Tuesday, December 6, 2011

More of the Same...

The weather continues good, and the kitchen is coming on at a snail's pace - we did rent a tile saw and cut all of the granite tile for the countertop and backsplash, on Saturday. Carpenter is supposed to be in to fit the doors - and more importantly, cut the hole for the sink so we can get on with gluing down the tiles - today.
In the interim I've done a bit of work on the plaster, as there have been electrical plugs relocated, some wall damage was done removing the old cabinets, and there's more wall showing than there was before. Because this was a schoolhouse, the original carpenters didn't seam-fill the gyproc at the bottom of the walls, as they were originally covered by Douglas-fir wainscotting. So that was for me to do.
I hope the plastering is finished now, so I can sand and then paint up to the new cabinets with the dark green wall colour.
On Sunday I actually got out into the garden, briefly - I dug a few of the leeks, and then sank the strawberries - in their pots - into the former leek bed, and covered them with a layer of hay. The idea, or the pious hope, I suppose, is that they will survive the winter, and then I can dig them up and put them in the greenhouse in the early spring, and with luck have an earlier crop of strawberries. The strawberries which are in the ground to the south of the greenhouse also got a cover of hay. I suppose I can count them as my control group.

We shored up the greenhouse with a couple of posts - it got snow on it a couple of weeks ago, and it was heavy and collapsed a couple of the hoops. No trouble to pop them back up, and the snow slid off, but the weight was hard on the strapping we used to hold the piping rigid. It's the way the snow fell, I think - it came straight down and built up (we had almost 20 cm.!) and then it got warm so it melted and increased in weight (is that physically possible? Does it absorb moisture from the air? It Feels like it does, anyway) and the roof buckled. It's popped up again, and I have wrapped the roof in a big green tarp, and tied it down to concrete blocks front and back. There hasn't been any popping of the plastic clips or any blow-out of the ends since that happened. It just may be winterized at last.

The solar is working well when it is sunny. I think I've probably had a couple of solar showers now. We did cut down the Theves poplar just beside the house, also on the weekend. It wasn't interfering much with solar gain at the moment, but it had to go - the leaves in summer would have been a disaster! I'm hoping the white oak will be able to stay - it has been pollarded and so far it looks like it won't shade the panels. I've put the Christmas lights on it to make it feel a bit better.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Continuing fine.

Yes, another clear and lovely day. It was 0 degrees when I did my walk this morning, but it was so calm and lovely that it didn't matter at all. I have to say, that  since the solar panels went in there haven't been many days like this. I'm hoping for a fully solar shower soon - perhaps tomorrow.

Kitchen renovation continues - not fast, exactly, but steadily. We got home yesterday to find that the carpenter's placed the sink exactly under the window (we said we wanted it offset to the right, so as to have more counter space beside the stove) but no, "it just wouldn't look right". Bugger.  Symmetry strikes again. He said he would change it but I said don't bother.
Also I thought he'd put the oak edging level with the top of the plywood but I think it's just reinforcement for the edge of the counter. We are going to put the Denshield tile backer, which is 1/2 inch thick, and then the tile, which is 3/8, over that. And then the actual edge goes on over that. We are putting the tile on the backsplash too, so we will need to figure out some sort of much smaller edging for that.

Otherwise it's lovely and clean-looking, and square (and quite symmetrical). Looks like there will be a fair bit of storage space. I'm getting a couple of cupboards with doors, but I think a trip to Lee Valley will net me some pull-outs that will make that space useful as well. We have to go there for our hardware, as the Mission-y 'hammered' look is available here in black but not in antique brass. That's for a while from now, but the Denshield has to go on tonight, so we can get to work on the tile soon afterward. Progress!

Thursday, November 17, 2011


     We have been having exceptional weather, with the temperatures much higher than usual for November. But we have also had quite a bit of wind, and this means that the leaves have mostly left the trees, especially in exposed areas. Our linden in the front yard is still in leaf, however, and the glorious yellow-and-gold really brightens up the view.

     We are coming down to it with the kitchen renovation - our carpenter says next Tuesday to start. We have dismantled most of the cupboards, with the sink sitting proudly in the middle. Carpenter says he will finish the dismantling of that if we want. I would like to be able to do it all ourselves! One surprise is that there is no plywood underlay under the base cupboards - they are in the former boys' cloakroom-and-toilet area and were never tiled, I suppose. There is a hole through to the basement where the toilet was removed - covered with a board, but still! 
We will put underlay over it, but I am thinking we should repair the hole first - after all, not all of it will be under the new cupboards, as they are 24 inches wide, not the mammoth 30 inches wide ones we built 35 years ago and are now tearing out. Just one of the things to think about, when we have an evening to work on it!
    We are very excited to be getting cork flooring for the kitchen - we found some at Markan that seems to be just right - a medium colour, easy to put down (it's in floating-floor format) with cork on the top and the bottom so it should be easy on the legs & feet. Now to see if it wears well. It is guaranteed for 25 years (probably Markan will be long gone by then).

