Cuban Gardens

Cuban gardens were a new subject for me until I recently traded in our cold Canadian weather for a week of hot Cuban “winter” weather and a plant tour that reminded me of my indoor plants back home in Canada.

Cuban Resort garden

Cuban Resort garden

Not only were the blooms and foliage amazing, but the air itself is full of a scent that is indescribable. While unable to pinpoint any specific scent, upon closer examination  of Cuban gardens, I was able to identify many plants as those “tropicals”,  for sale in garden centres and greenhouses here in Ontario.

Schefflera

This four story plant is one of many Schefflera actinophylla (umbrella tree) plants growing around our resort and seen all over the island. Schefflera actinophylla (umbrella tree). The genus is fast growing in tropical and subtropical areas to the extent it is classified as a weed in these areas. With idea conditions here in Cuba, the actinophylla species has  long, shiny, oval green leaves that droop gracefully from a central stalk and  also produces long red tentacle blooms.

 

Schefflera flower

 

Here in Ontario Canada and other colder climates, where our cold winters prevent idea growth, we grow Schefflera arboricola (sometimes called dwarf schefflera)  which has much smaller leaves, sometimes with creamy variegation and generally doesn’t get the right conditions for blooming. Under ideal conditions it produces creamy coloured berries.

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Gardening in January

 

Gardening in January

Gardening in January is not just the stuff of dreams or wishful thinking, but a time to organize, plan, browse through collected seeds and so much more. In addition to planning for the future, gardening in January is also a good time to focus on those often ignored indoor plants and to enjoy the snow covered shapes left by the remains of last summer’s garden.

 

dusted branches

 Dried Goldenrod

Dried Goldenrod

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gardening in January is also a time to explore what if anything is alive in the winter garden. If you live in a warmer climate than zone 5a of southwestern Ontario, that nay be a challenge. Of course there are always pleasant surprises, such evergreen plants and  a well known plantsuch as  the Hellebore Christmas Rose.

 

 evergreen fern

evergreen fern

 

The Hellebore Plants ( see previous blog post) are well know for cold weather blooming, yet when I find mine  blooming  the week of Christmas despite temperature dipping below 0 Celsius, I am amazed and overjoyed!

 

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Inspiring Hellebore Plant

 

 

Despite the brutal winds in my area, being close to the house, the side garden is home to this lovely winter flowering plant . There are several other Hellebore plants that are not as sheltered and still have green leaves and one even has a bud. Sadly as the thermometer dips to -20, the leaves are barely alive and the bud seems frozen in a partially open state.

 

 Hellebore in bud

Hellebore in bud

 

 Gardening in January

Gardening in January is really a rest period for both you and your outside garden. It is a change to regroup and rethink both plants and structures that may or may-not have worked in the garden last summer. In addition, there is no time like the present to make a  list of things to do in preparation for the next growing season, before seed catalogues begin to arrive in the mail.

My January chore list

1. Check on drying dahlia tubers and begonia corms etc to ensure not too cold/ hot/ dry:         Move them if needed or lightly mist if they appear to be shrivelling up, to ensure firm             fresh for success in replanting them

corm

corm

 

2. Tool tune-up: Clean up. sharpen. tighten or replace worn or broken hand tool tools.               Larger tools can be checked on once the weather warms.

3. Grow light maintenance: If you use grow lights for your seedlings, now is a good time to      check on bulbs, wiring, trays etc. Perhaps is it is time to replace or consider installing        them.

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4. Seed stocks: for those who have collected seeds form last years gardens or possibly a      seed exchange program at a local horticultural society, time to take stock and discard        old dry ones

5. Container collection: save those clear plastic salad containers and large pop bottles that     can be used as mini greenhouse covers for new seedlings or plant cuttings

 

 

 

 

Cottage Blooms

Cottage Blooms

Cottage blooms are part of the cottage feel…the escape from reality we all look forward too. When the city life is far away. we can relax and enjoy our gardens. Whether part of an organized garden with annuals and perennial plants bought from a local garden centre, or provided by Mother Nature, the beauty they give us is inspiring!

Cottage blooms show below are merely a small sampling of the variety found in the garden and the meadow around my cottage.  Norfolk County, Ontario has a wide variety of Carolinian wildflowers that brighten up the day.

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Buttercup wildflower

 

 

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cottage blooms

 

 

 

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Roadside garden with Yucca plant

Roadside garden with Yucca plant

Cottage blooms can also break up large expanses of otherwise boring spaces such as along roadsides where local clearance by-laws rule. Small planting of perennials such as this Yucca, combined with wildflower perennials such as the Purple Coneflower and annuals will provide a nice touch of colour while ensuring a garden that will not get too large and out of control.

