Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Hidden Garden in the Lane

Over at Toronto Gardens, one of my favourite blogs, the topic this week is Hidden Gardens: Toronto's Alleyways. It's all about the wonderful wildflowers and weeds one encounters when trekking through the back lanes of Toronto neighbourhoods. It made me immediately nostalgic for summer and my own laneway garden. I call it my laneway garden but, truth be told, it has nothing to do with me other than it sprouted next to my laneway parking spot. The "garden" is comprised of an enormous stand of goldenrod (which apparently has no problem growing in gravel) and an even more enormous bittersweet nightshade vine, an invasive and poisonous weed that grows far and wide.

I've tried to grow ornamentals in the lane only to be met with failure. The conditions, invariably, prove too harsh. And it doesn't help when drivers drive over my would-be garden. But let nature take its course and it is amazing what can happen. The nightshade vine dripping with red berries is quite the site to behold. The vine had been growing for several years already when this picture was taken.

The berries even added a splash of dramatic colour in the dead of winter. Alas, this garden is no more. While the goldenrod is more than welcome to stay, I removed the nightshade vine this fall. It was getting a little (okay, a lot) out of control, creeping into the neighbours' eavestroughs and under some of their garage roof shingles. I also felt a little guilty for allowing a plant with such a nasty nature to thrive for so long simply by neglecting to weed the laneway area. I'm glad the vine is gone...but it sure was beautiful while it lasted.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Beautiful Bok Choy

This beautiful bok choy ended up in a stir-fry dinner last night. It thrills me to no end that I am still harvesting veggies from the raised beds in mid-November (notice the ruffled lettuce and dark green spinach in the background.) I tried bok choy for the first time this year and am very pleased with the results. The spring crop was very successful. The autumn crop is well on its way to surpassing the results of spring. Bok choy can be directly seeded into the garden. It produces a harvest when temperatures are still quite cool in spring and just as they are cooling down significantly in fall. I suspect that with a little bit of shade, bok choy might produce into the warmer summer months. A novice veggie gardener looking for something easy and tasty to grow should consider bok choy.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Still Blooming

The calendar says November but the garden doesn't mind. Attention shifts to fall foliage colours at this time of year but I'm thrilled to say there is lots still blooming.

The calendula seem to be taking the cold evenings in stride. A light frost this morning made the calendula even more delightful. I love the variety of colours.

These flowers came to my garden courtesy of Connie at Notes from a Cottage Garden. Thank you Connie for making a usually dreary November than much brighter this year. I'll be sure to save some seed so I can enjoy these flowers again next year.

The calendula enjoy full sun all day long. Blooming right alongside them is the lesser calamint. Towards summer's end this little plant is covered in white blooms that are barely visible through the swarms of bees and other insects that love it so much. In fall, the flowers are more of a violet. They are as plentiful as at the height of summer and the fragrance is as intense as always.

Even in the shade, the blooms keep coming. The toad lily tricyrtis lasiocarpa is a stunner. The blooms are as impressive as the buds, of which there are many. I will protect this plant well this winter as it described as a toad lily for warmer climates. That certainly doesn't apply to my garden in February.

The toad lily "White Towers" has returned reliably for a few years now. It takes its time getting started in spring but is a reliable performer once it gets going. The spotty foliage is of interest all season long until the blooms take to the spotlight starting some time in October. There are flower buds at regular intervals along the entire length of the toad lily stems. As one cluster of blooms fades, the next comes into bloom. As a result, this plant produces blooms for a month or more.

Also still blooming in the shade is the bugbane. If it were standing up straight, this plant would easily reach five feet. I have it in very dense shade, however, so I find it grows at more of an angle as it reaches for the sun. I had three of these remarkable plants at the start of the summer but a team of painters wiped out two. I am hoping they reappear next year. I am very tempted to move them to a sunnier spot to achieve a more upright appearance.

I also grow "Black Negligee" bugbane. It is a much shorter variety, topping out at about three feet. The name refers to the dark foliage. Out of three plants only one bloomed. I fear my shade really is too dense to allow these plants to thrive so, again, a move to a sunnier locale may be in order.

The calendar says November but there is lots still blooming. Maybe I'm finally getting the hang of the all-season garden.