     Our solar panels are coming tomorrow, and then the water-heater/plumbing gets done Monday. I am hoping this doesn't mean we're without hot water all weekend. Luckily I'm mostly enjoying the whole camping aspect of our existence at the moment, seeking food in boxes, stashing a minimum number of dishes on the sideboard - and washing them promptly so they can be used again. Of course, we still have the sink and the stove! I am planning to prepare some ready-meals tomorrow and on Sunday, so we can just heat them up. Fred thinks we may have an opportunity to try out Boomburger next week. It's a new restaurant on the shops on the North River Causeway, apparently using locally-sourced ingredients. We shall see!
      I have joined GoodReads, and am having a great time looking up favourite books, and finding out what other materials are available. I found an essay by Diana Wynne Jones about the heroic antecedents of Fire and Hemlock - so I dug it out last night and started to read it again. I can see some of the same influences in the Homeward Bounders, too. A source of fun for quite some time to come.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Remember, Remember

      It's Bonfire Night, and, unusually, it's actually Saturday on November 5th. Our traditional bonfire is getting set to go - I'm in the kitchen, mostly, making fall-ish food like pumpkin torte. I'll help with the firewood soon, though. It's snowing at the moment, but that's no bad thing. People will want to to get warm by the fire. At least it's not raining.
     The truly exciting part is that the roof is only partly done - I think the main shingling is completed, but I am not sure all the caps are on...and there is mess everywhere. I may try to gather up some shingle bits - I could use them on a possible shed, later on. The new soffit vents are not all in yet, either. Obviously another visit on Monday, then.
     The other thing is that the carpenter comes on Monday to start building our new kitchen cabinets. We've had to leave the ones we built - 35 years ago, my goodness! - because of the party, but Sunday, we have to rip them all out so he can get to work.
     I am not entirely sure how we will manage - it's being sink-less that is the worst, as we have the microwave, convection oven and barbecue if necessary - to cook on. But the bathroom sinks are less than useless. I must look for my plastic basin.
      Edited to add: carpenter called to say he is two weeks behind and so won't be coming to ours until November 21. We've packed the kitchen cupboard contents anyway, but now we will have another weekend to dismantle the old cupboards and, I hope, find new locations in the garage for the bits that can be salvaged. Oooh. Storage.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

In honour of Wovember - and Wool

Kate Davies and Felicity Ford have started a campaign to honour the wonder of pure wool - and to try to prevent advertizers from naming things which have NO WOOL at all - or a very little bit (like 5%) as wool. Repeat the mantra: Only wool is wool, and wool comes from sheep.
I have two stories to contribute. I grew up in a knitting home. My mum was a knitter, and so was her mom. They knit very fast - I know that they held their knitting differently than I do, and I know that, had I learned this properly, I would knit more quickly. Be that as it may. It's too late now.
We had (still have) a local woollen mill - MacAuslands - where materials for home knitting were sourced. They also produced (and still produce) the 100% wool blankets we slept under, and under which we - and our children - sleep every night.

In addition to knitting for our family, my mum would knit mittens and socks for her lobster-fisher brothers. They knew the value of the warm-when-wet properties of wool. I remember, as a child, being amazed at the huge size of the mittens she produced for the fishers - and commenting on it. She explained that she was allowing for shrinkage. In a very short time these mittens would be fulled by water - and warm hands, and work - to a windproof, warm, individually fitting, enclosure for hands.
When I was older, I used to go out on the boat - once each spring - to watch the process, and I saw these mittens in action. They would be drenched in salt water - dripping - but would keep hands warm and flexible as they hauled traps, opened doors and pulled lobsters out of the "parlour", and then added pieces of the bait - usually rotten-looking salt herring - to the bait spike. Then the door would be closed, the trap would be lined up with its fellows on the washboard, and, when all was ready, be pushed off again by mittened hands, to lie in wait for the next lot of lobsters. Amazing that all these jobs could be done by hands encased in mittens! And I'll bet that their hands were warmer than they are in the stiff waterproof gloves they use now. 
Mittens were even worn for the more dainty jobs - like "sizing", or measuring the lobsters - the "markets" for the restaurant trade, the "canners" for the factory, and the "Michauds" (named for the Fisheries Minister who brought in minimum lobster size regulations) to be flung back into the ocean for further growth. I don't think the mittens were thick enough to prevent hands from being "nipped" by the lobster's claws. My uncles treated the lobsters with respect for the danger, and held them carefully.
Wool from MacAuslands came in natural colours - off white and light, medium and dark grey. But mittens and socks for fishers had to be white. Grey was bad luck - and when you make your living on the sea, you need all the luck you can get.

My other wool story comes from 2010, on a trip to Ireland in April. We saw sheep everywhere - wild on the hills and roads in Connemara, in fields in Galway, Clare and Cork - with their tiny, beautiful, lively lambs. I wanted so much to photograph them, but discovered that, in Ireland, scenic lookoffs or even places to pull over are few and far between - and rarely do they take account of people wanting to photograph sheep. So I have quite a few blurry photos taken from the moving Mac Dubh (our rental car) and a few shots from when we were walking past a sheep pasture. Then, on our very last day with the car, en route from Galway to Dublin, we saw a pasture with a stopping spot, and I finally got a chance to take my photos. Voila: the sheep and lambs of Ballinasloe.
I did manage to buy some real knitting wool, Donegal tweed, from Ireland, in a shop in Clifden. The ultimate souvenir.
Happy Wovember. Happy knitting with wool.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Battening down is hard when you're working....

But I get Friday off, and that may help a little. I'm feeling quite behind in what I had hoped to accomplish by now in the garden. However, tomorrow it will rain, so I am going to finish some work in the house so I can get outdoors on Saturday, which, so far at least, promises to be fine.
     We have a plan to import some red osier dogwood from elsewhere to our own personal messy ditch.

