Monday, January 27, 2014


On previous Animalia posts the animals are typically birds, or quick views of a local fox or coyote (like last winter). Today, however, my encounter was with a field mouse.

It began with the discovery of some bug that has managed to avoid being seen so far this winter. I am not a bug squish-er, can't do it, I feel them expire under what ever it is I find to do the squishing and it is unpleasant. So mostly I put my unwanted friends outside. But when I opened the door to release the bug I noticed something small rustling some leaves trapped in the corner of the front porch.

This is not my first encounter with mice. We discovered some very dead bodies in the house when we first bought it. Also Sushi used to hunt and has brought me a mouse, though age has definitely ended that pastime (hers, not mine).

Very busy little mouse. It turns out he/she was looking for maple keys that apparently were still worthy of eating. Upon discovery of said maple key he/she would nibble away at it at a speed approaching light and then start the search again.



 As you can see no area of that corner was left undisturbed. And when there was nothing left to be found...

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Plans for a Neglected Bed - Part 1

The last few days I have been contemplating re-doing one of my front yard beds. It was the first flower bed I made when we bought the house. It has since become neglected and a place for plants with no real place to go.

In those 12 years I know a lot more about plant placement and have some vague ideas on combining plants in contrasting or harmonious ways. I know a great colour combo when I see one but to put it together myself is challenging - kind of like shopping for clothes; I have great difficulty telling how the garment on the hanger is going to look on me. Usually I walk away from clothes shopping early on and I am afraid that is what I have done to this poor flower bed.

Apparently I have also neglected taking photos of the garden bed as a whole and instead have taken individual floral photos. No help to you at all.

I have a great magazine from Fine Gardening titled Plant Combinations which is quite helpful in trying to see the differences in colour. For example, the green family consists of dark green, gray-green, blue-green, pure green, yellow-green, and chartreuse. The colour green is important for me because I tend to ignore it and look instead at the colour of the blooms. I have obviously been missing out on some interesting combinations with foliage alone. The magazine also has numerous photos of plant combinations in contrasting and harmonious plantings. The only criticism I have is that they use mainly annuals in their examples. I am definitely a perennial gal.

So yesterday I started looking back at old photos and in my garden journal notes to pick out approximate bloom times for the plants in that bed. Naturally I could not just stick to that garden bed and ended up writing down every plant I have, which took a lot longer, but may be quite useful down the road. I have just completed an excel sheet listing the blooms by month and have even noted in some cases early, mid or late times for each month.

source: DK - Fresh Flower Arranging © 2011 Dorling Kindersley Limited

My idea is not to totally re-do the bed by moving everything around (I have no desire to get the pick axe out to move the peonies), but hopefully switch  some of them around and maybe take out a few that don't really work in that space and possibly replace them with something else from the garden. Otherwise I can see the $$$ adding up pretty quickly!

As it is only January I have plenty of time to overthink this plan. What else is a gardener to do in a snowy winter?

Friday, January 10, 2014

Provincial Post - New Brunswick Purple Violet

Is there another small flower with such a long and interesting history? Violets were associated with death and funerals for both the Greeks and Romans. The Romans made wine from violet blossoms, and the Greeks and Persians used it medicinally to calm the troubled head and induce sleep. In Christian art the Virgin Mary is often surrounded by violets symbolizing humility. The violet also symbolizes faithfulness and purity. Blue is true.

Eliza Doolittle sold violets for tuppence as did flower ladies in markets since time immemorial, Josephine Bonaparte's favorite scent was the violet, and the Parma violet from Italy is an iconic British violet flavored candy.

In the province of New Brunswick it is the Viola cucullata that is a treasured symbol. The flower was adopted as the New Brunswick floral emblem in 1936, at the request of the provincial Women's Institute, the Lieutenant Governor and New Brunswick schoolchildren. The Viola cucullata goes by other names such as the Hooded Blue Violet, Marsh Blue Violet, the long-stemmed marsh violet or Purple Violet, and in French by violette cucullée and violette dressée.

The Purple Violet is a perennial which flowers from May through July. Like most violets it is a low grower reaching 20 cm tall. The simple leaves form a basal cluster from which the five-petaled flowers rise above and bloom in violet, dark blue and even white. Sadly the blooms have no scent. Its fruit is a green cylindrical-ovoid 3-valved capsule and the seeds are blackish at maturity.   According to one web site "The most reliable way to identify this species is to look very closely at the beards on the lower side petals. In marsh blue violet, the hairs are thick and rounded at the tip, like tiny clubs. Other bearded blue violets have slender, pointed hairs." This violet is known to occasionally hybridize with other species.

Its natural habitat is that of wet meadows and in coniferous or mixed-wood forests, marshes, swamps, and bogs. The Purple Violet is an eastern North American species that grows all over New Brunswick. It ranges from Quebec to Ontario and extends to the north shores of Lake Superior, as well as making its way to Minnesota and south to the state of Georgia. 

The Cherokee Indians found many uses for the Purple Violet. Medicinally it was used to treat headaches, colds and cough, applied to boils in a poultice or sprayed up the nose for catarrh. It can also be made into jams and jellies and syrups for consumption.

Where is New Brunswick? 

It is the small maritime province on the right in green.

Friday, January 3, 2014

The Weather Outside is Frightful....

Well it was frightful for us, and still is for many others in North America. The 22nd of December a large storm came through southern Ontario, pelting us with freezing rain. Power lines and trees were covered in ice and many broke down from the accumulation of ice or from the change in temperature over the first 48 hours. Power outages were everywhere, lasting mere hours to an eternal 7 days or longer.

We were fortunate. We lost power for 15 hours but my mother in law was out for 4 days. The storm turned everyone's Christmas plans upside down. My mother in law's Christmas dinner was moved to our home once we realized she would be without power for a few days. Family driving in from elsewhere delayed their trip a couple of days and now needed a roof over their heads while in Burlington. Thankfully it was all sorted out quickly and relatively painlessly and we could enjoy a family Christmas together.

all photos are from the Globe and Mail newspaper

Have you ever heard of "frost quakes" ? According to the news some people reported hearing loud booms that "sounded like gunshots" in the night. Officials say those who heard it may have witnessed a "frost quake," also known as cryoseisms. These occur when extreme cold temperatures freeze water deep in the soil. As it freezes, it expands, sometimes causing enough built up pressure that the ground cracks, occasionally with enough force to cause a loud "boom" sound. Yikes.

Today a new storm is heading up the eastern coast of the USA and into the Canadian maritime provinces. This  is a snow storm. As of this evening it is reported that the heaviest snow fell north of Boston in Boxford, Mass. in the USA, which reported nearly 60 centimetres. Welcome to 2014.

Being close to the lake we did not get the freezing rain in such abundance as in other areas. At some point overnight I woke to hear the freezing rain change to plain 'ole rain. We had very little damage with only tiny branches falling to the ground. It is unusual to get this much snow at this time of the year in Burlington. It made for a lovely Christmas season, but I am sure we would have all preffered it without the ice.

Best wishes to all in 2014. May your gardens grow and bloom with abandon and present you with a year of satisfying garden pleasures.