Friday, October 15, 2010

Four Seasons of Serviceberry

When I first started gardening, a successful season meant blooms from May to August. That's simply not good enough anymore. I crave colour in the garden as early as March and as late as November. Serviceberry (amelanchier canadensis) is a wonderful shrub that helps to extend the season and provide year-round interest.

One of the best features of serviceberry is its outstanding fall colour. All of the photos here are of foliage from the same shrub.

The colours are so lovely as they mingle together. Together they give off a glowing warmth that is very welcome as the days grow shorter and the nights grow cooler.

In spring, the serviceberry is among the first shrubs to herald the arrival of sunnier days.

By June, the shrub is absolutely dripping with berries. The berries start off green, turning a bright red for a few days. The berries then mature to a deep purple. This is a no-mess shrub. Left to their own devices, robins will feast on every last berry, whether on a branch or on the ground. Fortunately, there are lots of berries to go around. For several weeks each summer, breakfast comes with a side of serviceberries. One day, there will be enough for a serviceberry pie.

In winter, the serviceberry has a pleasing form. I add my own colour during the darkest and dreariest months. In my Zone 6a Toronto garden, serviceberry has been a problem-free, four-season delight. If you have a little extra room for something special in your garden, serviceberry is a great choice.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Ornamental Cabbage in the Fall Garden

This year I decided to grow some ornamental cabbage from seed. I got a very late start...July to be I wasn't especially hopeful that my efforts would amount to much. Happily, the cabbage plants don't seem finicky about calendar dates. They have reached a fairly substantial size. The largest are more than a foot tall and more than a foot in diameter. The smallest aren't that much smaller. I grew the plants in my raised veggie beds. Today I moved them to the front yard garden where they are nestled in among the geranium "Rozanne."

The plants haven't developed the wildly colourful centres of pink, purple and white as seen on the seed pack (blame the late start) but there's still plenty of time in the growing season, especially since these guys don't mind the cold. Even without their colourful centres, the plants are quite bold in their appearance and add interest as "Rozanne" begins to wane. They are right up against the sidewalk so I hope the neighbours enjoy the view.

A trip to the garden centre to pick up some compost revealed that ornamental cabbages, similar in size to mine, are going for $10 or more each! That makes me feel pretty good about a seed pack I picked up for $1.69.

Update: I'v been doing some more research on ornamental cabbage and it turns out I planted the seeds at just about the right time. Most websites suggest planting anywhere between 6 and 10 weeks before the first anticipated hard frost. As for the brightly coloured centres of the plant, I can expect to see them as the temperature drops. Cooler days and nights enhance the colour of the cabbage. I thought I would be able to enjoy these plants until about Halloween, but it turns out they don't mind temperatures as low as 5F or -15C. That means there could be colour in the garden right until the end of the year! My $1.69 investment is looking better and better.