Friday, November 11, 2011

Just In Time

I saw the first snowflake of November today. It was small and the moment was fleeting but it was snow nevertheless. Thankfully, the patio furniture is in the basement, the bulbs have been planted and the garden has been put to bed for another year.

Here's what was in this year's box of bulbs:

5 Narcissus "Variant"
10 Narcissus "Sorcerer"
30 Hyacinthoides "English Bluebells"
45 Scilla "Spring Beauty"
4 Camassia"Blue Melody"
6 Tulipa "Drumline"
10 Tulipa "Sylvestris"
20 Puschkinia "libanotica"

Crocus in early spring are just about the best thing about gardening so I have added lots:

12 Crocus "Jeanne d"Arc"
12 Crocus "Silver Coral"
12 Crocus "Pickwick"
20 Crocus "Prince Claus"
40 Crocus "Blue Pearl" (so stunning last spring I just had to have more!)
20 Crocus "Advance"
20 Crocus "Yalta"
50 Snow Crocus "Minimus"
25 Snow Crocus "Lady Killer"

Add that to all the bulbs planted the year before and the springtime garden promises to be stunning. Time to hunker down with some good books until spring returns once again.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Krazy for Katsura

I've slowly been moving the garden away from a focus on perennials to a focus on trees and shrubs. My tastes as a gardener are changing. I still love my purple coneflowers and veronica and salvia and my globeflowers and I always will. However, I'm loving the deadheading, weeding and dividing less and less every year. Scaling back the number of perennials in favour of trees, shrubs and groundcovers that will cover more garden space with less maintenance is the route I'm following.

I went to the garden centre looking for a tree to replace a sad, droopy Rose of Sharon that I had been cheering on for a decade. After a lacklustre and messy performance this summer I decided it had to go. I headed to the garden centre to find a replacement and as I pulled into the parking lot a tree ablaze in a fiery red caught my eye. It was a Katsura. Oh, I shopped around looking at all the great selections on sale but the Katsura had won me over and was as good as planted in my yard. The colour is amazing! I visit it often to sniff around...apparently when the leaves drop the tree gives off a scent similar to cotton candy. Admittedly caring for the tree will present some challenges. Katsuras like moist soil and my garden is very very dry. I will have to commit to a regular watering schedule in July and August. This will also help a Japanese Bloodgood Maple which lives opposite the Katsura and suffers from leaf scorch when neglected in the summer heat.

This isn't a Katsura. It's a maple out in Flamborough. It pretty much glows doesn't it? When mature the Katsura should take on a similar shape. It is going to be a thrill to watch it grow and glow.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Peony: Emile Debatene

I am over the moon about my new Emile Debatene peony. Just a few days ago the buds looked ready to burst. I don't have much pink in my garden and thought I didn't care for the colour. But these blushing buds caught my eye repeatedly from the kitchen door and even the upstairs window and quickly began to win me over.

Now in full bloom, these flowers have caused me to fall in love. I have to admit that I have been in somewhat of a garden rut for a few seasons. I still adore my coneflowers, salvia and globe thistles. And I still wait with great anticipation for the foxtail lilies to bloom. But there's no escaping the sameness of it all. The peony is new and exciting and I'm wondering why I never thought to grow one before.

There was a huge downpour overnight with thunderclaps that woke me up several times. I was sure the peonies would be flopped over in the mud (as a first year peony grower I didn't think I would have enough success to require hoops or other supports). But the flowers stood up well to the conditions, bowing a bit but still standing. The fragrance of these flowers is also outstanding. Welcome to the garden Emile Debatene. You just made my day.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Gardens at St. James Park

The Gardens at St. James Park in downtown Toronto looked absolutely beautiful this weekend. I took advantage of a break in the rain to walk by and take a peek. The flowers were enough to make me forget all about our cold, soggy spring.

It seemed to me there were tulips by the thousands. The gardens are modest in size but appear expansive, largely because only one tulip type is featured. Everywhere my eyes landed, there were more and more tulips. A great effect.

The featured tulips were deep pink with a white-edged petal. Remarkably there didn't appear to be any squirrel damage.

