Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Dear Garden Diary,

It's been a week since I spilled a large, steaming hot mug of coffee (black) on my computer. Thankfully my data has been retrieved, but the fate of my machine is still in the hands of the guys at Mentor. I could be more patient if we weren't leaving for Australia in four days. ...sigh..

I've lost track of where I was with updating our garden status, ...and now we're about to leave it. N & T, and M will have a lot to raid while we're away - the garden has gone mad, simply mad. It's hard to say goodbye. Hopefully everything will still be producing and blooming when we return.
If Thunder Bay continues to live up to it's name there shouldn't be a lot of need to water, other than for the pots. The garden has required minimal watering this year so far, inspite of the heat wave and forest fires - down here by the bay, five blocks from to be exact, we've had plenty of rain. Rain and heat, rain and heat, it's been absolutely delicious our small vegetable garden.
The peppers have been buried... so,..whatever happens happens. Some are surving down there in the jungle. I've already been picking them and they are yummy - yellow banana peppers, green bells, ..there are some jalapenos I have plans for beofre we leave too.

The Early Girl tomato is a monster: taller than me, with strong arms like Popeye. It seems the more I prune it the more it grows, so I've stopped and have turned my attention to pruning the yellow tomatoes growing in the east perennial garden. They too have grown almost over my head - but gangly and needing staking (there is both a tall wooden stake and a iron bean support behind Early Girl - the plant has never had to work a hard day in it's life). Unlike poor yellow number 2 over by the peonies. Your get what you deserve when you plant a tomato nearish peonies, so I've learned. It reached for sun every way it could, and was awkward. I chopped it right back to some string producing branches near the tomato cage height. It looks much better now. :)
The peas have also grown taller than me, allowing for hands free nibbling (no, no..I don't really do that...). The beans I've dealt with by dropping strings from the second floor back balcony to the bean polls. I'll be adding a few nore strings before we leave (I ran out of R's meat-binding barbecue string, which has come in handy all over the garden...)..we need more string.

Some Cosmos and one of the Basil plants suffered at the floppiness of Gromit, who rolled off the new back deck before the new railing was installed. It was a great flop: one minute he was recharging in the sun on a warm cedar deck, the next he was two feet below in soft cool garden soil, pink flowers, and surrounded in a green jungle (for being of Basset Hound height). Gravity has a way with all that extra skin....
He was fine, just a little shocked, ..then embarrassed. The Basil was done in instantly, while the Cosmos carry on but with significantly less sturdiness.
The new back deck (once the basic wooden steps leading from the back porch to the backyard) is beautiful, cedar, and hand-made by R. It's large enough now to fit one of my Muskoka chairs -
which were my Mother's Day gift to myself when Hannah was 1, our first summer with our own backyard garden. I originally bought four: two remain - which R and I painted green last year, one died, and one was never put together and still is somewhere in the basement, in a bag, waiting to be assembled, ...and, with R's new fascination with woodworking I think it might.actually.happen ...IF we can find it; our basement is a scene from Hoarders.

It's so hard to leave the garden now, of all times. The tomatoes are all about to ripen, the peas are delicious, the zucchini - finally exposed to sunlight after also being buried by heavy drooping peonies are finally beginning to grow ...the coming weeks are going to be crucial in keeping it growing upwards. I'm more worried about mildew than overcrowdedness...mildew spreads faster. So long as the zucchini climbs more than rambles we should be good. With the pruning of both yellow tomato 2 and the peonies (which have finished blooming as well as became a few nice bouquets for around the house for our last pork-and-more barbecue party) there is a lot more air flow to the area, as well as sunshine. I expect a zucchini boom.

The cucumbers under the beans are slowly working their way on to the barbecue deck...searching for sunlight. They were a little slow to get started, but are finally behaving like the vine I know. Meanwhile, the cucumbers hastily planted in the side garden are also making up for lost time, but at a much quicker pace. I gave them a little support and one of the twig trellises to give it some places to go, along with weaving along the path (I suspect any cucumbers on the path with be chewed or at least licked by a dog and I accept that. I'd say most of these cucumbers are for Claire anyway...)
They're good filler for the area this year, in the sunniest part of the side garden filling in the gap between the Morden Blush rose and some more transplanted blue irises. (Next year there won't be as much space between..)
And of course: more natsurtiums tucked in and around for fun.  

