Friday, December 11, 2009
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
"September mild, October gold,
Are followed by November cold."
Well, it's hard to believe that it is almost the middle of November and the sun is shining brightly and the weather (for mid-November) is unseasonably warm. And when almost everything else in my garden has been touched by frost, my autumn crocus, like little soldiers, are still blooming brightly. What a cheerful patch they make here and there in the beds.
Now one small patch looks great in the spring when the foliage emerges in a spot where nothing else is growing. But once the hydrangea blooms the location is covered over and when the crocus blooms in all its autumn splendour, the blooms are hidden away. And every fall when this happens I tell myself I am going to move the bulbs so I'll truly be able to appreciate their colourful blooms the following year. In summer you get busy with other garden tasks and the foliage dies back and you can't remember where the bulbs are located. So you plan on waiting until the flowers bloom, but you know what happens, you get busy and time slips away or the weather turns suddenly and the ground freezes menacingly refusing to release the bulbs, and so another year goes by.
But today it is bright and warm and I'm determined to at least mark the spot where the bulbs are blooming. So armed with a few golf tees, I'll mark the spot now. Next spring I'll enjoy the foliage flush before the hydrangea puts on its growth spurt. Then as soon as the foliage dies back, I'll dig the bulbs and transfer them to a more visually accessible part of the garden.
Well, that the plan anyway. Gardeners always need to have dreams and plans, it's the implementation that doesn't always proceed as intended, but then again that's one of the trials, tribulations and yes, even joys of gardening.
So now we'll wait for November's cold and the December snows to follow. If you haven't already finished all your garden tasks, you'd better get busy for winter is on the way!
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Saturday, September 19, 2009
Monday, September 7, 2009
Perennial pleasures plants, and wholesome harvest reaps."
Amos Bronson Alcott
It's hard to believe that the kids go back to school tomorrow and just when summer has finally made its appearance. The past week has been beautiful, warm sunny days turning hot by late afternoon with not a bit of rain. Where has summer gone?
As the annuals begin to fade, their life cycle drawing to a close and hit by this sudden burst of heat and no rain, the colour show begins up above in the trees. Here and there a tree is bright with reds and yellows, fall is just around the corner. Yesterday I watched closely as a flock of starlings descended into the trees between our yard and our neighbours scouring the bushes for berries and the feeders for seeds. But I was fearful that they might attack my great crop of grapes. This year I pruned by grapes back hard and have been rewarded with lots of bunches of grapes. But the sunless, wet weather in July has meant that the grapes are behind schedule and I'm not sure that they will get ripe before frost comes (as I had such great hope for grape jelly this fall, so we will have to see).
The garden centres are full of mums and asters now, time to replace those ailing annuals with the rich tapestry of fall flowers. I can't wait for pumpkins and squashes to appear so we can decorate for autumn glory, perhaps we are to be blessed with Indian Summer. The beauty of Echinacea (above) Iare still blooming in the fall garden and the seedheads provide food for overwintering birds.
Monday, August 31, 2009
Getrude Huntington McGiffert, writer
After a hectic July of garden projects, chores and weeding, all in preparation for the garden tour, it was time to take a much needed break from the garden and so we ventured over to Haliburton for our week at the family cottage. It was here that I traded my garden tools and wheelbarrow in for a canoe and paddle. Up early one morning, as the mist began to rise off the still, calm surface of the lake, I slipped the canoe into the water and paddled on. From out on the lake I was able to view the shoreline and contemplate the beauty of nature.
The garden, although of nature, is a contrived setting, no matter how natural and informal we try to make it. Although we may select native plants and add rocks and other natural elements, we can never really make it appear as though it occurred naturally. From out on the water, looking back on the shore I saw nature in all its glory - trees that sprouted from fallen seeds, the understory plans of shrubs and small flowering plalnts co-existing happily. Along the shoreline, the sedges and bulrushes provide nesting areas for ducks and camauflauge for the great blue heron, standing still as a statue, amongst the cattails, hoping perhaps that I wouldn't notice him.