 

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wild violet

This lovely yellow violet was found growing in mass between the Red Sycamore plants. Across my 1.8 acres there are many clumps of violets. Despite merely being 2 cm across, the flowers are dainty and delightful!

 

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Shasta Daisy from garden centre

 

 

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Whether planted or part of the randomness of nature, all blooms delight the eye and dazzle the senses. If you do not have a cottage, just take a drive through the countryside on warm ,sunny day and you won’t be disappointed.

Horticultural Societies

Horticultural Societies or garden clubs, are a wonderful way to keep in touch with others who love gardening, as well as increase your knowledge and pleasure of plants. Whether you are in the midst of winter or summer, located in North  or South America , Europe, Asia or places beyond, these societies or clubs are wonderful meeting places!

 

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Horticultural societies

Whether  listed as a horticultural society or a garden club, despite having a different focus depending on the members needs and wishes, both provide a source of energy, information and shared interest that promote a collected sense of well-being for us as members . In addition, the community we live in will also improve when we make positive changes in our gardens whether being ecologically more friendly or putting in one of many beautiful native plants.

Purple Coneflower

Purple Coneflower

 

Horticulture societies, are not complicated  groups of higher learning but are  people sharing a positive love…of plants and gardening. Whether  locally, provincially, nationally or internationally represented,  all members share that one common interest and use the societies, or garden clubs to promote the science , art and joy of gardening.

 

Local garden groups have meetings where speakers talk, demonstrate or show slides on any give topic related to plants. Members are  not  required to have a green thumb, a big garden or even one plant, but merely an interest in growing, propagating, studying their classifications or anything else related to plants. Most groups meet monthly, have speakers series, demonstrations lending libraries, bus trips, garden tours as well as volunteering their members at local community gardening and greening events.

OHA booth at Success with Gardening Show

OHA booth at Success with Gardening Show

On a province wide scope, horticultural associations represent all local groups or clubs in that province. In Ontario, for example, all horticultural societies are themselves member of the OHA or Ontario Horticultural Association.  They are the parent of the tiny off springs and through their promotions, show, information and training, enthusiastic gardeners have a valuable tool. In addition,  website  www.gardenontario.org  provides people with a  wide variety of information at their fingertips.

 

 

Amaryllis Blooms and beyond

Amaryllis blooms are spectacular no matter the colour and with a minimum of care, will bloom over Christmas and throughout the winter months. Native to tropical and sub-tropical locations, this bulbous plant is not winter hearty here, but provides us a much needed indoor blast of colour in the coldness of winter.

 

amazing Hippeastrum (amaryllis)

amazing Hippeastrum (amaryllis)

 

 

Garden centres sell the widest variety of bulbs, which they generally sell loose for your planting pleasure. Potted bulbs beginning  their rapid leaf growth are also found in garden centres, and a wide variety of other locations including grocery and big box hardware stores. While many people are familiar with this plant, the background, cultivation and care information is something not be commonly known.

Amaryllis Genealogy

Amaryllis is the common name used for the herbaceous , perennial flowering plants of the Amaryllidaceae family. The actual genus Amaryllis bulbs come from South Africa , while the genus Hippeastrum bulbs from South and Central America are what are commonly sold here in the Northern Hemisphere around Christmas time.

Amaryllis  of the genus Hippeastrum have a wide variety of colours, both solid and in combination as there are approximately 90 species and 600 hybrid varieties. These herbaceous bulbs begin by sending out 2-7 narrow, flat long strap-shaped, green  leaves and from there if conditions are right, the flower stem begins to grow.

 Amaryllis Bloom Kits

Amaryllis bulbs are sold, as previously mentioned, loosely in most garden centres as well as in kits. The bulbs when found in grocery store , or big box store floral sections,  are generally in a kit either already growing or with all the necessary ingredients to start your own  plant.

Kits include a large tuberous bulb, a plastic or ceramic pot as well as growing medium. I purchased several kits, one of which had coconut fibre pellet that had specific volumes of warm water needed to get the right texture for planting in its drab green plastic pot. However, I have learned form many sources that this fibre can remove nutrients from the plant itself so I chose to use a soil-less, potting soil, coconut fibre mix instead. The other kit had a bag of slightly moistened soil-less mix, that I add some of the leftover fibre to, as an additional means to help with water retention in the lovely white ceramic pot.

Growing requirements

Amaryllis bulbs should be planted in the centre of a pot only  about 1 in larger in diameter than the bulb. One kit I purchased had a poor quality pot that was far too large, and so a more suitable size was used instead. Approximately 1/4 to 1/3 of the bulb should be above the planting medium, which should be firmly packed before watering. Water well and find it a good spot to begin growing.

