Thursday, June 28, 2012


While photographing the peonies the other morning (after a long shower under the sprinkler) I wondered if I would ever get tired of photographs of these peonies. Their upright bloom time is always so short-lived, and all it takes is one good rainfall to flop them all over; I madly capture them year after year, same pinks, same same droplets, ...same glorious photograph of a blooming peony for the journal. I'm glad I save the moment, and I'll do it again next year.

I cut a good number of them this afternoon, along with some Alchemilla mollis 'Lady's Mantle' blooms - and after meticulously picking at and shaking them free of bugs & worms ...yes: unpleasant... I arranged them for a vase in the kitchen and photographed them again.
 and again

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

a garden fence

photo by Rohan M.
Rohan built a garden fence. 

It's quite incredible, curving around the existing pathway between the small kitchen garden and the new, larger kitchen garden bed. Cedar pickets, each cut by R himself. Notice the perfectly aligned screws. OCD anyone? Two gates, one near the barbecue patio, the other halfway to the dog run - both with self closing hinges. It just might be the most beautiful garden fence in the world.

I doodled on his photo of the fence in progress; imagining the last of the grass away and our fire-pit in place. It's going to be lovely. Recycled brick will make take the place of the grass - and though we'll have a lot going on in a small space path-wise, that is what makes an adopted garden. 
A neighbourhood cat
strolling through the photo
Stick Amy is in the garden replanting the spinach - as most of the leaves have been nibbled away. I'm counting on some established roots, but along with washed away carrots some new seeds need to be added. 
garden plan 2011
change of plans, no more grass: brick patio instead
things are coming along

Dear Garden Diary,

first bloom
25 June 2012

Okay, I'll say it - I can not find any reference to the above pictured plant being a "Rhodochiton"...; and though it resembles the Lophspermum I know, it's not nearly the same.

If anyone can help explain this plant to me, please...

I'm going to miss this plant when we're away this summer. I've waited so long (it seems) for this first bloom; and with more on the way I suspect the magnificence of this plant is only just beginning.

It's so different from the easily searched Rhodochiton we have blooming profusely in the greenhouse:

Also blooming madly is John Davis beside the back door, twirling up the obelisk. I imagined this thirteen years ago; it;s nice to finally see it.
John Davis Explorer Rose
25 June 2012
There's an awful lot of pink in our garden. I pointed that out to R recently, who didn't seem bothered. Morden Blush is blooming in the west side garden, looking so pretty. I think about this plant when I tell customers at the greenhouse that, yes, roses actually are easy. John Davis regularly attracts the aphids, but Morden roses in my garden have never failed - even in the face of army worms. Just a stone of amethyst away is a chewed to pieces Cranesbill geranium ('Wargraves Pink').
Down the way from the Morden Blush, and across the way, is the Campanula persicifolia 'Blue' (Peach Leaf Bellflower) that I planted last year in the rain. First bloom ever, 25 June 2012. Hello.

Peonies are blooming, the Weigela (Red Prince) too
tucked tight in front are some wild Knautia macedonica (Crimson Scabious),
with our special Alchemilla mollis (Lady's Mantle) blooming below 
in lemon-lime
contrasting all those pinks and reds.
The front shade garden is getting a little crowded (not that there are not still places to fill..). The leafeaters haven't got to the lush foliage street side...yet...hopefully never, and with all the rain and humidity we've had this year the ferns and hostas are large and full.

...from the back door:
pea webs

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Beneficial Trichograms

I released my Trichogramma in the garden yesterday, leaving the little card of eggs tucked away near the yarrow pot - for shade and shelter. I'm looking forward to watching them develop and devour all the nasty caterpillars who are destroying our leaves.

Friday, June 22, 2012

in the garden this week....

'Raspberry Parfait'
line the small kitchen garden
Achillea millefolium
'Apricot Delight' Yarrow
Globosa Blue Spruce
Gromit Wensleydale
Chief Pea Inspector
pummelled by rain

John Davis, first day of summer

John Davis blooms
21 June 2012
summer solstice
even Claire is in awe
of the height of our John Davis blooms

greenhouse bee

a bee in the greenhouse
20 June 2012

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

peas at eye level

peas please
19 June 2012

another jerk

on our magical Lady's Mantle
Armyworm fact sheet from
Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives

True Armyworm infestations are more common in years with cool wet spring weather, which follow years of drought. The cool wet spring weather is thought to slow down the development of parasites which usually keep armyworm populations under control.

