Friday, November 11, 2011

Diary November 2011 - No snow (here) yet!!

When you're young, you can't wait to get older, to start University or earning money, to be independent and to live your own "adult" life - it seems as if time moves ever so slowly!! When you're older, you want time to slow down but it just seems to fly! Unbelievable that it's November already and that it's only a month and a half till Christmas. Wow.
November is not a popular month - November is when we turn back the clocks and it's dark at 4 pm already. Some days it's cold and nasty and damp and windy. It's not winter yet but you can feel it coming!
But the bonus days are when November forgets it's supposed to be cold and nasty and we get a gorgeous, sunny day that's warm and feels like early September.
We've had a few of those lately and I've tried to get out in the garden as often as possible, still trying to put it "to bed".
The other day I was out and saw some real photo ops so I ran inside to get my camera and here's what I saw.
(Above) My deck is alternately covered with leaves or the wind has blown every leaf off. Here are my cute ceramic "flower pot" shoes beside a container that needs to be put away for winter. The lovely yellow leaves blew into a composition that a stylist would love!

I cut down the front garden and replaced the frozen, dead, soggy coleus with evergreens from the backyard. It's great to get the branches into the soil while it's still soft and moist. The branches freeze into the soil and make the urns heavy and solid. Strong winds can't knock them down. I used yew, green and blue spruce as well as a few red dogwood branches. Then in early December I just have to add my Christmas balls and decorations and voila! The urns are festive and ready!

I can't stop singing the praises of having an Oakleaf hydrangea (and I guess I can't stop photographing it either!!)
It is one of my all time favourites because of its 4 season beauty: leaves that unfold in an interesting way in spring, gorgeous dark green leaves with white conical blooms in summer, bronze flower clusters and fabulous multi-shade red leaves in fall and peeling bark as a winter interest.

The leaves on the climbing hydrangea vine (that grows beside the Oakleaf Hydrangea) turn yellow and sometimes fall off all in one day and night!

The hostas have all turned yellow and gone soft

My 4 Burning Bushes are really weird this year: one died, one is bright red and beautiful, one is slowly turning red and one is still completely green!!???

When I bought this statue years ago in Doon, the name attached to it was "Elaine" so I have always called this my Elaine Bed. And this is how I like my garden beds to look for winter - clean and clear with no debris harbouring pests.

You have to search for beauty in the late autumn garden but it's there:

Bergenia cordifolia:

Monkshood (Aconitum)

Rose hips

and Black Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia) with just their little black eyes left!

Be sure to look for those last beautiful garden touches in your own garden or elsewhere. They're still out there - you just have to search carefully.
BTW - I cut and trimmed 35 geranium stems and will attempt to grow next year's geraniums from cuttings. I'll let you know if I'm successful!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Diary October 2011 - Autumn

I started this blog in 2005 because I wanted to design my "retirement garden".  Who would have thought that Retirement which had seemed sooooooo very far down the road would be here this quickly? But - here I am. Retired!!!
I don't plan to re-design anything just yet nor do we plan to downsize, so instead I will continue to take care of the huge garden I have now and give you any tips that I learn along the way.
I have already been out in the garden numerous hours and really enjoyed myself. But my goodness! You can tell I designed this garden 23 years ago - I had a lot more energy then and no mobility problems.
Well - things are different now but I hope to be able to do a bit every day instead of trying to squash everything into Saturdays and Sundays. It should make planting and weeding much more enjoyable.
The 2 main things I needed to do before the snows fly were (a) plant my new spring bulbs and (b) cut down the perennials.
Before I do a Show and Tell of what daffodils and tulips I planted, let me give you a few tips of what to do and what NOT to do in the fall in the garden.
1. Plant spring bulbs as long as the ground is still soft and workable (ideal month is September)
2. Rake leaves off the lawn and put them into the compost heap or into paper Yard Waste bags and have them taken away.
3. Pull out annuals and if not diseased, put in compost. If diseased, throw them away.
4. Cut perennials to the ground to prevent hibernation of pesky bugs. DO NOT cut roses to the ground (check google for proper procedures. I could devote a whole column to rose care alone)
5. Cut grasses down or not, but be aware that as the winter comes on, they will dry out and start blowing around the yard
6. Dig out any weeds and dispose of them. This will give you great head start in the spring.
7. Lightly mulch beds and any fragile plants you have
8. As a rule, do not cut back shrubs until spring or summer, depending on when they bloom
9. Do not fertilize anything in the fall
10. Water heavily if it's a dry fall. If there's plenty of rain, you'll be OK. Water under the eaves and under trees, though, and any other areas that seem dry.
11. Bring your clay pots into the shed or garage or they will split and crack over the winter and spring.