It's a strange thing, red osier dogwood grows in many, many places in PEI but not in our little corner of Queens County. I was down to Georgetown yesterday, and came back on the 48 Road, and, even through some pretty heavy showers I couldn't help but notice a LOT of red osier dogwood, looking magenta, leafless and beautiful. I want that! We may go to Tryon for it, or back to the 48 Road. Depends. There's none nearer, for sure.
We are having work done on the house, which is necessitating a lot of clearing out of undisturbed cubby and hidey-holes. We're getting more insulation blown into the attic, and this means that all the stuff we stashed up there (when the house was much smaller and we didn't have a storage room with a DOOR) - kids' books, paintings, our books (mainly textbooks), bits of fabric, school stuff, business papers many years older that 7 - all of this is coming down to the living floor and being gone through. Much is being chucked out. But the process is messy.
   We are having the roof re-shingled as well, but luckily the roofer has to do the cleaning up THERE! But I should put protective pots over my perennials in the flower beds near the house, because I don't think these guys care much about flowers. If it doesn't rain too much, perhaps I can get out there tomorrow and at least do that.
    Then there're the kitchen cupboards. We have cleared out the top shelves on the upper cabinets, discovering a lot of tupperware and the like which hasn't been used in years. I'm making up a bag of the stuff which might be of use to someone, and it will go off to the Diabetes Association when it's filled. I do hope that the new cupboards will have more useable storage space. I'm banking pretty heavily on the pantry unit being a good place to stash a lot of those use-now-and-again things like the slow cooker and the wok. And the china platters and so on.
    One bonus thing in the attic stuff was a box of yarns, mostly teeny bits of mohair which I threw out, but also about 6 balls of Kroy Sock and Sweater yarn in a nice manly dark grey, as well as burgundy (3), blue (1) and white (1). It must be from long ago, because the price tags indicate that they cost under $2 each, and were purchased in Souris at the pharmacy. There's a bit of ribbing knit, and some of the colours are wound onto bobbins....was I thinking of making some hideous intarsia sweater? Thank goodness the 80s are over. I can now use the yarn for socks!
    We put half of the fire wood in on Monday after supper, and as soon as we have a couple of dry days again the rest will follow. It's been chilly, but not enough to justify lighting the furnace just yet. We don't need the steady heat, just a blast of the oil at suppertime and another in the morning. It was 2 degrees this morning!
     Once the roof is re-shingled we are getting a solar hot water panel installed. This will necessitate us replacing our 1993 oil-fired hot water heater with an electric one (for back-up). The Co. has priced a 60-litre heater for us - our present one is 30 litres. We think this is excessive, as we've never run out of hot water with the 30. As I keep doing laundry in cold water, I wonder what difference it will make to have an unlimited supply of hot. Doesn't hot water washing wear out one's clothes faster? Or is that all down to the old-fashioned top-loading washer?
       In my plan to finish Bathroom #3, I want to put in a stacked washer & dryer (front-loaders) and I've been worried that they will take up a lot of room - I'm going to build them a little closet with a regular door, as we have several doors that we haven't needed yet. There are three 30-inch ones, and one 35-inch one. I have been steeling myself to use the big one, as the washers and dryers I've been looking at are all HUGE - over 30 inches wide, and we'll need to be able to get them out of there if (or rather WHEN) they go wrong. (And many of them are grey! What kind of foolish is that? Isn't doing laundry depressing enough, without that?)
     However, in Halifax on the weekend we saw smaller ones - still front-loaders, but 24-inches, not these wash-17-pairs-of-jeans at once behemoths. And of course we don't need huge ones, so this makes me easier in my mind and I can finally go ahead and build the laundry closet, and get on with installing the bathtub, etc. I have hopes that our kitchen-cupboard man might be able to do us a vanity for the bathroom, and then we'll be all set.
     We were unsuccessful in finding any granite tiles for the counter top in Halifax - there were plenty of choices if you wanted black or grey, or a bright Barbie-pink, but nothing DECENT at all. Nothing with the bit of subtle colour that matches what we have - oak floor and cabinets, stained a mission brown, dark green walls and rust-red finish. How difficult can that be?  We really aren't that fussy - we just want to have the counters a lighter colour as the rest of the room is so dark.
     And we almost bought some bamboo flooring, but realized, when we got it on the cart in the store, that there was NO WAY that these four 6.5-foot packages were going to fit in our CAR! There are times when only a truck will do.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Battening Down the Garden

Blooming things have been coming to an end, but it's still a busy time as I collect some seeds, and divide some perennials which are getting overgrown. The Rudbeckia Cherry Brandy has been a star, and I especially like the ones with double petals. None in the accompanying photo, however.

I was lucky enough to find a couple of things I have really wanted at the Island Pride Nursery on the 70-Mile Yard Sale - an astrantia (the white one) and a Helebore. I also got an anemone Hupehensis called September Charm, and a primrose, which had a burgundy bloom when I got it, but which has been blooming white since. I think there are actually three plants in the pot, two white and a burgundy. I want to divide them before putting them in the ground. Or maybe just in a pot to keep close by.
I have planted all but the primrose in extant flower beds, with the hellebore just to the left of the path to the door, as I want to see it close up when it blooms. I spent my last week of freedom re-doing the path, including pulling away the old steps, levering up the patio stones, and digging out the weeds in the sand underneath. Then I filled in and levelled with small gravel, replaced the patio stones (the 4 big ones - 24-inch square), filled in the spaces with the gravel, and then cut and installed the stringers for three shallow steps. We had bought white cedar 2X4X8's for the treads at Arsenault's Mill and we cut them up - deciding that we wanted the steps five feet long, not four, which meant we were 3 2X4's short. We eventually bought more at Home Depot, but they don't match - they are red cedar instead of white, and they are planed, so they are a bit smaller than the Arsenault ones. Ah well. They will last forever at least. And I have quite a few 3-foot bits of 2X4 that I can use to make garden furniture. No more pine for that purpose - they rot in no time!

