Friday, April 20, 2018

A Cautious Hope

My 2017 'bulb bed' has returned!  Mainly crocus so far, and a few squills.
       It may actually be spring soon. It's snowing at the moment, of course, but I have actually been outdoors working in the garden two days this week - one other day I tried, but there was a howling North gale and I just couldn't take it, my most detested kind of weather. The temp was +3 but the wind chill was -10. It was warm in the hoop house, but I couldn't stay in there all day! I have already tidied up and sorted all the pots. I have concluded that I really need to build some staging - high enough to be easy on the back, and with room underneath for storage (of pots and other stuff).  What I have now are plywood shelves balanced on plastic buckets. Not ideal. Anyway, next week the weather is looking better, with actual double-digit daytime temperatures and slightly above freezing night-time ones. I am looking forward to getting some of the seedlings out of the house and into the hoop house. I am willing to hook up the electric heater out there if the temps go below zero again, but I think they really need the light - and I really need the space - if only to start more seedlings. So, once they're out, they are staying out. Unless it goes to -10 or something.

         I have some snowdrops out! Seven or eight small clumps so far. They are the ones that I planted 'in the green' last spring, and I am so pleased to see them! They are all coming up in my woodland garden. The ones I planted from bulbs the fall before that (November 2016) are just starting to poke up out of the ground. Conclusion? More 'in the green' this spring! I shall be going along with my little spade and bucket.
       I had one quite big snowdrop last year under my cornus satomi, it had big leaves and was quite tall. Only one, though, and there is no sign of it this year - so far. I have not yet given up hope. The crocus in other parts of the garden are coming through - when I rake off the leaves, there they are, poking up. Again, much later than usual but none the less welcome for that. The 'Bulb Bed' above, has come along splendidly - it is on the south side of the garden and quite sheltered, so the bulbs are quite advanced. I planted some species tulips there last fall, and they are starting to show up now. I have to do some weeding there, but shall probably just direct seen some annual poppies for after the bulbs. That looked well last year.
              I do have one double snowdrop, bought at the Veseys sale in 2016, and put into a sunny flower bed. It is blooming as well. I expect to have to move it at some point, but not yet as it is still very small. Note: bulb fertilizer! I put it far away from the singles in order to prevent cross-pollination, but I rather doubt I will get to the point of developing new varieties any time soon. I just want the wood to be full of snowdrops - don't care what kind!
     I was quite worried about my beautiful burgundy hellebore - it is just beside the front path, and was covered again and again with snow, and worse, ice.  I took off the old leaves, and there was no sign of anything coming up, until yesterday, when I spotted a couple of hopeful-looking sprouts. This is much, much later than the previous two years - a factor of the winter, which was very cold and mostly snow-less, so the frost went deep into the ground. It is still not thawed very far down, so I am reluctant to uncover my rhododendrons just yet. On the upside, hellebore-wise, I have an actual bud, on a pink hellebore that hasn't bloomed before, in the bed on the right-hand side of the front path. It may bloom next week. No sign from all of the many others. Yet. I live in hope.
      I was trying to move some of my mammoth pile of wood chippings yesterday and it's frozen 20 cm. down. I am scraping off the top and barrowing it to the west side of the house for renewing the paths between the shrub borders. Just ran out of membrane - must acquire more so I can complete this task. I have a big circular seating area that didn't work well when I did it before - a combination of gaps in the membrane and a not-thick-enough layer of wood chips. I shouldn't have that problem this time. 

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Midwinter blues-banishing: Hellebores

       I have been looking at photographs of my garden to try to banish the mid-winter blaghs. (20 cm. of snow yesterday. At least it's bright, and the house is cosy, but we're severely lacking in colour.) I have ordered flower seeds, and am trying to hold myself back from planting them too soon. I also scored big time at Christmas, so am looking into fruit trees - Whiffletree Nursery has an amazing selection. And I'm also going to Cornhill - when they open! But this is all in the future.
           I'm on a few garden groups on FB, and the British gardeners are posting lots of photos of their blooming hellebores, so I decided to post some of last year's photos of my oldest one, and inventory my recent plants. In a few years I'll have many.
               The very first one I bought was at Island Pride Nursery in Wood Islands, long ago - maybe 2011? It didn't bloom the first year, and the second year it was eaten by slugs, so I waited a long time for the first bloom. I think it is called 'single burgundy'. I'm just guessing, there was no specific name on the tag when I bought it.
Here it is, emerging from the earth, looking slimy and pitiful amongst all the winter debris. Date: April 7, 2017.

