Sunday, October 27, 2013

Problems in the Garden

Now that there is very little left to do in the garden I have been thinking about some of the problems I encountered this year.

1. Foam flower Tiarella Cordifolia

Do you even see the leaves?

1. Bad Location: One of the most difficult plants to get established this summer has been the foam flower. I planted five foam flowers under a silver maple with the thought that they would make a nice ground cover. I knew growing anything under the maple would be problematic but not to the degree I have encountered. I have watered these plants almost on a daily basis since May and they still look like they are about to die. All I can do is see if they survive the winter.

2. Invincibelle Spirit hydrangeas
2. Undesirable Traits: I had high hopes for the Invincibelle Spirit hydrangea. Pink frothy balls of colour behind the cappuccino colour of my house all summer long. This is the second year I have grown them. They are a disappointment. They flop. They flop horribly. They flop and look horrid even with support. They are cousins to the Annabelle H. arborescens which in my experience does not flop to this degree. In the photo, which was taken in August, I cut my 5 disappointments down to 6 inches to a foot in height. I took out a lot of straggly growth too which is why they don't look like much. Don't bother with these.

3. Destruction
3. Then there was the rampant and willful destruction of newly planted shrubs. I believe in this case it was squirrels who thought my elderberries (in this case Sambucus 'aurea') and bush honeysuckles Diervella lonicera needed some rearranging. I have outsmarted the rodents before and managed to do so again. All six shrubs are now growing well.

4. Death
4. Unhappy and unexplained death in the family. I planted three new spicebush (Lindera benzoin) this spring and this one did not survive. It was surprising as it was doing quite well , or so I thought. The other two are doing just fine and are putting out their buds for next spring as I write this.

All these plants are new to the garden. You make recall that this year I planted over 70 plants and transplanted some others (you can see what I have done here and here). There are always going to be surprises. Death is expected. Time will judge the good from the bad. I have lost a few perennials not mentioned here but I won't cry about that now. All in all I think my new plantings did very well.

Monday, October 21, 2013

October's Last Flowers

Honey suckle, Lonicera sempervirens.
One of two last flowers in my garden for the year, if you don't count a couple of pots of mums which I don't.
The weather is still quite nice for October; cooler temperatures of course, a bit wetter too, but the sun does shine most days of the week and that is fantastic.

Love the orange red yellow hues all in one flower.

The second flower is from my witch hazel, Hamamelis virginiana.
Pretty, delicate, threads of gold.

Strangely, seeing the witch hazel in flower at this time is always a surprise. Their existence is fleeting so I guess I should consider myself lucky to see the blooms at all.


Crispy air and azure skies,
High above, a white cloud flies,
Bright as newly fallen snow.
Oh the joy to those who know October!

Colors bright on bush and tree.
Over the weedy swamp, we see
A veil of purple and brown and gold.
Thy beauty words have never told. October!

Scolding sparrows on the lawn,
Rabbits frisking home at dawn,
Pheasants midst the sheaves of grain,
All in harmony acclaim, October!

Brown earth freshly turned by plow,
Apples shine on bended bough,
Bins o'erflowed with oats and wheat,
And satisfaction reigns complete. October!

Radiant joy is everywhere.
Spirits in tune to the spicy air,
Thrill in the glory of each day.
Life's worth living when we say, October!

Thursday, October 10, 2013


Cute, yes?
Every year at this time I catch a glimpse of a chipmunk rummaging around in the yew hedge. The red berries (actually arils) of the yew are a tasty treat and few if any get left behind.

This fella wades his way through the layers of hedge searching out the berries and then stuffing them into his mouth. Branches quiver and I know he is further down moving around. Then he pops out of some opening and moves along the top of the hedge like walking on water.

When he is not so cute

What all the rummaging about is for I haven't a clue. Maybe he just wants to rearrange the mulch. Nope, no nuts under there.

Early this spring I realized I needed a bird bath for the back yard. I looked at many bird baths before  deciding to recycle and reuse a frying pan that was to go in the garbage. It is a non stick surface pan that warped early in its use and eventually was no use at all. Not a beautiful pan either. But put a large stone at the bottom as a perch and fill it with water and the birds will come. Although not right away.

Grey Catbird

seems to have decided the pan will do for a dip

Young Robin was eyeing the bath and bather

It was close. He checked out that fry pan from all angles but never went in for a dip or a drink.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

What's in a name, Delphinium?

Back in September I went to our botanical gardens auxiliary fall plant sale. The  auxiliary does a wonderful job a putting the plant sales together besides all the other hard work (all volunteers) they do for the gardens. Naturally I came home with a few more plants for the garden; a couple of Lime Ricky hostas, a couple of maidenhair ferns, a false indigo or baptisia, a Jacob's Ladder (boreale) and two delphiniums labelled D. exaltatum.

The delphiniums are native to the eastern USA, and are quite tall at four feet high, thus their common name Tall Larkspur. Late summer and early fall is the time of year when they bloom and that they are blue/purple is a bit of a bonus. 

However, I am not convinced that what I have are Tall Larkspur. I snipped the flowering stalks off to hasten my plants rooting abilities for the winter and popped them into a tiny glass. I have taken photos over a weeks period but the flower buds will not open fully or perhaps in the same way photos online show. Therefore I am having trouble confirming their actual name.

In the end I suppose it does not really matter as the flowers are pretty, quite delicate looking, and a mild purple blue in colour. What I do hope is that they will survive the winter and I will have another chance to see the plants in bloom once more.

A bit of delphinium lore:

From the Greek word Delphis meaning Dolphin, it most likely refers to the shape of the  the flower or nectary. Shakespeare actually calls it the “Lark’s heel” and it is also known as the lark’s claw and the knight’s spur. It is also said that the Greeks named this flower after Apollo, the god of the city of Delphi.

The common name "larkspur" is shared between perennial Delphinium species and annual species of the genus Consolida. They are members of buttercup family. This is a genus with about 300 species that are all flowering plants. The larkspur plant is native to the Northern hemisphere and can handle some colder temperatures and shorter periods of sunshine. The plant can grow as tall as 6 feet. The flower blooms are typically purple, but can also be blue, red, white, or yellow.

The seeds are small and often shiny black. All parts of these plants are considered toxic to humans, causing severe digestive discomfort if ingested, and also skin irritation.

The plants flower from late spring to late summer, and are pollinated by butterflies and bumble bees. Delphinium species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species, including the dot moth and small angle shades.