We had a dreadful week of wind and rain, and then a lovely return to summer for the Thanksgiving weekend. We went down to Little Harbour for cranberries on the Saturday. It was quite wet under foot in spots, but there were cranberries a-plenty.  Some of them weren't very ripe. We are taking care to sort and clean, and maybe ripen, them right away this time. Last year they were put in the room over the garage at Christmas-time, and were forgotten. They ended up freezing and rotting. This year's batch is going into the freezer when they colour up a bit more.
We also dug up some cranberry plants, and on Sunday I planted them into my newly-dug cranberry bog. There were only 10 plants in all, and only a couple of them had any amount of roots attached, so I'm not expecting too much. I had filled the pit with peat moss, and then I covered it with white pine needles. Some sand on the top, to hold the whole thing down, will be the next step. I am tempted to check out the cranberry plants at the back of Reggie's farm - I haven't been back there for years, but there used to be cranberries there in a boggy bit, and they may dig up more easily than the ones growing on the dunes in Little Harbour.
I have planted a pound of our garlic, which is Music, and another type which I had bought at the garlic place in Caledonia - I think it's Carpathia. The pine cones are to keep the cats from digging in the bed and disturbing the cloves, while they are getting their roots established.
Our Yellow Delicious apple tree has an amazing amount of fruit on it - I've made apple-and-ground-cherry crisp three times now, got people out to pick a bag of apples each at Thanksgiving dinner on Monday, and still the tree is covered. I must bring some in to work. I wish tomatoes had been so good, but the blight took them off fairly quickly. Even the 6 plants I kept in the greenhouse have it. They are at least still producing ripe tomatoes, especially cherry ones, but the ones outdoors are well and truly frost-bitten. The ground-cherries have been touched as well, but there are a lot of ripe and unripe cherries left - I will have to cover them as there is a frost warning for tonight.
I have been working on a pair of Selbu Mittens - the Selbu pattern is for a hat, but I thought the mittens would be more useful immediately. I am using some Knitpicks undyed merino-and-silk and a Kroy sock in a nice mott-ley turquoise which will work well with my fall suede jacket. I wore the jacket today for the first time, so I'd better get busy. Mitten weather could strike at any time.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Lily Season

It's the lily season all right - both hemerocallis and lilium. This picture shows a combination - a lovely big pink one, planted last year, along with my ubiquitous flesh-coloured daylily which has been spread all over the place.
So, time for a progress report. This summer was great for growing peas, but we didn't actually *eat* many of them, so I am thinking that, as far as peas go, their room is more useful than their presence. In fact I've hauled them all out, and plan to fertilize their spot for garlic later in the fall. Carrots have struggled - they needed to be planted and re-planted several times, and they are still not much of a size. The last ones I planted were the tiny round ones, so I hope they make some size at least. I have gathered all of my plastic tubing from making hoop skirts, and plan to use them to make row covers for the more tender plants. To heck! with running out and covering the tomatoes with sheets every night. I'll just cover with fleece and leave them up. Just have to find the fleece, or equivalent, here.

Still haven't put the ends in the greenhouse - it will have to happen fairly soon, but not just yet, as I think I still need the ventilation. It was quite hot in there yesterday, and I didn't get out there until the evening when I found a couple of plants - a strawberry and a tomato - quite wilted. Hope they are looking better this morning.
Things are a bit disorganized in there at the moment, but once I get the strawberry bed dug and them in the ground and out of their pots, I'll be able to organize for winter. The brown leaves in the lower left of the picture were willow branches, which I left in a trug until they sprouted roots - they are now all either potted up or in a bed in the garden. Roll on willow weaving, etc. next year. Hope this will be a good kind of willow to work with - it certainly was easy to root. 

 The ground cherries are doing quite well, large plants and plenty of little "lanterns" on the branches. They are all still quite green, I don't know if they change colour or not, to indicate that they are ripe. I have actually picked some rhubarb from my one tiny bunch - enough for a rhubarb cake. Apparently you are supposed to leave it alone, that first year. The plant seems fine still, though losing some of the lower leaves. No sign of a seed-head yet. I suppose I should leave that alone, should one develop.

Apparently I have been killing hydrangea slips to no good purpose. I haven't gotten even one of them to root.  I am not going to give up, but I think I should adhere to the rules a little more rigidly - use an inert medium, and do it indoors, covered, with bottom heat. We'll see if that helps. If successful, I may try rooting rose cuttings again! But it is heartbreaking to think of the potential, alas, now lost! I still think I stand a better chance of rooting and growing something that's already shown its survival instincts in this climate - than buying something grown elsewhere.
The gladioli Helen gave me are all blooming like good ones! The first to bloom were a deep pink with white, but it looks like some of the other ones - not yet in bloom - will be other colours, including white. Interestingly, I have learned that it's probably not the best thing to plant gladioli at the north end of a flower bed, as they seem to want to face the sun - and therefore have their backs to you as you stand on the lawn looking at them. Next year, I'll find a spot down on the south corner of the bed and they will face the public!! I actually think they will be perfect there, as there's quite a black spot there at the moment, after all the feverfew and geraniums got chopped down. Back to the vegetable plot for a bit, the asparagus are doing really well. They keep growing new shoots, and some are almost of harvest-able size. Of course I know not to, but I am looking forward to a spear or two next year. After I hauled out the peas, I staked up the asparagus, as the fronds had been knocked over by the wind a bit. We are eating green beans, and I have even found a few yellow ones. And I've put up a bag of greens for the freezer. Raspberries were quite a disappointment, very few berries at all, so they are going to get some fertilizer, soon, and I will get busy and cut down the old canes as well. There might be a cup or so left, and I did get 2 batches of jam made...not so prolific as last year at all. They seemed to dry out quite badly despite the almost constant rain. Maybe they need a soaker hose invested in them.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Further Rain

