Thursday, June 30, 2011


'Morden Blush' Parkland rose
29 June 2011

Dear Garden Diary,

4 cubic yards of triple mix + 4 hours of heavy rain = a mess. R deserves a hero cookie for moving it all in the downpour, and M another for helping him.
Amazing men. ♥

But an amazing mess too! It has taken all week hosing down the sidewalk little by little (to avoid creating more mud) to clean it off; but now we now have two new side beds to work with, mostly shaded by the house and fence, receiving no more than an hour of sunlight at any time. A perfect shade garden.
Since this photo was taken (on 3 days ago) I have planted another mature hosta 'Sieboldiana Elegans', a division of the hardy geranium 'Wargrave's Pink', and some yellow cornflowers - extending to about where those trellises are leaning. I would take a new photo but, *sniff sniff* my camera was pronounced dead (along with a little piece of me..) so I can't. Heavy sigh.

Obviously the whole four cubic yards didn't go into the side garden beds. Most of it is being used to replenish the dog run, where the grass was. The area back there desperately needed some good soil and new depth. Once it's sodded we'll be able to get the main grassy yard back in good order. Dogs and gardens aren't always the best of friends, but living with man's best friend makes me a better person so we'll have to come to a compromise. If it means sodding the yard from time to time, so be it. (Being a small downtown yard to begin with this isn't difficult, just likely a biannual project.)

The few things I have already planted in the side garden are doing well. A Morden Blush rose is beginning to bloom, which I have placed in the one area that seems to get the longest period of sunshine. At it's feet a hardy geranium, 'Wargrave's Pink'; hostas, the rescued red 2 Daylily, and some transplanted blue irises surround them. For fun, some nasturtiums fill in gaps, and wolly thyme is being encouraged to spread into empty cracks and spaces. We have plans to recreate a succulent garden for R across the walkway, but aside from those plans it's all open - for anything.

Much of how the whole garden has come together has been by whim, and I think it will continue like that. When I like something I bring it home, often not sure of where it will go, but always finding a space. I see the side garden filled with hostas, with other feathery things (no more ferns, please) here and there. Perhaps some foxgloves to add some height to the garden path.

The front garden is also facing some changes. The ferns are simply out of control; it's time to cut back. With the heavy rains we've been having the weight of the huge fronds has caused them to droop so much even the Annabelle Hydrangea was buried for awhile under a heap of feathery greens.
I photoshopped the dwarf globe Blue Spruce and Annabelle Hydrangea into this photo because my camera angle didn't capture them well with the eave in the way. Had I leaned over any further I would have ended up in in the garden (A is for Amy who fell down the stairs OR off the balcony..).
There are two smallish empty spaces in the garden; gaps that drive me crazy like a crooked tile ( ;o) ). I've been considering filling it with some chocolate ajuga. It's a spreader, no so much "invasive," but definitely vigorous. I wouldn't really might it creeping over and into the grass - the grass is only there as a barrier to the busy downtown sidewalk. You can stomp on ajuga, mow it, cut it, rip will just keep on growing. This is where the gardener has to take some control of her garden, and prevent it from moving in on the other garden plants. I think I can do that.

I want to take out a large row of ferns and bring in something with a darker foliage, perhaps a purple leafed Smokebush (nearly tender here), or a Ninebark - 'Diablo' or the newer 'Center Glow'. Also, a Rhododendron in behind the Annabelle, some Meadow Rue, and/or Joe Pye Weed. We'll see what develops.
Heuchera 'Lime Marmalade'

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


beanstalk climbing
29 June 2011

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Garden Spaces Big and Small

our garden, June 2011
For a small yard we manage to pack in a lot of plants, trees, and edible things. I've always felt somewhat loose with some of the rules of planting; wanting to utilize as much of the space that I have, not wasting any.