Then it starts to look more like a flower, though still small, and no doubt tasty to slugs. I don't put out slug killer, but I keep a close eye on its vicinity. I will stomp them without mercy! I don't cut off the last year's leaves until it is properly blooming.
Date: April 9, 2017.

Now it's pushing its head up, although it looks like it's been hit by frost a bit. However, the buds are looking really promising. and there's a second point of emergence! Hurrah! Spread all you want, little Burgundy.
Date: April 12, 2017.

And now, here we are, fully out. There are many more blooms than I first suspected, I think I counted 24 or so in all. Date: April 24, 2017.

        I visited Humber Nursery in 2013, and bought another hellebore, this one is a double burgundy called 'Amethyst Gem', part of the Winter Jewels strain, according to the label. It's in the west garden, and has bloomed a couple of times, not recently. I mulched there really viciously and things have been slow to come back. Later in 2013 I bought two locally (can't remember where!) and they are 'Blue Lady' (another single burgundy) and 'Pink Lady' which has red freckles on a pinkish background. These latter two have never bloomed. I may have to dig them all up and move them to somewhere more rich and suitable, soil-wise. They are all now in the same location, near the dwarf Korean lilacs.
            These three I bought at Van Kampens in the spring of 2017 - potted up, three to a pot, for $9.99 each. I gave two of each away, and kept one - the top is 'True Love', next is 'French Kiss' and the bottom one is 'Rio Carnival'. I went back some time later and they still had a few, so I got another pot of 'French Kiss'. All of these are planted in the edge of the woodland garden, and I'm not expecting blooms anytime soon. But they're so lovely I feel I should just keep them in a pot, so as to have them early. Apparently 'True Love' is in the Wedding Party series, while the other two are from the Honeymoon series. Connected, obviously.
             And then of course, as previously mentioned, I scored big in the hellebore department at the Veseys sale in the fall and got, I think, nine new ones, including 'Dark and Handsome', 'Blushing Bride', 'Confetti Cake' and 'Flower Girl'. (They didn't have labels so I'm not sure which was which. I tried for two of each.) These are all planted up beside the path to the west of the white lilacs. These are all from the Wedding Party series, and there are quite a few more of that series.
The photo of the 'Burgundy' at the top was taken May 10. Still going strong. The black one beside it is 'New York Night', several of which I planted in 2015. This was its first bloom. 'New York Night' is from the Honeymoon series too. There are lots of good photos on the internet, so I shouldn't have any problems identifying them, when they finally come out!

Saturday, December 2, 2017

My Garden, Right Now, No. 3

        Depressingly, not much happening in my garden. We have had numerous hard frosts now, so, even though today is +3, there's very little colour to see. I did manage to harvest seed pods from a pink asclepias, however, so there may well be more of those lovelies next year. This was a new one purchased at the Veseys spring sale. I have had an orange one for some time, and this year I moved it from the 'holding' bed in the vegetable garden to the 'hot bed' by Primuland. It didn't do well. Still alive, though, so I hope for better next year.
  I have a lovely solo shot of the pink asclepias but for some unknown reason blogger refuses to load it. It's just to the left of the pink rudbeckia in this general garden shot. Best I can do.

I really appreciate the evergreens now that the rest of the garden has gone brown (or under cover). The hellebores (though not blooming, not until May in this climate) are looking fresh and green, and so is this little eunomyous in the shrub border by the driveway. Un-noticed the rest of the year, but a shining star in December! Other evergreens include the lovely winterberry, which is tiny, but in its way making moves to take over the garden. I dug up several small suckers in spring, now tucked into the cold frame for winter, and I see it has produced another half-dozen or so. I must look for a place that could do with a 20 cm. hedge!

The vegetable garden still has some things going on - the kale is still holding out, and the leeks are not growing, but surviving under straw, and I can go out in the daytime and dig up a few for supper. I don't have much luck storing them, so I probably won't harvest them all. But I am thinking about lifting them and leaving them on the ground, covered with straw and fleece. I know they will get frozen into the ground soon, and I'm not sure how they will survive on top! But in storage they just dry out and get woody, and the same thing happens when I freeze them. Waste of time and space in the freezer!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Early Christmas