Amaryllis bulbs love warm sunny spots, and prefer to out of drafts. My collection sits in my front window which faces south west and primary gets sun from late morning until about 5 in the evening. After that time, I pull the tray back form the window, to allow the blinds to go down and to keep the plants away from the cold that radiates in through the glass.

my new white Amaryllis

my new white Amaryllis

Feeding

Water lightly at first, until the stems begin to grow when watering increases and fertilizing is needed for strong plants and beautiful Amaryllis blooms. At this point  the use of high Phosphorous fertilizer is important. Phosphorous is the middle number on household plant fertilizers and is the most important for healthy full blooms. The nitrogen and Potassium, which make up the first and last of the NPK components of fertilizer, help the plant grow strong roots and ensure  good overall health. You could use  a 5-10-5 or 11-35-15 fertilizer or whatever you have with the higher middle number.In addition, as Amaryllis are hearty feeders, watering in the fertilizer every second or third week while they are in bloom,  ensures longevity!

Salmon coloured amaryllis

Salmon coloured amaryllis

 

Once the flower begins to open, experts suggest the plant then be moved out of direct sunlight to ensure the  blooms last longer. By removing some of the light, the metabolism of the flower/seed formation would  decrease and allow for maximum enjoyment.

Gardening Vacation in Nova Scotia

A gardening vacation in Nova Scotia is not just time to explore a new place , but is a time to get away  and enjoy the gardens of others while  taking some time away from our own gardens. By travelling to other parts of any country you can enjoy the colours and scents of many beautiful gardens. These joys may also remind us of things about our gardens they we have stopped appreciating there.

 

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This August after months of  …weeding, watering, weeding and more watering, I decided to take a break and head East. With a chance to see and experience new places and leave chores and all manner of work behind, vacations are always a treat! Besides, with my garden in the capable hands of a family member and a waning appreciation for it, I needed a new perspective.

Years ago my trips to the East coast had led me to many lovely  places and to a wonderful hospitality but I had not specifically been focused on gardens, so I decided to take it all in this trip. With camera in hand, this it was to be a gardening vacationing in Nova Scotia, in search of  gardens as well as the shoreline and all of nature’s beauty.

 

ocean view from Nova Scotia

ocean view from Nova Scotia

 

My Nova scotia visits previously had been restricted to Halifax , where I had seen pretty gardens on the grounds of the Citadel and along the waterfront there and across the bay at Dartmouth. The grounds of many a park there had well manicured brightly coloured flower beds, so I knew the provinces gardeners were hard at work in big cities.

Dartmouth planter

Dartmouth planter

Having spent little time elsewhere in Nova Scotia, this trip was a chance to explore two of my favourite things…beaches and gardens. Having a coastline on both the Bay of Fundy and extensively on the Atlantic Ocean, I knew the shoreline visits wouldn’t disappoint me.

Not until I took my eyes off the waves and the sand did I notice there were even blooms on the beach.

 

lovely beach flowerBeach flower

 

 

 

 

 

Then the gardening vacation of Nova Scotia took full stride. Every harbour, Inn and most houses had lovely gardens everywhere. They used Lupines, marigold, begonias and salvia just like in our gardens. There were window boxes, front gardens and every kind of container imaginable.

P1010340P1030655original planter

 

 

 

 

There were blooms around lighthouses, planted by multitudes of gardeners! I saw ferns and wrought iron works and gazebos that reminded me of my own garden and made me smile. In fact, there were more blue Hydrangeas there that I have even seen here!

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Gardening in Nova Scotia

 

Blue Hydrangea in  a Shelburne N.S garden

Blue Hydrangea in a Shelburne N.S garden

 

Blue Hydrangea

Blue Hydrangea

 

Summing up my garden vacation to the province of Nova Scotia… I would say it was a multi-coloured masterpiece, full of bright and blooming annuals and perennials. The beaches were fascinating , the people warm and the trip was a great vacation in every way. I went home rested, with a new perspective on life, work and gardening.

Memorial garden Digby

Memorial garden Digby

main street Digby NS

main street Digby NS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Consider your garden from a different view by enjoying the sights, memories, garden hints and photographs of gardens far from home. I would highly recommend next summer you take your own garden vacation of Nova Scotia, explore the province and appreciate its beauty and biodiversity and be inspired!

 

Cape Forchu Lighthouse and garden

Cape Forchu Lighthouse and garden

Summer Blooms

Summer blooms need lots of tender loving care to ensure they are always producing new buds. Certainly as we are in mid July, by now most gardeners have worn out their green thumbs by planting and relocating countless perennials and annuals.Not to be forgotten are the countless seasonal flower sales that often drive gardeners in to a last minute frenzy as the temptation to have just one more summer bloom takes over.

Lily

 

 

Garden Sale points:

1. is there a spot in my garden for it

2. is the plant in good enough shape to survive the transplanting

3. is the price really a “sale”

4.  do I need it.