This morning I was lucky - exceptionally lucky to be able to visit a beautiful, mature garden in a yard on Farrand Street backing on to McVicar Creek. A huge, huge space with a rolling hill down toward the creek surrounded in tall city trees.
I was there to photograph the garden for the Walleye. As I entered the garden through the gate on the south side of the house I was greeted with pots and containers of nursery plants, some perennials and some annuals - all just waiting to be added somewhere to this oasis. Obviously a never ending work in progress. I was excited, and had to take a deep breath before continuing along the bricked path. There was a succulent garden near the patio, and three different ponds: two developed in barrels and one built of rocks under a mass of ferns, and other big leafed perennials I can't even name. The Solomon's Seal is the most mature plant I've ever seen outside books.
A brick and flagstone path along the south side of the garden lead me past clematis after clematis climbing trellises and trees, with a spread of blue, white, and pink forget-me-nots beneath. Garden beds on either side of the path were willed with cultivars of columbine and hardy geraniums, Lady's Mantle grew everywhere, spreading out between other plants: peonies, allium (in both deep and pale shades of purple), bleeding hearts, and even more clematis.
As I came near the end of the path I though the garden would be coming to an end, but as the hill rolled down toward the creek the garden beds continued, on either side of aged concrete steps built into the ground.
I could hear both the sound of the creek, and the subtle sound of traffic behind the trees; but with the wind this morning and the June leaves it sounded more like the middle of nowhere as I stood there somewhere so special. At the top of the steps, a landing and an old garden bench looking on to the garden beds to the east, and the hill to the creek to the southwest. Beside it was a Japanese Lilac bursting with budding blooms - only one or two looked like they were ready to open today, ...I'm sure by tomorrow or the day after the whole shrub will be a mass of pale purple flowers.
The brick path continued curving through garden beds and along the north side of the yard, surrounded with plants draping their foliage across it. More alliums, foam flowers, geraniums, and bleeding hearts bubbled over one another through a pergola into a grass lawn, within which was more rounded garden beds bursting with colour.
So much of the garden was naturalized, with wild Lady's Mantle and forget-me-nots every where. It was so beautiful, and such a treat to photograph. Red leafed shrubs broke up the shades of green and lime, with tall trees towering over garden specimens and cedars lining the yard.  

I met the master gardener behind the creation while I was halfway down the steps to the creek, photographing upward through a fern. She wore a t-shirt that said "PERENNIAL OPTIMIST" and was about my mother's age. We talked for a while about her journey to this space, and about it's development over the years, then I got back to my camera while she pulled out her wheel barrow and continued her work. It was an absolute pleasure to meet her, see what she's done, and learn.

I won't post the photographs here - not of the garden, though I may use some of the closer photos of plants for descriptive purposes from time to time. I'll save the photos of the garden for the gardener herself (and of course for the Walleye). It's just nice to know there are hidden special spaces like this in our own downtown backyards.

"Sometimes plants don't survive - which I see only as another opportunity." 
~ S. Master Gardener.

Summer Solstice

In this year, 2011, summer begins in the Northern Hemisphere on June 21 at 1:16 P.M. (EDT).

"The word solstice comes from the Latin words for "sun" and "to stop," due to the fact that the Sun appears to stop in the sky. The Sun is directly overhead at its most northern point at "high-noon" on the summer solstice, creating more sunlight in the Northern Hemisphere on this day then any other." (thanks Farmer's Almanac!)

"The summer solstice occurs exactly when the Earth's axial tilt is most inclined towards the sun, at its maximum of 23° 26'. Though the summer solstice is an instant in time, the term is also colloquially used like Midsummer to refer to the day on which it occurs." (thanks Wikipedia!)