       Veseys had their usual fall bulb and perennial sale on November 1-4 this year, and as usual Anne and I were there early on the first day! It was not so crazy and busy as it has been in previous years. However! All items were $3 (up from $2 last fall, but it's only money). I took exactly $100 with me, so I was very careful. I got 33 things! They had lots of hellebores, so I got 8 - although they were in plug trays and didn't have labels (next time!!) I think I got mostly from the wedding series - Flower Girl, Confetti Cake, Blushing Bridesmaid. Won't know for certain until they bloom. I also put in clumps of tete-a-tete daffodils and 'elegant' alliums, between the clumps of hellebores. Luckily I had a day's notice so I had a bed prepared for them - along the newly mulched path in the 'hydrangea' area.
          It has been a very 'open' autumn - I have never planted into such warm ground in November before. The only Itoh peony still available at the sale was Cora Louise - but I love her so I got two. I put them in the bed beside the path as well, a little farther back. I had spent a day gathering more sandstone rocks to edge the path, and then I put down landscape fabric and loads and LOADS of wood chippings that we got when the electric company cut down a few of our trees that were under their wires. It was a double blessing, because I am using the branches they didn't chip to edge the beds in the woodland area, and fill in the paths with the wood chippings. And I still have tons of the chippings! I am going to re-do the rest of the paths to the west of the house. They were done a number of years ago and are starting to get quite weedy. The trees they cut down were Scots pines, so lots of eccentric shapes of the branches, and lots more light in the garden in the lower east area.
This is the woodland garden, with most of the beds edged and the paths mulched. The little boat-shaped bed in the middle is going to be my mouse hosta area - I have 'mouse ears', and I bought 'sun mouse' at the Veseys sale. I also got hosta 'curly fries' which may go in the back. that's it. No more hostas. I really don't like them.     
         The beds beside the path have mostly spring flowers and bulbs, and now that the paths are defined I can fill them up to the edge and maybe find some more plants that are happy in the shade. The trees there are mainly evergreen, including larch (which isn't evergreen), but I have a collection of about a dozen fastigiate oaks, some of which I may put in along the fence line to the right. The rest probably will go where the pines came out or were pruned. I think they stay quite small, so I shouldn't have to worry that they will be getting their heads into the wires again. And because they are deciduous they won't cut out the light for the spring bulbs from the east.

There was, until recently, quite a bit of colour in the garden still - this is hydrangea 'Pinky Winky', which was covered in blooms all autumn. Unfortunately, we have had a series of heavy frosts and these lovelies are all a uniform brown now. Oh well. I at least have lots of spring plantings to look forward addition to the alliums, daffs and hellebores, I got Apeldoorn and two species (tarda and peppermint stick) tulips, 100 blue muscari (which I used to edge paths in the woods), white crocus for my blue and white bed,  and some perennials for the same place - I potted them up for the cold frame as I don't trust the bare rooted stuff to survive in the ground so late. So I got platycodon 'Fiji Blue', sedum 'Mr. Goodbud', veronica 'Royal Rembrandt', and a euphorbia 'bonfire'. Also some paperwhites and hippeastrums for forcing. See! Spring can't be that far away.  
 The only one of my crocosmia to survive - and bloom. I assume it's 'Lucifer'. It's planted in the hot bed.

The tiny acer at the edge of the woodland is doing its best, and I can't wait until it's bigger than the Japanese painted fern that it's in front of. There is another, even tinier one on the other side of the path but I usually can't see it in photos so I won't bother. Still very much alive, however!!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Summer Wrap

        Record-keeping has been poor electronically, although I do have a Lee Valley Garden Journal (from my sister for my birthday) to which I have been more faithful. However, I can't add photos to it, so I still like this format for the more colourful reviews of the garden. So here comes a photo essay of the summer!
        This was my 'Garden Treasure' Itoh peony, the first one of my Itohs to bloom. It had two blooms, and, while they didn't last very long, they were beautiful while they lasted. It bloomed after the tree peonies, but before the herbaceous ones. It was probably 20 cm. across. Glorious. Other Itohs still to bloom are 'Callie's Memory', 'Cora Louise', and 'Hillary'. Here's hoping for 2018. 

     One of the nicer herbaceous ones, and a new one which hasn't bloomed before, was this lovely very-pale-pink with  pale yellow centre, called 'Immaculee'. It fades to white as it matures, and it had five (5!) blooms this year. A keeper for certain. Other herbaceous yet to bloom are 'Henry Bockstocke', 'Raspberry Sundae', and 'Felix Crousse'. These are all from the Veseys fall sale. There are even more but I can't remember them all. But they are all written down!

