Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Dahlia of Two Colours

October is almost over and I completely forgot to pick a bouquet of flowers this month!  Luckily I was out in the garden today cutting down dahlias to store the tubers for the winter.  Because our weather has been so mild up to now the dahlias were still blooming despite a little frost damage.  So as I cut the plants down I also picked the last of the flowers and created a bouquet for October.

Dramatic white dahlias with red stripes

Dark pink dahlias with yellow highlights

Meadowsweet leaves for greenery
The most interesting thing about this bouquet is that all these flowers came from the same plant.  Amazing isn't it?  Take a second and look again.  Here's a photo of a flower on the plant.

This flower is quite a deep red with yellow highlights yet you can clearly see behind it a flower that is almost completely white.

An all white flower tinged with just pink
and yet the flower to the left contains more yellow
The first blooms I saw this year from this plant were much like the one above.  The base colour was white with dark pink to red highlights.  But as the blooms continued through summer I became more baffled.  Each succeeding flower seemed more out of step than the last.  The general colour combination on any given flower is white, yellow and a dark pink or red.  But what colour is the most predominant changes from flower to flower.

After a little research I discovered that colour variation in dahlias is referred to as a Sport.  Breeders look for these variations, or sports, as this is how they create new hybrids.  A plant that is producing an attractive flower on one stem will be used to take cuttings.  These cuttings are then grown on for several years until a stable colour is produced.  Unfortunately dahlias are not reliable and will take it into their pretty little heads to change colour at whim.  Sometimes reverting back to their original colour or changing into something entirely new.  A frustrating trait at times but one that has allowed breeders to create the hundreds of colour and shape combinations that home gardeners so dearly love which isn't such a bad thing at all.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Wildflower Wednesday - High Bush Cranberry

Our first spring in the garden we purchased a number of trees and shrubs with a mind to begin filling in the vast amount of lawn we had.  I hadn't anticipated purchasing High Bush Cranberry (Viburnum trilobum) but a kind lady at the nursery suggested this would be a really nice addition and so two specimens came home with us.

Since then I have thought countless times how lucky I was that this native shrub was suggested to me as it provides so much interest in several seasons.  It is not a true cranberry but rather a species of Viburnum growing approximately 15 feet high.  They prefer full sunlight and slightly moist conditions in woods or by streams but they are tolerant of some shade and slightly drier soil.  After purchasing my two plants I did find a wild specimen on our property. Tucked away under a poplar it is growing in slight shade in a damp spot next to the roadside.

I discovered this plant as it is easily identifiable by its leaves which look like that of a maple.

Easy to mistake these for maple leaves but they appear on a bushy shrub
And like a maple the leaves turn a brilliant colour in fall.

The tips of the branches tend to die back over winter thus promoting bushy growth each spring making it quite dense.  Birds apparently like the dense nature of this shrub as it provides great coverage for them but they also appreciate the red berries this plant sports in fall.

In June the flowers begin to form

Which then turn to berries in July

By August the fruit is fully formed

and continues to ripen throughout the fall

While the berries can hang on throughout the winter my shrubs have already been well picked over by the birds now at the end of October.

The two shrubs I purchased have been placed front and center in the middle of our circular driveway next to a mature birch where I can see them throughout the seasons and watch their progress.  They have been a beautiful addition to our yard and I'm glad to have them.

If you would like to see more wildflowers or participate in Wildflower Wednesday please pop on over to Gail's blog, Clay and Limestone, where every fourth Wednesday of the month we celebrate the wild side of our gardens.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Summer Wants to Stay

The weather this October has been nothing short of spectacular.  There's been some rain, well a lot of rain actually, and wind, but this has been tempered with plenty of days like today.  Warm and sunny, blue skies, perfect gardening weather.

Only the blush of colour on the birches betrays
this as a fall day instead of mid-summer
I've been taking advantage of this long drawn out fall to get my chores completed.  Rusty hollyhocks have been cut back and the leaves disposed of in the garbage.  Tulips, hyacinths and squill have been planted.  Garlic bulbs as well.  Plant pots have been washed and stacked for next spring.  All of these jobs so much more enjoyable as my fingers aren't numb while I'm doing them.

I've even managed to get out into the woods to better see the lovely fall colour.

In some ways it's hard to believe it's fall though.  We've only had a couple frosts to date and they weren't even enough to kill off my dahlias.  Blooms are still bursting forth each day.

The insects are still gathering pollen.

A small bee is busy working on this Ruby Star coneflower
Even more surprising is that there are flowers to gather pollen from.  My lupines have started to put out a second flush of flowers and these Anemone sylvestris are full of blooms after only being planted in mid-August.

Sea holly has been a constant in the garden this year and continues to provide for those insects that are still active.

Do you see anybody visiting these flowers?
I might almost be tempted to think it was spring except for the one constant reminder.

There are no apples in spring.  And apples are constantly on my mind these days.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Circle Garden

Or so I've been calling it.  It's a circle right now but the final shape will likely change.