After hiding under debris during the day, movement and feeding occur at night - or on cloudy days.

Armyworm larvae are pale green in the early growth stage and dark green in later stages. Full grown larvae are smooth, striped and almost hairless, up to one to two inches in length. A series of stripes on the body are arranged by a thin, white, broken line down the middle of the black followed by a wide, dark, mottled stripe halfway down the side, then a pale orange stripe with white border, a brownish mottled stripe, and slightly above the legs, there is another pale orange stripe with white borders.

The adult armyworm is a light brownish gray moth or "miller" with a white spot about the size of a pinhead on each front wing. When expanded, the wings are about one inch across. Moths lay eggs at night in folded leaves or under leaf sheaths of small grain plants and other grasses. They prefer to lay eggs in moist, shady areas of vegetation.

For control, I'm using Btk
"Bacteria are present everywhere in our natural environment, including in soil, in food and even on our skin. Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is a bacterium that is found naturally in the soil and is known to cause illness in various insect larvae, including caterpillars of pest species such as gypsy moth, spruce budworm and cabbage looper.
There are more than 20 varieties of Bt. The "kurstaki" variety (Btk) is used for caterpillar control and other varieties are used for blackfly and mosquito control. It is not harmful to humans, birds, pets, fish, honey bees, beetles, spiders, etc.  Within each variety are numerous strains.  The Btk used for caterpillar control is the HD-1 strain."
more on Btk from the Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations, British Columbia

I'm also introducing some beneficial insects - Trichograms Trichogramma brassicae
H was not impressed this morning when she discovered what I had left in the fridge overnight. Grin. I'm going to release them into the vegetable garden later this morning and will update later... :o)
...more on Trichograms from

and some really nerdy further reading:

Demography and life history of the egg parasitoid,
Trichogramma brassicae, on two moths Anagasta kuehniella and
Plodia interpunctella in the laboratory
S Iranipour, A Farazmand, M Saber, and Jafarloo M Mashhadi
Department of Plant Protection, Faculty of Agriculture, University of Tabriz, Tabriz, Iran
Department of Plant Protection, Faculty of Agriculture, University of Maragheh, Maragheh, Iran
Agriculture and Natural Resource Research Center of East Azarbaidjan, Tabriz, Iran

Journal of Insect Science: Vol. 9 | Article 51
10 July 2009

John Davis

1986 Explorer Series Rose
R. kordesii x Red Dawn & Suzanne cross

Taller than me today
19 June 2012
in our kitchen garden.

What's in a name?

The plants that came in simply labelled "Rhodochiton" - the one I have planted in my large pot with the twig obelisk - has bloomed in the greenhouse. It's breathtaking.
Our rhodochiton is wet - like everything else in gardens this year. The rain, the rain, the rain, then heat & humidity, then rain.. has been great for leafy things and leaf eaters, ....but things in pots aren't drying out enough between downpours and that's making life.. interesting. I have this guy in a very sunny spot on the back deck, one of the hottest spots, getting sun from mid-morning until it falls over the Port Arthur Ridge in late evening. Hopefully we'll see some blooms soon. 

A little history of the synonym of names Rhodochiton & Lophospermum:

The Lophospermum plants at Vanderwees are what I'm most familiar with (seen below). There was a time when I couldn't imagine my annual garden season without one - though I should mention that Jean has kept one alive for years by cutting it back and taking it in at the end of the season. This one has larger leaves than 'Purple Bells', and long mauve trumpet flowers.
 Rhodochiton 'Purple Bells'

I love them all. I love the way this vine tendrils, the blossoms on every one - it's a beautiful plant. One of the more vigorous climbers (and trailing plant) I know - for an annual here. It puts on a great show where ever is grows.

