Sunday, 25 June 2017

Goodbye to Grass

This is the year that Michael decided his June project would be to convert our sidewalk strip of grass to raised beds and pavers. He took it slowly, a little on every dry day but it seemed to me that progress was quite swift.

He began by replacing the grass along the curb with some zigzag pavers we'd acquired.


Then he measured the dimensions of the beds and outlined them with landscape ties. 


We didn't have enough zigzag bricks to do all of the paving so we bought some square pavers from a local supplier to create the rest of the paths.


Once the beds were ready, I started to move some of the overflow from the garden into the new quarters. In fall, when they will cope better with the move, I'll add some more plants that I no longer want in their original positions. Meanwhile, we're putting our lawnmower in the annual neighbourhood garage sale.



Thursday, 22 June 2017

The Pleasures of June (1)

My garden is at its best in June. At the beginning of the month, it looked like this  - still predominantly shades of green, but lush compared with the two photos that began my previous post.


From this angle, only the dark purple flowers of Aquilegia 'Black Barlow' stand out against the leafy backdrop, but in the top centre it is just possible to make out a mound of Geum rivale 'Leonard's Variety' with its sprays of small, brick-red  flowers on dark, wiry stems.


I've become quite fond of these little plants and am gradually acquiring more. They make a neat clump of ruffled green leaves with the flowers springing up overhead like little parasols. More recent introductions look outward rather than down. My current favourite is Geum 'Cosmopolitan', a pretty, ruffled bi-colour.


 I was curious to see how a new-to-me geranium, a hybrid of G. renardii called 'Terre Franche' (or by some suppliers 'Terre France') differed from its parent. The flowers are darker, a saturated purple with beet-red veins.


A canopy of leaves hides Arisaema triphyllum's strange flowers. I keep it in a pot so that I can raise it high enough to see the blooms without getting down on my knees. It's inclined to spread beyond its allotted space, which is another reason to keep it confined.


 Clematis 'Miss Bateman', always reliable, had produced scores of fat buds that opened in mid-May and continued generously into early June.




















A couple of very different plants, both with soft grey foliage, also bloomed early in the month. Rosa glauca is now a giant in the front garden and will have to be selectively pruned after flowering to prevent it from elbowing its way into its neighbours. First, though, I'll enjoy the combination of that foliage with its starry little pink-and-white flowers. It is impervious to the diseases that affect more modern roses, and will shine again with bright red rosehips come fall.


In a corner of the back garden, tiny Oxalis adenophylla 'Ilone Hecker' is creating a similar combination way down at ground level, where it is tucked among tufts of black mondo grass. I'm hoping it will bulk up but it doesn't seem to have any of the spreading tendencies of many of its relatives; quite the contrary.


Last but not least, to my delight, a Roscoea humeana that sulked for two years has finally deigned to produce a couple of flowers, revealing that it is the variant pale yellow form, 'Lutea'. The bloom-time was brief, but at least I now know it is settling in and I can hope for a better display in future years.




Saturday, 17 June 2017

May

May went by so fast with not a lot happening in the garden. Thanks to the cold spring, many plants were a couple of weeks behind their usual emerging and/or flowering time. It was only when I compared mid-April with mid-May that I could could reassure myself of some progress.
Back garden mid-April

Back garden mid-May
Most of the growth was foliage, but some of that was handsome enough to compensate for the delayed flowering. Among the most attractive leaves were those on Dicentra spectabilis 'Valentine', a particularly nice bleeding heart,


 Japanese painted fern (Athyrium niponicum var. pictum)


 a little Spirea, whose name I can't remember,


and young leaves of Podophyllum 'Spotty Dotty'.


 In the sunnier spots were more contrasting leaf textures: Phlox 'Starfire'


and Paeonia obovata 'Alba' 


My little willows are always a pleasure with their downy silver foliage,


and this year Salix helvetica surprised me with an array of curious bristly flowers.


 My largest shade garden also had some interesting foliage contrasts. 


In the background are two favourites: Hydrangea serrata 'Kumasaki' with Hosta 'American Halo' at its feet.
Hydrangea 'Kumasaki'
Hosta 'American Halo'
Once May got well underway, a host of plants suddenly caught up and flowered.
Royal Azalea, (Rhododendron schlippenbachii), my one and only rhodo had a flurry of sugar pink blooms.

Underneath it I've planted Tiarella 'Spring Symphony' whose altogether different flowers are the exact same shades.


