Thursday, May 28, 2009

Rainy Day Garden

The spring has been unusually cool and wet, especially these last few days. While I mildly object to wearing a sweater just days away from the start of June, the garden has no objections whatsoever to outdoor conditions. Geranium "Rozanne" was happy to collect raindrops on her petals. My long-established backyard "Rozanne" plants are putting on good foliage but have yet to bloom. The flowers are courtesy of five new plants I purchased for the front-yard garden. They were in bloom in their pots at the garden centre and continue to bloom in their new home.

All 12 of the Camassia leichtlinii planted last fall came through with flying colours. They meet all my "awesome garden plant, must get some more" criteria. Tall, sturdy foliage with no need for staking, spiky flower stalks and purple blooms.

As great as the Camassia are, I doubt they can match the longevity of the Pulmonaria "Silver Streamers" blooms. The lungworts have been going strong for at least a month, and in partial shade no less. As an added bonus, the foliage will look great all summer. I recently moved the pulmonaria from a spot where they received too much afternoon sun. In full sun, the plants always perked up with a long drink of water. Too often though, I let them fend for themselves. Oh, how they wilted. This year, with the installation of a new front-yard shade garden, it was time to make amends and move these long suffering plants to a better spot. So far they seem quite content.

The tall bearded irises are not very happy this year. I had a gorgeous clump last year but this spring they have fizzled. I have only myself to blame. I vowed to divide the irises but didn't get around to it. Mistake. There have been fewer than five blooms so far this year and no sign of more to come. Neglecting the garden was not a wise move.

The Mountain Bluets or Bachelor Buttons could care less about neglect. They come back every year with a vengeance. I have great respect for their persistence.

And finally, the petals of an unidentified columbine glisten after an early morning shower. This rainy day garden is looking lovely indeed.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Grass is Always Greener

Lawns are much maligned by us gardeners. We can't seem to get rid of them fast enough.

The criticism is warranted in the case of some lawns, especially mine. It's not so much a lawn as it is a gathering of weeds.

I don't care about lawns (hence the weed collection.) I never notice them. They are simply not on my radar. That all changed this weekend when I came upon a pristine field of green on Toronto's waterfront.

It was simply stunning. The ground was perfectly level. The blades were uniformly clipped. There was nary a dandelion or plantain in sight. "I want this," I thought.

But how could this perfection be possible? Golf courses manage to do it. They take pride in their manicured turf but they don't have to contend with thousands upon thousands of visitors every weekend. Grass would be no match for Harbourfront foot traffic.

I got down on my hands and knees to investigate. Much to my chagrin, this was no super grass resistant to man and weeds alike. It wasn't even grass. It was simulated grass "planted" in what appeared to be tiny black flakes of rubber. Rubber! No wonder the whole lakefront smelled like old tires. The fake stuff made a nice but fleeting first impression (smell notwithstanding). If anything, it made me appreciate my real lawn for change. I'll take the weeds over the stench any day.

P.S. In defence of fake grass and rubber soil, I did see a kid do a face plant in the turf and bounce right back to an upright position in the space of just two seconds. In that particular instance, for that particular kid, the fake grass really was a little greener.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Community Garden Bulb Blitz Results

I'm going to go ahead and call last fall's Community Garden Bulb Blitz a smashing success. This photo makes me almost deliriously ecstatic. It looks like a beautiful country scene but in fact these bulbs occupy a hostile piece of the concrete jungle right next to the local high school.

The bulb display started around April 22 with the appearance of the "Ice Follies" daffodils.

Soon after the bright yellow of the "Carlton" daffodils further brightened the scene.

Tulipa "Negrita" looked stunning even before her flower buds were fully open.

"Negrita" looked stunning in full bloom too. I love the way her petals catch the light.

The "Princess Irene" tulips made me laugh. For a tulip named for a princess, she struck me as a little too short and stout. I shouldn't hold it against her though: I'm short and stout too.

Leave it to a tulip called "Pretty Woman" to leave the rest waiting.

These tall tulips took their time and arrived fashionably late to the party.

But what an entrance! Their red colour is remarkable, just what you would expect from a tulip.