It's nearing the end of August and already the trees are just beginning to turn, the odd one giving hint that autumn will soon be upon us. It is in the fall that we are truly able to distinguish the great mix of our boreal forest, the warm colours of the changing deciduous in tone of yellow, orange, reds and burgundies, contrast to the cool shades of the coniferous trees creating a rich tapestry of nature. Sometimes in gardening I think we strive too hard to make things looks natural when all we really need to do is let nature take over and do its own thing. After all, the world existed before we did.
For me, Rudbeckia (above) are the perfect fall flower - bright and cheerful.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Jackie Bennett, "Cottage Gardener"
I was thinking how true the above statement is and how long cottage gardens have been living by this philosophy. The cottage garden has been around for as long as there have been rural working families, but there was little written about cottage gardening prior to 1750. It appears that "cottager" may have referred to a worker, be they a farm worker, gardener, dairyman or country craftsman, on a large estate in England.
The medieval cottage garden consisted of a yard that was home to animals as well as being separated into sections used for growing vegetables and corn, the crops being rotated annually. Not only providing some recreational activity, the humble cottage garden plot had to pay its way as a sustainable economy.
The cottage garden was a mixture of vegetables, fruits, shrubs, flowers, bulbs, herbs and soft fruits. Over the years the cottagers started to collect specimens of fruits shrubs from hedgerows in the countryside and transplant them near their homes to facilitate the harvest. The style was not planned but evolved over time, with vegetables not separated from flower beds but rather planted among the blooms. The nectar-rich flowers attracted bees, which produced honey, the only sweetener prior to the discovery of sugar cane. Aromatic herbs were grown for culinary and medicinal properties, the fruits and vegetables provided necessary sustenance for both man and beast.
My own "cottage" garden reflects Jackie's comments above, for living in the town of Bracebridge my small garden plot must satisfy all my gardening desires - for water, flowers, vegetables, fruits, herbs, shrubs and a biodiversity of wildlife. I love knowing that I am growing my own food while being surrounded by floral beauty. With a little careful planning you can have the cottage garden of your dreams.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
"The first object of a seat is invitation. Its position should be such that it should attract, whether because it offers rest at the end of a long walk, or because it is so placed that its surroundings may give rise to pleasant contemplation."
Saturday, August 1, 2009
H.E. Bates, "A Love of Flowers"
Today was beautiful, sunny and hot - a real change from last Saturday, the day of the Bracebridge garden tour. Then it was cool, and overcast with only a little drizzle once or twice. Thankfully the real downpour waited until 5:00 p.m. to let loose. It went well and everyone loved the peacefulness of the garden. And as the quote above states, this garden was in a state of change and expansion the very week before the tour. We bumped out a portion of our fence to reclaim a little used parking space and created a new seating area. The other change that we had anticipated completing but didn't quite get to was an new waterfall into our large pond, but that is a job for another day.
One of the show-stoppers on the tour was the "Pretty Much Picasso" Petunia from Proven Winners shown above. Everyone was drawn to the green edging on the beautiful purple blooms. But those who loved it will have to wait until next spring to purchase this stunning beauty as it will be available in spring 2010.
The other plant that garnered a lot of attention was my Queen of the Prairie shown in the top photo. This tall perennial with the frothy pink blooms might better be called "Cotton Candy" for when in full bloom it looks just like the favourite fall fair treat. So many people thought it was Astilbe.
The garden is looking great and we have been enjoying many evenings inviting friends for dinner to share our restful space. And we plan on inviting more folks to come and enjoy. One of our friends said after she had spent the evening, "It's just like being at a cottage or in the country. It's hard to believe you're in downtown Bracebridge." And that truly is the beauty of a garden, sharing it with others.
Well, a strong wind is blowing in the clouds, the temperature is dropping significantly and it looks like a storm may be on the way, but the plants need the rain. So be happy and enjoy your garden and don't forget to share it with others, you'll be glad you did.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Nigel Nicolson (son of Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicholson) 1993
Anyone who has shown their garden on a garden tour has uttered these very same words. The garden is never quite perfect no matter how hard you try to make it so. The gardener just has to relax and let nature unfold as it will, and they know that other gardeners will understand when you relate how you have been fighting with the quirrels to keep the plants in the containers. Or how you find your radishes all over the backyard, yanked out of the veggie garden, tasted and then spit out so you can't even enjoy them. And then the days you had planned to spend getting the garden absolutely perfect are gone or rather rained out by a deluge of rain. Relax, nature has it's own plans. So now we are on the week count-down to garden tour day. We have the hosts tour on Thursday night.