Certainly summer blooms are tempting, but unless a lovely perennial seems just what you need to fill one last spot in the garden, walk on by. If the plant is sadly not at its best due to bad watering or crunched foliage, is it beyond saving? If the overall plant core seems healthy, and the briken or damaged leaves can easily be removed, then a sale plant certainly deserves to be a someone’s garden.

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If you just can’t stop staring at the plant, just buy it! Certainly an extra plant or two can be squeezed in somewhere and the cost most likely will not break the bank. Of course one last thing is the price vs the condition of that plant or shrub. A local garden centre near me recently had it’s 30% sale but as their prices run much higher than anywhere else, the sale wasn’t really great but they did have  a larger variety of plants. If the plant is really sad, but you need it, there is no harm in asking if they will take less, especially as the peak planting season is almost past.

Remember if you will be away on vacation or at the cottage, those plants will need a sitter to keep the summer’s heat from killing your lovely summer blooms. Even apartment dwellers with window boxes and veggies growing in all manner of containers, will need close care in the heat of the summer.

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Giant Coleus in Planter Box

 

Summer bloom care list

To ensure you have good blooms all summer remember to follow the basic list

1. good water

Most plants need to be kept from drying out too much so a good water twice a week should eb fine. Daily watering, whether it be the lawn or garden, keeps the plants roots closer to the soil surface and then a severe drought or a forgotten trip can cause the plant to dry up and die quite quicky due to no deep root formation.

2. fertilizing

Regular fertilixzing with organic ferilizers ( preferred) or the slow release type provide basic nutrients ensuring a hartier, healthier plant with showier bloom. Keep in main theat by the end of July and definitely in to August, most applications run the risk of  burning the plant out as its metabolism increases at a time when both the temperature and water condtions are not optimal.

3. deadheading

Deadheading of some plants such as petunias are well known, all plants benefite form thei, as then their energy can be put in to growing , not seed production. Once a bloom is past it’s prime, snip it off . Removing the dying bloom also makes the plant look tidier and obviously well cared for.

4. pest control

Especially in summer’s high heat days, all manner of garden pest seek, food, and shade. They also need the plants sap as a good source of water. On lily plants. removing the dark “poo” like substances on the leaves, removes the beginnings of the lily beetle that loves to consume the leaves . If the bugs are larger, wearing garden gloves, carefully remove them. If they return or you have small bugs such as aphids,  try straying on a mixture of warm water containing some dish soap, small amount of cooking oil and if that doesn’t keep  work, there are slightly more concentrated organic soap solutions that can be bought at more garden centres and greenhouses.

Milkweed and pests

Milkweed and pests

 

 

5. weeding

Weeding not only ensures a tidy garden it also removes the roots of those unwanted plants that would compete with those of the plants you choose to keep. Most weeds and wildflowers have a great tap root or wide root base that ensure they survive in nature to return each year.

 

Of course as you admire your garden you may already be planning changes for new year or just sitting like moss…a bump on a log.

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  For those you of you more adventurous…maybe seeing wildflowers for the water…kayaking across the country…may inspire you to as we live in a wondrous place…enjoy!

 

EARTH, WATER, SKY

EARTH, WATER, SKY

Tune in next month for further information and glorious photos of summer blooms in Nova Scotia

Poison Ivy

Poison Ivy is a toxic plant that many campers, cottagers and rural gardeners are familiar with. I myself have been a victim of its rash and blisters and have become quite familiar with those leaflets three and so I do let them be. Only when I began to research Poison Ivy did I realize how little I did know and how far back people have been dealing with the consequences of coming in contact with this plant.

 

History of Poison Ivy

Originally rumored to have come from Europe, Poison Ivy has been in Americas for centuries. In fact, it was even documented as being observed first hand in Bermuda and the Americas by Captain John Smith in his publication Generall Histories of Virginia, New England and the Summer Isles written in 1624. “The poysoned weed is much in shape like our English Ivy, but being but touched, causeth rednesse, itching, and lastly blisters, the which howsoever after a while passe away of themselves without further harme, yet because for the time they are somewhat painfull, it hath got itselfe an ill name, although questionlesse of no ill nature.”

Even in the 1784 First Volume called Memoirs of the American Society of Arts and Science mentioned a plant that “produced inflammations and eruptions”. They then went on to nickname the plant as “poison Ivy”. Since then there have been countless articles, research and trials attempting to control the spread of this toxic plant.

Poison Ivy Plant Classification

Poison Ivy as we know it to be called is really just one of many poisonous plants in the family of Anacardiaceae. In fact the cashew tree whose name forms the basis of this family does have toxic resins in the casing that surrounds the nut itself.

The English word for this family is derived from two Portuguese words which describe how the cashew nut grows… “ana” which means upward and “cardium” which means heart. Originally native to Northern Brazil, the Cashew was taken by the Portuguese to Goa in India around the year 1560-65 and now they are grown in parts of Africa and throughout Southeast Asia.