I've been making progress on trying to bring my garden up slightly closer to the "Aiken Standard".
Last week I dropped in to Habitat for Humanity, and they were putting out a little garden wicker set - loveseat, chair and table. They'd been painted, (and two different colours, worse luck) but for $45 they were fine. I'd been prepared to pay more for a grotty modern "bistro" set for the deck and these are so much better! They had no cushions, of course, but I can make cushions! (and in fact I have.) They make a great spot to set out my pelargoniums and also my tiny blooming calla lily. And for sitting out and inhaling the honeysuckle fragrance in the evenings too.

 In other news, I put out a freebie request on Kijiji for used carpet for weed suppression - and got a response! So on Friday we borrowed the truck, and after work Fred and I went and picked it up - it was a wonderfully grotty one, in two pieces, one huge and the other smaller. On Saturday I put the smaller one on top of the former beds at the north end of the vegetable plot. I plan to espalier some fruit trees there - cherries, plums and apples, I think. Then I cut strips of the big one and put them in between the raised beds in the vegetable garden. The left-over pieces I put along the south side of the greenhouse. It's the whole length of the greenhouse (15 feet) plus the space between the greenhouse and the garden, and a bit less wide, maybe 10-11 feet.  I'm thinking fruit there, too, but smaller ones:  cranberries and strawberries. Maybe blueberries too!
The strips between the beds are likely to remain there - even after I get the bed sides put up - but once the fruit beds are planted I'll be able to use those bits of carpet elsewhere. I can't wait for the roadside waste collection in October - I'm scouting for more carpet!! This weed suppression method is GREAT.
In my travels I have been keeping an eye open for hydrangeas and taking sneaky slips when I do. I have three in the greenhouse, and am trying to root them. Fingers crossed. I went to Cool Breeze nursery on Friday, they had plenty of hydrangeas but I didn't sneak any slips of theirs. Didn't buy any either - $40 each! Perhaps there will be an end-of-season sale. I did get a buddleja, with three or four flowering buds on it. Anne says they're a weed in Vancouver, but I'm afraid that here in Zone 5b they'll need winter cover to survive. I always thought that they were shrubs, but Cool Breeze was selling them as perennials - and the cheapest ones, at that.
Hydrangea Paniculata Grandiflora

I saw some bright-ish red hydrangeas in a greenhouse in Winsloe, but the shop wasn't open so I don't know if I could afford one or not. Yet.
I DO have two hydrangeas of my own, an Annabelle from Mum's garden, which is struggling to survive, having moved itself UNDER a fir tree in the west of the house, and a Pee Gee which went in a couple of years ago and is doing quite well, just to the west of the spruce hedge, behind the Ring-around-the-rosey bed. It's putting on blossom like a good 'un. I'll try propagating from them in the spring. I'm prepared to baby along the current slips in the house over the winter, if I'm lucky enough to root them. After all, some people's garden hydrangeas started off as house plants! (I will keep an eye out at Easter-time for house plants too, though I suppose they aren't hardy here.) I scratched away some soil under the fir tree and put in some fertilizer - in FRONT of the Annabelle hydrangea. Maybe she'll pull herself out of there, and into the better soil. And I've limbed up the tree to give her some head-room. Come on, Annabelle.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Summer of Rain...

Yes, no chance that the garden will dry out while this summer continues. OTOH it's been great for knitting and Brit-TV watching.

Went to visit a fabulous garden on Sunday - open for charity. I have admired this one from afar for quite a while, as it is opposite the place where we used to go to get our lawnmower serviced (the old gas mower. Dave doesn't do electric). On the outside there is a lovely Japanese-inspired fence with a lovely, wide, herbaceous border. It includes a pergola and a door as well.

Inside, it's amazing! There are two sun-houses, a cottage done up like a guest bedroom, several more bits of the nice fencing, a long fenced-in walk, many pergolas and other structures, and innumerable sets of tables and chairs with tea sets and decorative birdhouses, dotted around everywhere.
The theme is "VICTORIAN", and yes, I do mean the all-caps. Much too twee for my taste, all of that, but the plants were amazing. There were lots of beds with roses integrated into the planting - this must be my aim this fall, I'm already making spots where they could go. I mean to take out the less-hardy ones I've had in the front of the rose mound and just let the rugosa-types take it over, and place the others here and there in the beds.

(I have been having propagation fun in the greenhouse. When I cut back my big pink Geranium Macrorrhizum I had several bits with roots on them, from underneath the plant, so I potted them up and now I have about a dozen, growing away in pots. Too bad I like them so little - they make a great leafy plant but not much bloom. The Geranium Sanguineum have been setting seeds, so I potted up some of those yesterday, as well as potting up some cuttings. I think the rainy summer has been good for rooting cuttings. No chance of any of them drying out.)

Anyway, back to the Aiken garden. There were many, many spectacular clematis everywhere, sometimes climbing a post in the middle of a big bed, other times on the structures, either fences or pergolas, etc. I really liked this dark pink one.  A few had finished flowering, but most were full out and gorgeous. If I knew more about clematis I would maybe know what kinds they were.

