Monday, April 25, 2016


Magical moments of spring in the garden for me is watching the plants push themselves up through the soil, still furled, like a mohair throw wrapped tightly around the body on a cold day. This tension helps to propel their shoots upwards - I wonder if they feel themselves relax as they unwind. 

Variegated Solomon's Seal shoots are red as they push through last years debris and trout lilies

Bloodroot stand like ladies with their capes pulled around them to keep warm

As a day passes another group have started to unfurl


Perhaps a red trillium under there ?

Labrador Tea is a small shrub with small rough leaves that hide a woolly indumentum on the undersurface. The flower buds are small and tight waiting for the warmth of the sun before opening.

A large leaved rhododendron with its pink flower hiding under the tight wrapping

Leaf buds of the alternate leaf dogwood 
Wild ginger leaves open in odd forms similar to opening a folded tissue

Ginger more fully open with small round buds showing below that I believe are the flowers, a brownish flower that remains hidden below the foliage until you lift it to see

Vernation (from vernal meaning spring, since that is when leaves spring forth in temperate regions) is the formation of new leaves or fronds. In plant anatomy, it is the arrangement of leaves in a bud.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Hairy Beardtongue has Germinated ! (and other bloom'in things)

My trials of germinating seed in salad containers is entering a new phase. We have some germination - yay. The containers are open to dry out the potting mix which is still quite wet. I figure since some germination has begun it couldn't hurt too much. Plus the days are warm...

Exciting, I know

In the house I am trying an Asiatic lily which you can see, some deep salmon zinnia seeds, and white scabiosa. I do not have a large selection of trays to grow in so I have decided to try alternate methods.

Elsewhere in the garden things are growing slowly. The snowdrops are finishing up while the scilla has started a few days ago. I believe the snowdrops are the double form. The scilla is probably scilla siberica.

Below is a pot of Thalia narcissus (L) and some agapanthus (R). Experimentation has been key for me this winter season. I have never really been interested in propagation before and in many ways have been overly cautious playing with plants. I think it is the fear of failure. Frankly I should not fear failure as I have failed over and over again. Eventually the lesson is learned and we move forward.
I could not find an appropriate place to plant the Thalia bulbs  last fall and so I potted them up, placed the pot within a pot protected with burlap and left it in the shed over the winter. End of March I could see the tips.
The agapanthus was planted last year. I got some foliage but it never flowered. I read later that they take a while to flower. Perhaps they like a tighter feeling in the pot too?

tete a tete

arabis or rock cress. swarmed with bees and ever so sweet smelling

narcissus and trout lily poking through

a bed you rarely see filled with sedge, ferns, grass and more
As you can see spring has just begun in Burlington Ontario despite the date. The air is warm and the sun is strong. Chickadees, cardinals and nuthatches sing throughout the day making the work of spring cleaning the garden beds much more pleasurable. Today is a good day.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

My Garden Holiday in England - Salutation Gardens, Sandwich, Kent

Another lovely garden we visited last September was that belonging to The Salutation. The Salutation is a lovely Queen Anne style house, now hotel, designed and built by Edwin Lutyens in 1911-12. The house and its three and a half acre gardens lie very near to the Stour River in the very old town of Sandwich.

Photo by Pam Fray

 We almost did not get to see this garden as we were twenty minute drive away in Botany Bay admiring the chalk hills when a storm hastened our walk back to the car. It was near the end of the day, now raining, and I complained we might never make it to Salutation Gardens. You know you have a wonderful husband when he says, dripping from rain, "Let's go try. It is only a fifteen minute drive away". So off we went. We arrived in Sandwich a half hour before closing, and in fact, the lady in charge of the entrance was packing up as we arrived. But the sun had come out and she saw our earnest faces and let us in. Thank you dear lady.

Like all the gardens we visited dahlias were certainly the highlights at this time of year.

Salutation also had art intermingled through its gardens. It was a pleasant surprise and in the case of these fighting deer a treat for the eyes.

There was a veg garden, with swiss chard close to four feet high. I kid you not.

The Main border, top three photos, is a stunning border in fall. Not far from it is this yellow bed tucked in behind a 'room'.