    Roses were good this year as well. This one, a Gallica called 'Tuscany Superb' did particularly well this year - it was covered in buds, and so bloomed over quite a long period. It's a bit lax, and I have to get going on making supports - both for the lax roses and the peonies! The commercial peony rings available here are quite inadequate. I bought this rose years ago at Cornhill Nursery - they don't sell it any more because it only blooms once, and "people won't buy them if they don't repeat bloom".  Glad I got there when they were still selling this one!
       The Philadelphus did itself proud this year, blooming like a good one. I feel I should be propagating it, as it is such a good bloomer (the first two I planted never bloomed at all, so this is why I am so pleased!). I have had remarkable luck with propagating cuttings this year, particularly weigela and hydrangea. And Anne gave me a pot full of Viburnum plicatum f. tomentosum 'Mariesii' (Summer Snowflake) which is one of the ones which is not susceptible to viburnum beetle, and 5 out of 6 have rooted! And I have moved them on into individual pots. They are tiny so far, so shall spend the winter in the cold frame, but there is potential to have viburnum once again.
       The Cornus Kousa 'Satomi' bloomed this year, although the blossoms weren't terribly pink - it suffers from lack of full sunlight, which will continue until the oak tree is cut down. It's a tough decision to make, cutting it down, as it provides lovely summer shade to the south side of the house and a cool place to sit and enjoy the view. However, its demise is inevitable, just not sure when.  The Kousa was lovely, however, and now there are fruits! From which I am harvesting seeds. Just for the fun of it.

       My Kalmia, 'Heart of Fire', bought at Lakeland Nursery in Dartmouth in 2011, bloomed this year, though not prolifically. I am a member of several garden groups on FB and one, I think the Atlantic Rhododendron one, had lovely photos of different kinds of Kalmias - and now I want them all! To name a few: 'Galaxy', 'Keepsake', 'Raspberry Glow', 'Sarah', 'Little Linda' and 'Minuet'. I have them listed on my iPod Touch so if I visit a nursery - not here - I can consult the list. They are all so lovely. And they are never sold in local nurseries. I wonder why - I think they are quite hardy.
         And so to my late summer favourites, the hydrangeas! I just have one lacecap, 'Bluebird', but I have decided that I must have more. This one comes out blue, but turns pink later. I did a bit of feeding and mulching where I have my hydrangeas, which is to the west of the house, and there was a macrophila called 'Cityline Mars' which has been languishing behind some phlox, in a bit of a low spot, so not much sun or moisture, probably. Anyway, I hoiked it out and put it up where it can be seen. I also dug out 4 'Annabelle' hydrangeas from under a fir tree - these are progeny of ones I dug out of Mum's garden many years ago - and put two of them in the "hydrangea walk" at the top of the west path. And I bought a new one, at Home Depot for $15 at the end of the season - it was labelled paniculata 'Grandiflora' Pee Gee and had 3 blooms not yet out - they have come out now and I suspect it is NOT a Pee Gee- as it has those larger bracts - similar to the lacecap above - which the standard PG doesn't have. Ah well. I put the other two "Annabelles' in a new bed under the white pine, straight out from the front door - and then decided to make it into a blue-and-white bed, adding another white hydrangea (paniculata 'Kyushu') and some lavenders, blue fescue, and various salvias and later monkshood (moved from another bed). I'm trying to leave some holes in case the Veseys sale is wonderful again and I get some more peonies or....
       Other bloomers this year in the hydrangea department include 'Pinky Winky', 'Incredibelle', 'Burning Embers' and my favourite, 'Vanille Fraise'
I had to put in an expanding fence to keep the blooms off the ground, but then it grew these two big, upright, branches, one of which bloomed - so I suppose I shall be able to cut off the lower branches one year soon. It is backed by another 'Annabelle', bought from Sandy in Summerside last year (and doing incredibly well) and on the lower left, one of those exotic indoor ones we bought after Easter two years ago for 99 cents each. I bought 3, one died, and the other one isn't blooming. But for 99 cents who cares? I  had them in pots outdoors last winter, so this one will be the test of their survival. But isn't the bloom great and colourful?                                                              This is a closeup of 'Vanille Fraise', speaking of colourful. You can just see, behind these hydrangeas, a half-price Japanese acer, Acer palmatum 'Tamukeyama', which I planted in July. In looking it up, I discovered that, according to one site, this is the perfect 'beginner' acer, easier than all the others to grow. Fingers very much crossed.  