There's lots more advice I could give you (you can look up more on the Internet) but that should be enough to keep your garden clean, healthy and attractive over winter.

OK - now the fun part!!! Look what I bought and planted early this month!

Tulips first (I don't plant as many as I used to because they are a squirrel's gourmet lunch) but there are some I just can't live without.


Blushing Girl:

Flaming Parrot (I would have preferred Estella Rynfeld, but I couldn't find any!)

Queen of the Night

Small, early 12" Red Riding Hood tulips (let's hope the rabbits don't chew them up in the spring)

Dwarf Iris "Harmony"

And then a whole slew of Daffodils or Narcissus:

Mount Hood


King Alfred

Ice Follies

February Gold




and Hawera

They range in height from 8" (dainty Hawera) to 16" Suzy and King Alfred. I love Thalia because it's so fragrant and Tahiti because it looks exotic.
Squirrels and other critters love tulips but find daffodils, crocus and other small bulbs bitter so they leave them alone. Another reason to plant more daffodils than tulips is that they multiply into clumps and get bigger over the years. The new hybridized tulips often have no fragrance and "peter out" after 4-5 years. (only leaves come up in yr 4 or 5 - no stalk and no flower). If you are lucky enough to have moved into an old home with an old garden, you may have the  "old" style tulips from the 60's and earlier. They are strong, fragrant and return year after year.
So here is our beautiful Ontario fall - lovely sunny warm days that may stay well into November. Then rotten old winter comes but by planting bulbs, you already have something to look forward to just a few months later!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Diary September 2011 - Mini-blog

Somehow all that heat and humidity of summer has faded and autumn is here! Now having said that, half of that statement is a lie. It was 27 degrees today and HOT in the sun! But that's typical fall in Ontario - hot, summer-type days mixed in with very cool ones. Ahhh....I love the seasons. Well 3 of them anyway.
I thought I would do a short entry about some really interesting flowers my friend Lynn from Hort Society told me about years ago and then gave me. They are called Autumn Crocus.

Here they are in a sea of periwinkle (which I need to drastically eradicate this fall or next spring. I mean, call in the bobcat and dig that ground cover OUT!)
Here's some information from Wikipedia:
Colchicum autumnale, commonly known as autumn crocus, meadow saffron or naked lady, is a flower which resembles the true crocuses, but flowering in autumn. (This is not a reliable distinction, however, since there are many true crocuses that flower in autumn.) The name "naked lady" comes from the fact that the flowers emerge from the ground long after the leaves have died back.
And that's true.
In the spring I get all these long tulip-like leaves that come up. I often forget I have them so I see the leaves and wonder what they are? Oh yea! These are the great flowers that will appear out of nowhere again in the fall!

Colchicums are not related to the crocus family at all, but are members of the lily family (Liliaceae). Another common name for colchicum is meadow saffron. This too is a misnomer. Colchicums are in fact poisonous and are not edible like the crocus that produces saffron, which we use in cooking.
I have light mauve coloured ones but they also come in light pink, magenta and even white.

Here are the planting instructions:
Plant colchicum corms as soon as possible after you purchase them. If they are left in a warm location for any length of time, they will bloom without being planted. Set the corms 10 to 15 cm (4 to 6 inches) deep and about 15 cm (6 inches) apart. In the spring their 15- to 20-cm long strap-like leaves emerge. By early summer the leaves turn yellow and die back. At this point, the plant can look a bit messy. If you plant colchicums among low growing perennials or in front of a group of deciduous shrubs, the unsightly foliage can be nicely disguised. In September or October the plant starts to bloom. Once established, colchicums multiply annually.
Colchicums prefer a sunny but sheltered location. Although they do tolerate some shade. They are hardy from zones 4 to 9.
When the plants begin to look crowded, divide the clumps by carefully lifting them and separating the individual corms. Do this just after they have flowered to avoid damaging the corms. Replant immediately about 15 cm (6 inches) apart.