Our half hour viewing was naturally not enough time however we both came away with a wonderful feeling about the home and gardens. Despite it's 3.5 acres size the gardens felt intimate in scale with many areas to discover.

What has impressed me most was learning last week while watching Monty Don (love that man) that the gardens were flooded in December 2013, less than 2 years earlier. High tides forced water from nearby Christchurch harbour up the swollen River Stour. Homes were all flooded and the lovely Salutation Gardens were suddenly under four feet of water. While thousands of plants were lost this was not apparent during our visit, a true testament to the fabulous gardeners at Salutation.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Trying My Hand at Propagation

It is not like I haven't made attempts before. This time, however, I feel more of an interest and urgency in learning how it is done. Part of the reason is that I want more of the plants I already grow, and because I grow mainly North American natives I find it difficult to locate a diverse assortment of plants. The nurseries started selling and promoting natives about eight or ten years ago and then within a couple of years they stopped. Not profitable enough?  Native plants often require multiple steps of cold or warm, moist, stratification. Some may take a year or two of looking after before they germinate. I was not up to that. The other reason is that I want to challenge myself more. I have a diploma in horticulture, not a degree. I know a lot. More than most people, but now I feel it is time for more education. So, propagation.

Back in the fall I started collecting some seeds from three plants I want to increase. They are pentemon hirsutus, delphinium exaltatum, and verbena hastata. Photos follow in this order. Photos are not mine.

Hairy Beardtongue

Tall Larkspur

Blue Vervain
 I must have a thing for Blue!
All three of these plants require cold moist stratification. If all goes well they should germinate in spring.
This is how I am trying to propagate them:

I am using clam shell salad containers. Cleaned and dried well. Add seed starting mix already dampened. Top with seeds. Set outside in January. Wait to see what happens.

I am a bit concerned about the seed soiless mix. It is wet. Has been all winter, even though I put holes in the lids and bottoms of the containers. In each case the seeds are small and sitting mainly on top of the soil so I am hoping that once the weather warms up and things dry up the wetness of the mix won't matter too much. Wait and see. This is actually the part of the learning experience I am looking forward to and dreading. Have I done things correctly? Could I or should I have done something differently? Does it matter?

I also collected seeds from my solomon seal plants. Starry solomon seal, false solomon seal and the common solomon seal. I watched these plants in the fall, checking on the colouring of their fat fruit. Polygonatum biflorum (common) fruit are blue, Maianthemum racemosum (false) fruit are a mottled green and brown colour with some red spots which turn red when ripe, and Maianthemum stellata (starry) fruit are initially green with purple stripes and ripen to solid reddish-purple. In all cases you plant the seeds directly in the ground when ripe. You can never have enough plants of this family!

And finally I also collected and planted when ripe the fruit of my elderberries, Sambucus pubens or American red elder.

So there is a lot to look forward to, although I might not see much happening with the solomon seals' or the elderberry for a year or two.  In another week or two I will be doing some indoor planting of seeds I bought of scabiosa - important - white scabiosa, and white vervain. I am also on a blitz of white plants. More on that later.

Friday, March 11, 2016

My Garden Holiday in England - Kew Gardens

I have been to Kew Gardens once before last year. Kew is located on the western side of London and can be reached easily by the tube/ subway/ metro/ train or however your city names your underground transportation system. There is a small palace on the grounds, Kew Palace, which is  a museum today, but the Palace also has a small but interesting herbal garden. Kew is not a small place. There are gardens, buildings, botanical glasshouses and space to roam around for days in its 121 hectares (300 acres).

This trip was the first time we found a couple of small lakes surrounded by trees and shrubs. The atmosphere in this area was quite peaceful. Naturally there were small families of ducks of which I did not recognize even one.

Hubby and I visited the perennial gardens that had some lovely grasses

and the small indoor Alpine garden

Probably one of the highlights for me was the Heritage Tree Collection. As you made your way around the gardens you would find placards naming the tree behind it, where it came from and other interesting facts about the tree or genus. Here are a few beauties, but unfortunately I did not record them all. Maybe you can guess.

Both trips were taken in September, something I would change the next time around if only to see different plants. It is still a great time of year for taking in the gardens of the UK.