 

 

Cashew  Apples

Cashew Apples

The cashew nut is really a seed, whose casing, called a cashew apple, contains skin irritating chemicals, one of which is related to the oil;  Urishiol found in poison ivy. In fact, roasting does destroy the compound, but just as with poison ivy, the smoke contains the chemical and inhalation causes severe lung irritations.

Interestingly enough the mango, which is in the same family, has an urushiol oil based allergen that can also cause dermatitis and even anaphylaxis in in some people. The urushiol is present in the mango leaves, stems, skin and sap. Eating unripe, pickled or cooked fruit, the skin of the mango is edible but susceptible people may still get dermatitis of the lips, or the tongue. Generally ripe mangos should be peeled before consumption to avoid the oils. Despite this, further research has provided data stating the during the mango primary ripening season, it is the most common source of plant dermatitis in Hawaii.

Originally Poison Ivy was known as Rhus radicans;  part of a the genus Rhus which contains over 250 species of flowering plants including all varieties of sumacs, poison ivy, and poison oak. Research data has suggested that the Genus be split in to 6, based on redefined plant characteristics. In this case there would be only approximately 35 plants left in the Rhus genus.

Created from further botanical clarification, botanists generally accept the reclassification of Poison Oak, Poison Sumac and Poison Ivy in to the genus Toxicodendron, which is Greek for two words, meaning toxic and tree. All three of these plants contain some version of chemical compounds called pentadecylcatechols or PDC’s. Found in the clear sap of these three plants as well as other members of the Anacardiaceae or Cashew family worldwide, the PDC’s are generally referred to as urushiol.

This term was taken from the Japanese name for a tree there called Toxicodendron  vernicifluum. Despite the toxic chemicals there, the Japanese have used an oxidized form of the tree sap, to produce its famous finish for their lacquer ware.

Poison Ivy Range

This particular toxic plant ranges from Canada to the north down through the United States, areas of Mexico and in to South America. Poison Ivy may be found in these countries up to approximately 1,500 M (4,900 ft) but is extremely common along the edges of wooded areas, in open fields and other undisturbed areas.

While it is recognized as a creeping plant, it also grows bush like. Regardless of the style of growth, poison ivy is considered officially a noxious weed here in Ontario Canada and in the U.S. states of Minnesota and Michigan. Although some varieties  are shade tolerant, all forms of this poison plant prefer sun and in fact Poison Ivy was recently located at my favourite beach!

 

 

Beach-side Poison Ivy warning sign

Beach-side Poison Ivy warning sign

Poison Ivy Forms

Basking in the sun, this shrub form is merely one of the three ways this plant can be found. In fact, the shrub can grow one main stem with side branches, up to over 1 metre (3 ft) tall. Certainly as it is called ivy, given a good support pole, plant or tree, poison Ivy can grow taller than you can imagine. A good example, (Or bad) is the large mass of vines attached to a pine trees at my cottage by hair like brown aerial roots to a height of over 25metres (80 Feet). The last form is as a groundcover of 10-25 cm (4-10inches), as often seen in campgrounds and growing between other native plants along roadsides.

Trillium and poison ivy roadside

Trillium and poison ivy roadside

 

Description

 

Roots

The vine and bush plants have a rhizome root base. This allows the roots and new plants to spread from the subterranean nodes. The aerial roots attach themselves to the plant / object for support and nutrition.

Poison Ivy root runner

Poison Ivy root runner

 

Stems

Poison Ivy stems are woody and grey. On small plants the colour may not be as noticeable, but is definitely seen on bush and trees climbing forms. In fact, the wood on the vines of poison ivy that are climbing up the pine trees at my cottage have a dark grey to reddish tint. Their hair- like roots, which are reddish in colour are also poisonous to humans.

450px-Poison_ivy_vine

 

Leaves

Despite knowing the old saying” leaflets three, let it be”, there are other plants with similar three leaf configuration. Generally there is one leaf and the end and two below that which are side by side. They are normally 10-20 cm (2-4inches) in length, with toothed or lobed edges, although occasionally the edges can be smooth.

Of course when they are small, but still containing urushiol, they begin with two leaves only, so weeding in the front of a rural garden especially can be dangerous if gloves are not worn. In the spring, the new leaves are a reddish green colour, changing to deep green and then yellow, orange and red in the fall before dropping off.

 

 

Flowers

Despite having poison ivy in various locations at my cottage, I had not seen the flowers myself until recently when visiting my favourite beach. In full sun the shrub form had developed 2.5 to 7.5 cm (1-3inch) clusters of the small green flowers. The tiny 5 petal blooms are quite often hidden under the leaves themselves.