Different varieties of tulips were planted outside the main beds including this beautiful selection featuring dramatic curves in a pink blush. There was also a deep shade bed which appeared to be a work in progress and two large beds that were more naturalistic in style but I could barely tear myself away from the main show.

The gardens are right beside St. James Cathedral which is a very impressive structure for those whose interests lean more to architecture and history.

I'm not sure if the city or a garden club plants and looks after these gardens. Whoever is responsible deserves a great big thank you. I'll be sure to visit this park again in summer to see what's growing. If it's even half as lovely as the tulip display it will be well worth the visit. If you ever find yourself at King and Church give yourself a few minutes to enjoy this beautiful space.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Showcase of Native Plants

The rain and cool temperatures have been great for the garden. Everything is looking lush and the blooms are lasting for a long time. The woodlanders like the native tiarella cordifolia above are especially beautiful right now.

Geranium maculatum or wild geranium has done very well. The blooms are abundant and the foliage is spreading into a lovely ground cover. The geranium is growing under a mature fir tree so it receives considerable shade. The soil is poor and the root competition fierce but the wild geranium is taking it in stride.

Here's another shot of the wild geranium. For a plant that produces such a delicate little blooom it's actually quite tough. This is a native plant of Ontario.

It took about three years for the wild columbine to take off but now that it has there is no stopping it. I started with a handful of plants and allowed them to self-seed over the years. They have established a lovely ring around the base of the eastern redbud. The columbine gets almost full sun in early spring before the tree canopy fills in, plunging the garden into almost full shade. Aquilegia canadensis is another great native.

I'm on a roll with the native plants. This wood poppy (stylophorum diphyllum) was a volunteer, nestled in among the wild columbine. These plants seed themselves so willingly. It makes me wonder why they aren't thriving in the wild.

Every shade garden needs some Solomon's Seal. Check! This was a pass-along plant and it keeps on giving and giving. After only a few years I have already divided it a few times. It's a very elegant plant that is great for shade. I'm not sure what variety of Solomon's Seal this is but am fairly sure it is one of our natives and a lovely one at that.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Mitella Diphylla: Mitrewort or Bishop's Cap

Mitella Diphylla is a fabulous little plant for the woodland garden. It enjoys spring sunshine and is among the first perennials to bloom sending up sprays of stems covered in miniature white flowers. When the summer heat kicks in it prefers shade. The flowers fade but the neatly mounded light green foliage remains throughout summer. It prefers moist soil but does quite well for me in average to dry soil.

From a distance the flowers create a white haze above the foliage. It is really worth getting up close to see the flowers. They are reminiscent of snowflakes. I have never seen this plant available at garden centres. I picked it up a few years ago at the High Park Native Plant Sale. There is always a great selection of natives available. While I love to gawk at all the newest plant selections to see the latest, greatest colour or the biggest, fanciest blooms, I find I am often more thrilled with the understated beauty and sheer reliability of native plants.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Wood Poppy: Stylophorum diphyllum

A few years ago I bought a passport to the annual Open Gardens Toronto. I found myself in a shady Annex garden with a double wide lot (wow, does it get better than that?) The gardener had a great selection but one plant and its story captured my imagination. There were a few of us garden tourists gawking at the plants when the homeowner started talking about her wood poppies. She had a small drift of these woodland beauties and announced that it was quite probable that she had more wood poppies growing in her backyard than were growing wild in all of Ontario. Its sad predicament was enough to convince me to grow the wood poppy but there's more than a sob story to recommend it. The deep yellow bloom, not fully opened in the picture above, looks really stunning in dappled shade and full shade. Although short-lived, the blooms are plentiful. Peak blooming time is right now, early spring, but flowers appear sporadically throughout the summer.

The flower buds provide quite a bit of interest because they are covered in fine white hairs. They appear on on stems about a foot high. The foliage is impressive featuring large lobed leaves. Wood Poppy is described as a plant of moist deciduous forests which makes its performance in my garden somewhat of a surprise. It is growing in the driest and most soil-poor section of my garden: right under a mature fir tree with a soil depth of maybe two or three centimeters. It gets a few hours of early morning sun and is then plunged into deep shade for the remainder of the day. Apparently, these growing conditions are perfect for my wood poppies. They are thriving.