Monday, June 20, 2011

a bee visits Marie Bugnet

Bumble Bee on Marie Bugnet
20 June 2011

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Dear Garden Diary,

the front garden
16 June 2011
The front garden is crowded, lush, and colourful. When I excavated the site last year I uncovered a dozen or more hostas, the ligularia, and the bergenia. The hostas were divided and spread around, and are coming up nicely. The ligularia is also doing well.
The bergenia was dug out after it finished blooming offense...but I just don't really like it. We have two others in the back which are both doing well and look nice; the one in front was so close to the footpath that it just got mangled under the pressures of winter life.
The empty space left by the bergenia will someday be home to a hardy geranium - a red flowering one. (For weeks I've been scouring greenhouses looking for a 'Johnson's Blue' only to change my mind ...there is already enough blue and purple in the front garden...) A red flowering hardy geranium will look nice tucked between the two Columbines: 'Songbird Goldfinch' and the Dwarf Common Columbine.
Throughout the garden, tucked in and around near the ferns and at the edge near the 'Sutherland's Gold' Elderberry I've added Straw Foxglove Digitalis lutea and Foxy Hybrids Digitalis purpurea.
Straw Foxglove Digitalis lutea
I moved the Alpine Primrose, mid-bloom breaking all kinds of gardening rules, and replanted it nearer the front steps by a couple of hostas and my dwarf globe blue spruce. I dug out a nice ball of soil around it, and it seemed to not even notice. I was gentle.
Behind it, a Japanese Anemone bupebensis and blue irises from the back yard. To the side, a Lady's Mantle, a division from H's garden.

Also from H's garden: "blue flowers from H's garden", or so they've been called so many times after I sketched a garden plan for Gerry. I couldn't think of the name Bachelor's Button or Cornflower when I made the drawing; I wrote: "blue flowers from H." I think to Gerry they will always be known as that, but to the rest of us they are Bachelor's Button, also knowns as Blue Cornflowers, and Mountain Bluet.

Bachelor's Buttons
also known as Blue Cornflower and Mountain Bluet
West of the steps the only one to attempt a bloom is the small Columbine. I don't know more details on the name because I can't find my bag of plant tags from last year (I'm trying to be better this year at documenting who's who...). Surrounded by giants hostas, St. John's Wort, Heuchera 'Coral Bells', a butter yellow iris (plant tag also in lost bag) I rescued from cold corner, and the sedum which won't bloom until autumn.
"There came a time 
when the risk to remain tight in the bud 
was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."
~ Anais Nin

our edible garden

Sugar Snap Peas, Gromit and Hannah's Strawberries,  capsicum,  pink cosmos and purple salvia,  Early Girl tomatoes,  'Buttercream' Nasturtium Thyme and garlic chives,  snapdragons

Got Rhubarb?

our rhubarb (a dog toy) and some ferns
south west garden 15 June 2011
It was a monster of a thing, our rhubarb, and I wanted to eat it.

The landlord next door was working on the shed just beyond the fence near our rhubarb plant yesterday, while his wife cut the grass.. . both watching me as I came charging out of the house with the largest knife we have. I earned a few worrisome looks while I took the photos, but once I started chopping the plant they went back to their business.

The rhubarb was taken down stalk by stalk.

I was going to make my mother's "Rhubarb Crunch" ~ a recipe she got from a 1970's Yankee magazine, and made for us regularly, a fond childhood memory. I followed the recipe, but I altered it slightly; the calls for canned cherry pie filling - I don't really like canned filling, so I decided to just add a couple cups of frozen raspberries into the simple syrup (sugar, water, cornstarch, and vanilla boiled) instead. It worked wonderfully (though I made and added way too much raspberry syrup to the rhubarb and crumble - not that anyone complained..).

Four cups diced rhubarb with plenty extra :)

Equal parts rolled oats, flour, and brown sugar. 
I grated in frozen butter rather than cutting it in, or melting it to form a crumbly dough. Half is used for the bottom, half is reserved for the top. (I like a crumbly crumble, so I always make extra.)
After filling the pan with the diced rhubarb, and pouring over the raspberry syrup, it was topped and baked for one hour at 350F. We served it with real whipped cream with vanilla.

For more on RHUBARB check out:

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Dear Garden Diary,

In order to better map our garden, and for when I speak of spaces such as "the west side garden", "east garden" I chose to draw what I see from the balcony. The balcony faces south(eastern a bit) and is just off our study steps away from my desk. I sat there yesterday and drew what I saw from the east side by the door, then took some pictures shooting downward.