 

Poison Ivy flower

Poison Ivy flower

 

Fruit/seeds

Small flowers produce small seeds and these tiny white berries are round, hard and about 0.4 cm (1/8inch) that have ridges in them that make them appear to have segments like a peeled orange. Forming in the fall, the berries contain the seeds of the plant which are spread by the over 50 species of birds that eat them with no ill effects.

 

Poison Ivy Berries/seeds

Poison Ivy Berries/seeds

 

 

Toxicity

It is estimated that 85% of the population is sensitive to the urushiol toxin found in all parts of the poison ivy plant. Skin reactions range from a slight dermatitis called Rhus dermatitis, to blisters. These blisters result from blood vessels somehow developing gaps in response to the chemical in the oil and then fluid leaks through in to the skin.  The blister themselves do not contain the urushiol.  In severe cases these blister cause tissue damage and may need plastic surgery to repair. In extreme situations, anaphylaxis may occur.

If you believe you have bruised the plant and released the oil, wash the affected area immediately with soap and water. Rubbing alcohol will also remove the oil and now specific lotions are available at the drugstore. According to recent testing, there is a compound in crushed Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) that relieve the effects of recent contact with poison ivy in about 85% of people tested. Dermatologists recommend oatmeal baths and baking soda to relieve the itching and there are prescription cortisol based lotions for more severe cases.

Remember that all clothing and even tools need to washed down well in the same way, because the oil remains potent indefinitely and it will re-poison you.  Further risk comes from transfer by other animals and even of burning the plant. Dogs for example have some resistance due to their thick fur and the natural oils there, but can transfer it to their owners’ hands. Smoke from burning any and all parts of this plant contain the oils and can cause serious allergic reactions inside lungs of susceptible people.

Control

Controlling Poison Ivy is a challenge regardless of the affected area, because of its toxic oils. As a result, the number one thing to remember is to wear protective clothing. Cloth or leather gardening gloves are recommended over rubber as according to several sources, the urushiol is soluble in rubber. Even in the garden at the cottage I wear gloves as …surprise…poison ivy alert under the perennials!

 

Poison Ivy in my garden

Poison Ivy in my garden

 

If the poison ivy is a few plants, growing as ground cover, then carefully pulling them out with all the roots works. Then the plant needs to be discarded safely. I have a large plastic pail with a lid, and the smaller pieces go in there to die completely. After a month, once there is no sign of life, I dig a hole about one foot deep and bury them.

When poison ivy is growing on a larger scale, the task of control definitely becomes difficult. One suggestion for large mass plants is covering them over with tarps and soil so no light reaches these and they will die. Of course they need to remain covered for several years before it is safe to assume they are dead.

Shrub forms of poison ivy are very difficult to deal with. If the shrub is not too large, herbicide spray can be used. The newest generation of these sprays interfere in the plants photosynthesis when the leaves are saturated. It is important to wear protective gloves , face shield  and disposable gloves when using these products.

Controlling Poison Ivy is possible, however, even using herbicides that do not leach in to the soil, getting rid of it for good is highly unlikely. In addition, beware of home remedies that are dangerous, such as pouring salt or bleach all over them because the soil is then contaminated and the chemicals can leach in to the water table.

Summary

While contact with poison ivy can have toxic consequences, by wearing gloves in the rural gardens and watching vegetation you are walking through carefully you can minimize your risk. If you live in the country and have dogs, the chances are much higher you may contact it from their coats. In that case, having a knowledge of treatment including rubbing alcohol and lotions would be a good precaution.

 

 

 

Wildflowers in spring

Wildflowers in spring are found blooming everywhere just as our home gardens are trying to adapt to change. Woodlands are full of new shoots struggling to find the sun, petals and buds forming and finally many blooms open and share their glorious colour. In fact, in the cooler days of May, as my seedlings are adapting in the sun porch  the meadows and woodlands of Mother Nature are full of growth and blooms galore!

 

Trillium and poison Ivy

 

As we gradually condition our seedlings to the changes in temperature and light etc, nature has a communication system we are not directly connected to. Certainly when cooler weather hits, the seedlings in nature are already adapted somehow, as if by unspoken communication. Seldom do we see dandelions wither if a colder snap hits at night.

 

happy Dandelion

 

In fact, after centuries of adaptation, even wildflowers that return each year from seed propagation seem to be adapted in ways commercially sold seeds seldom do. Certainly the pampered conditions we give them to promote optimal growth in some way baby’s them, but  with the exception of some heartier seeds and ones that need cold to begin growth, commercial seeds seem to be less hardy.

Whether you are in warmer climates where your new plants are blooming and adapting well, or in cooler areas still waiting for warmer weather, a walk in the wild certainly  shows that wildflowers in spring are an array of amazing plants!

