Friday, September 27, 2013

Stone Walls

To me there is something romantic about stone walls. I think of Italian villas with pink or yellow roses cascading down the sides of chunky stone walls. There is a timelessness about them as this is the original material from which we created our first barriers from wildlife and yikes, invading hordes.

Rock and stone is a renewable source. It is under our feet every day. Mountains give up their loose bits by letting them rumble down to level ground or throw them  skyward with incredible force. All we have to do is collect the ones we like.

In my garden there are times when it feels that all that I grow well is stone. When weeding or planting I remove bits of stone or pebbles to clear my pristine patch of earth only to find the next time more bits of rock waiting to be removed.

And so it was that I decided to look around in my neighborhood for stone walls. Being in an older part of town I knew of two stone houses and walked in that direction.

Growing up in Quebec we called these fieldstone houses. I don 't see many at all in the cities I go to in Ontario. Instead I believe brick was used more often.

Building rock walls is an art and a fading one at that. The wall (above)  has looked liked this for years. I think it was perhaps put together haphazardly, some stones stayed while others shifted away. It does its job though, marking a boundary.

At first I thought this was a dry laid stone wall (above) but it is not. There is cement holding the rocks in place from behind. This leaves the look of dry laid but with less work and fiddling.

A pretty wall that is cemented with field stone. There is a progression in rock wall building I am trying to show you. Early stone walls were dry laid - think of Scotland's rolling hills and pastures divided by dry laid stone walls. Today, time is a precious commodity. Dry laid walls are very time consuming to build and require some knowledge of technique and skill.

The next two photos below is a newer form of building stone walls in my neighborhood. The size of the stone cut from a quarry is the main benefit to building a wall quickly.

The average homeowner can not build this wall. A bobcat is definitely required to lift and move these rocks, or should I say boulders?

You may remember our backyard renovation a few summers ago. My hubby built the stone retaining wall himself. The stone is cut on all sides - not our first choice - we like a more natural stone. But it fits together more easily than field stone for example.

While my new wall is never going to have cascading roses flow over it, it is does what it is needed to do and looks mighty fine in the process.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

September Afternoon

Yesterday was a lovely late afternoon; you know how it is when the sun is low in the sky casting a warm glow all around. Enough time and light to take a few photos of the last blooms of September.
We have had a cooler that normal summer (which is alright with me), but means that the last fall blooms will not live as long as in warmer days. Nights are cool to 8-11 centigrade.

Helenium hybrid by local grower

Helenium 'Ruby Tuesday"

H. "Ruby Tuesday"
This is the time of year for the heleniums, helianthus and heliopsis. Mostly shades of yellow but also copper, bronze, orange and red. Perhaps nature's way of enhancing that sunny warm glow.

Helianthus "Lemon Queen" a natural hybrid 

Lemon Queen gets to about 6 feet tall. Some drier years it doesn't make it that tall but this was a good year. The blooms below are being pollinated  by the Bombus bimaculatus, or Two-spotted Bumble Bee, a native as far as I can tell.

Finished flowering a week or so ago, the cup plant flower heads are still pretty interesting to look at.
The latin name is Silphium perfoliatum, perfoliatum meaning 'through the leaf'. The opposite leaves are large and cup the stem which intended or not creates a well or cup to catch rainwater.

Coneflowers are probably in everyone's garden at some time or another. Here is a photo of mine in the wilder back area.

The photo is not complete as it is missing the green headed coneflowers and coreopsis. Also it was taken a couple of weeks ago before everybody toppled over. I keep planting new additions close to the originals to try to keep everyone upright as long as possible. All the coneflowers are the species and self seed, yay!

Green headed coneflower, Rudbeckia laciniata
 The Green headed coneflower is quite stately and is more yellow headed than green in my garden. It is presently over 6 feet high and needs to be staked. It too is making babies for me this year.

I will leave you with some asters and that bumblebee Bombus bimaculatus. The bumblebees were everywhere. I was finding 3 and 4 on individual plants. They too must like the warm glow of a late September afternoon.

Aster novi-belgii by the front door