 There were many hydrangeas as well, most of them the white ones - Annabelle, I think. They had a couple of the big-leafed ones, with the gigantic blue and pink flowers. They were just planted, I think...quite small. Anyway, they obviously make lovely cut flower arrangements as well.
 There seems to be a mainly pink-and-white colour scheme in large areas of the garden, which I liked a lot, as that's what I think goes best around our place here. So, lots of suggestions about what could be used here. There were plenty of yellows and oranges, but in other locations, separate from the pinks and whites. Specifically, there is a series of terraced beds leading down to the brook from the screened porch. There were plenty of daylilies there, as well as hostas and astilbes.

There were a lot of hostas everywhere, of course, as they do a great job of filling in the fronts of borders and so on. (I am still convinced that gardens can be made without them.)

All in all, an amazing garden, full of great plants looking absolutely wonderful, and not so terribly far out of my reach - in a more modified way.
I think I want my structures to be more organic (willow, rough cedar) and my seating to be more in keeping with the arts and crafts esthetic than the Victorian. But I'd take the plants! They must have the greenest of thumbs. The garden was started 20 years ago, and Mrs Aiken says they haven't done much that's new for the last five years, but there is a new DU pond next door that will take some decorating - she says rhododendrons. Spring interest!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Ring-around-the-rosey a Success!

A while ago, I went on at length about my plan to disguise the ugly stump of a Theves poplar in my lawn by ringing it with roses. Exactly two years ago I cleaned up the firespot (we'd tried to burn it out) and planted white and pink shrub roses between the roots, and a rose I've been calling "wild" in the middle, just against the stump. They did well last year, though there wasn't a lot of bloom.
Well, this is it, two years on. The shrub roses aren't getting big very fast (though to be fair, they started out as tiny little offshoots). However, the wild one is loving the position and the encouragement. It's not actually wild. I have been seeing it everywhere in municipal and private plantings, so it must be available commercially. I don't yet know its name, but I am scouring the rose books, looking for it. Up close, the individual flowers are single, with a heart-shaped petal, and they are pink in the bud, with a bit of a pink tinge even when open.  I think it might be "Pleine de Grace" The pink rose underneath is Pink Grootendorst, given to me by my friend Henry last year. It bloomed last year, and it's blooming again. Lovely.

I was in Summerside yesterday, and they have a lot of shrub roses in their municipal plantings, particularly along the seaside boardwalks. They seem to prune them quite successfully to keep them in shape (though their wild ones like mine are showing new growth above the pruning line, like mine above). I'm not sure whether it will bloom again on the old growth, so I am leaving it alone for this year. If it turns out NOT to bloom on old growth then I'll be able to keep it in line by pruning.

The bed beside the Ring-around-the-rosey is looking well at the moment. I put a sucker of the rosa Gallica Tuscan Superb in the middle last year, and this year it's shyly blooming. The liatris is looking likely to bloom soon, and the pink astilbe is blooming away quite happily. The ubiquitous feverfew is all over the place, of course. I thought for a while that I had three kinds, but now I think the daisy-like ones have centres which keep coming out so they get fluffy in the middle. There's a taller astilbe in the next part of the bed, not blooming yet because it's in shade, like the pink one should be!!

The red climbing rose Henry Kelsey on the Celtic trellis is doing quite well, although the Dublin Bay has yet to bloom this year (you can just see a tiny sprig in the bottom of the photo). The foliage is there but no blooms so far. In other rose news Celestial is out, although it has been damaged by bugs and weather, so no blooms which would look good in a photograph so far. The Royal Bonica has two huge buds, so I'm hoping that today's wind and/or tomorrow's rain don't damage them too much. I think I've decided that the mystery rose in the bed along the south is de Montarville. I saw a photo which looked a lot like it, and the name sounds familiar. It is just coming in to bloom now, as it had a bit of a breakage problem after the winter. It seems to cope with being broken down (or gnawed by mice!) so perhaps that's what I should plan to do to it, if ever it isn't devastated some spring.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Summertime tasks abound

persicaria affinis

Much progress has been made since last I wrote. The best thing has been the discovery of The Flower Patch - we've been back for more plants, including some yellow iris for Karen (she babysat the cats while we were in Halifax) and the rest were groundcovers - persicaria affinis "Superba",  saxifraga x arendsii "Purple Robe", a campanula "White Clips"and a couple more. They are in the bed around the south lawn for now - I'm developing the lasagne beds on the west side and they - or their progeny - will go in there later.

East-west bed, on the edge of the south lawn
In Halifax I bought a mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia "Heart of Fire") and a couple of perennials - groundcover again, a variegated bugleweed and another campanula, blue this time, I think. We bought them at the Lakeland Plant World in Dartmouth.What a place. Any plant you could want is there, I think.
Anne and I (mostly Anne) tidied up the beds around the south lawn and planted a lot of the groundcovers in there, after edging the beds and doing some mulching. Looks good. The snowballs and spirea have mostly gone over by now, but they were spectacular while they were on.
Roses are coming along, now that we have been having some sun on a regular basis. The 'wild' rose is starting, with one of the Pink Grootendorst underneath, and Samuel Holland is peeping out. The rugosas on the mound are doing well - Blanc de Coubert, Snow Pavement, Alba, Hansa, and Marie Bugnet. Celestial is looking healthier now - should be a good bloom season.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Too busy to post...