In just a few years my small plants have grown into impressive clumps. They are beginning to form a dense ground cover. The wood poppy is famous for self-seeding. I have found seedlings doing very well in some very tough spots including a sidewalk crack. I'm hopeful that my wood poppies will continue to multiply eventually surrounding the base of the fir tree which has been a barren wasteland for years.

I'm glad I visited that Annex garden. The gardener shared a wood poppy seedling with me and provided some inspiration. I was intrigued enough to seek out and purchase a few more plants. Maybe one day I'll be able to claim Ontario's largest wood poppy population.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Bloodroot & Turkestanica

I let out a little gasp of excitement when I saw the bloodroot in bloom this morning. I thought it would be a few more days at least. Two years ago we were into May before the bloodroot really came into its own.

The bloodroot seems to be multiplying successfully. There used to be three plants (and therefore three blooms) at the base of the serviceberry. This year, there are at least three blooms wherever there used to be one. At this rate, I should have a very impressive clump in about a decade. It will be worth the wait, no doubt. While the bloodroot flower is diminutive and short-lived the foliage continues to provide drama for a while to come. Once the flowers fade, giant, multi-lobed leaves similar to curvy fig leaves unfurl. Bloodroot is considered an ephemeral that goes dormant in the summer heat but in my garden the foliage lasts right through the summer. Sufficient shade and moisture seem to do the trick.

Tulipa Turkestanica made its debut today. Compared to
last year the blooms are a little behind schedule. Turkestanica is an outstanding performer: it is loaded with blooms and they last a long time.

This is a species tulip. The squirrels do not appear interested in it. I planted Tulipa Saxatilis and "Little Beauty" with Turkestanica but they did not bloom last year. This year there is plenty of foliage to suggest they will.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Mini Daffodil: Tete-a-Tete

Who needs sunshine when the daffodils are in bloom? The rain has been relentless, pounding at times, but the miniature daffodils Tete-a-Tete are holding up quite well. Unlike the crocus which really struggled to stay upright in this spring of downpours, the mini-daffs seem unfazed.

Tete-a-Tetes are remarkable little bloomers. This is their second spring in bloom and they seem just as vigorous, if not more, than last year. I have ten groupings of Tete-a-Tete all more or less equally spaced along the edge of the garden. Each group features more than a dozen blooms. The effect is quite pleasing. As a bonus, Tete-a-Tete flowers last for a very long time.

I have also managed to achieve some nice colour combos. The Dwarf Iris "Cantab" is fading but its blue still looks wonderful in among the daffodils. The deeper violet-blue of a small clump of chionodoxa produces a similar result. The yellow daffs also look nice against the cinnamon foliage of the heuchera with the name that escapes me at the moment. Its foliage came through the winter remarkably untattered producing this pleasing duet with the daffs.

There is more rain in the forecast. I'll have to rely on Tete-a-Tete for my sunshine fix.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Last Crocus

The last of the crocus is in bloom. "Ruby Giant" is the flower I think of when I think of crocus. This is the only flower that escaped the squirrels unscathed. Of the six different crocus varieties that bloomed this spring, "Ruby Giant" proved to be the squirrel favourite.

"Giant" is a relative term in the garden. This crocus is by no means a a giant compared to some spring bloomers. It gets its "giant" moniker because its bloom is large relative to other crocus of the same species.

I am absolutely thrilled will the crocus this year. They have been blooming since the beginning of April giving me nearly a month of garden enjoyment even in this particularly cold and wet spring. Without question I will add at least another six varieties to the garden in fall...maybe even twelve... maybe even...

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Reluctant Spring

Have I mentioned that spring has been absolutely wretched this year? I spent ten minutes in the garden this morning and had to turn back because of the cold. The daffodils were none too happy either. Last year the daffodils were in full bloom weeks earlier. This year fewer than a handful have opened.

Despite the cold I've already made my first garden purchases of the year: a sharp-leaf hepatica and the double primrose "Miss Indigo."

I can't say that I have ever been a fan of primroses. My neighbour grows a number of them though and over the years I have come to appreciate their charms in early spring. So when I saw "Miss Indigo" I thought why not?

