Thursday, June 26, 2008

Scream-Inducing Garden Event

I knew it was too good to be true. All this week I had been marvelling at my backyard serviceberry tree. I planted it last summer. It produced a handful or two of berries, most of them quickly devoured by racoons, squirrels and birds. Oh well, I thought, next year will be better. Sure enough, this year the serviceberry branches are just dripping with berries. I spent many a minute standing before the berry-laden branches, picking one here and one there and basking in the glow of success.

So perhaps I jinxed myself by sharing this great garden news with a fellow green-thumb. "I have been having such luck with my serviceberry" I said to my colleague. "Last year, the raccoons picked it clean. This year, the berries haven't been touched." Even as I was saying the words, I wanted to take them back. They seem like an invitation to disaster. So you can imagine my horror when I stepped out into the backyard to find this.

My tree had been decapitated! Something had snapped the main horizontal branch and a side branch right off. (I imagined a big fat raccoon leaping from the top of the fence to land on the top branch.) There was a scream when I saw the damage, not a very loud one mind you, but a sad, defeated scream. It was followed by several minutes of angry mutterings peppered with profanity.

Shifting into damage control mode was the only option lest I sink into a pit of all-consuming bitterness and rage. I cut back the damaged branches and then summoned the family to the back deck telling them to start picking. Something's after our berries, I declared. The best revenge was to get to the berries before the critters did. And what a tasty revenge it was.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Summer's Arrival in the Garden

What better way to welcome summer than with the first daylily bloom of the year. The blazing orange of the blooms reminds me of the sun at high noon (not that we've had much sun).

The lavender was looking pretty woody and straggly this spring. I thought it might be time to replace it but in full bloom it looks amazing.

The foxglove is new to the garden this year. My daughter picked it out last year after I relayed the often-told tale that the blooms make the perfect-sized gloves for foxes.

While the foxglove is standing at about four feet tall, the foxtail lily is towering at upwards of six feet. Whereas last year I had only one spire of flowers, this year I have two.

While I can't help but be impressed by the heights reached by the foxglove and foxtail, one of my favourite plants of all time prefers to stay a little closer to the ground: the veronica spicata "Royal Candles" (shown here with some geranium clambering up its side). All in all, it has been a fabulous start to the summer.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

City Street Planter Review: Awful!

I was just starting to wonder when the city was going to get around to filling the tree planters that line the sidewalks when ...voila! The flowers have arrived. The selection of plants isn't exactly awe-inspiring. Instead, there's a lot of the tried and true: petunias, begonias, potato vines. It's hard to go wrong with these plants in a tough, unforgiving, urban environment.

This year, however, there is something distinctly different. The flowers aren't planted IN the planters. They are sitting on top of the planters in lined wire baskets. Those baskets, in turn, are sitting in plastic garden trays. The whole contraption is held in place by a metal frame that wraps itself around the tree trunk. Let me pause here to give you my impressions: Bleechh! Ugh! and Bleechh! This is truly an eyesore.

What were they thinking? Money must be factor: I suppose it's more cost effective to drop off a pre-fab garden display and bolt it into place than to individually address each street planter. Over time, I suppose the plants will fill in and hide the framework. That takes time, though. In the meantime the view is hideous. The plastic trays are no doubt meant to collect rainwater to keep the plant baskets moist. In a city that's been drought-ridden for the past few summers, I say good luck. Even with a normal amount of rainfall, every gardener knows that these types of baskets need extra water. Without some added help, they'll be fried by the end of July. Is there a plan to keep these plants alive?

I don't know if this is a city-wide initiative or a move by the local business improvement group. Whoever is responsible, I suggest a re-think. If beautifying the streetscape is the objective, this is a step in the wrong direction. There is nothing beautiful about this. If saving money is the objective, wouldn't a one-time expense on a planting of hardy perennials be a better choice, one that could provide beautiful blooms for years to come?

Maybe, come August, these planters will prove me wrong. Maybe they will be lush and overflowing with blooms. After all, at just the right distance and just the right angle, they don't look that bad, do they? Yeah, right. "The devil is in the details," goes the saying. The details of these baskets, metal frames and hideous, hideous plastic trays add up to one big mess. Here's my review: awful. Just awful.

What do you think?

Friday, June 6, 2008

Looking Back, Looking Ahead

April 20, 2008: It's hard to believe that just over six weeks ago the garden was struggling along in a very cool, very wet spring. It seemed the sunshine would never arrive. So did the cool start hurt?

June 6, 2008: Not a chance. The garden is thriving. Hate to say it, but it is even a little out of control and overgrown in some spaces. I'll attribute that to my preference for the slightly wild and naturalized look as opposed to the fact that I sometimes ignore my responsibilities as a gardener. Realistically though, maybe some plant division is in order this fall. Ha! I'm thinking about fall just as the first major heatwave of the year hits (it arrived out of the blue, literally overnight, like a stifling, wet, blanket of smothering air.) As a gardener I would benefit from time travel. I could zip back to April to see where I need bulbs and then zip further back to the previous fall to plant them. And while I was there I could cut and hack and divide the garden back into a more tame state. Since time travel is unlikely, I'll just have to live in the moment, looking back and looking ahead at everything that could have or should have been done in my ever-changing garden.