 The greenhouse, tidied up. Needs a few more shelves, and doors at both ends, I think, to get the breeze through. So, currently, the things in there are enjoying shelter but not exactly warm greenhouse conditions.
I have planted all the tomatoes out in the garden (except the 6 I plan to keep indoors, 2 Sweet Million, and 4 Early Girl). I need a couple of tomato cages and they will all be ready for the growing season. I also put in the ground cherries and the rhubarb in the lasagne bed yesterday, and planted carrots, more lettuce and spinach, and a short row of beets. I'm really getting into this succession planting lark.
I managed to get most of the plants from Veseys $2 sale, which had been soaking overnight, potted up, Now to wait until they are a bit bigger before putting them out in the garden beds.  Some of them looked quite healthy - and others are definite long shots.
We dug a trench in the western garden and put in the willow twigs - we have been keeping them in water, and the ones with their heads covered have done best. However, they apparently root readily anywhere so we are hopeful.
Must go arrange dinner, as we are at Small Halls tonight! Cynthia MacLeod, Tony McManus, and Nuala Kennedy.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Visits to Plants

Anne and I set out yesterday to visit greenhouses and plant sources in the East, mainly on the lookout for groundcover plants, and willows.
Started at Jewells, where there were lots of big begonias and pelargoniums but nothing much that was unique at all. I did get a pot rhubarb, Anne found a yellow-flowered groundcover, and I got some liquid tomato food, of which I have heard such good reports. Then we went to Veseys. They were having a sale on all of their remaining roots and bulbs, all at $2 a bag. Most were quite dried up, but we got 8 different things - three geraniums, a couple of calla lilies, some white liatris, oxalis, and firecracker plants, whatever they are. We soaked them overnight, and will pot them up and monitor their progress before putting them out to fend for themselves in the garden. Also got two more packets of bean seeds, as the ones I planted have not shown - I think the seed was bad. I also picked up carrot seeds because I suddenly remembered that I hadn't bought any. Have to put those in today. We dropped in to the York Greenhouses but again didn't see much.
Then we went to Covehead and had fish lunch on the wharf (I had a lobster roll - delicious!) while looking at the following view:

Then we drove cross-country and ended up in Orwell, headed to Wood Islands first, to the Island Pride Nursery, where Anne found a gorgeous climbing hydrangea ($29.99) and I got a couple of groundcovers, a moss phlox in white and another thing with pink flowers. Can't remember the name right now, but it feels like that plastic "parsley" they used to put between meat trays at the butchers. Then, on the way back, we followed a sign to The Flower Patch on the Glasvin Road in Pinette, and WHAT a Place!

We didn't know how much the plants were going to cost, so just bought three things, a little cushion dianthus (SWEET) a big bunch of Iris Siberica in White Swirl, and a gorgeous Japanese Iris in Wine:


I have planted it in the middle of the N-S bed - there were two big blooming ones in the clump. Total cost? $12. That's $4 each, folks. Race down there and buy this lady's plants. They are field-grown, weed-free, healthy, and there are shrubs too.

On the way back we drove down to Orwell Cove, just to admire the view, and found this gorgeous rugosa rose growing wild on the side of the road - it's single like mine but a deep, deep pink. There were cinnamon roses too.
Here they are:

And then we found a clump of WILLOW!! so we picked a few samples. We are on the hunt of willow that we can propagate and make into willow things - furniture, living fences, that sort of thing. Can't find any trees for sale (except pussy willow and weeping willow) but whatever kind this was it was hardy, had long branches, and its feet were in the water.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Greenhouse is Up!

 So, we got the hoops up without any trouble at all, and then this morning Anne and I fastened the three lines of strapping to the hoops- one across the centre of the ceiling, and two at the sides. They are much sturdier now that they have been joined together. Naturally it was raining, so we couldn't put up the skin. However, I did finish potting on my seed-raised strawberries, which are looking healthy. Then I had lunch, and after it was drier (and even a bit windy) so I pulled up the two pieces of plastic to see if they would dry - enough to tape them together, anyway. This greenhouse is smaller than the tent, so my shorter piece fit fine, and the longer one probably needs to be cut off. I put the railway ties on the edges, as it was still windy and the canopy was threatening to take flight.

I then went on to work on the raspberries - I used all of the two reels of 12 ga. wire and could use one more - however that took care of 7 of 8 of the needed strands. I then cut up a lot of green polarfleece into strips and got busy tying up the canes. They are still a bit bent over but at least you can get through the rows, and there wasn't too much damage to the fruiting canes - and none to next year's crop, as far as I know. There are still lots of WEEDS, but I've pulled out a lot and could do a lot more.

The greenhouse is 12 x 15 feet, and the hoops were all 20 feel long, so it is about 6 foot or a bit more high at the centre. I don't know exactly how I'm going to fit the door, but we're planning a visit to Lee Valley - they have clips to fit 3/4-inch plastic pipe, and a stick-on zipper for construction sites that might work. 
I have all the remaining plants back in, although I should try to get the annuals out into the garden this week, before we go to Halifax later. I may have to get Karen to water the plants as well as feed the cats!
The roses are still struggling to come out. I did have a Souvenir de Philemon Cochet partially out to day, but there just isn't any warmth in the sun (even when it is out) so I am not expecting any big flush of roses anytime soon.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Greenhouse assembly ready to go