This Tiarella has a reputation for spreading enthusiastically, but so far that's all right with me in this very shady bed. 
A delicate Epimedium that I'd planted near these two not only disagreed with them, but struggled to be noticed. I moved it against the dark grey wall in the back garden which gives it the kind of backdrop it needs and, yes, I did notice it more in its new location.


Another modest plant in similar colours is Fritillaria affinis. I keep hoping it will spread, but so far, I only get this one slender stem every year..


More showy neighbours were waiting in the wings. Around mid-May, bleeding hearts, both white and red, unfurled strings of their strange little flowers,



Paeonia mlokosewitchii, commonly known as "Molly the Witch", opened and shone in any shaft of sunlight,


and even my still-tiny Enkianthus 'Red Bells' surprised me with a few shy flowers, partially hidden by the leaves.


Brunnera 'Langtrees', which is primarily a foliage plant, produced its annual sprinkling of forget-me-not blue flowers,


while its whiter cousin 'Jack Frost was more sparing.


Meanwhile, on the more vibrant front, my favourite tulip 'Ballerina' was at its elegant best.


I'll be moving it now that I've installed a friend's Disanthus cercidifolius over its head, throwing it suddenly into too much shade. The Disanthus gives much-needed height to that side of the front garden.


I love the shape of its leaves and am looking forward to their brilliant fall colours. Meanwhile 'Ballerina will be moved further forward in to more sunlight.

The Disanthus also complements and contrasts in leaf shape and colour with the Cornus alternifolia 'Argentea' that faces it across the front path.


Right at the end of the month, Rosa pimpinellifolia, always my first rose to bloom, suddenly covered itself with arching sprays of strongly-scented, pale yellow flowers that instantly attracted every bee in the neighbourhood.



Thursday, 20 April 2017

April Showers

 It hasn't been the best weather for getting out into the garden, but whenever we've had a rare day without rain, I've been out there watching for signs that the plants at least aren't letting the situation get to them.
The usual early bloomers are about two weeks behind normal, but slowly, slowly perennial foliage is emerging and amongst it are some brave hellebores, primroses and spring bulbs. Although I've posted photos of hellebores in previous years, I keep hoping to make better and better images. Here are a few of this year's collection:

Peppermint Ice

Peppermint Ice
Cherry Blossom
Frilly Kitty
Green hellebore
The last one is a plant I bought last year in a sale at a big-box store, not the ideal place to find good plants. It had no flowers and looked weak, but the broken label said 'Green...' and I thought I'd take a chance on it. I'm glad I did since it has grown well, and this year produced several of these exotic double flowers.

In a sunnier (well, normally) location, charming little grape hyacinth Muscari latifolium with its two-tone bells is gradually spreading through Narcissus 'Jack Snipe', making a cheerful contrast of blue and yellow. By the time the Muscari reaches its full height, its flowers will be almost level with the Narcissus.



Another pleasing contrast is the mix of double pink Primula 'Sue Jervis' mingled with snowdrop foliage and the black blades of mondo grass, Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens'.


Several small willows are leafing out and also producing their furry little catkins. First, as usual, is Salix gracilistyla 'Melanostachys' with its dramatic red and black flowers, a little bedraggled by all the rain we've been having.


Salix nakamura var. yezo-alpina has also suffered but the way raindrops clung to its woolly leaves made for an unusual close-up.


 Salix helvetica,  the last to flower, avoided the worst downpours.







However, it hasn't produced nearly as many red stamens as usual on its soft grey catkins.

















The tiniest willow, whose name escapes me for now, is offering a better contrast.



Another shrub that can be counted on for an early show is Ribes sanguineum 'King Edward VII', a darker pink version of our West Coast native whose blooms lure the Rufous hummingbirds back north from Mexico and southern California. Sadly, the local hummers don't seem to have found mine, although a few usually turn up in midsummer when the roses and perennials are in flower.


Along with early blooms, perennial foliage is emerging to fill in the gaps between shrubs and early bulbs. One of the best specimens in my back garden is lovage, Levisticum officinale, a plant I chose for its value as a celery substitute in soups and sauces, little realizing how much more it would contribute to the garden  This is a plant that really gets a move on once it emerges from its winter sleep, rising visibly higher every day until it reaches a sturdy 6 feet or more. As it grows, it efficiently hides the dying foliage of snowdrops and early tulips.  Its own leaves are decorative, especially the young, purple-flushed tips, and when it flowers, its pale yellow flat-topped umbels attract a host of bees and butterflies.

 
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