 

Unfurling Fron

 

With the arrival of new plants comes the fungal world as well. One such specimen was growing in plain sight, as if its brain like appearance was waving at me to take notice. In fact, it lead me to one of my previous posts from Oct 15/12 entitled Plant Family Classification. I was then reminded that Fungi is one of 5 Kingdoms that all living things are classified in to. Further investigation led me to a book called Mushrooms of Eastern Canada where I determined the odd living thing was a Yellow Morel.

Yellow Morel

Yellow Morel

 

Springtime in the woods certainly contains lots of other yellow, especially Dandelions ! Despite a dry spring this year, the Dandelion blooms were almost 2 4 cm or 1.5 inches across and the plants were several shoe lengths tall.

 

Dandelion face

 

 

bobbing Dandeions

 

Everywhere I looked they bobbed in the wind and new buds were forming. In fact, they begin their life cycle so early in the spring that many Dandelions had gone to seed stage, just awaiting the wind to carry those seeds.

 

Dandelion ...Wishes

Dandelion …Wishes

 

The woods held many plants I have yet to learn about as shown below. There are single spikey yellow blooms, shrubs with multiple white blooms and more.

 

Mysterious Wildflower     Multiple budded shrub

 

Plants were also discovered along wetland areas and one I had the joy to discover was the Jack-in-the -Pulpit. Hiding in the shadier areas along streams and riverbanks, this stately bloom is wonderful despite the rather sedate colouring.

 

Jack in the Pulpit

Jack in the Pulpit

 

Perhaps one of the loveliest wildflowers in spring , found in forest across Canada,are those of the lovely Trillium. Of course many people recognize the white Trillium as Ontario’s official flower emblem, but the smaller Red Trillium flowers are still lovely to discover.

 

Trillium Ontario's Flower Emblem

Trillium Ontario’s Flower Emblem

 

 

Red Trillium

Red Trillium

 

One such discovery I made gave me several surprises. First, while I was busy photographing a patch below some tall trees, I  had not noticed the plants were happily growing in a large spread of Poison Ivy!

 

Trillium and Poison Ivy

 

Then I thought I had discovered a mutant pink Trillium only to find out later that white blooms turn pinkish -purple when they are close to dying. This would explain the mixture of colours seen in the patch. What a treat to discover!

Thankfully the Poison Ivy did not contact my skin so no oils were transferred and no rashes appeared. Of course springtime in the woods does include Poison Ivy and other toxic and dangerous plants. Further discoveries of the roots were found weaving through the undergrowth as well as high over head in Pine trees.

Poison Ivy unfurling in a Pine tree

Poison Ivy unfurling in a Pine tree

 

Despite the toxic nature of many plants, they do exist and sometimes even are a sight to behold…whether their colour, shade, tenacity or other characteristics fascinate us, wildflowers in the spring are never disappointing and always reminds us of the awe inspiring   universe around us!

 

ben and stuff 368

 

 

 

Hardening off seedlings

Hardening off seedlings is a necessary step in preparing your new seedlings for the giant leap in to the wilds of your garden. For those of you new to the seed planting process and its steps, ‘Hardening off” is the name or term give to the steps that “harden” or toughen up seedlings, ensuring they survive their permanent move to their new outdoor conditions.

 

Tiny seedlings

Tiny seedlings

 

Hardening off  dates  depend on individual plants and checking the corresponding seed packages will give the best temperature and approximate date for planting them in the garden or outside planters.   Combining this information with the predicted spring temperatures for your region, will allow you to pick the best actual planting day. With this date as the final goal, hardening off seedlings should begin 7- 10 days in advance.

From the warm, moist environment under grow lights or on sunny window ledges, the seedlings need to be gradually exposed to the differences in ultraviolet levels and temperature. In addition there is the physical impact of wind, rain and even garden creatures that can affect their ability to firmly root in the garden. In addition to the changes the tiny plants will face, the structure of the stems and leaves needs to be toughened up.

 

Plants natural Defense Layer

Specifically the outer waxy layer of the seedlings’ stems and leaves, known as the cuticle, needs to thicken up to prevent seedling death. This protective substance is formed by the outer epidermal layers of the plant to keep the moisture in the plants as well as to minimize sudden changes in temperature. Basically its role is to provide a good barrier between the plant and the environment around it.

Part of Hardening off seedlings then is moving them gradually from the pampered state they live in under our care, to ensure they adjust well to a new harsher environment. According to resources, there are a few things that can be done inside to help the tiny plants begin to form thicker cuticle layers.

 

Cuticle thickening

Indoor plants in ideal conditions tend to have thinner outer layers and longer, thinner cell structures, both of which make them highly susceptible to breaking off in the wind, drying out quickly and wilting even due to temperature fluctuations.