This summer in our backyard the vegetables are finding homes wherever they can; they'll weave through the established perennials, and take up spaced once used by ones lost. We've got one pot crowded with Brussels Sprouts (to torture Hannah); others with jalapeño peppers, purple sage, purple basil snapdragons, verbena, browallia, or nicotina. The potted grape tomato is already thriving (though the other in the largest pot, bush beefsteak, is a little slow but is growing...)
Above: Browallia 'Blue Bells', not yet blooming, near the weside side garden. Behind: Hosta 'Twilight Time'. 
We seem to have a bit of a purple theme this year:
purple dragon carrots
purple sage
purple caspicum
purple basil.

The east garden (named so because it is on the east side of the yard) is what I'm looking forward most to watching grow this season (and next). Between the established plants and trees, some who were planted by W (the pine, the irises, bergenia, juniper and cedar), and some by R (the caragana, and sumac). Together we've now added the Wegeila, and four clematis: 'The President' and 'Niobe' climbing up the fence between the caragana and peonies, and 'Daniel Deronda' and 'Nelly Moser' to grow up and along the dog run fence between the lilac and cedar.
Hannah's basketball  court/ east side dog run
Also climbing the fence: two 'black beauty' zucchini, with some sweet peas scattered here and there. For this to work (to not overcrowd the space) the zucchini has to climb. There's no space for it to ramble because beside it and in front a little is a cucumber 
(there are cucumbers all over the garden this year. Something (or someone) must have compelled us to buy cucumber plants every time we've entered a greenhouse. Not that I've ever had a problem with more plants than space.)
I wouldn't be worried if I wasn't leaving the garden for three weeks in prime growing vines isn't something T, our dog and house sitter, will want to have a crash course in. He's the best dog sitter in the world, but not a gardener. That said, we came to a great garden last year, so he did well for not eating vegetables. Yeah, he doesn't eat vegetables <- that was what he told me when I first told him about the garden; excitedly I told him he's have tomatoes and cucumbers, zucchini and herbs at his fingertips, so to enjoy. That was when he looked at me - sort of scared-like (of my vegetablemania), and said, "I don't eat vegetables." 
"Oh," I said. Ooh. hmm
I've wondered ever since how he survives, but he seems to do well, and loves our dogs and is excited to see them again after a year abroad. So, that is all that matters. That and because he's the cleanest person we have ever known. We (all three of us - even Hannah) marvel at what a strange clean house we returned to; delirious after the backward flight home from Australia, I think we all thought the cleanliness of our house was a mirage of sorts, but no - no, in the morning it was still there: a clean house. 
(It didn't last of course, but whatever..)
Anyway, so T doesn't eat vegetables and that is why I can't expect him to manage a zucchini vine that will be growing vigorously at that time. N said he would harvest and tend to the garden while we're gone...but we, in a fit of friendly guerrilla gardening, just  planted a spare jalapeño pepper in the middle of their garden surrounded by a hot pink tomato cage while they were away celebrating their anniversary. hee hee 
N would tend to the vine well, but we might have also get some prankster payback. 
the east garden, 14 June 2011
In front of the zucchini is one of the yellow tomato plants (another mystery variety, with a tag that just says: "yellow tomato"), and a "purple pepper" (capsicum), both in ordinary tomato cages. The bee balm, rudbeckia, and Baby M's Lady's Mantle surround the vegetables, with the cucumber rambling through them and the wegeila, irises (which are severely stunted from the long drawn out separating process, but have survived), the rescued red daylilies and now, a a hardy shrub rose, Marie Bugnet.
Rosa x Rugosa, 'Marie  Bugnet' - hardy shrub rose
 I had in mind the David Austin 'Winchester Cathedral' for the spot, remembering the one I had years ago (which survived in a similar sunny location for a number of years).Winchester Cathedral has one of the prettiest fragrances I've ever known in a rose, plus the actual cathedral holds sentiment to a romantic memory my mother has with my father - which means something to me. :) I wouldn't refuse a good substitute though, and I found that yesterday while plant shopping (with my mother): Marie Bugnet, a hardy shrub rose.
I planted my previous Marie Bugnet beneath the sign post to the LU garden, where it remains, so I'm happy to have her again. Beautifully fragrant and an early & repeat bloomer she'll attract more things with wings - the kind we want - to our garden. A compact srub, she'll still probably grow a little big for her space between rescued red 1 and rescued red 2, in front of the irises (which are in front of the 'Red Prince' wegeila - all of which will be wonderful in bloom together year. Everybody has to recover from the mass transplantation first.