Dirty Ladies, Mystery of the Plant

Laura and I reintroduced ourselves recently - we've been neighbours (a house apart) now for three years, and have been spying over each other's gardens just as long. We've talked before, but it wasn't until the a few weeks ago - one evening when I was recovering in the shade on the front balcony with a glass of wine, and I yelled down to Laura to ask if she wanted a mugo pine. I was already half in my nightwear - a skimpy tank-dress, but with some garden grubs beneath, still with  dirty hands. I had no business being out of the privacy of home, but I went downstairs and out front with my glass of wine to talk without yelling over the neighbour. Laura was in her comfortable clothes too, and we both agreed we didn't care. 
We talked over my garden for a while, then we went to her garden for a while. She told me about Marla's garden, of which I've already heard enough about to be in jealous awe. We decided to peek over the fence, and following Laura's lead climbed a little hill in the back lane to get an even better view - at which point Marla, who was working in her garden, saw us, and instead of reporting two nosey gardeners to the police, invited us in and brought out a bottle of Riesling. This was the first meeting of The Dirty Ladies (named so by Laura...HEEHEE).

Marla was definitely the most dirty, and no wonder - her garden is a wonderland. Tulips were blooming, the sun was setting through the apple blossoms, alliums rising. The visit inspired me. Both her and Laura are growing Kiwi vines - which I informed R later that evening that we would be adopting some Kiwi's as soon as the soffits are in place on the back balcony (removing the horrible drip line that ruins a foot and a half of the little kitchen garden). 
After taking the garden tour back through Laura's garden, to mine again, the meeting was adjourned. It reminded me of year ago when Caroline, Shelly and I would walk barefoot from one another's gardens with summer drinks in hand.

I was in our backyard garden then other night when Laura yelled over the neighbour's yard - she had something to show me, so I invited her over. Dressed again in our garden skimpies, the Dirty Ladies stood and stared at a tall picked plant, slightly shrivelled. A mystery plant, unidentified from a friend's cottage - once a Finlander's land. She said it reminded her of a tobacco plant, maybe coffee plant. ? Tall and wild, hardy and perennial. It's surrounded by organized plants - once a garden, long overgrown, so likely something someone put there. 

From it's shrivelled condition and not having a photo I could only guess curly dock, but now that I see the photos it's obviously not. I'm with Laura that it is some kind of tobacco plant. ??? Maybe? She sent me the photos by email yesterday, which I received while still at the greenhouse - I went through every book and plant person there yesterday, nobody could say for sure. 

I pose the question of identity to the interweb sources now. Does anybody know what this is?
Mystery  Plant

Thursday, June 14, 2012

beneficial bugs and some jerks

Lady Beetle
on my mesclun

Also on my mesclun this morning was a not so beneficial bug, 
a little cabbage looper munchin' on a leaf.
This is the year of the pests (and not the four legged kind that also sleep in our bed). Cutworms got two tomatoes and part of a row of radishes, not to mention kale leaves one by one. Aphids almost got the better of John Davis, but I took care of that - along with a colony of jerks ants left behind after the removal of the mugo pine and potentilla. Boiling water, cinnamon, and a little bit of commercial spray. I am going to win.

Blueberries in the Home Garden

As I was taking photos of the blueberries and muffins H said to me:
normal families don't have to wait until the photoshoot is over to taste test.
Understood, but I think it was worth the wait.

originally compiled for Bill Martin's Nurseryland:
Blueberries are categorized in the same genus as cranberries, Vaccinium, in the section Cyanocuccus. Bushes are long-lived, with a lifespan similar to fruit trees, and boast ornamental value with their delicate bell-shaped flowers in spring and fiery foliage in autumn.

Low-bush blueberries or half-high blueberries are better suited to colder regions of Ontario, like Thunder Bay, and benefit from a good snow cover for insulation throughout the winter.

Blueberries prefer full sun, although the plants will tolerate partial shade; though in shade the bushes produce fewer blossoms and fruit production will decline.

Blueberries prefer acidic, well drained, loose soils rich in organic matter. Blueberries grow best at a pH of 4.2 to 5.0. You can reduce your soil pH by mixing in acidic sphagnum peat moss or by mixing in compost made from pine needles, oak leaves and/or bark, and work nutrient-rich compost into the top few inches of soil.

Iron deficiency is common when the soil pH is too high. A simple way to diagnose an iron deficiency is by examining the leaves of your blueberry bush.  Young leaves are a lighter green than older leaves and often have a slight reddish tint. When deficient in iron, young leaves become pale yellow and stunted, and plant growth is poor.