In spring we rented a sod cutter and in a random move dug out a circle in the front yard.  What for?  We had no idea.

Hey, let's put a circle here!
At first I thought it would be full of perennials.  Maybe those extra lilac shrubs I was hoarding.  As I viewed the scene though another thought rose.

Circle accomplished - now what?
I stepped back.  All the way back.  Back to the road and viewed what that circle would look like against the shed, the house, the driveway.  What I realized is - it needs to be much bigger.

Step back and it's not a very large circle
That circle is awful small when viewed against the size of the house and the mature trees surrounding it.  And what about those trees?  There's a large white birch directly behind it, some aspen to the right.  If I could combine that circle with the trees already in that area I could create a break between the front and back yards.  A line of trees would hide the driveway and provide a backdrop for any future beds in the front yard.

I felt like I had hit on the right idea and that solved the issue of what to plant.  More trees.  Conifers would provide a backdrop for other plants and provide a year round screen.  I also liked the idea that they would require far less work than a perennial bed.

The result is somewhat sparse looking.

It includes a 'Neon Blue' blue spruce, dwarf Alberta spruce, 'Mint Julep' juniper and two serviceberry bushes.  Several 'Chocolate Chip' ajuga were added as ground cover.  Given that the blue spruce alone will eventually reach a height of 30 feet and width of 17 feet I didn't want to crowd anyone.

I did however start planting outside the circle with the idea of creating a proper screen.  Several Eastern Larch and a Yellow Birch are on either side.  A Diablo Ninebark was also planted but perished for unknown reasons.  I like the contrast of the purple leaves with the evergreens so much though that I think I'll buy another one next year and try again.

It will take a few years for this spot to really start showing much growth but I'm quite happy with how this spontaneous bed turned out.  One of the hardest aspects of landscaping to me is coming up with an idea to start a project.  Sometimes I'm overwhelmed by all the empty space but sticking a shovel in the ground and digging without worrying about how it will all work can inspire ideas that I didn't know I had.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Garden Tour - A Confession

I've been avoiding showing the garden in its entirety because the fact of the matter is that I haven't been keeping up with my chores this year.  When you venture into the centre of the yard the area I termed the 'knot garden' looks just as bad as it ever has. 

I thought I would manage to tame at least a portion of this area but goldenrod and wild raspberry canes have run amuck through a carpet of grass.  Even the small areas I had initially cleared of weeds and covered in mulch are a mess.  The biggest thistle I have ever seen is residing next to the weigelia.  I had good intentions for this garden but instead I avoided it for months in favor of other projects.

The tractor tire that I planted in spring with Lavatera and Sedum has likewise been encased in weeds.

And the side bed that was started as a temporary space for extra plants eventually gave way to some of the largest dandelions you have ever witnessed.

The Diablo Ninebark are completely lost in the dandelions
I confess, I just gave up.

But if we look hard enough there are some benefits to my lacklustre housekeeping skills.  The raspberries blossomed and produced fruit.

Obedient plant blew in on the wind and seeded itself.

As did the beautiful red flowers of this scarlet flax

And the ever cheerful faces of pansies have appeared in the cool air of autumn

Not perfect but not so bad after all.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Triumphs and Tragedies

I'm more than a little surprised to find myself at Thanksgiving weekend already.  Where did the summer go?  It ended so quickly and even fall is quickly turning to winter as this week we had our first nor'easter of the season, as well as a taste of snow.  I will be using the sudden burst of warm weather this weekend to clear the garden, clean out the garage and get those bulbs planted snugly into the ground.

The reward for all the hard work will be a hot turkey dinner and a walk in the brightly coloured woods.

tragedy has befallen Blogger as of late.  It seems that comments are disappearing at an alarming rate.  At first I attributed these problems to a minor glitch, sure to disappear but a post by Debra at Common Ground concluded that the issue is really that Blogger is now strictly aligned with Google, or more specifically Google Chrome.  If you haven't got Chrome you've got problems.  Thank you so much Debra for setting me straight on this issue.  I tried to leave a comment to thank you but ironically Blogger wouldn't accept my comment as I don't run Chrome!

The easy answer to this dilemma is to switch all browsers to Google Chrome but that's not necessarily possible or something I want to do.  Changing to another platform is a consideration.  Others would be able to comment on my blog freely but I would still have difficulties commenting on blogs that run Blogger.  The larger issue at play here is that in order to keep up with blogging it would appear I need to have the latest in computer gadgetry.  While I understand that technology constantly evolves and the result is that it tends to work faster and better, it really gets my goat that in order to participate in the internet one must consistently spend money to constantly upgrade computers, devices and programs.  The short story here is that I haven't yet decided how to deal with this issue but if my comments seem a little lacking lately please accept my apology.

On a much happier note I'll leave you with some photos of yesterday's giant pumpkin weigh off that took place at Veseys Seeds on the York Road.