Those who will be out touring our gardens are sure to find lots to inspire them. When touring gardens you should keep these 5 tips in mind:
1. Remember you are touring someone's private sanctuary, so be respectful and don't step in the garden beds to check out a new plant and don't take any cuttings when the home owner isn't watching. Instead ask the gardener if you can purchase a cutting or have a piece next time they are dividing their perennials. Gardeners are a generous group and usually happy to share plants.
2. If you are taking pictures, ask first. Most gardeners are pleased to show off their gardens an happy to have you take photos. And iof you are using a tripod, don't put it in the beds.
3. Use the gardens for inspiration - look for new plant and colour combinations or a nifty new garden art idea you can recreate at home. Like the Pot Person I photographed in a Montreal garden.
4. Ask questions, the gardener is always eager to share their knowledge and swap tips and ideas, whether it is about new plants you see or a new technique that may improve your landscape.
5. Remember to thank your host. Gardeners go to a lot of work to make their garden available to the public and volunteer a day of their time, so tell them you appreciate it.
And lastly, if the garden has a guest book, please sign it. This is our third time participating in the Bracebridge Garden Tour and we love to see where people have come from to go on the tour. Then go back home and add a new idea or two you picked up on the tour in your own garden.
Sunday, July 5, 2009
Sunday, June 21, 2009
"Into your garden you can walk
And with each plalnt and flower talk;
View all their glories, from each one
Raise some rare mediation.
Recount their natures, tell which are
Vertuous like you, as well as fair"
John Rea, 'Flora, Ceres and Pomona', 1665
I've just spsent the afternoon in the garden weeding in preparation of the upcoming garden tour a month away. The garden look beautiful this morning. Yesterday it rained all day, that gentle soaking rain that the plants just love. This morning the garden looked as if sprinkled with diamond dust as the raindrops dripping off the plants shimmered in the newly rising sun - a simply beautiful sight. The purple spikes of the regal Lupines are now fading but in the past two days the bursting of the Poppies has taken center stage and now the Peonies are starting to unfurl. I love that the garden is an ever changing palette, when one perennial's life span is over there is another waiting in the wings to take its place.
The kitchen garden is coming to life as the beans, potatoes, varieties of lettuce and radish are pushing through the soil. The tomatoes are flowering giving promise of the heirloom varieties we will soon be enjoying (I can hardly wait). We have already been enjoying the delicious herbs adding culinary freshness to salads and other dishes.
And this year I've been trying my hand more at the contained garden. With limited space in my raised beds, I've been planting crops in pots and so far with good success. The pepper plants already have tiny peppers being formed. My tomato surrounded at the base with herbs is thriving but my other tomato with lettuce surrounding it has suffered at the paws of the squirrels and chippies but I'll try sowing the lettuce seeds. In the greenhouse I've got pots of tomatoes, potatoes and Swiss Chard. As well I have numerous pots and hanginig baskets bursting with colourful blooms like the container in the photo above which I took at Terra Nova Nursery in Oregon. Here are a few tips to help you with your contained gardens:
1. Think outside the pot - let your creative juices flow in terms of plant material and colours.
2. Consider the container - it can also bring colour to the garden and be a real focal point.
3. Don't be afraid of using perennials in your containers. If you live in cold climate like I do, simply heel in your plants in the garden in the fall and then you can reuse them next spring.
4. Group together those containers that have the same watering requirements, it will make your watering work easier.
5. Add embellishments to your containers, hidden gems that draw people into your arrangements. Canadian garden designer Thomas Hobbs is a genius at this by including glass balls, shells, and unique items in his containers. Check out his books 'The Jewel Box Garden' and 'Shocking Beauty'.