I try to add native plants to my garden whenever and wherever I can. The sharp-leaf hepatica (hepatica acutiloba) caught my eye with its unusual and somewhat hairy foliage. I'm not sure if that's a bloom-in-waiting or a seed head (I bought this at a local nursery where the plants are so far along there are even flower buds on the coneflowers). I would love to see it flower but if it doesn't I will gladly wait to see it next year. This is a great time to plant the spring ephemerals because it is easy to see where the bare spots in the garden are. Now if spring would hurry up and bestow some sunshine and warm temperatures on us I could start feeling good about adding even more new selections to the garden.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Dwarf Iris Cantab Returns

Dwarf Iris "Cantab" was easily my favourite addition to the garden last year. It is a true blue that makes me swoon. I recall reading somewhere that "Cantab" aren't really expected to return so it was with great delight that I discovered them in bloom. It does seem that there are fewer flowers this year but even one bloom is more than welcome. This is truly a stunner.

Sadly, it has been an absolutely wretched spring and "Cantab" is a little worse for wear. The temperatures have been really cold. The winds have been biting. And the rains have battered everything -- the crocus have been flattened and the "Cantab" is barely holding its own against the conditions. There's sunshine in the forecast for tomorrow. I'll have to do my best to get outside and enjoy the fleeting beauty of the spring bulbs.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Mystery Crocus

While this is a delightful little crocus I can't help but be disappointed. I thought I had planted Crocus Advance: a three coloured crocus featuring creamy-yellow in the centre of the blooms and outer petals that alternate between white and violet. Will there ever be an end to the heartbreak of mislabeled plants?

What I have instead is quite pretty in its own right. The petals are a light purple on the inside. The outside petals are an even lighter purple blush with much darker markings. Quite dramatic, don't you think? Does anyone know the identity of this mystery crocus? I guess I'll have to try again for some Crocus Advance next year.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Crocus Tricolour

This crocus lives up to its name featuring three colours: orange-yellow at the base, a band of white, and purple-tipped petals. Crocus sieberi Tricolour has not performed nearly as well as Romance, Blue Pearl or Fuscotinctus. All the crocus have a similar growing environment. I think the problem is squirrels. I sprinkled bloodmeal around the others a few weeks ago and the squirrels seem to have stayed away. But I must have missed the Tricolour because something has been digging and doing some damage. Too bad. A few more of these would be delightful.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Crocus Romance

Another day, another crocus. This buttery yellow selection is Crocus Romance. It is much more subdued in colour than the Crocus Fuscotinctus that opened a few days ago but equally exuberant in the number of blooms.

I have very little yellow in the garden aside from some Black Eyed Susans I enjoy for their late season bloom. My garden leans heavily to to violets, purples and blues. But yellow is the perfect colour for early spring. It's a welcome wake-up call after a long winter.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Crocus Blue Pearl

I've gone a little crocus crazy this year largely because they are doing so well and providing abundant blooms. Crocus chrysanthus "Blue Pearl" was reluctant to open this morning as rain threatened. This allowed me to enjoy the pale lavender- blue on the outside of the petals.

Later in the day, the pearly inside was revealed.

I have learned to plant crocus in large groups to create some drama in the garden. Having witnessed "Blue Pearl's" magical shimmering effect I wish I had tripled or even quadrupled my order of 32 corms last fall.

Lucky for me that "Blue Pearl" naturalizes happily and rapidly. There should be many more of these lovelies to enjoy for years to come.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Crocus Fuscotinctus

The crocus have been reluctant to open and share their blooms. They have been closed tight against the bitter winds that are blowing through. Fortunately Crocus Fuscotinctus (full name: Crocus chysanthus var. fuscotinctus) looks mighty impressive even when closed tight. Each petal has several purple stripes that are feathered along the edges.

After a few days of gloomy cloud cover the sun coaxed the crocus to open today revealing the golden yellow flowers.

I planted 32 Fuscotinctus corms last fall. They are said to multiply quickly to form large drifts (my type of plant). That's important: if the squirrels get a few (and they do) there will still be plenty of blooms for the humans to enjoy. I have another five varieties of crocus still waiting to bloom. I already know that I will plant many more varieties this fall because in these early and still-cold spring days the sight of crocus takes a bit of the chill off.