Saturday, May 26, 2012

Nothing to Lose, a Rhododendron Story

I love rhododendrons with their gorgeous showy flowers, cool looking evergreen foliage. They fit right in my woodland garden appreciating the morning sun and afternoon shade. They let you know when it is too cold for their liking by curling up their leaves. Some have a soft and fuzzy tomentum on the undersides of the leaves, like my yakushimanum. 

Rhodos have their share of problems like other plants and recently I had to figure out why my yaku 'Ken Janek' was dying. Unfortunately I did not take any before pictures ( I was too distraught) to help with the description. Basically the rhodo was dying stem by stem. Quite the shame as they all had flower buds growing on them. What to do? 

Removed stems

I dug 'Ken' up. Not the easiest job in the world. This rhodo is not big but digging it up, leaves and flower buds intact, plus root ball, well, I am sure some of you have been in my place. It seemed OK. I could not find disease, or pests or anything obvious. So I tried opening up some of the root ball and then replanted it.

A couple of weeks and 'Ken' did not show any change. In fact there was no response to my digging it up and cutting it open a bit. No shock, no wilt, nothing. It just kept dying.

That's not right I thought. So I dug 'Ken' up again - much easier this time. This time my eyes actually saw what was wrong and I think it has something to do with the way the growers grow the plants. The root ball was actually a very dense mat of peat and whatever other growing medium they use. I realized that there were no visible live roots outside that mass. The roots were not able to get through and into my lovely acid soil. So with nothing left to lose I grabbed our ancient machete and started hacking off pieces of the root ball around the top and sides. When I found root I cut a piece off to see if it was  live root or not. If not, I kept hacking. 

In the end I lost about half of the original plant. After I replanted 'Ken' he wilted for a for a few days and I took that as a good sign. A week later and the rhodo is showing some colour on one of the buds which means it may actually bloom.

Today, still a bit wilted


Just for fun visit Marjorie Hancock's web site where she tells you the "Ten Ways To Kill a Rhododendron".

Friday, May 18, 2012


I heard the name of Pussytoes before I ever saw a picture of the plant. I was looking into possible native plants for the garden and came across this odd and curious name. Then one day the reverse happened and I found a photo of this curious plant and eventually read that it is called Pussytoes.
There is no need to explain its name.

Its full name is Antennaria howellii Greene ssp. canadensis (Greene) Bayer or Canadian pussytoes.
Quite the mouthful. 
This one prefers the eastern side of the country.

It tends to prefer rocky or open areas and therefore is suitable to rock gardens or perhaps scree gardens. I am hoping it will survive in a sunny dryish location along with some ferns and wild ginger. I know, I know, it doesn't sound very scree-ish but it's the best I can do.

Apparently there is a pink form. Ooooh!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Sweet Kate

Sweet sweet Kate. 

A number of years ago a friend gave me a a fairly large piece of Tradescantia virginiana, one of species spiderworts. It was the usual green leaved plant with lovely deep purple flowers. It was a no nonsense plant in my garden and I looked forward to its arrival every spring. Then last summer it got lost with all the  commotion and destruction of the backyard renovation and most likely died when the bobcat (the machine) was brought in to level the ground.

It was on my list to replace until I saw its cousin Sweet Kate. I have seen Kate (Tradescantia x andersoniana "Sweet Kate") a number of times in magazines and on the web but I never thought much of her. It was the leaves. They are not green they are chartreuse. Purple with lime. I just did not think much about her.
Then a sighting at a plant sale, from a distance no less. The chartreuse was what caught my eye. Smitten.

Brought her home and hardened her off for four days (sweet tender Kate). Now she is planted in a new bed with others awaiting a permanent situation. With all the dark greens surrounding her in my shady garden Kate shines through. Transplanted without a problem. The rabbits have not tried to touch her yet. Sweet Kate welcome home.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

May day

Today is a lovely warm day. The kind that forces you out of doors just because it's here. What a wonderful change from the cold damp days we've been enduring of late. While I have been out in the garden cleaning up , and culling garlic mustard and just checking things out and making more revisions of revisions of plans, today was worthy of some photos.

I took this photo of a Comma butterfly (or so I believe) from my bedroom and I am glad I did as it flew away once I got within 10 feet of it. I am seeing a lot more butterflies in my gardens in the past few years and I like to think I had something to do with it. I have been planting native species in the back and trying to select ones that provide shelter or food for the animals. Of course this has its problems too but that is for another post.

The Red Admiral butterfly has never been a stranger to the garden, but this year seems to be a banner year as there are many more of them than I have ever seen. Apparently I am not alone is observing the increased numbers as they actually made the news a few weeks ago.

Beautiful and delicate Anemonella thalictroides never disappoint in the spring. Their leaves resemble those of the columbine. There is a double form which is pretty too but I have yet to find one. 

No one can beat Mother Nature for inspiring form and structure. Solomon seal is wondrous to watch unfold its layers. 

The Great White Trillium is Ontario's provincial flower. It grows in large numbers like a wave of white froth on the forest floor. Count yourself lucky if you get to see that marvel.

Another Solomon seal but this is the European variegated form. Gorgeous red stalks push themselves out of the soil and eventually turn green, but you can see the tint of red near the flower bud in this photo.

Redbud trees have become very popular in my neighborhood and it is easy to see why. Who would turn down this shock of pink in early spring.

The red buds before they open. The tree flowers on old wood, so don't do any major pruning if you don't have to.

My first Jack in the Pulpit or Arisaema triphyllum to flower in the garden. Another architectural wonder wouldn't you say? This family has all kinds of cool looking species but this one is native to North America.

False Solomon seal shares many of its structural qualities with its big brother but it follows its own path with a very different flower. While Solomon seal has little bells of flowers that hang down from the underside of the main stalk, Maianthemum racemosum creates a fluffy puff of flowers similar to that of astilbe.

And finally the unfurling fronds of the Ostrich ferm. These ferns are edible and in our neck of the woods are called Fiddleheads (and especially out in the Maritimes) and you can certainly see why they got that name. Lightly steamed with butter, yum.