Sunday, June 27, 2010

Lupinalooza and Rusty Roses

I've noticed orange spots on the wild roses near our yard this year. In some places, it's so thick that it almost looks like town employees were going nuts with the orange spray paint. I'm not sure if this threatens the domestic roses, but it's a moot point as many (most?) domestic roses in town died over the past winter.
Wild roses:

I've decided to make the most of seedling perennials already in the yard to fill in the spaces in the flower beds. Buying new plants is too expensive, though exceptions can be made for daylilies, which I also need to replace. I can also justify using my seedlings for design reasons. Repeating the same element through a flower bed adds some cohesion to the bed, making it looks a bit less like a mismatched crazy quilt. In my case, I don't have a huge variety of seedlings, as I usually am fastidious about removing dead flowers before they go to seed. I do however, have a lot of yellow lupines (Lupinus polyphyllus Gallery Yellow) and from past experience, I know the seedlings look like the parent plant. I've found that large numbers of the same flowering plant creates an impressive show and looks quite spectacular. (Next year BETTER be spectacular).

Here's a new addition I did allow into the flower bed: a "Paul's Red" Rhubarb:

I notice that garden centers sell ornamental rhubarb, but why not just get the real thing and have your rhubarb pie too? I've given this one some compost and it seems to be doing well. I even think the red stalks look quite attractive among the other plants. My last rhubarb was a "Macdonald Red, but I was disappointed in its failure to acheive "true rhubarb red-ness". At least, my mother-in-law had much redder rhubarb, which is what probably made my old rhubarb die in shame. Well, that or slugs and poor weather.

While I've had it in my mind that Geranium pratense is borderline hardy in our zone, this "Black Beauty" made it though the winter quite well. I have several seedlings of this plant too, so a year a patience should show the results of my recent transplanting frenzy.

Finally, here is Aquilegia flabellata nana "Alba", the Japanese fan columbine with white flowers. However, it's not quite white, but a morbid shade of pale grey that I think is really unusual.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Wildflower and Siberian Irises in the Smoke

The smoke from forest fires has been getting thicker all week, with even a few fires in and around town. The water bombers have been busy; we see them flying continuously over our house. We had our upstairs smoke alarm go off in the middle of the night, triggered only by the smoke that had wafted in through open windows. It was a brand new smoke alarm and quite a terrifying sound at night, but I suppose we are assured that it's effective. We'd better be careful making toast from now on. I'm hoping the weekend rain clears up the air so that our weather forecast doesn't call for conditions described as "smokey" anymore.
Aster alpinus "Goliath" blooming in a raised bed:

I noticed this wildflower growing in semi-shade among a grove of poplar trees. Its leaves resemble a tiny version of my Bergenia cordifolia, though the flower is unique. I have no idea what it is. Any ideas from the fine readers out there?
Unidentified wildflower:

The harsh winter cold wiped out several of the perennials, trees, and shrubs this year and certainly did some damage to the compact highbush cranberries (Viburnum trilobum) in the yard. This is remarkable, considering that their native counterparts live in a forest all around us, so they should be very hardy.
Two highbush cranberries, with the one on the right only showing a few live branches:

This siberian iris bloomed for the first time in the 4 years I've had it, possibly matching up to the identification tag "Caesar's brother". All the others I bought with it bloomed in a pretty pale blue and probably were wrongly labeled. This iris has been in this spot for three years and just bloomed for the first time this year. Irises, like peonies, require patience!
Siberian iris, "Caesar's brother":

The large raised bed nearly brings pain to my eyes this year, with all the bare spots from dead plants, but I am madly transplanting seedlings from deceased mature plants into the bare spots. At least the larger plants are making it look mostly green, now that July is almost here.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Garden Depression

For the first time ever, I find the garden to be a depressing element in my life. Rather than neglecting the housework in favour of gardening, I am avoiding the yard because I fear to face it. There are still a few dead perennials out there that need digging up and so many bare spots that create a glaring ugliness in my eyes. Of course, that is accentuated in my own eyes, but still, this last winter was terrible. I saw that some neighbours had men come in and do some serious work in their yard today, including ripping out the rose bush (that is likely 20+ years old) that failed to endure the winter's cold. Even the wild pink ladyslipper orchids in the forest behind us are limping along, with half the plants producing no blooms at all this year.
My down-but-not-quite-yet-dead rugosa rose:

Adding insult to injury, green caterpillar/worms are eating the foliage from the aquilegia, the hideous and pinch-happy spruce beetles are out now, poplar suckers are trying to take over the flower beds, and a horsetail-like weed is also trying to test my endurance with the weeding tools. I suspect that horsetail weed is simply propagated by my weeding efforts.
The northern idea of hardy perennials for the flower garden: good old chives:

I have contemplated solutions to my garden woes. These include solutions to the weeds such a buying a fortune in bark mulch to cover every inch of bare soil. For the plantings, I imagine flower beds filled only with chives, annual poppies, delphiniums, and rhubarb. Those plants all seem to do well here. I've decided to fill in all the shady areas with some aggresively spreading perennial that will take over faster than the weeds. I've planted one area up with Lamiastrum. I have no idea if that will be hardy, but I suppose I'll find out. Maybe I'll add a mix of aggresive spreaders (suggestions welcome) and wait to see what plant wins out.