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
John Sedding, English garden writer of last century
It's hard to believe that its aleady June and the start of the summer garden tours. Yesterday we had the pleasure of a sneak peek of the upcoming "Through the Garden Gate, Beyond the Bridle Path" garden tour taking place on June 20-21, 2009 from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. in Toronto. This is the Toronto Botanical Gardens 22nd garden tour. It was a lovely day as we toured four of the fourteen gardens selected ranging from a Japanese garden, sleek modern gardens, a sculpture garden showcasing a stunning Chihuly glass sculpture among many others. The garden tour is a fundraiser for the Toronto Botanical Gardens and is made possible through the efforts of over 100 volunteers. We toured an interesting sculpture garden that covered three town lots with a fabulous Chihuly glass sculpture; a modern garden complete with lap pool and fantastic outdoor kitchen and entertaining area; a large formal garden complete with stunning outdoor gazebo with fireplace, tennis courts and large pool and looked so established we could hardly believe it was only two years old; and finally a smaller more intimate garden with a beautiful pool and dining area, tennis court and a more informal garden area. All in all a great day and just think, on Father's Day weekend we can go back and see the other ten gardens. Why not purchase a couple of tickets ($40.00 per person for the public and $35.00 for TBG members) - a great Father's Day gift for your resident gardener!
Tips When Going on a Garden Tour
1. Be respectful, you are visiting someone's home and garden. Don't pick the flowers and don't walk in the flower beds. It is also polite to ask if photos are permitted.
2. Gardens come in many different sizes and styles. You might not always like one style but remember that this is someone's private sanctuary and appreciate it for what it is.
3. You might be overwhelmed by the grandeur of some gardens but remember to look carefully at the different elements that make up each garden space, be it a sculptural element or an interesting plant combination - it's these small things you can take back to your own garden.
4. And don't hesitate to ask questions, most gardeners and designers love to speak about their gardens.
5. Finally, remember to stop and smell the roses. Enjoy the day and as Paul Zammitt says "Don't forget to stop and get some ice cream!"
To purchase tickets online for this fabulous garden tour go to www.torontobotanicalgarden.ca
A large container at one of the gardens on yesterday's tour.
And now I'd better get busy tidying my own beds as our garden is one of nine featured on the Bracebridge garden tour on July 25th.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Thomad Hyll, ("The Gardener's Labyrinth 1590)
My husband fondly refers to me in his articles as "the resident gardener" but this week I've renamed myself "The Mistress of Mulch". It's a pretty descriptive name and I think you get the picture. After two years of being away for most of the summer touring other people's gardens and judging for Communities in Bloom my gardens have suffered from neglect and the proliferation of goutweed is the telling tale.
So with an upcoming 90th birthday party for my mother-in-law and her sisters this month and then the invitation to be included in the garden tour in July, I've been out in the garden every sunny day, busily weeding, weeding and doing more weeding. At first I felt overwhelmed but I began to tackle one small bed or area after another and the goutweed is slowly disappearing (only temporarily I fear) and as I complete each little area, I cover the freshly weeded soil with a layer of natural cedar mulch. There is something very satisfying about seeing the hostas surrounded by a skirt of mulch.
But with so many garden beds, I have only just begun and already I've gone through 9 bags of mulch. But I just keeping reminding myself how nice it will all look once I'm finished and my spirits are already lifting when I look out from the bedroom window to see the completed beds. It has just started to rain and they predict more tomorrow, so I will get a day's rest to recharge for more weeding. So this summer I shall happily wear the crown "The Mistress of Mulch".
But I'll go now and put my morning glory and peas seeds to soak so I can pot them up tomorrow. A gardener's work is never done!
Sunday, May 10, 2009
Peach blossom after rain
Is deeper red;
The willow fresher green;
And fallen petals lie wind-blown
Unswept upon the courtyard stone."
Translated from the Chinese by Helen Waddell
This Chinese poem resonated with me yesterday as it rained constantly the entire day. Not that I was unhappy as I love the sound of the rain as it falls upon the earth. I also love, as the poem states, the willow fresher green, for all the world seems greener after a spring shower and there is a certain clean aroma to the earth following a rain. You can almost see the flowers perk up with the added moisture.
Yesterday I also heard a cardinal sing and when I looked up there it was, red and regal in our cedar tree. I felt even more joyful when the female cardinal swooped in to meet its mate. I really hope they set up house in one of the nearby trees for we don't get many cardinals in our neck of the woods, lots of blue jays but cardinals are a rare sighting. I was also surprised to walk out of the garden gate and see a bird's nest in a maple sapling. I haven't seen any birds actually building the nest but it wasn't there a couple of days ago. I'll just have to keep my eyes open.