I also picked up two yellow cornflowers (bachelor buttons, mountain bluet) yesterday, along with a single trollius (globeflower). I have no idea where I am going to plant them..(west side garden?) The globeflowers are in bloom across the street at H's right now, and every time I look over there I think: I want those. So, now I have one. I could plant it near the geum in the front garden, but that bed is, admittedly, getting full (R might never believe I said that). 
Geum, 'Totally Tangerine', 'Tim's Tangerine' 
The west garden has been turned over to the dogs, but is not without it's weeding and pruning needs. R pruned the junipers on the weekend clearing better pathways for dogs to chase each other through. He also trimmed some lower, scraggly branches off the the two spruce trees near the fence, which now look nice, and look like they'll have the space to grow - hopefully tall, providing much needed shelter in the city.
We've talked about adding some hops to the fence, and maybe adding a burning bush near the dogwood.

I honestly don't know how the trees are surviving there, on (what I've learned from R) is a pile of rubble. Apparently W threw some soil on it and planted the trees. After rescuing the red daylilies I don't doubt it - the soil there was terrible, and shallow - and my spade hit rock a few times before finally sinking in to soil (ow). 
I think we should work around the mulch and top up the garden soil, but I also think poor R is having gardening sticker shock, not to mention the composted manure in the "sports station wagon." 
(Is composted manure 
worse than
dead beaver?)
Terrible soil aside, the trees seem to be doing well. The dogs love to gallop through the trees and over the rambling junipers. It makes for a nice marriage of dog companionship and small downtown garden. There's nothing blooming there now, but it's still pretty, well used, and enjoyed by the whole family. :) (woof!)
Claire under the Tamarack in the west garden 
The west side garden begins near where Claire is standing in the photo above, with the hostas "Gold Drop" x 2 and 'Twilight Time.' Then there is the divided Rescued Red 2, a Morden shrub rose: 'Morden Blush' surrounded by two hardy geraniums, Geranium endressii 'Wargrave's Pink.' Beside it another hosta - the one from the Farmer's Market - which hosta-sticker-shock-suffering R now knows really was a bargain: 'Frances Williams.'
And, of course, tucked in between the geranium and hosta, a cucumber vine to ramble down the sidewalk.
There's a new one in a giant pot down there also, but I can't remember it's name right now. 

There's not a plan as such for the west side garden - other than taking advantage of it being an ideal location for lotsa hostas (I just had to say that, sorry..). I suspect it will develop like most other of my gardens: with whatever grabs my heart. 

As for the middle garden, like Middle Earth, it is another story and it is a long one. I'll talk about (and deal with) that another day.

Purple Dragons, Waxing Moons

our vegetable garden, 13 June 2011
waxing gibbous 97% of full, 13 June 2011

Boulevard's White Pine

Boulevard Lake's White Pine, 20 May 2011
It's a real shame to lose a tree that has grown in this city longer than any living person. I can't understand what motive the vandals could have had - other than senseless destruction and vandalism - for cutting it down. Why that tree?
Many residents have been writing to the local papers with both outrage over the act and sentiment for the tree. I can't say I have a personal emotional attachment to that particular tree - no more than any other tree in the city; but my love and appreciation for old trees runs deep. Standing there for more than 100 years, that White Pine was witness to the development of Thunder Bay. It's just not something that can be replaced in our lifetime. That makes me terribly sad.