Aquilegia vulgaris "Clementine Formula Mixed" seeds produced this lovely flower:

I suppose we got some true zone 2 temperatures this past winter, but the snow got lost in its travels and never arrived on time to protect everything.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Some Modest Tulips

The show of tulips was underwhelming this year. It made me lose hope in tulips, really. Perhaps I just need to dig out the old ones and install some new ones this fall, with a good helping of bulb fertilizer thrown in. Most (non-naturalizing) tulips get smaller and more pathetic after three years, so maybe now is their time to go. It was especially disappointing after not one single daffodil appeared this spring. Oh well. I've had a narcissus skip two years and appear the third, so I won't lose hope on the daffodils.

I like the tiny blue forget-me-nots which have self-seeded themselves around the bases of the tulips. I planted those in the fall of 2008 and am happy that they produced some future generations (they are biennial). In the absence of tulips, what else could provide me with great spring colors? Maybe more Aquilegia? Mine aren't blooming yet, but I think they will soon.

Here's a very hardy clematis, as its survival over this past winter proves:
Clematis macropetala -- a spring bloomer:

My friend Barbara gave me some of her Cypripedium parviflorum (Yellow lady's slipper) orchid this spring. She had "liberated" it from a ditch outside of town where machinery was bulldozing the native landscape to make way for new power lines a few years ago. I am enjoying the yellow flowers, though I am not quite happy with this photo. I have become a bit more of a photography critic now that I am learning the finer points with my new Nikon SLR. I wish I had a greater depth of field in this shot.

However, the no-see-ums were chewing away at my head and hands and the need for escape took priority over photographic perfection at one point. There was no way I was going to fiddle around getting the tripod positioned and all that stuff. I'd have been chewed up and carried away. I hate the bugs. Can you tell?

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Tiny Little Flowers

There was some light rain today, but not enough to keep us indoors. I ran out with the camera to capture three diminutive flowers blooming in the perennial bed along the driveway. All of these are growing in part-shade, under the mountain ash tree.

Firstly, I have been encouraging the painfully slow growth of this pink-flowered lily of the valley. Yes, I know. It is ridiculous that I keep its territory free of weeds and speak kind and encouraging words to this plant, which is widely known as invasive in many gardens. It has been in this location for three years now and I'm hoping for more exciting flower shows than this:
Convallaria rosea:

This tiny Primula frondosa plant could easily fit in the palm of your hand. It came from my friend Barbara, who fawns over primulas like darling children. This flower is rather cute:

From the same friend, I got this little Aquilegia glandulosa last year. Even with the flowers, the whole plant is less than 6 inches tall.

The other dwarf Aquilegia (Black Currant Ice) in this bed seemed to have died over winter. Speaking of which, it seems the bleeding hearts, hostas, Digitalis grandiflora, and sandcherries are also dead. I planted some perennial seeds under lights in the basement today, realizing that I'm going to need to fill a lot of empty spaces this year.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Blackfly, the Little Blackfly...

The surviving flowers are doing their best to grown and bloom in our warm weather these past few days.
Some "Blue Diamond" double late tulips which have reached the end of their term in my garden, having miniaturized in their third blooming season:

I spent nearly all of yesterday sweating and grunting as I pried the dead shrubs and perennials out of the ground. Among the dead were the Alchemilla (lady's mantle), Penstemon ovatus, the daylilies, blue oat grass and blue fescue, Aruncus dioicus (goat's beard), lupines, spirea shrubs, Liatris spicata, Chelone (turtlehead), Pulmonaria, Brunnera, Heuchera (coral bells), Dianthus deltoides (pinks), Stachys byzantina (lamb's ears), possibly the Echinacea, and probably some others I have forgotten. As a further insult, the blackflies chewed away at my left ear as I toiled and now I have a painful and puffy red ear to remind me of why I want to move to southern BC. In, the back of my mind was the national film board video about the pesky blackfly (albeit, in northern Ontario). I think any 20+ year old Canadian is familiar with this oh-so-relevant tune from the NFB.

Here is a plant that was undeterred by winter, Saxifraga arendsii "Purple Robe":

I only noticed after I took the picture that there are some horsetail weeds growing in the foreground. Oops.
Also doing well is the Erigeron compositus, which I started from seed two years ago:

I'll bet this plant is called a weed in someone else's garden, but I find it cute and pretty and am presently enjoying it in mine.