But not all is rosy at Rosewood (the name we call our house) for Friday our daughter Martha exclaimed that a weird creature had taken up residence under our front porch. We kept watching and yesterday afternoon out popped a groundhog, an unusual critter for a town garden. As much as I love wildlife in the garden, this creature will need to find a new home. He's already dug a few holes in our lawn, so tomorrow Peter will make a trip to the rental store to see if he can get a live trap so we can catch the critter and relocate him to a new home in the country. I really don't want to have him munching on all the tasty delights my garden might offer. The chippies and squirrels are wildlife enough.
I love spring - the tulips and daffodils are in bloom, the hellebores are in flower along with the pulmonaria and the trees and shrubs are beginning to bud and leaf out. As the new tree leaves are forming the sky seems to be bright with lime green colour and the returning birds are twittering overhead. Everything seems alive.
So I leave you with this thought by Margaret Cropper
"Far beyond hope the Spring is kind again,
Lovely beyond the longing of my eyes."
Monday, April 20, 2009
And flower-robes dancing in the breeze,
With sweet, unsteady lotus-glances,
Intoxicated, Spring advances."
from a Sanskrit poem
It's cool, damp, dark and drizzly today (what my husband likes to call a 'Winnie-the-Pooh blustery day') and a friend even mentioned we might be receiving the "S" word ( snow!!!). This rain at least should eliminate the few pockets of snow we still have remaining, so it's time to tune-up the garden for the season ahead.
1. Clean up all winter's debris. We had lots of wind storms over the winter so have to deal with lots of downed branches.
2. Cut back and clean up any vegetative matter you left standing last fall. If the matter is healthy put it in the compost, if diseased dispose of in the garbage.
3. Prune any shrubs and flowering plants like roses and grapes that suffered winter kill and also require a new hairdo (a little shaping for looks and control).
4. Check your compost bin - give it a turn to reactivate it if your fall compost isn't quite finished.
5. Get bang for your buck by planting seeds - now's the time to start planting outdoors your cool weather crops like lettuce and greens, peas and sweet peas.
Remember not to work in the garden until its dry or you risk compacting the soil structure preventing oxygen from reaching the plant's roots.
A pleasant surprise for me the other day as I worked doing garden clean-up was seeing the flash of gold in one of our ponds. The goldfish we put in the pond last summer had survived the winter and are ready to provide us with wildlife pleasures again this summer. It was a meditative day and I was happy for the return of birdsong and the lengthening days - more time to spend in the garden. The daffodils are up now and just about to burst forth in bloom - when they do, it will bring to cheer to these necessary April shower days that promise May flowers. Spring truly is here!
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
as seasons come and go;
The hand that shaped the rose
hath wrought the crystal of the snow;
Hath sent the hoary frost of heaven,
the flowing waters sealed,
And laid a silent loveliness
on hill and wood and field."
Frances W. Wile (1878-1939)
from "All Beautiful the March of Days"
Well, last Thursday I said that spring had finally arrived, the snow was melting and the tulips pushing through the damp soil. But I think I was a little premature. Because over the past two days, winter has not wanted to lose its grip on us. Constant snow and the gardens are once again covered, not truly ready to accept spring's warmth, they have pulled the covers back over their heads. Having packed away the winter boots, I had to pull them out once again to wander through the 6 inches of snow.
Outside my window the birds huddle in the trees to keep warm against the howling winds, shaping the snow into architectural drifts. Nature does have a way of keeping us in suspense. So to bring some warmth into the spirit, I turned to my photos of my recent trip to Florida's Polk County. My new friends, Gorgia Turner and Katy Martin of the Polk County Visitors Bureau warmly showed us the beauty that abounds in central Florida. For me one the the highlights was our visit to Historic Bok Sanctuary, a stunning estate complete with bell tower and natural parklike gardens. For me one of the most interesting items was the beautiful neo-Gothic and art deco Singing carillon bell tower pictured above. As a member of a handbell choir, I was thrilled when we were allowed special consideration to see the inside of the tower. Travelling up in a very tiny elevator, we reached the level of the 60 carillon bells and the view out over the surrounding orange groves was magnificent, as was our guides description of how the carillon bells were played. Handbells are a simpler version of the ancient tradition of changing ringing in church steeples, that then was replaced by carillon bells. A camera in the bell tower, allows visitors to the gardens to watch the carillonneur play during concert times.
