Thursday, July 30, 2009

Rainbow Hybrid Carrots

I had so much success growing carrots last year that I knew for sure I would do it again. This year I wanted to try something different so I chose Rainbow Hybrids. They are a bit wee but I attribute that to lousy weather and the fact that I'm about six weeks late thinning them. Nevertheless, there are carrots galore to choose from. I hoped the white and yellow carrots would prove to be a flavourful adventure. So after chomping down I can tell you that they taste just like...carrot. A nice novelty for sure but I think I prefer my carrots orange. I'll go back to the tried and true next year (while carving out a small section of plot for the rather intriguing purple carrot.)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

So Long, Farewell...

Well, it has been nice. 11 summers ago a lone ditch lily grew in the very back of the yard of our newly purchased home. I was grateful to have inherited something that produced a bloom. A lone ditch lily isn't exactly spectacular so I rarely gave you any special attention. Still, you thrived. Perhaps you thrived a little too much.

In fact, you took over. You easily became the most successful plant in the garden despite the way I treated you. You turned the back of the yard into an impassable jungle. As much as I came to appreciate your carefree, laissez-faire attitude, the time has come to tame that little bit of wilderness.

And so I did. Look. I can see my walkway again. I had planned to divide you and replant you in a less chaotic fashion. But seeing that newly revealed garden space made me think that it's time to try something new.

Well maybe not new. Maybe it would be the perfect spot for the Miscanthus sinensis 'Gracillimus" purchased last year but placed poorly in the garden, right next to another group of orange lilies that overwhelmed the maiden grass and made it flop. But I digress.

Even though I've given you your walking papers doesn't mean I no longer care. Just look at all those daylily fans. You didn't think I would just chuck you into the compost bin did you? You're not right for my garden right now. But you still deserve a chance to grow and bloom.

So grow and bloom you will in the community garden. I think your strappy foliage will look just wonderful growing through the garden's wrought iron fence. And your blooms will grow at least as tall as the fence, obscuring the cars that park directly behind.

The more than two dozen fans that made it into the community garden were just a small fraction of the divided daylilies. The rest of you can sit out on the front lawn in pots, eagerly awaiting a would-be gardener who fancies herself a green thumb and finds herself tempted by the "free" sign. Yup. It has been nice. So long and farewell. I don't doubt for a second that you'll do just fine in whichever garden you set down your roots.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Red Baneberry: Beautiful, but...

One of the surprise performers in the garden this year has been the red baneberry. I didn't know what to expect when I planted this native in the Woodland Walk in spring of 2008. It didn't do much last year. This year it has truly blossomed without any special care or attention.

Green berries carried high on sturdy stems caught my eye earlier this summer.

When the berries ripened to a deep red last week I stood in awe of just how beautiful they are. The berry bunches really "pop" against the lovely green foliage that serves as their backdrop. This is a plant that is winning me over. This is a plant I could make more room for. This is a plant I could grow to love. But there's a "but." A big "but." Those beautiful red berries are poisonous. Info on the interweb suggests just two berries are enough to kill a child. (Cue horror shriek!)

I always remind my little sprout to ask before eating anything from the garden or from nature. I'm sure she gets it because she asks. But berries are tempting little things aren't they? What if she forgets? What if the berries grab the attention of her playmates? The red baneberry is planted in the front yard, halfway up the walk to the front door. They are very visible from the sidewalk. What if a toddler wandered on over as they sometimes do?

To make matters worse the red baneberry is planted near two serviceberry shrubs. I'm always encouraging the sprout to eat the berries right off the branch, which she happily does by the handful. The other day, a complete stranger gathered a small jar full of serviceberries in exchange for some mint from her garden.

Planting poisonous berries next to colourful, inviting and edible berries seems to me like an invitation to confusion..or worse. Perhaps my penchant for imagining the worst case scenario is getting the best of me (too many years working in the news) but better safe than sorry. The red baneberry has to a more remote location, out of the public eye and out of public reach.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

So Soon?

An end of season sale already? That's a bit of a shock to the system (not to mention a reality check....I'm still in springtime weeding mode...that's when I vow to get to that weedy patch first thing tomorrow!) The timing of this first sale seems especially early mainly because summer has yet to begin in earnest this year. I had to spark the fireplace last night it was so cold! And I don't even think of leaving the house without a sweater or umbrella. On the upside, the plants don't seem to mind and I don't miss the oppressive, smog-enhancing, do-nothing-but-sleep-in-your-basement heat we sometimes experience.

The "end of season" sign is a reminder of the reality of our short-lived summer. It also provides an energy jolt. Just as the birds and my little sprout are enjoying the last of the serviceberries, just as the bloodroot is fading, just as the Canada anemone is setting seed, just as the astilbe are hitting their stride, here's a chance to start planning next year's garden. And at half the price no less. I'd better get busy.

