Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Receive Posts via Email

With luck I have correctly set things up so that you can receive my posts via email and mobile. With 15 minutes of research I decided on MailChimp and it was fairly easy to do, minus the occasional what does this mean?. I am quietly stepping into the 21st or maybe 20th century here.
The form should be at the end of the current post unless you are viewing more than one post at a time and then it will be down at the bottom somewhere.
I would appreciate any feedback so that I can fine tune the email subscription. Thanks.

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Native Question

I was reading a number of fellow garden blogs this morning and to my delight found out that Jen at Three Dogs in a Garden has turned her interest to native plants. That got me thinking about my own journey with native plants which I will share with you today.

It goes back about eleven years when we bought the house we are presently living in. We bought the place for the property because it was large, natural looking, private and quiet. It was also old, neglected and needed a whole lot of work. My mind had already turned to the idea of natives and this place seemed the best place to try gardening with them. We did a survey of the trees and plants already here, thinking many of them to be native to the area only to be disappointed over and over again. I had a lot to learn.

I quickly discovered that I needed to learn the Latin names of any plant I wanted to grow in my garden. I have read in magazines that many people think that those who know the Latin names of plants are snobs and showing off. Well let me tell you that ain't so!  It is imperative, and I will never shy from saying the Latin plant names. I could have come home with all non-natives or exotics (as they are sometimes called) if I had not known the proper scientific name. For example, is the plant called cowslip that the Brit's love the same as the Virginia cowslip that we grow North America, which is also called the Virginia bluebell? And is it the same as the bluebell that the Brit's love? How would you know with certainty if you did not know the scientific name?

The search for native plants was also difficult as most of the nurseries in my area do not promote them. I had to look for specialty nurseries, especially at the beginning. It is still a challenge.

 At first I was very particular about growing plants that were native to Ontario, but as it was difficult for me to find the plants I extended my view to eastern Canada which quickly became eastern North America. Over the years I realized that so-called purist way of thinking was not going to work. As my interest and knowledge about horticulture deepened I came to understand that I needed to question what native means. We tend to assume that growing native means growing plants that have been here forever and that just isn't so. The common usage refers to all plants grown in North America or Ontario or Burlington prior to European settlement, and that is only 400 years ago. We cannot know that the same plants were here before that period. And if we look much further back we know that the earths continents used to lie much closer together, meaning that at one time the earth shared most plants in common. So who is to say that those wonderful Japanese plum trees never grew in Ontario at some point in time or that our native Jack in the Pulpit never grew in Japan.

It is also much more difficult to separate the native from the non-native. We are forever creating new cultivars and making hybrids between Japanese and American jack in the pulpits, for example. We are losing the purity of the plants.

Today's world  is much smaller than it used to be; we transport plants and animals across continents with speed and, as we are all aware, that creates problems we may never solve. Even without the jet planes or shipping tankers plant material gets transported to other areas of our world via wind, water, and animals. It has always been so and so how do you know with certainty what is native and what is not. Of course some of it grows better in Japan than it does in Canada, and I will never be able to grow orchids except in pots. There are differences; differences in climate, soil, predators and animals and insects that rely on that food source or place of shelter.

Today my preference is still to grow native plants that follow the modern criteria. I grow them for all the usual reasons. However I also grow beautiful peonies and roses and geraniums not found here and why should I not?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Provincial Post - Quebec Fleurs-de-Lys

The Blue Flag Iris (Iris versicolor Linne) is the provincial flower for Quebec and has been represented on the provincial flag since 1948. There still seems to be some confusion as to what flower is actually represented by the Fleur-de-lys on the Quebec flag as some sources claim it is the Madonna lily while others say is is the iris. It goes back to the fact that the emblem was taken from the French who used it as  a symbol for their own purposes. The French flower is gold rather than white and is believed to be the Iris pseudacorus. The white fleurs-de-lis on Quebec's flag are symbols of purity, which originally represented the Virgin Mary.