The Mounding Nasturtiums 'Buttercream' from Renee's Garden are poking out all along the edge of our kitchen garden. The have huge leaves that playfully ramble near the footpath, and butter yellow blooms. I adore them. :)

There's so much more to update before we leave, which I hope I can find the time to do. I am looking forward to the change of scenery, the smell of the gum trees, the daffodils and Birds of Paradise along the roadside.. ..under a new set of stars for a few weeks..I do plan to do an Aussie version of garden blogging while we're there - which I didn't do last year and wish I had.

The storm clouds are passing now, the lightning is on the Giant and blue skys are taking over. It's time to go outside. ... :)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Substance D

Cornflower / Bachelor's Button (left) and Common Columbine (right)
Browallia  'Blue Bells' (bottom)

Towering Tomatoes

tomato 'Early Girl'
7 July 2011
I once had a Grape Tomato grow nearly as tall as me, but this 'Early Girl' will definitely beat that record - and it's only the beginning of July! Already up to my eye level, this was one of the plants we brought home from Vanderwees Greenhouses well established in a giant pot. Transplanted into the warmest, sunniest corner of our small kitchen garden in early May,'s now a monster of a thing, with nearly ripe tomatoes tucked deep inside and baby ones scattered all over.
This plant may think of itself in an Audreyesque way, but I have other plans for it.

John Davis Explorer Rose

John Davis Explorer Rose
7 July 2011

John Davis the first
my garden 2005
A John Davis Explorer Rose is the first rose I added to my first garden, where he lived happily for seven years (or more?). With me through it all... even tolerating three homes in three years, he survived to live in our garden here for one year...
until last spring, when we decided it was time to say good-bye. "Replaced" just doesn't sound like a nice word here, but that's exactly what happened: John Davis the first was replaced with John Davis the second.

With his clusters of pretty pink he was a favourite of Hannah's when she was younger (when everything had to be pink). I love how the blooms start out a deep shade of pink (in some years John Davis the first appeared almost red) then open up to such a soft pink, showing the yellow stamen inside. It's a delicate flower, and reminds me of a cross between an old fashioned rose and wild dog roses (Rosa canina).

 John Davis the second, in our garden July 2011:
A rambler, being known to reach seven or eight feet, John Davis can be taught to climb. Our John Davis, here in his second year, is doing well nearly reaching the top of the five foot trellis. I'm allowing him to spread out a little along the way, while assisting some stems to wrap themselves around the trellis.
He lives in the corner of our kitchen garden, nearest to the back door, attracting bees, and caring for the garlic below.
John Davis the second
in his second year
6 July 2011
John Davis Explorer Rose from Vesey's

always stop to smell the ...cosmos

Gromit Wensleydale stopping to smell the cosmos

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

July Moon

my backyard moon
first quarter 43% of full
6 July 2011

Urban Streamwalk

a new sign explaining how we affect,
and how we can protect
our urban streams
Last night I attended the Streamwalk hosted by EcoSuperior and 
the Thunder Bay District Stewardship Council along McVicar Creek.
McVicar Creek 5 July 2011
When I used to walk the recreational trail that follows McVicar Creek between Hinton and Madeline everyday on my way to work, I would thank my lucky stars for the privilege of starting my day with such serenity. The evening walks home were no different. Even in the rain.
In the winter when even the roads aren't cleared for traffic, the path along the creek is, and it's clean. People acknowledge each other with a smile, almost always saying hi or commenting on how pretty it all is. ...and birds - for some reason people are always sharing sightings of birds, in fact I would bet that happens at least once each time I visit (especially when I have my camera in my hands). It happened yesterday.

I love this path and over the years have developed a sort of personal ownership of it, which I'm sure I'm not alone in doing - especially after talking to a few of the others last night. People around here feel a strong attachment to it, and care about the trees and the wildlife that make it what it is. I could never describe what it is here well enough, you just need to experience it for yourself. 