Friday, July 3, 2009

You Don't Always Get What You Pay For

I knew something was up the minute I saw this nodding orange bloom last week. Unless the bud magically lifted itself skyward, there was no way this was the Wood Lily I purchased for the Woodland Walk last spring.

Sure enough, when the mystery flower bloomed for the first time today it was obvious this was no Wood Lily. Momentary disappointment was swept aside as soon as I realized that this latest garden addition is spectacular.

This lily looks good whether you are coming or going ( or maybe I should say whether you are looking up or down.) The problem is I don't know what it is. Turk's Cap Lily came to mind immediately but upon doing some research I realized it could also be a Michigan Lily. Some websites use the names interchangeably but others note several differences even though they are subtle differences. Trouble is, I'm not good with subtlety. I've looked at this bloom numerous times and am having trouble figuring it out. If anyone has an I.D. please fill me in.

I moved the lilies out of the Woodland Walk this spring to make way for a Fothergilla. The lilies ended up in front of a brand new Ligularia "The Rocket" in the front yard shade garden. The combination is inspired (but like most of my gardening successes, it's really plain old luck.) I love the colour combination and the way the ligularia spikes frame the lily. As these plants mature, the effect is sure to be more and more dramatic.

The Ligularia went in this spring. I had some qualms about planting this water lover. I am terrible at watering so I took some steps to make sure the Ligularia had a fighting chance. First I picked the dampest spot I could find in the front yard garden. I added a huge pile of leaf litter and compost to the Ligularia planting hole. I top-dressed the plant with more leaf litter and compost. Finally I laid down a thick layer of cedar mulch. I have been diligent about watering and lucky for the plants we've had a rainy spring and summer. The Ligularia is showing its appreciation.

In other lily news, Stella D'Oro is blooming her heart out. Stella gets some bad press for being omnipresent in large plantings at malls or government buildings and such. Yes, she's everywhere! Including my backyard.

Stella brightens a small patch of earth right by our parking spot. She'll bloom her pretty blooms right into fall.

The colour of the Ditch Lilies always blows my mind. Their orange is so intense I can almost feel heat rising off of them. They have more than lived up to their reputation for multiplying easily. In fact, they are a little too happy in my garden. I'm sure they are part of the reason the irises did so poorly this spring. They were crowded out. I had planned to divide the lilies in spring but time got away from me. Maybe once they are done blooming.

And last, but not least, my unidentified Asiatic lilies are in bloom. I have several of these scattered through the garden. I say "scattered" deliberately because their placement is the work of squirrels. I planted what I hoped would be a dramatic grouping of bulbs several years ago. Instead, the lilies popped up all over the place courtesy of garden designer squirrels. I have to say they did a nice job of placing this bulb among the Geranium "Rozanne." I wonder if the squirrels would be interested in dividing the ditch lilies?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Happy Canada Day!

Let's hear it for the red....

..and the white this Canada Day. The colours of our flag! And 142 years of this great, great country.

My little sprout and I headed down to the waterfront for Canada Day celebrations at the annual CHIN Picnic. I expected to have fun. You know...rides, entertainment, hot dogs and cotton candy. I didn't expect that a garden would remind me to appreciate this country.

I have walked through the rose garden on the Canadian National Exhibition grounds numerous times. It has been there for as long as I can remember.

But on this Canada Day something was different. The garden was overflowing with blooms. The air was filled with an intoxicating fragrance. And everywhere I looked was the red and the white.

It was as if the garden was asking me to reflect for just a moment on how lucky I am to be a Canadian.

Much has been written and said about what it means to be Canadian. Discussing the elusive Canadian "identity" has always been a popular topic in high school classes and Canada Day newspaper editions. I'm not sure that anyone can ever pinpoint what it means to be Canadian. Here's just a sampling what it means to me: Peace. Democracy. Diversity. Mosquitoes and Black Flies. The Big Nickel. Peggy's Cove. Niagara Falls. The CN Tower. The Snowbirds. The Great Lakes and mighty St. Lawrence. High School French. Winters that never end and summers that are over far too soon. Maple Syrup. Trilliums. Molson and Labatt. The Maple Leafs (and all the associated heartbreak). Olympic and World Cup Hockey Gold. My hometown (and greatest city in the world) Toronto. Yonge Street. Meeting friends from around the globe. The CBC (shame on you Prime Minister Harper for dissing our national broadcaster. I can say that...this is a democracy!) William Shatner!!!! The Maple Leaf Forever. The red and the white flying proud.

So, Happy Birthday Canada. Here's to many, many more.

P.S. Here are a few extra rose photos, just because.