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Chapters of Bloom

      I have been being a bit sluggish myself but the garden is coming along apace despite me. In the amazing resurrection chapter, my hardy hibiscus is coming up (the one from last year. Nothing on the new one, so far) and my tiny white rhododendron (either Sugar Puff or Milky Way, curse my terrible memory and record-keeping) in the shade garden, eaten up by bugs last year, is coming back! I don't seem to have recorded when I planted it or ever photographed it in bloom (though before being eaten last year it was covered in buds) so I feel I must lavish attention on it.
        In the finally-decided-on-a-location chapter, my Rheum palmatum from the Veseys spring sale,  beside my faithful Japanese peony and in front of the rose/clematis trellis. I wanted a showy spot and I hope this is it. I popped in a lot of other things from the sale to the right of this, including the Amsonia "Storm Cloud" and a pink coreopsis (berry chiffon), hardy hibiscus Vintage Wine, as well as a number of Centaurea and rose campions. No bloom on any of the fancy peonies in the back yet, though one on the very right-hand edge is showing two buds, and they are the same shape (though smaller) as the tree peonies. Anne has the same and she says it is Garden Treasure, a peachy-yellow Itoh. I hope so! It will be the first of the Itohs to bloom.
        In the Oh-my-goodness it worked chapter, the ajuga "bed" around the maple tree with alliums rising up above the foliage, just as I imagined it. I am super pleased. There's a bit of grass and the ajuga is starting to bloom, curse it, but otherwise it's perfect. Or as perfect as ajuga can be made to be.
  In the bloomed-before-but-I'm-still-thrilled chapter are Clematis Elsa Spath, not far from the Itoh, the variegated wiegela, and the dark red tree peony, doing some funny thing with the colour of the outside petals. Each of the tree peonies has five blooms, and the red one is quite a bit later than the white this year, perhaps because the red is in more shade.

       And blooming-under-extreme-difficulty is my Minnetonka rhododendron, planted last August and looking splendid coming out of the snow, then badly burned by spring winds on its north side. But the south side has buds, and is starting to bloom, and the north side is putting on new growth, so perhaps all will be well.
    Now I must get out and construct a cage over  my hardy bush cherries, if I intend to save any of them from the birds this year. I bought 10-foot pieces of pvc conduit yesterday, thinking they would be long enough, but I think the bushes are more like 15 feet, end-to-end. Must get out the hacksaw and get cutting.  

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Finally catching up

        Blooming has begun, with my first rose (Fru Dagmar Hartrup) out yesterday evening, along with the tree peony "Flight of Cranes", only 5 blooms this year but I love every one of them. The tree peony plant has put on substantial growth as well, and is looking very healthy.
        Because I'm retired now, I have been working hard on improving the many unimproved or even "no go" areas in the garden. This includes three cold compost piles, which I am harvesting. I have also installed four hardware cloth bins in different locations, as per my composting guide, which recommends that you'll be much likelier to compost if you don't have to lug stuff for miles. I also made a compost sling for moving loads of dry browns which I raked in the spring. It's not so useful now, but will come in handy when it comes time to turn the hardware cloth bins. Another "tidying up" thing I'm trying, is building some 'hugelcultur" mounds, with some of the many branches and tree trunks which we otherwise have to try to burn. The mounds are covered with sods and eventually break down the wood underneath, and in the interim can be used for planting. I will probably just plant trees and shrubs on them, as they are in the shade areas. I have made two on the north side, and am going to use them to bolster our wind protection on that side.
         This week I have been trying to get things planted. Vegetables and flowers. We had our usual bonanza at the Veseys bulb sale (June 2 this year) and I have mainly potted up the rooted things rather than trusting them to the ground and hoping. I have finally created my "Hot" bed, hot colours, that is, and, contrary to what I just said, put quite a few crocosmia bulbs in there, of which there is still no sign. Ah well. I am putting in a few blue things as well, for contrast with the yellows & oranges. I put in two dark blue salvias, doing well, and I have still got a Veseys Amsonia to go there, but I want it to get a bit more established in the pot before it goes out.
            In my shade garden I have added quite a few things, including six more hellebores, the ones originally from Veseys and grown on by Van Kampens. 4 French Kiss, one each Rio Carnival and True Love. Looking forward to spring! My little rhododendron which bloomed so well in the shade last year was attacked by bugs in the late summer, and has not come back. Very disappointing. Oh well. I still have two others, larger ones, there, and the white one is blooming well, though the pink one lost all its leaves and, while the leaves have grown back it just has a couple of blooms. it is doing its best, poor thing. I shall go around with some of this great compost I've been mining, and give them a boost.
         Must get back out there. Before I go, I want to claim success with my allium/ajuga bed, however. I lost quite a few alliums to that whatever-it-is that makes the stems go weak and fall over (and I tried splints. They just fall over again in a different place) but because I had planted so MANY I still have a nice show - and it looks like they will go on for while yet. Result.