I finally have all the pieces necessary for raising my greenhouse again from the dust. I am planning to use the railway ties (instead of 2 x 6s) to hold down the plastic since that part, at least, worked with the former, tent greenhouse. This way I shall be able to open it, should it get too hot inside. I think I want to have a door at each end, for cross-ventilation. And perhaps that oscillating fan will be useful in there as well.
It was NOT sunny at the PGI yesterday, in fact, if it got above 12 degrees I would be very surprised. It was mighty chilly on the old North shore. Lobster lunch at New Glasgow was excellent, though, and far, far more than I usually eat at lunch!
And it looks like we may be getting a break in the weather. Or else the weatherman is tired of all the complaints and is lying. I am hopeful, though, because Anne arrives today, and we have some serious Small Halls concerts to attend!! As well as the usual visiting and gardening and so forth.
Two burgundy tree peonies out today. If it would only warm up, I would have quite a few roses, too. C'mon, sun!
Because I'm outdoors so much, knitting has suffered a bit. However, I am making reasonable progress on the stranded "Thistle" shawl, and I just have to finish the toes on my illusion socks. Then, I should try to complete one of the two Briggs & Little sweaters that have been on the go for so long.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Peony and Iris Time

We put the rest of the raspberry posts in on the weekend - we ran into some issues with the septic tile, which is lurking just 16 inches below the surface, so we decided to brace the posts, rather than putting in a middle one. I bought 12 big zinc screweyes and 200 feet of 12 ga. galvanized wire. It's chilly out again today, and rain is threatened for this afternoon, so I may not even get a sample wire put up today - and tomorrow I'm volunteering at the PGI (it's supposed to be sunny, drat) so I am cleaning house and doing some baking, as my sister arrives on Friday for a visit.
I ordered my rebar for the greenhouse - it comes in 20-foot pieces! but luckily they are going to cut them up into 2.5 foot pieces for me. They only had 6 pieces of conduit (I need 16) so I will pick it up in Summerside when I pick up Fred tomorrow after the golf. They have 25 pieces in stock at Kent in Summerside. They might have some more of the screweyes too. I need four more.
The burgundy tree peony is blooming (it didn't bloom last year) and it's gorgeous. It's also the first of the three to come out. The white one took a kicking from the snow and its trunk was broken (I must stake them next year), so it's just coming back, and no blooms this year. But the pink one has three buds as well. Last year I was a bit disappointed that they bloomed so early, but I'm pleased this year - they make a nice bridge to other, later blooms.

The white iris has been out for some time, but the other-coloured ones are not out yet. I have quite a few of those common blue-and-yellow ones to divide and move - and share - after they bloom.

I planted some more vegetable garden yesterday, 4 Sweet Million and 8 Early Girl tomatoes, 10 zucchini and 5 shallots. I have the other bed-and-a-half to prep. I put the other two Sweet Million in pots - I am hoping to be able to raise them in the greenhouse, and maybe some of the Early Girl as well (and extend the tomato season). I have found more asparagus coming up - there are now 6 plants (of the 10 I planted), and one of them is already branching.  When they get a bit of headway I hill them up with soil-and-manure. I don't want to fill in the whole trench, as I still have hope of the other 4 showing up.
I also planted some of the cleome I started from seed - I'm pulling out the forget-me-nots and weeds in the middle of the borders and plopping them in - they are still small but they seem vigorous. There are many more to go as well.
Helen gave me a bag of gladiolus that Veseys had given her and she didn't want, so I potted them up too. No more putting bulbs and corms in without starting first (in the spring, anyway. Wouldn't work with fall bulbs!!).
I had dropped in to the York Greenhouses on Tuesday and got three kinds of tomato plants (Sweet Million, Roma and Early Girl), two flats of impatiens (pink), lobelia (bush-type, white) and white begonia, with green leaves this time. I also got a flat of 6 amaranthus with burgundy leaves. The low stuff is for the edges of the borders, and the amaranthus is for a change from cleome!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Much garden work is done

Today I had a whole day at home, and I took advantage of it!

I cut the main part of the lawn; I hung out laundry and ironed what was dry from yesterday; and then I got to work on the staking of the raspberry canes. I dug 3 post holes and sharpened three posts (on my mitre saw), and actually pounded in two of them. I've decided that if I dig down 20-22 inches, and then pound in the post another 8-10, that will make 2.5 feet below and 5.5 feet above ground, and that should be enough.

The raspberries still haven't bloomed, but the buds are forming so I have to rush this job. It's a bit hard to do, though, especially the pounding part, so I don't know how many I can get done in a day. I think I should put one in the middle of the row as well. The rows are 30 feet long, almost, so wires stretching 15 feet - I hope it will work. I think stretching the wire might be a bit of a job.

Because I was away yesterday afternoon, the cold frame didn't get opened, and some of the plants got scorched - including three of the potatoes! Drat! I must go out and open it first thing every morning (unless it's raining, I suppose).

I did NOT get to the new bed on the west side of the house. However, the green cart was emptied today, so I can work away there and get the rest of the dreadful ornamental grass out and put in the bin, and then I think I'll cover the bed with newspapers and get the lasagne part going - before something else decides to move in. It's going to be a rather large space to plant. I think I'll use seeds for some of it at least.

The oil tank goes next week (probably Wednesday) and then I'll have the full 54 feet by 3 or 4 to work with! That is going to take a lot of seeds (and compost).
There are actually two teeny asparagus plants showing above ground (at last!!). I am supposed to feed them now, but I am afraid to put on composted manure on its own, in case they get scorched. I am going to have to buy more potting soil asap.

The lilac are at the perfect stage - some bloom but the tip of the bunch is still closed. Perfect!
I have a new-flowering geranium this year - a blue one. It's FAR more spectacular that the old pink one, which is the same style but not yet in flower - in fact there is a lot of foliage but not much bud showing yet.  I hope the blue one makes more plant quickly!