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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Saturday, 11 February 2017

Defiant blooms

 Enough snow has finally melted to reveal a few determined little flowers. A patch of winter aconites has shouldered its way through fallen leaves.

And a couple of flowers on Skimmia 'Magic Marlot' have burst through their sugary crust.

In previous years, I've been able to enjoy flowers on hellebores, snowdrops, snow crocus and the first narcissus by now. I'm hoping that the late start will only give them more energy for a good show when they too emerge.

Friday, 3 February 2017

February 2017: More Snow

We returned from two weeks in Peru and Ecuador to two lovely days of blue skies and sunshine. Then this morning...snow again, and the garden is once more a composition in black and white.

The only vestige of colour comes from a few green leaves on my potted golden bamboo.Yesterday, I thought I saw one little purple crocus flower and a spark of yellow on a clump of winter aconites, but they are buried this morning. Plump buds on my Corylopsis pauciflora looked close to opening too, but today they are just a frieze of warm brown against a white background.

Monday, 9 January 2017

1917 - Still snow

This winter has been the harshest in Vancouver for twenty years. A video of two guys playing ice hockey on an intersection two blocks from us is making the rounds, and my garden is collapsing in snow. I took this photo on Boxing Day but it's much the same now, two weeks later.

How much damage will there be? Already I know that one of my daphnes has split right down the trunk, and a couple of my more tender lavenders look black. On the bright side, a single narcissus (either 'Rijnveld's Early Sensation' or 'Jack Snipe') has poked its snout through the icy blanket.

And there are a few green buds on Clematis 'Miss Bateman'.

Nevertheless, I suspect Nature has done more editing than I would like.

Friday, 16 December 2016

Morning frost

With the garden under ice and snow, there's nothing to do but worry about the survival of my more tender plants, even as I admire the beauty of the street tree outside our windows.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Winter monochrome

Snow has come unexpectedly in this first week of December, changing the garden completely to a black-and-white composition.


 Some shrubs are looking decidedly unhappy, bowed down with chunks of the white stuff, which is more ice than snow thanks to a partial thaw and freeze. Enkianthus perulatus has a starring role again after its fall splendour, since its thin, wiry branches have held up better than most others. The red of the house as a backdrop highlights its elegant shape.

Elsewhere the berries of a Skimmia japonica and the last rosehips of Rosa gallica 'Versicolor' provide a little Christmas colour.

Fall Brilliance

Since my last post, too many other tasks  - and some enjoyable travel - have demanded my attention, but I did get a few opportunities to record the jewel colours of fall.
Among this October's highlights were the barley-sugar leaves of my little Japanese maple,'Waterfall', backed by dark red Sedum 'Autumn Joy'.

A little later, both were echoed by Rhododendron schlippenbachii and Enkianthus perulatus against the backdrop of our house.

Hardy Begonia grandis tucked into the corner behind the Enkianthus was still flowering with bright pink flowers changing to seed pods. Meanwhile its leaves had begun to turn from green to yellow. Soon it will disappear altogether, to be forgotten until late spring. It has to be one of the slowest perennials to wake up from its winter sleep.

 On the other side of our front path, Hosta 'Blue Umbrellas' and Hydrangea 'Beni Gaku' behind it are contributing to my autumn palette of dark red and gold.

Much as I love hostas, most are a regular disappointment for me at this time of the year because they just don't die gracefully.  In the back garden 'Krossa Regal', probably my favourite in spring and summer with its strong blue presence, collapses into a spineless heap in October and has to be cut to the crown.

At least that allows Heuchera 'Blackberry Ice' a bit more space to shine in.
And there's actually a lot more going on to distract from the uncooperative plants. Aconites are still blooming in electric blue, Hydrangea 'Sikes' Dwarf' in front is slowly changing colour, the burnt orange of leaves on Stewartia pseudocamellia stands out between the flaming reds of its companion blueberries and both get an extra boost from the yellowing foliage of Sanguisorba 'Finale' behind.

There are softer caramel colours on Rosa pimpinellifolia behind the back fence and Paeonia mlokosewitchii under the pear tree on the right-hand side. Between them, leaves on the last two stems of 'Casablanca' lilies have turned acidic yellow. Assorted plants that remain green tie everything together. Whether it's the contrast with their neighbours or a trick of the autumn light, their colours seem more intense than usual.