Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Happy Phlox stolonifera

Phlox stolonifera is one of my favorite phlox. It is a great ground cover in light to medium shade, that creeps slowly outwards, creating a fairly dense mat that will cover anything unsightly in its path. OK maybe not anything, it is not aggressive, but if it could ultimately replace my lawn I would not complain one bit.

Look at its flower buds. Pointed like tiny ballerina slippers. See how they are swirled shut, waiting for the right conditions to unfurl.

Then, pop, they are open. You never see it happen, it is magic. The wondrous magic of nature.
Nature and science, or the science of nature. Some would say it is physics that describes the motion of the tightly bound petals opening like an unwound umbrella.

Then there are the leaves. A mid green in pairs, like hands raised to the sky. Hundreds of tiny hands. Some hold a flower stalk a few inches above. Why some and not the others, I do not know. It probably has something to do with chemicals. There's that science again.

Here is what it looks likes when phlox covers the earth like a carpet. Happy phlox under a black walnut tree. Spread little phloxes, spread.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Today in the Garden

As the woodland plants start to slow down other more vibrantly coloured plants begin to shine. Right now my redbuds are in full flower and they are glorious.

Cercis canadensis

These were planted four years ago now. A couple of things surprised me, the first is that they put on quite a lot of growth quickly. The second, is that my redbuds both have dead branches after winter. Minor branches for the most part. But it makes me wonder if this is normal.

The tiny new leaves of the redbuds are smaller than my thumb nail.

Quite the show right now. I want more!

On another vein, I have managed to identify a viburnum that has been in the garden since we moved here. If I am wrong in my identification I would appreciate being made aware of the error. However I believe this is Viburnum lantana or the Wayfaring viburnum.

I looked up the definition of Wayfaring hoping to better understand the tree's behaviour, but it actually leaves me stumped. (Notice the puns!)
Wayfaring means going on a journey on foot. Another definition is a caprifoliaceous shrub, Viburnum lantana, of Europe and W Asia....So now I had to look up caprifoliaceous which means,
belonging to the Caprifoliaceae, the honeysuckle family of plants.
V. lantana flowers
In my garden this shrub does not wander or journey. It retains the same footprint it had more than ten years ago.  Perhaps it behaves differently in your garden?

Last in my thoughts for today is the alternate leaf pagoda dogwood. We have had ups and downs with these beautiful shrubs. I blame racoons for breaking off the lead stems on this particular shrub which has left it somewhat lopsided.

We planted a second one beside the first only to have it die the first winter. So, not to give up that quickly I planted another. This second dogwood had some dieback this winter and we lost two main branches, but the rest of it looks healthy.
Then, last weekend hubby discovered two pagoda dogwoods growing in the far back of the garden. One is about a foot high and the other only inches.

As you can see hubby has over- protected the baby dogwood, however it should prevent us from stepping on it. How we ended up with these two additional dogwoods I can only guess; maybe birds excreting the seeds, maybe wishful thinking. 


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Mother Nature's Garden

You know how you read books that tell you about woodland plants, what grows well together, and shows photos of said woodland plants sitting pretty in the garden together?  One of the things I was always curious about was whether or not you would find those woodland plants together in a natural or untouched environment.
Then on Monday I was in a natural woodland and lo and behold what they say is true.

I know it is hard to tell what you are looking at but there are trilliums to the left and in behind, wild geranium in front, and false solomon's seal scattered about. Mother Nature likes a chaotic garden from what I can tell.

That is, until she doesn't.
Trilliums abound on both sides of the path.

Trilliums and  mayapple.

Trillium grandiflorum

Trillium erectum

It is definitely the season for trillium.
But that is not all I saw.

Geranium maculatum
Mayapple behind the trilliums, false solomon seal in front
Sensitive fern

Starry Solomon seal ?
And finally by the forest edge

Violets in blue, white and yellow.

Perhaps my attempts at recreating Mother Nature's garden is not so far from the reality after all. I have many similar plants co-existing, weeds and grass taking up valuable space, leaf litter, and the occasional swath of trillium but in a much smaller footprint. I am on the right track.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Looking at Trees

Winter returned today. High of 7C that feels like 2C with the wind. Lovely. Apparently a very cold front is moving in today. There are already frost warnings for tonight and Monday night.

Hubby and I made a very rushed tour through the botanical gardens Rock Garden this morning. Neither of us were dressed appropriately and he cursed the wind that chilled us almost to the bone.
I did manage to take some photos while racing through. The Rock Garden is where the tulips are showcased each spring. And while I took some photos of the tulips it was the trees that interested me today.

hubby among the Baskets of Gold

The Rock Garden is layered in narrow terraces that form an irregular circle around the base of the garden.

There is a large variety of trees and some are used to good effect. That small green deciduous tree in the middle will one day be a great focal point.

With all the rock and stone around it reminds me of my own garden.  Walking around the Rock Garden I looked at how they placed the trees and how closely one can place trees together.

Since adding a stone patio and walkway, as well as, a retaining wall creating two levels in my own garden, I have been trying to better understand how to use the stone to its advantage; how to place plants near stone to show both at their best.

I am a slow learner in this area. Appreciation of well placed trees or flowers is what I do best, but being able to create something worthy of appreciation is hard, very hard.

Reading garden magazines and books, looking at their photos to pick up tips, is something I always seem to be doing. Research is my middle name.

Putting all you learn into practice is not always easy. Each situation is different. I would like a gardening template. Something that looks good and works wherever you want it to go.

I would like to be able to achieve something beautiful like the placement of trees in this photo.

And so today as we rushed around the gardens I looked at the trees. Perhaps one day I will create something I can appreciate in my own garden no matter how small.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Woodland Garden

It is always interesting to watch the first leaves and buds unfurl in spring, and yes, it is spring in my backyard now. Here are some of the woodland plants I grow under the shade of hemlocks and spruce and black walnut trees.

The black walnut tree is the last tree to have leaf buds in the spring and is usually to first to drop its leaves in the fall. An often maligned tree for its tendency to inhibit the growth of many plants, including its own seedlings, I have found that planting woodland plants native to the area grow well in its proximity. I grow Phlox stolonifera and Rubus odoratus (flowering raspberry) and Sambucus canadensis (American elderberry) under this tree.

leafless black walnut

Not far from the walnut and certainly under its canopy you will find the following spring flowering woodland plants. Some are ephemeral like the Hepatica americana and H. acutiloba and the trout lily in the yellow form.

Unfurling leaves of H. acutiloba

flowers of H. americana

yellow trout lily
Then of course there are the fleeting flowers of bloodroot Sanguinaria canadensis called thus for its red poisonous juice in the roots. Also keep a sharp eye for the rue anemone's small but cheerful blooms. It is a member of the same family as all thalictrum, with fine and delicate foliage and flower.


bloodroots magnificent foliage

rue anemone
Then, there are the stalwarts of the spring woodland garden. These are plants that like to make themselves at home by slowly  spreading outwards. No garden should be without wild ginger (Asaram canadense), or solmon's seal (Polygonatum), false solomons's seal (Maianthemum racemosum), merrybells (Uvularia  grandiflora)

wild ginger with its flowers
solomon's seal
false solomon's seal
Finally there are the two iconic woodland beauties, the trillium and the Jack in the pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum).

the trilliums are just beginning to open

amazing stalks of Jack in the pulpit

There are plenty of wonderful reasons to grow a woodland garden. Having a walnut tree, or three, should not deter you at all for the choices are vast.