Allowing the seedlings to dry out between watering is a simple method to force the cells to shorten up and form a thicker cuticle in response to  evaporation  and as the plant tries to prevent any further moisture loss.. In addition a fan or even gentle manual stimulation by hand of the stems and leaves also encourages more compact plants and thicker cuticle formation.

cuticle

cuticle

 

 

Hardening off Seedlings Schedule

As mentioned, hardening off seedlings can be timed to optimal outside temperatures based on information from seed packages, or simply following the weather patterns for your area and the generally accepted date for the last frost. In south-western Ontario Canada, the Victoria Day long weekend (approximately 15-20th of May), is considered the safe planting time for other than fall hardy plants such as the annual pansies and perennials. Seedlings of annual and most vegetables need to be adjusted for 7 – 10 days starting after May 1st

 

Hardening off Aids

1. Sun rooms or enclosed porches

2. Greenhouses

3. Cloches

4. Cold frames

 

Sun rooms or enclosed porches

Hardening off seedlings does not require additional equipment, but there are various versions of plant and seedling protectors, depending on whether you move them outside directly or place them closer to outdoors by moving them to a protected environment such as a glass encased back porch or sun room   If these areas are used, then moving the seedlings earlier is fine as wind, rain, pests, temperatures and light levels are still more regulated than directly transferring to outdoors.

 

Greenhouses

Greenhouses, of course, are a dream come true to many gardeners and the ultimate in starting and protecting seedlings.  Hardening off here can be done by opening the glass during the day and closing it at night to keep the heat in. Of course if the greenhouse itself has additional heating, this should be turned back over a few days and then turned off completely. If none of the glass (or plastic) panels can be opened, then hardening off seedlings must be done by gradually moving them outside in the same manner from inside the house or the porch.

Mini greenhouses with plastic protection are currently available at big box and other garden stores in a price range the average consumer can afford. These come in many sizes, with role up doors, windows and other types of vents. Smaller units even have wheels so they can be used inside or in a porch and be rolled out for gradual seedling adjustment and rolled back in the evening.

 

Portable greenhouse in sunporch

Portable greenhouse in sun porch

 

 Cloches

Cloches or bell jars originally made of glass have been used for hundreds of years, by the Italians, French (Cloche is French for Bell), Dutch and the English.  They speeded up plant growth, kept moisture in, as well as wind and bugs out. Their use in North America had decreased over the later part of the 20th century but has been gaining in popularity again.  Traditional glass cloches had no vent openings and could steam the seedlings if not removed early in the day.

With the invention of various types of plastic and the Do-It-Yourself movement, many other variations are currently available at local garden centres or by mail order. The internet provides directions for several homemade versions including plastic milk bottle cloches where the bottle top can be removed to prevent heat build-up. When using cloches of any type, then hardening off seedlings from inside still needs to be done in stages before permanently planting them, to ensure lighting changes promote good growth with no steamed leaves.

 

Victorian cloches in a walled garden

Victorian cloches in a walled garden

 

Cold frames

Cold frames are transparent lidded structures that are placed low to the ground, to protect plants against the elements. Although kits are available  generally most are home building projects with    wooden frames have a hinged old glass window or sheeted plastic top that can easily be propped open for ventilation during the day and closed at night.  Due to their size in a home garden, cold frames can be  easily moved to ensure optimal light and  generally constructed with a sloped lid also ensures good light and rain runoff.

 

a Typical Coldframe

a Typical Coldframe

 

Basically these cold frames are used as unheated green houses, although heating cable can be used in them.  The micro-climate provided her promotes good see germination and hardening off. In addition they are used to extend extending the growing season by leaving them in place with the top open all summer and then closing it in the evenings once the cooler weather returns. Whether from indoors or greenhouses can be done by moving them in to a cold frame before final in ground planting.

 

Hardening off Points

– Allow 7- 10 day adjustment period

– begin moving seedling s outside in the early morning

–  put them in a sheltered shady spot like under a tree for approx. 3 hours the first day

–  bring them back in at night

–  increase their outside exposure by 1- 2 hours a day

–  after 2-4 days move them to early morning sun with afternoon shade and in at night still

–  after 7 days they give all day sun and stay out when night-time temperature over 15°C

–  when 7-10 days have passed ,transplant seedlings in to the ground on a cloudy day

–  water well

 

Additional Notes:  Cold frames or Cloche use

–   if seedlings  are being relocated to the  them begin with the same approximate schedule

–   3-4 hours of open exposure in the shady area for a day or two for light adjustment

–   open lids or remove bell during the day and close/cover in the evenings

–   after 7-10 days seedlings can be planted into the ground and frame /cloche can be removed entirely

–  for veggie crop extension cold frame lid can be left open all summer and used as above in the fall

 

seedling in ground

Hardened off seedling happy planted in the  ground