Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Blog Carnival day

My Little Garden in Japan is hosting a blog carnival today and has asked those interested to post about their favorite plant.

The Peony

I decided to do a little research on their history and have found some interesting facts I certainly never knew. It appears the peony started in China as plants were found as early as 1000 BCE. They were used for medicinal purposes. The roots, barks, seeds and flowers were all thought to have some medicinal benefit, for example, the bark cools the blood and may have antibacterial properties. It was only in the 7th century that peonies were grown for ornamentation. During the Tang dynasty, peonies were very popular in the imperial gardens and many commanded high prices. In fact they were used as part of a woman's dowry.

Chinese horticulturists developed the large double tree and herbaceous peonies and used grafting techniques to reproduce valuable cultivars.

Peonies were introduced into Japan about the 8th century. The Japanese preferred simpler forms and created what is known as the Japanese form; a rounded center made of small petals with wider petals surrounding this center.

Peonies are known to have made their way the Europe sometime before the middle ages, and again, the use was medicinal. Europeans brought peonies over to North America when they started settling here. We have always grown them for there ornamental beauty.
Both China and Japan have a long history of using the peony in their poetry, art and gardens.

I love peonies for their fragrance. I only buy fragrant ones or why else bother?

Many thanks go to La Pivoinerie D'Aoust for their information on peony history.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Provincial Post - Newfoundland and Labrador

Purple Pitcher Plant
Photo from Link
 Purple Pitcher Plant

The North American Pitcher plant or Sarracenia purpurea is a cool plant being it is carnivorous. At 30 cm ( 12 inches) long, it is not a big plant. The pitchers are at the base of the plant and the flower stem grows up through the middle. 

Each pitcher is actually called a hood because the lid does not cover like a flap as for other pitcher plants. Instead the hood curls in on the sides and traps insects with its tiny hairs and digestive fluid. The hoods are beautifully veined. Each pitcher is filled with a fluid that contains digestive enzymes produced by the plant. A new pitcher relies on most of its nutrients from trapped insects like flies and spiders. By the second year of its life digestion is aided by organisms that actually live in the pitchers. These organisms or commensals include the mosquito Wyeomyia smithii and the midge Metriocnemus knabi (apparently very big names in the pitcher plant world). The carnivorous larvae of these two insects do not attack each other, however the midge will attack other mosquitos species !

Sarracenia plants live about 2 years unless damaged by fire or extreme cold. They are found  throughout the eastern seaboard of Canada and the United States.  They grow in marshland and  bogs and enjoy lots of sunshine. The pitcher plant is named after Dr. Michel Sarrasin de L’Étang (1659-1734), Canada’s first professional botanist.

Black Spruce

Photo from Flickr
Also known as the Bog Spruce (Picea mariana), the Black Spruce is widespread throughout North America's boreal region. It is found on soils with little nutritive value such as bogs and swamps. The Black spruce is a small to medium size evergreen tree that grows to an average height of 7 m to 15 m (20 - 40 feet). It is often confused with the white or red spruce but can be identified by its quadrate, dark green needles, small cones and rigid, brittle cone scales.
In the past, healing salves were made from the gum, antiscorbutic and diuretic beverages from twigs and needles, and ropes from the roots. The Black Spruce is used for Christmas trees but its main use is for pulpwood because of its long wood fibres.

Where the heck is Newfoundland and Labrador ?
Far right in red

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Big Brown Bug Identified

What is it you ask ? No need to be so impatient I will tell you. The big brown bug is a "Dog-day cicada nymph" or Tibicen spp. for the entomologists among you.

According to Garden Insects of North America by Whitney Cranshaw (which arrived on my doorstep today), the dog-day cicada is the largest cicada in North America. They are commonly heard but less commonly seen, which I take to mean I was lucky that day in the garden.

The nymphs need 2 to 5 years to complete development. Once hatched from the egg the new nymph burrows underground near tree roots ( they sip on the sap from the roots) for several years while it develops and molts. Once it is fully developed the nymph returns topside and finds a place to sit (like a Culver's root plant). Then it undergoes its final molt and the adult cicada leaves the brown body casing through a slit in the back. 

Male cicadas rest on tree trunks and branches and "sing" to attract females, by means of two special vibrating membranes in the sides of the abdomen.  Females do not sing.  Adult cicadas do not feed on leaves, and may suck juices from tender twigs. They are not considered garden pests, unless you don't care for the singing.

