Sunday, February 28, 2010

Seeds Part 2

The next step has been accomplished. The seeds have been sown and are either enjoying some cool conditions or some warm ones. Now the hardest part - keeping them moist. If I let them dry out the seeds will die. Knowing that this is a possibility I did not sow all the seeds. Aren't I smart?  Here's the proof: 

Today is my wedding anniversary. Flowers from my husband. He's the kindest man I know.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Seed Preparations

Last week the seeds I had ordered arrived. Now I have all the equipment I need to get sowing. It is not as easy as I thought it may be in regards to the timing of certain seeds. Three I can start right away: the Gillenia or Indian physic, the Burnet and the Desmodium paniculatum (Forgot to mention it on the last post). These three need a warm and humid environment to germinate and therefore can be sown immediately. Mind you I think I will still soak the seeds first to give them a helping hand. The Turtlehead, Actaea, and Yucca all need a chilling before sowing, so I will chill them in the fridge in the soil-less mix prior to sowing them in about 8 weeks time. 
Check in for further developments.

BTW, I was at the Royal Botanical Gardens on the weekend and saw the Shrimp plant again in their Mediterranean garden. I think they gave it a haircut since I last saw it but it was still a big plant. Check out the new renovation too, the Camilla and Peter Dalglish Atrium. It is a wonderful and airy space and filled with sunlight on Sunday.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

I think I 'm in trouble now

It seems that every winter when the gardening magazines publish the seed starting articles I get all excited and plan seed purchases. The thing is, I never sow the seeds I do buy. Instead all the pretty packages sit in a plastic bag in my coat closet (don't ask) waiting to be set free. Then yesterday at the grocery store check-out I spied the Fine Gardening special issue of sowing seeds for the spring. Of course I picked it up and took it home. I am a big fan of Fine Gardening. I read all the articles. Last night I ordered seeds. Six kinds. Which ones you ask politely?

Actaea rubra or red baneberry (how I hope it is the red one!!)
Sanguisorba officinalis or burnet
Gillenia trifoliata or Indian physic
Eryngium yuccifolium or Rattlesnake master and
Chelone glabra or turtlehead in white.

All very exciting natives for me. Some are impossible to find as plants around here and so the logic is I will grow them from seed. All this means some serious planning. I need all the supplies, well mostly the soiless mix, and to write out a sowing schedule. A couple of flat surfaces will lose their objets d'art to be replaced with plastic protection and seeds sown in pots. I do have a light, one of those hanging overhead ones my hubby bought for me when I was killing orchids, though never used. Maybe I will have him actually install it. Provided I follow through on these wonderful plans I will post my progress here. Wish me luck. No, wish me momentum.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Shrimp Plant

At Christmas my friend Lorne, a fellow Master Gardener, gave me a gift of a Shrimp plant. Little did he know that I tend to allow house plants to expire due to my neglect. Usually from lack of water. This time I intend to change my poor houseplant habits and have this one survive for a goodly period of time. I have seen magnificent specimens at the Royal Botanical Gardens in their Mediterranean room. Mine is only about 5 inches tall.

The Mexican Shrimp plant or Justicia brandegeana (for the Latin lovers) is a tropical plant and is grown here in Ontario as a houseplant or an annual outdoors. It grows beautiful overlapping bracts that resemble a shrimp and ends with a small white flower with a deep purple throat. From my limited experience it flowers constantly and likes a moist soil. As with all indoor plants a monthly dose of fertilizer will keep it in good shape. Certainly a plant I want to have around since I am a sucker for ever-blooming flowers.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Native Gardener

For many years now I choose to put native plants over non-native plants in my garden. No I am not a fanatic, nor a purist. I have read many articles and books on native and natural gardening (just check the sidebar on my favorite gardening books)and came to the realization that it was the right choice for me. When you educate yourself about a topic near to your heart some difficult decisions become easier to make. And when you really try to understand the nitty gritty of it all it becomes clear that being fanatical or a purist just doesn't make sense. I shall try to explain.

When we moved into this house 10 years ago, we found ourselves with an existing garden in poor shape and numerous neglected trees and shrubs. We hired an arborist to check out the health of the trees and inquired about their origins. Apart from the walnut trees and the silver maple everything else was an exotic or non-native. OK, that's not so bad we thought. That first year we didn't plant anything, waiting to see what would come up. After a while it struck me that we did not see many butterflies, bees or types of birds out of the ordinary. The animals had shelter and water but for the most part our plot of land offered very little in food. So I studied.

Plants native to your area are well accustomed to the soil and the weather conditions. They have evolved with the wildlife big and small for millennia. When exotic plants are brought into an area they may be benign or they may turn into garden thugs. They may bully themselves into unwanted places and kill or force out the native ones. This upsets the natural balance of the ecosystem. Most of the exotic plants do not provide any nourishment to our wildlife. Wildlife that is hungry moves elsewhere in search of that food.

Now that is a simplified explanation, but it was and continues to be why I plant native. At one time I decided that I would focus on eastern Canadian plants. Then eastern North America plants, then anything across Canada. The problem is that I am a gardener. I fell in love with roses, then peonies, orchids and who knows what else - oh yeah, I just planted a Japanese maple last fall. So I am definitely not a fanatic nor a purist. It's just too hard. Besides when you have read about natives as I have you also pick up along the way how plant seeds move around the globe through the stomach of birds and mammmals, or carried along the water or wind until they find a resting place that might just be suitable for them to thrive.
How do you argue with that?