 According to Pierre-Augustin Boissier de Sauvages, an 18th century French naturalist and lexicographer:
"The old fleurs-de-lis, especially the ones found in our first kings' sceptres, have a lot less in common with ordinary lilies than the flowers called flambas [in Occitan], or irises, from which the name of our own fleur-de-lis may derive. What gives some colour of truth to this hypothesis that we already put forth, is the fact that the French or Franks, before entering Gaul itself, lived for a long time around the river named Luts in the Netherlands. Nowadays, this river is still bordered with an exceptional number of irises —as many plants grow for centuries in the same places—: these irises have yellow flowers, which is not a typical feature of lilies but fleurs-de-lis. It was thus understandable that our kings, having to choose a symbolic image for what later became a coat of arms, set their minds on the iris, a flower that was common around their homes, and is also as beautiful as it was remarkable. They called it, in short, the fleur-de-lis, instead of the flower of the river of lis. This flower, or iris, looks like our fleur-de-lis not just because of its yellow colour but also because of its shape: of the six petals, or leaves, that it has, three of them are alternatively straight and meet at their tops. The other three on the opposite, bend down so that the middle one seems to make one with the stalk and only the two ones facing out from left and right can clearly be seen, which is again similar with our fleurs-de-lis, that is to say exclusively the one from the river Luts whose white petals bend down too when the flower blooms."(source)

Flag of Quebec

The Blue Flag Iris is distributed across the eastern side of Canada from Manitoba to Newfoundland. It is the only native iris to Canada. Like all irises the blue flag prefers a moist to wet site and likes sun to part sun. The flower colour varies and is known as the rainbow iris ('versicolor' - more on that below). It grows to three feet tall and the leaves are sword shaped. Blooms occur from May to August depending on the location and once finished the petals curl up before turning brown and dropping.  The seeds are grown in a three-angled capsule and are dispersed before winter.
The rhizome contains a toxic chemical iridin which has been used by the Native Americans as a cathartic and an emetic. The plant juice is known to cause dermatitis to sensitive individuals, so wear gloves if you are planting irises! Attractive to hummingbirds and bees.

Other names : blue flag iris, wild iris, northern blue flag, harlequin blue flag

IRIS was the goddess of the rainbow, the messenger of the Olympian gods. She was often represented as the handmaiden and personal messenger of Hera. Iris was a goddess of sea and sky--her father Thaumas "the wondrous" was a marine-god, and her mother Elektra "the amber" a cloud-nymph. For the coastal-dwelling Greeks, the rainbow's arc was most often seen spanning the distance beteween cloud and sea, and so the goddess was believed to replenish the rain-clouds with water from the sea. Iris had no distinctive mythology of her own. In myth she appears only as an errand-running messenger and was usually described as a virgin goddess. Her name contains a double meaning, being connected both with iris, "the rainbow," and eiris, "messenger."

Where in Canada is Quebec?

It is the big purple province in the east.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Coyote Visits

Last week the coyote dropped by for a quick visit. I think she was following the trail of some animal as her nose was to the ground (snow) pretty much the entire time I followed her.
She was not an easy one to follow either. I noticed her first in the neighbour's front yard, then she came over to our side, made her way to the garden close to the street and then turned around and went to the back.  Then turned around again before retracing her steps to the front, then went over to the neighbour on the other side before crossing back to our back yard and eventually disappeared  towards the creek. Meanwhile I am running from room to room trying to capture her on the camera. There are a few good snaps and as you will see she is in good shape and not too hungry.

Until next time...

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Winter Stroll

Had a stroll by the water with a good friend. It is winter. There is now snow.

As you can see it was a beautiful morning. The sky was bright blue. The lake, Lake Ontario, was also blue but I did not test the waters that morning.

This is our destination. There are two psuedo lighthouses at the end of each pier. I say pseudo because they are just buildings built in the shape of lighthouses and painted like lighthouses but are not lighthouses, they are much too small.

Our path has been cleared for us by the city by small bulldozer machines. I wonder how they knew we'd be there. Kind of them, wasn't it.

A better view. The two piers are across from each other allowing tankers and other boats to get to the docking piers in Hamilton harbour.

The bridges get people across the waterway. On the right is the Skyway Bridge for those who want to get to the other side quickly. On the left is the old lift bridge for those that are risk takers - you never know when a large tanker might need to pass under this bridge. Loud horns signal the lift ascent and descent, and a wait in the car can take awhile.

Which way do you want to go today? We are heading left.

There is the last leg of the route to the lighthouse at the end. From there we turn around and head back. The usual ducks are in the water between the two piers, however there are no photos of the ducks because we were facing the sun.


Not the nicest of views. As I mentioned in another post, the hydro lines were placed along the beach in this area. Why oh why?

A great walk that day. Not too cold either considering there is usually a wind that comes off the lake which can make a stroll along the lake unpleasant.

The final destination! A sunny window, a hot latte and a friend to share it with.