The Streamwalk was informative, and I'm so glad I went. Davis from the Stewardship Council hosted the walk and talked about the conservation of and cohabitation with our urban streams. He also explained the moving of the recreational trail, and the new trees. Someone from the City Parks / Planning department was there also explaining reasons for moving the path, and what was being done to replant the area. Both obviously care as much for the Creek as I do, ...which was nice to hear. Lucy taught us about some of the insects (and dragonfly larvae!) who inhabit the streams, and what they can tell us about their environment; and John, a 40 year veteran from the MNR fisheries was there in waders with jars of baby stealhead. 
new  Burr Oak, Maples, Poplar, and Willows along McVicar Creek
It's evident that people are reluctant to give up the old path route, but that's not too much of a problem. Over time the trees and shrubs will fill the space, flowers and grasses will naturalize, and it will likely end up a lot like the path along the McIntyre River behind the university - with the recreational trail at a safe distance, and small sandy paths tucked around the water. Every effort was made to preserve favourite accesses to the creek, which shows just how much thought was put into this creekside renovation.
the new Recreational Trail, and the old  route to the right
Emphasized also was a message to stream-side property owners about their role in preservation. Manicured lawns that reach the water have so little to offer in comparison to a buffer of life between house and stream. 
daylilies reflecting in somebody's not so manicured stream-side yard
We all have a roll to play in the quality of water that runs off our properties into streams and on to the lake. Five blocks from our house and garden is Lake Superior,'s something to think about.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

looming blooms

Peony ~ Plant of Healing
"Happy Life and Prosperity"
Peonies, 5 July 2011
It is believed that Peony is named after Paeon (also known as Paean), 
who was a healing deity who had healed Hades’ and Ares’ wounds. 
The flower myth related, says that Paeon was a student of Asclepius, 
the god of medicine and healing. 
He was once instructed by Leto (Apollo's mother and goddess of fertility) 
to obtain a magical root growing on Mount Olympus
that would soothe the pain of women in childbirth. 
Asclepius became jealous and threatened to kill his pupil.
Zeus saved Paeon from the wrath of Asclepius by turning him into the peony flower.

Morden Roses

Morden Blush ~ Parkland Rose
The Parkland series roses were developed to survive harsh Canadian winters by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) at Morden Research Station in Manitoba. Exceptional for their hardiness (to -35C), they require minimal care and pruning, and are reliably disease resistant. Profuse and repeat bloomers, I haven't met one I haven't loved.

In the news recently....

"The decision to discontinue the program under the auspices of Agriculture Canada came in 2008 as part of a departmental review of federal research priorities.

It placed work such as the development of the Parkland series of roses long associated with Morden near the bottom of the list compared to other agri-food research. As a result, the decision was made to phase out the ornamentals program and turn over the remaining materials to private industry or other groups."
excerpt from:
Famed rose program leaving Morden
Local bid not awarded program in privatization by federal government
By Lorne Stelmach
The Morden Times

The story continues:

"Following a departmental review two years ago, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada decided to discontinue its involvement in the rose breeding and research program. The program was opened up to applications and has now been awarded to the Canadian Nursery Landscape Association.
CNLA Rose Program Research Coordinator Rick Durand says the program will continue in southern Manitoba. He explains all the roses that were growing in containers at the AAFC Morden Research Station have been brought to Morden Nurseries, Aubin Nurseries at Carman and Jeffries Nurseries at Portage."
Nurseries Take Over Rose Program
by Kelvin Heppner
18 August 2010

"....rose expert and author Bob Osborne of Corn Hill Nurseries, N.B, "The past several decades have been a tremendously exciting time for the northern rose grower. No longer do we need to look with envy at pictures of English gardens draped with colourful and climbing roses. Thanks to Agriculture and AgriFood Canada breeding programs, we now have at our disposal a veritable cornucopia of roses that are hardy, easy to grow, beautifully formed and disease resistant to boot."
Canadian genetics live on!
From setback to opportunity: Canada's grower industry embarks on a new era with the takeover of AAFC's ornamental breeding program
By Rita Weerdenburg
May 2011 
Morden Blush ~ Parkland Rose
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Research Station