Look at all those pumpkins!

This one gets its own blankie

Everybody pose
How do you get a giant squash to the weigh scale?  A forklift

There were separate competitions for pumpkins and squash.

The Giant Squash winner.  Over 600 lbs!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Round the Corner to the Vegetable Garden

I got rather distracted didn't I?  At the beginning of September I started to give you a tour of the gardens and all I showed you was the backside of the garage.  Some tour guide I am.  How about we continue to the other side of the garage?

Between the house and the garage sits the vegetable garden.  Hard to believe that two seasons ago this was a blank slate.

Now it is filling in considerably

It started with a couple raised beds the first year.  Now in its second year more raised beds were added and several areas were dug out for in-ground gardening.  A few perennial plants have been established and I'm expecting rhubarb, asparagus and strawberries ready for picking next spring in its third year.

The strawberies have done so well this season
they have begun trying to escape the confines of the box
I'm excited to have some produce that will be ready earlier in the season as the last two years I have been overwhelmed with vegetables in fall with little to eat at the start of summer. 

I created a lot of beds this past spring with the sod cutter but I didn't end up using all of them.  The long bed in the middle, seen below, was never used as I didn't have time to properly dig it up.  I layed cardboard down after the sod was removed and I've added compost over that throughout the summer.

Perhaps peas or squash will make their home there next year?

I will also increase my space next season by moving some plants out of the vegetable garden.  This spring I received lily bulbs early in the year and had no space to put them other than beside the asparagus.

I'm not a fan of lilies but I do love yellow and these blossoms are about as yellow as you can find.  Next year they will move to a flower bed and I will use their present space for more vegetables.

One large square we dug out was initially committed to herbs.  The reality is that this spot was sacrificed to overzealous flowers and weeds some months ago.  The cherry tomato decided that it needed at least 16 square feet all to itself.  To hell with the dahlias, basil and oregano, they could find their own garden to live in.

What was meant to be a small herb garden with
criss crossing paths became a rampant free for all
It all started when the chamomile daintily spilled over the brick path.  Then engulfed it.

There was a path here right?
The benefit of this space becoming so wild was how it seemed to call to the insects in the neighbourhood.  It has been a hotbed of pollination activity this season.

Bees and other pollinators loved the oregano and various herbs
Overall I'm really happy with the size of the veggie garden and I don't have any plans to expand it further.   Next spring should be a little less hectic if I don't have to spend months digging beds, leaving time for other projects.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Collecting Lavatera Seed

As I wandered about the garden this past week I rather absent mindedly began collecting seed from the Lavatera.  I didn't actually have a purpose in collecting the seed.  It was just there and I took it.  A habit that began in my mother's garden and took shape when I volunteered at a weekly seed collectors group for Van Dusen Botanical Gardens.

Viable seed isn't produced by all plants.  Many of the plants we purchase at garden nurseries are actually hybrids and their seed is often sterile or the seed doesn't come true, meaning the seedlings that grow from that seed will not look like the parent plant.  However, many old fashioned garden favourites like Lavatera will produce viable seeds which can be planted or shared.

I purchased Lavatera seed last year at a garage sale from a fellow gardener.  I've never grown it before but some reading told me the plant was in the malvaceae family, related to hibiscus and hollyhocks.  Lavatera trimestris is an annual that prefers full sun and average soil, growing 2 to 3 feet high.  I threw these seeds into the ground in spring and sure enough seedlings sprouted and the leaves had the rounded crinkled look distinctive of the mallow family.  At the start of August blooms began to appear.

The blossoms just beginning to open

The large glossy blossoms of Lavatera
The plants have continued to throw out blooms ever since and there are still buds opening at this time.  But as the old blossoms have begun to fade seed heads have formed.

Faded blossoms

As the blossoms dry they fall off leaving a seed pod behind
The seedhead left behind when the flower falls off is actually called a calyx.  If the flower has been pollinated this will swell with seeds and then begin to dry.

Pod beginning to dry and turn black
Regular walks in your garden will help you to keep an eye on maturing seed pods.  As the seedheads dry they become susceptible to wet and the seeds can become saturated and moldy if not picked in a timely manner.  Warm dry weather will ensure nicely dried healthy seeds but these seeds will fall from the plant quickly so again, you must monitor them closely to know when to pick. 
The seedpod has now completed dried. 
In this case it turns black so it's very clear when the seed is ready.
Looking behind the calyx you can see the seed that has formed underneath
I have watched the seedheads on these plants turn black as they dry and luckily we had a spell of warm dry weather so there were plenty of seedheads ready to pick.  I popped the seedheads right off the plant and into my hand for collection.

The seeds are attached to the bottom
A quick rub on the seedhead released the seeds.  A couple times the seeds did not rub off easily, a sign the seedhead was not completely dry yet and I had picked them too soon.

A couple of minutes spent over several evenings gave me a whole new batch of seed for next spring with the promise of more spectacular pink blooms.