left it and was delighted to find that my Acanthus had returned.  Obviously now that it's alive it is going to need a bit more room.  Still a bit of a puzzle trying to figure out what is going to do well in this garden now that the big ash is gone.  But, based on this phoenix performance, I'm thinking I should be looking at a few more sun lovers.


And I'll leave you with a morning walk photo - the pots have been changed from spring to summer and there are five of them, and the other three are about 3x the size.  I get so much delight in seeing folks with money spend a little of it on flowers, don't you?

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Yet Another Great Toronto Botanical Gardens Tour - Lawrence Park

Peggy and I set out on our 5th annual Toronto Botanical Gardens Tour - this time to the "Garden Community" of Lawrence Park.  This has always been a very tony neighbourhood.  Large stone homes with elegant landscaping.  What I didn't realize was how large the lots were and just how many great gardens there are.

One thing you can always count on in any TBG tour is fantastic containers - I'm wondering if Paul Zammit Director of Horticulture had a hand in some of these gorgeous displays.  Notice they've used pale irrigation material instead of the black plastic - so much nicer with the stone.

I'm thinking these have the P.Z. touch:

Not on the tour, but great containers all the same:

Many of the homes are still the originals - others are new to look old.  Often when the homes had been rebuilt, many of the original plant material remained - it was a day for lovely old peonies.

This gives you an idea of the back garden - the Syringa in bloom is 'Ivory Silk':

There were several gardens with water features:

And of course those with pools:


This one won the Grandma Phillips 'Doozy' award - see how tiny the people are on the cone wall?  Perfect for large elegant parties

Several of the owners bulked up on annuals to give their gardens more colour.   What a pretty show:

Then there were a couple unusual gardens like this scree garden:

Always fun to see if you can flatten the image with your camera to make a cool combination:

There were older gardens - where the boxwood appeared to be unscathed by the cold winter - quite unlike our boxwood here in Oakville:

Splendid old features and gigantic perennials:

Now this is the sign of either good neighbours or perhaps family - look, no division between the yards:

After all the rain we've been having the hosta are looking big and beefy.  While flowers are lovely, these gardens show beautifully, that all you need are interesting leaves in the right position.  And, no wonder I was having trouble a couple of years ago finding Hakonechloa for my customers (the striking yellow floppy grass) - it was all sold to these clients in Lawrence Park.

Just so elegant and beautiful.  And kudos to the maintenance team, they must have Hoovered between visitors.

The only thing I might have changed if I could have this day was the weather - rained steadily and became heavier as the day went on:

At our last garden, we ran into my buddy Veronica Sliva!  And for some unknown reason, a gentleman with a media badge decided that we were going to be his 'subjects'.  While we may never know if and where we've appeared - it looked like he represented a French group - he was nice enough to take my camera and take our photos:

From here it was onto the bus to Headquarters, and then onto the bus to the subway where we'd left the car.  I'd found a business building with underground parking for the bargain price of $5.00!  Little did I know I might have to leave my car there forever.  Peggy and I found our way back to the entrance door - locked.  We found another door - locked.  Then we decided we'd have to go in where the cars did.  Fortunately we didn't have long to wait - the exit door opened and a nice gentleman saw us, reading signs, looking completely confused.  He motioned to us to scoot down through the garage door he was keeping open for us so I could get my car.  When we walked by he asked for our photo ID and then started to laugh - the sales office for Royal LePage Real Estate was upstairs, no doubt an agent on his way out.  I'm thinking we aren't the first people he's rescued.  Thank goodness - we were soaked and so ready to go home, plus I had guests for dinner.  So nice to see that gallantry is alive and well and living in Lawrence Park!  A great ending to a lovely soggy day.