Here are some tips about Autumn Crocus as well as some specific recommended varieties:

In the fall avoid raking the leaves where colchicums are planted. The fallen leaves provide a lovely backdrop for the flowers and help to support the flower stems. (OR keep a small patch of periwinkle just to surround the colchicums. Hmmm...may be dangerous considering how periwinkle spreads!)

Colchicums are poisonous and rodents and deer leave them alone.

Recommended Varieties:

•Autumnale 'Album' has white flowers and is smaller than most. They bloom in mid-fall growing 13 cm (4 to 6 inches) high.

•Autumnale 'Alboplenum' has large, white, double flowers with several blooms to each bulb. They bloom mid-fall growing to13 cm (4 to 6 inches) high.

•Autumnale ‘Pleniflorum’ ('Roseum Plenum') is a rosy, double flowered, late blooming variety that grows 13+ cm (4 to 6 inches) high.

•Bornmuelleri has large rosy purple, fragrant flowers with a white heart and purple anthers. It grows 20+ cm (8 inches) high.

•Byzantinum produces up to 6 pale pink flowers and is one of the earliest types to bloom. The leaves don't appear until spring and are broader and more ribbed than most. They grow 24+ cm (10 inches) or taller.

•Giant has bright rose/lilac flowers with a white centre and base. It is one of the tallest and largest, growing over 24 cm (10 inches) and is very free flowering from early to mid fall.

(Just thought I'd throw in a great autumn colour picture where the Autumn Crocus barely shows but trust me - it's there!!)


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Diary September 2011 - Still some beauty left!

Climbing Rose "New Dawn'.....

I can't believe it's September and the summer months of July and August are already over!!! Today was the first day of school for many. Unbelievable how time flies.
This has been a rotten year for my garden. Partly my fault, partly the weather. I'm still working full time and all our weekends were booked this summer! I mean it - every single one! We were away more than we were home. I know that's a poor excuse for not caring for the garden and not watering but being too busy and having a summer that was dry as a bone = a sad, dried out backyard and front.
I realized that I had missed writing an August diary so I made sure I have a September entry.
As usual, as I walked around, some thing were still blooming despite the heat and drought. (Good old Mother Nature!)
Here are some of my garden's better moments at the present time:

I planted 3 of my small pots with Sedum and even if I forgot to water, they always look plump, juicy and healthy.

For my birthday, my Dad gave me a Bouganvillia. The instructions said that after blooming, I should cut all the branches back, place outside and it would come back. Hah! Leaf after leaf fell off until it was just a skeleton. In frustration I put it in a shady spot on the deck and literally forgot about it.
Look: the instructions didn't lie!! It DID come back! I'll take it back inside later this fall, fertilize it and see what happens.

The ever-faithful Sedum 'Autumn Joy' is beginning to turn pink, and then later - burgundy. The bees love it!

Black-Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia) are a late summer staple. They even look OK when all the petals fall off and just their little black heads remain!

One little Explorer rose is still blooming!

The shrub roses have developed hips. They bloom in June as a single pink-white blossom but only once. Then in September (now) the hips are all in their glory. I have never tried making rose hip tea, but I might.....

Years ago I grew Sweet Peas - that old-fashioned, fragrant climber. I never took care to collect the seeds but one set of them comes back year after year on the fence between us and the neighbours. It's lovely. I never disturb it knowing that way, it will come back again and again.

Even though they are not big and fluffy this year, annuals like impatiens at least provide colour right through til frost.

The Oak Leaf Hydrangea - in spring, big green leaves  - in summer, even bigger green leaves and beautiful white conical flowers - in autumn, the white first turns pink, then bronze. Later the leaves will go shades of red, yellow and orange. The perfect all-season plant!

 The small shrub rose beside the deck is coming back for its last hurrah! So so pretty.
Next weekend the plan is to buy new bulbs for spring. Connon's and Terra - here I come!