Blueberries have a very fine root system, susceptible to suffocation if saturated. Organic matter improves soil aeration and drainage while retaining moisture and nutrients. Avoid planting in low-lying locations as they may be poorly drained and prone to frost.

When planting, spread out the roots and cover them with soil, firming the soil around the roots being careful not to cause breakage. Do not let the fine roots dry out in the process; water the bushes thoroughly after planting. Blueberries respond well to trickle or drip irrigation.

Blueberries like phosphorus and potassium, but not potash.

Birds find blueberry fruit very attractive, so netting and movable garden ornaments can be used to deter them.

Often harvested too early, blueberries should be allowed to turn completely blue. Leave them on the bushes for 3 to 7 days to develop their full flavor and sugar content.

Blueberries are versatile, delicious fresh or frozen, baked in pies and muffins, served in salads, or eaten with ice cream. They are easily stored, canned, and made into jams & preserves.
Blueberries have a diverse range of micronutrients, with high levels of essential dietary minerals such as manganese, vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin K and dietary fiber. They contain anthocyanins, antioxidant pigments, and various phytochemicals, known for countless health benefits.

Northwestern Ontario Hardy Blueberries:

Northblue - was developed at the University of Minnesota to withstand harsh winters. It is a low-growing, self-pollinating, small blueberry bush, perfect for the home garden. Fruit is dark blue & large, with sweet flavor. It has glossy, dark-green leaves that turn bright red in the fall.

Northcountry - is another from the University of Minnesota breeding program. A half-high bush (45 to 60 cm) that produces sweet, light-blue blueberries.

Northland - is a hardy low-bush cultivar known to be high producing in long clusters in mid-season. Berries are medium in size, dark blue, and have excellent flavour.

Patriot - is a small but very productive blueberry bush that is both hardy and vigorous. The fruit clusters are tight, with large, medium blue, firm berries with great flavour.

Chippewa  - is an extremely hardy arctic blueberry plant that grows to a height of 3 feet. Fruit are medium to large and high producing. Berries are favoured for their firmness, attractive color and delicious flavour.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

web pearls

a spider's web on our front balcony
after the rain
10 June 2012

Pollinators & Pests in the Vegetable Garden

Achillea millefolium
Apricot Delight Yarrow
& white cosmos
For the pollinators I planted yarrow in a pot with some cosmos and pansies. It's sort of weird, but I wanted the yarrow for the butterflies & hummingbirds, but not to spread throughout the vegetable bed in our small(ish) garden yard. Weird but pretty, and as the plants start to fill out (after living in tiny pots) it's growing into a beautiful arrangement marking a corner of the bed. 
Rhodochiton / Lophospermum
climbing the twig trellis
vegetable garden in the background

The herb garden is growing in with some in the ground and others in pots. I'm hoping that by varying the heights of things everybody will have a little more room this year. The little garlic chives which used to grow under the Tamarack are blooming happily in their second year in their new spot; with English Lavender, Lavanda inglesia, & Lavender 'Coconut Ice' near the steps to the back porch.

We have a few sprigs of asparagus appearing,
excellent for being first year transplants.
 Zinnias mark the rows.
Megellan Cherry
It's been a good year so far in our new vegetable bed. Cutworms have taken out some of the radishes, two tomatoes, and some leaves of kale, but they can be sent away with eggshells and coffee grounds and kept under control in a garden this size. Most of the wee carrots washed away in the heavy rain, so I'll have to replant those..., but with the heat, humidity, and deep rainfalls we've had the garden looks lush and unbeatable.
We're really growing into our yard, making it our space rather than someone's adopted garden. Soon there will be no grass anywhere, with our fire pit and outdoor living space surrounded by a garden we planted, and I can't wait. R's rebuilt back fence is beautifully constructed, and so will be the ornamental picket fence surrounding the main garden. I think we've really really found a way to reconcile three dogs in a downtown garden - complete with poop compost, and one for kitchen waste. R's next artistic (and practical) wood working project will be a beehive wormery - another thing I can't wait to have operational. :)
evidence of cutworms and Cliffords
mini dachshund feet are the same size
as radish leaves
who knew