Designated as a National Historic Landmark, Bok Tower Gardens provides a continuous array of musical and artistic events throughout the year. Located on Iron Mountain, the highest point on the Florida penninsula the Tower stands as a sentinel. On the ground, visitors can enjoy strolling through the 128 acres of gardens designed by the renowned Frederick Law Olmstead Jr. The gardens were a gift to the Americvan people by the Dutch immigrant and humanitarian Edward W. Bok in the 1920's. Mr. Bok was a world peace advocate, Pulitizer-Prizewinning author and editor of Ladies Home Journal. The gardens bear his grandmother's motto "Make you the world a bit better or more beautiful because you have lived in it." Mr. Bok did just that in offering this natural site to the world. Next time you are in Florida take time to visit one of America's finest historic gardens, I guarantee you won't be disappointed.
For more information on events, concerts, art exhibits and seasonal bloom times check out their website at http://www.boktowergardens.org/.
Thursday, April 2, 2009
Willaim Robinson, 'The English Flower Garden'
William Robinson was the great English garden designer known as the originator of the herbaceous border and this photo brought to mind the season soon to come. The sunshine today, that is to be followed by April showers tonight, will certainly be bringing these summer flowers. Already I have hope for the beauty soon to come as I noticed my neighbours crocus blooming just the other day and I see my tulips pushing through the still cool soil. We still have pockets of snow here in the shady corners of the yard but soil is being exposed to the warming rays of the sun.
And inside my tiny tomato seeds are beginning to germinate and I can hardly wait to bite into a vine-ripened red tomato bursting with delicious flavour. I love to eat seasonally so I savour each fruit and vegetable as it comes into maturity, gorging for the weeks when it is at its best and most flavourful and then waiting for its return next season. Tonight I think I'll start some more seeds to get a jump on the planting season and hopefully when they have germinated my new greenhouse will be completed. My husband started it last fall using recycled windows from a local business but winter's early arrival forced him to curtail its completion. But upcoming holidays mean it will be finished just in time for me to start more plants indoors and then move them to the greenhouse prior to our plant out date of June 1st. If only it would get a few degrees warmer!
Friday, March 13, 2009
It has been a long and cold winter here in central Ontario and I for one will be glad when spring finally decides to come. Until then I will have to continue to dream of spring and nature's re-emergence. Just looking at floral photos like this fuchsia give me hope that spring truly is just around the corner.
"Whether we look, or whether we listen,
We hear life murmur, or see it glisten;
Every clod feels a stir of might,
An instinct within it that reaches and towers,
And groping blindly above it for light,
Climbs to a soul in grass and flowers;
The flush of life may well be seen
Thrilling back over hills and valleys."
James Russell Lowell (1819-1891)
from "The Vision of Sir Launfal"
Monday, February 23, 2009
I enjoyed this chronology of Liz’s life and the role gardening has played in helping her to deal with the challenges life serves each one of us. The way in which digging in the soil, nuturing plants can act to nurture the soul and create a sanctuary of peaceful feelings. I can certainly relate to many of the gardening experiences Liz recounted such as the tomatillos that reseeded wantonly (who hasn’t planted something they later wished they hadn’t although it seemed like a good idea at the time). Liz’s tales of her battles with squirrels and raccoons had me chuckling as I too have a yard full of black squirrels who’s presence have me alternating between loving their antics and hating them digging my bulbs and last fall we too waged war to eradicate five raccoons from their happy home in our eaves.
Finally, as Liz and I are of the same vintage her “Six Stages of Gardening” hit home with me, and I’m sure others. When you’ve been gardening for a while, your concept of the garden matures and develops over time but is something that you must learn and experience. As Liz said, “…these stages echo the stages in our lives, from the desire for immediate gratification in our youth to the deeper and mellower pleasures of maturity.”
I found Liz’s memoir to be entertaining recap of her life’s connection to the garden and gardening sprinkled with garden history and floral references. Perfect reading for a wintry afternoon.
Liz Primeau’s book is available through Greystonebooks at www.greystonebooks.com