Adult Dog-day cicada  - Photo from Hilton Pond Center

Here's the link to the original post.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Foggy Day

Fog again today.
It was supposed to be sunny, but then we are close to Lake Ontario and that affects the weather from time to time. It seems to me it was foggier than the photos show but how does one show masses of tint droplets of water? Certainly not macro setting.

Facing the street
From the side
Towards the back

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

No flowers in this post - FINCA

Last night I attended the 2nd fundraiser for FINCA Canada. Here is a bit of information for those who may be interested  in a charitable group who do what they say and then find a way to do even more.

FINCA is a charitable organization that provides micro loans to women in developing countries. This year is the company's 25th anniversary.
FINCA stands for the Foundation for International Community Assistance. Established in 1984, FINCA is best known for having pioneered the "Village Banking method"--one of the major forms of microcredit--and for leadership in microfinance overall. 
The mission of FINCA Canada is to provide financial services to the world's lowest-income entrepreneurs so they can create jobs, build assets and improve their standard of living.

What is FINCA’s overall loan repayment?
Despite the fact that we’re working with some of the world’s poorest, the repayment rate is outstanding. Globally, our average, on-time repayment is more than 97 percent--as good or better than most commercial banks expect.

FINCA International: Small Loans, Big Change

Thank you for reading this far.
Go to the FINCA website in Canada

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Provincial Post -Alberta

Rosa acicular
The Wild Rose and the Lodgepole Pine

The Wild Rose or the Prickly Rose was adopted by the Province of Alberta in 1930. It is a shrub rose that grows to about five feet tall (1.5 m). True to its name the stems are covered in prickles. The Wild Rose grows throughout the province and is circumpolar to the boreal forest.

The fragrant pink flowers are single, with petals 3-5 cm in size. The blooms last from late May to early August in Alberta, but may bloom for a longer period in warmer climes.
The Wild Rose is fragrant and attractive to bees and other pollinating insects. It puts out red or orange-red hips in the fall that are high in vitamin C.  Jelly, jams, syrup and tea can be all made from the hips. Even the flowers and leaves can be used in teas. The aboriginal peoples of North America used the plant for medicinal treatments of stomach aches and diarrhea. The roots were used in compresses and solutions for sore throats, swellings and nose bleeds.
The plant takes some shade, germinates well by seed  and is moderately resistant to fire (both the plant and the seeds). It is a source of food for many animals in the wild such as deer, moose, bear and rabbits.

Photo courtesy of USDA Forest Service

The Lodgepole Pine has many other common names: Rocky Mountain lodgepole pine, black pine, scrub pine. In Alberta the Pinus contorta is found along the western border with British Columbia. It grows along the west coasts of North America.
 At 30 m high this coniferous tree can live as long as 200 years. It has a thin bark, orange-brown to gray in colour and fine scales. The branches curve upwards and when grown in tight conditions only grow in the top third of the tree. The male cones make the pollen. They are small and reddish green and in late spring fill the air with clouds of pollen.

Lodgepole pine grows in a variety of soils. It is one of the first trees to colonize an area after a fire due to the amount of seed it makes. Large stands are then common and being so crowded are called 'dog hair' stands.
These trees provide excellent habitat and food source for birds like nuthatches and woodpeckers but also for small mammals and insects. Bears will eat the inner bark.
The pine is bothered by certain pests, such as, mountain pine beetle and the pine white butterfly. It is also susceptible to the comandra blister rust.

Lodgepole pine has been used by the First Nations Peoples as poles to support teepees and lodges. It has been a fuel source and has many medicinal uses. A use has been found for almost every part of the tree. Today it is primarily used for timber to make poles and railway ties. The oil, resin and bark are used in commercial cleaners.

           Where the heck is Alberta?


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Colour on a sunny afternoon

It was a bright and sunny day yesterday. I raked leaves for an hour and a quarter. While doing so I noticed some great colour happening in the garden as well as a few surprises.

Salvia "Hot Lips" an annual survived the first frost

Itea "Henry's Garnet" is now a bright burgundy

Variegated Sedum flower head

Plumbago ceratostigma in red
Willow Blue Star's yellow foliage
Out of focus "Max Frei" Geranium
Multi hued Oakleaf Hydrangea

"Rozanne" Geranium

Ninebark "Dart's Gold"
European Copper Beech is starting to colour

Monday, November 1, 2010


My dad brought me a bouquet of flowers from the florist in the grocery store. Nothing fancy.  I thought I'd rearrange them into a bouquet of another kind, for fun.