Last fall, I took a few hours out of my day to plant these bulbs. This spring, I've already enjoyed about three weeks worth of blooms with more to come. And the neighbours have enjoyed them too. Talk about a great return on your investment!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Nice to Meet You

The more time I spend in the garden, the more I realize that I'm gardening not for today but for tomorrow or a month from now or even next year. Last spring I installed a woodland walk at the front of the house. I bought the plants from a native plant nursery two hours out of the city. They were wee and I nursed them along through the summer. While most grew to an impressive size, none of them really strutted their stuff, nor did I expect them too. I wanted them to establish themselves and that's what they did. Now, one year later, as the blooms are appearing I feel like I meeting new garden friends. I'm seeing them bloom, just like this wild geranium, for the first time. And I couldn't be more thrilled. The wild geranium caught my eye earlier this week. The bloom is much smaller than I expected and a fair bit daintier. This Ontario native is bursting with buds so the lone bloom will soon be joined by many more.

The wood poppy is just opening up. I'm not a fan of yellow in the garden but this bloom may just change my mind. I recall reading somewhere that there are only a few hundred wood poppy plants left in the entire province. I'm happy to be growing it in my part of Ontario.

The wild columbine is another Ontario native. It's nodding bloom is just about to open. I did have a few blooms of wild columbine last year. They were successful enough to reseed themselves. While I have about five plants that could be considered mature, there is a small forest of wild columbine seedlings covering the earth around the older plants. And so begins another waiting game.

Brand new to the woodland walk this year is fothergilla gardenii. I have drooled over this plant in many a garden book and on many a website. Now I lay claim to two of my very own.

Last month, on my very first trip to one of the very first garden centres to open, I found two fothergillas sitting quite innocently by the entrance to the shop. My jaw hit the ground. Could it be? After much hemming and hawing, a departure and visit to another garden centre, I returned to purchase the two shrubs. They were a bit pricey but when I got to the cash, both were significantly discounted. Score! The shrubs are small and have been in the ground for about a month. It's nice to get to know them. It will be even nicer to see them grow into the mature, beautiful shrubs they can be.

The eastern redbud is almost in bloom. It's not even as tall as me but when I see it I see a mature tree, bent slightly toward the sunny side of the yard, filling my field of vision with pink blossoms.

I'm also still getting to know the serviceberries. Their white blossoms are so welcome when there is still a chill in the air. I'm already counting the days until the berries are ripe. But who will enjoy them first? Me, the robins or the raccoons?

Sometimes I have had my doubts about new friends in the garden. I was sure that daffodil "Irene Copeland" would be a garden mess. But Ms. Copeland surprised me. Her bloom is ginormous! The word "whopper" came to mind when I first saw her. And sure enough she won me over with her robust demeanor.

Even with so many new friends in the garden there is plenty of room for friends of old, like this grape hyacinth. I wish I had a field of them but a handful will have to do for now. Perhaps this is the year to plant some more, then sit back and wait for new garden friends to appear and greet them next spring with a "hello" and "nice to meet you."

Friday, May 1, 2009

There Will be Bloodroot

On a walk through the woods early last month I came across some bloodroot growing wild. It reminded me of why I wanted some bloodroot in my own garden. The blooms are really quite charming, even before they fully open.

I was thrilled shortly after when the first bloodroot bloomed in the woodland walk. Here they come, I thought. But then, nothing. I checked the ground every day for signs of emerging life. But there was nothing. My happiness over my single bloodroot bloom gave way to disappointment.

I despaired over my investment. I purchased eight bloodroot plants last spring. I considered the care I gave them as they established themselves. They were in part shade with plenty of moisture in spring. Did I let them dry out too much in summer? Did they shrivel up and die? To have only one plant return made me feel like a deflated balloon at a birthday party.

I stopped checking for bloodroot. But the bloodroot wasn't done just yet. It has been close to a month since that first bloodroot bloomed. Since then (and seemingly overnight) all but two of the plants have returned (just goes to show that a watched garden never blooms.) The experience has been a good reminder that patience is an excellent trait to have as a gardener. So as I wait to see if those last two bloodroot plants will make an appearance, I am so happy to say: "There will be bloodroot" in the garden this year.