Poison Ivy Spreading on Pelee Island

Poison Ivy spreading on Pelee island came as quite a shock to me! Poison ivy is not new to rural gardeners  and has been the subject of many an information search. This noxious weed has even been  mentioned in a few of my past blogs and  found intermittently in my cottage garden,so it certainly should come as no surprise that I have witnessed first hand that it can indeed spread widely! Still, never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that even on vacation I would find it… on an island!

Yes, I have currently visited Pelee Island and there the, rash inducing vine was  just waiting for me!  I was walking along enjoying the beautiful island scenery on a lovely sunny day, unaware of what lay below! Walking between the stones in the older section of the island’s cemetery, I saw one particular head stone had fallen over and a weed sticking out between the pieces. Thinking of respectfully clearing it away, I reached down only to catch myself in time to avoid touching the three leaves!

Point Ivy rest in Peace

 

After recovering from that surprise, I scanned other areas of the cemetery and noticed the Poison Ivy spreading to the point of taking over a family plot. Then of course there was more! Several trees had it climbing up their bark, it was growing in the sand and on the path at Fish Point Park…Canada’s most southerly point and it was on almost every walking trail! 

Poison Ivy spreading on Pelee Island

Now I was careful to walk, as the Buddhists would say, with mindfulness! My eyes were peeled to the ground around me as I walked in sandal-ed feet. Despite this green plaque, I did have a lovely time and would recommend visiting Pelee. On the horticulture front, there was an unusual site…that of some strange disease that left red bumps on the leaves of the poison Ivy. Could this be our salvation?

 

Poison Ivy with disease

 Poison Ivy Spreading on Pelee Island

I have decided that while there are many things that kill the toxic weeds in small patches, killing in large scale requires a great deal of work. What is not apparent with all sprays, blocking and cutting controls methods is the HUGE amount of patience and dedication required by the murderer ( alias the gardener)!

Surely if birds or contaminated soil brought the seeds to this island, how do we stand a chance against Poison Ivy spreading ? In fact, whether here in Ontario or our neighbours to the South, it seems the berries from poison ivy are an attractive food to a wide variety of birds .According  other sites I have read, over 50 species of birds are known to eat the small white round berries.

After further reading, I have come to realize that despite my personal run-ins with poison ivy, the rash, blisters and swelling, it is just another weed that can be controlled with lots of work. The biggest surprise was how interesting the information was on this particular plant is.

Many sites provide good information on how the birds transport the seeds. Stating that the non-digestible seeds are, passed out in to the soil and fertilized by the very birds that ate them, certainly explains the plants spread. I assume then, as Pelee Island and the surrounding area is on a major migratory route and home to vast varieties of birds, finding this Poison Ivy spreaad to an island shouldn’t have been a surprise.

Poison Ivy Friend

 

In fact the extent of this particular poisonous plant is from parts of Mexico in the south, in to the northern parts of Canada. Details provided in my searching say the plants can grow in most types of soil, from pH 6.0 to 7.9 (slightly acidic to slightly basic) and can tolerate moderate shade to full sun. Wow, it certainly is resilient!

One natural factor against the plant is high altitude as provided by the Rocky Mountains. The thinner air above 4000 feet seems to stifle these plants and to provide a physical barrier in both Canada and the U.S.A, with Poison Ivy on the east and poison Sumac in the west. Certainly nature does what it wants and like all perennial weeds, poison Ivy is determined to spread unless we work on controlling it.

Control and elimination are something that plaques many of us, especially if we have suffered with the rash, blisters and pain left by the urushiol from all parts of this plant .Yet, to the Japanese this oily compound is highly valued  as a finish  used  since the 16th century as the finish on their Lacquerware. The process they use is quite fascinating, but the source there is an urushi tree (Rhus vernicifera) which is becoming rare. At least with a tree, other trees would be safe from the clinging vine that eventually can strangle them and walking trails would be safer.

Despite any risk in my hiking on Pelee Island, the views and people there were lovely and I would recommend the ferry ride as well. From the most southern point of Canada, looking across the vast expanse of the sand point and the water beyond, the poison ivy spread  on Pelee Island was forgotten…and inspiration was supreme!

 

Pelee Island Fish Point Park

 

 

Other sources of information:

www.ontariotrees.com

 

www.oardc.ohio-state.edu/weedguide

 

Enhanced Species: Poison Ivy

 

www.stutler.cc/pens/wajima/urushi.html

 

Vertical Gardening

Vertical gardening is not a new subject to many gardeners. After all, there are hanging bags, pots and all manner of trellis systems available just for that purpose. However, on a recent lunch break walk at my workplace, I came across some really original means of vertical gardening!

These after lunch walks are a good way to burn off some extra blubber and a chance to check out the local neighbourhood gardens…sort of a mini garden tour! The blocks around the hospital in Toronto, where I work, are filled with larger brick homes that are built with their front porches all about ten feet or more above the city sidewalks.

Gardens there, are a fine example of vertical gardening and show a wide variety of landscape designs, using countless perennials and annuals. In fact, I found them so interesting I recently took my camera along to record some fascinating versions of  this gardening type.

vertical rock garden

Vertical planting and gardening design, or use of the upright spaces in your garden can be used in landscape planning in gardens of all sizes and purposes. While the steep front yards I see daily, provide limited gardening space, they also have the additional challenge of soil and water runoff due to the pronounced slopes. As I wander along the block, I see many mixtures of hard and soft landscaping, used to reduce this problem.

Several slopes have been professionally landscaped  with large interlocking stone retaining walls and a plant layout that incorporates evergreen shrubs and a variety of annuals and perennials as seen below.

A few homes have permanent retaining walls that provide a larger, space where the homeowners can do their own landscape planning. Two examples of this are the cool rock wall and the more functional cement block wall as the next photos show.

 

Others have a more casual approach with natural stone or flat slabs of rock such as field-stone, all of which are available at many garden centres.  In this landscape design, plants fill in the empty spaces to soften the overall look.

There are a wide assortment of plants suitable for use, from tuber rooted perennials such as Day-lilies to a extensive variety of tough rooted sedums, just to mention a few. In addition, annuals are often used for a pop of instant colour. Overall, the combination of hardscaping materials and plantings seem to be keeping the slope gardens in place quite fine.

 

Vertical gardening combination of Sedum and stone retaining wall

 

While the gardens at these homes seem to be doing well, lovely green lawns are few and far between. Certainly the gardening challenges here must be in keeping the finer roots of the grass in place, and moving on such an angle!  After working on my own lawn slope disaster I can certainly appreciate all the hard work of one homeowner as seen below.

Although all each of these home gardens had their own garden design and implementation issues, as a mini garden tour visitor, I merely get to enjoy the fruits of their labour. In addition I often make note of their design ideas for future use myself. In fact the vertical planting in these gardens triggered memories of similar gardens I had seen at many Canada Blooms.

Known of course for the amazing flowers and landscaping layouts in addition to so much more, this past April’s show featured the use of  climbing vines and clumping plants in a variety of structures I hadn’t seen before. One company designed their entire exhibit around old wooden skids or pallets as they are also known. From the sidewalk…or boardwalk to the walls and planters, the recycling of old in to the means of displaying beautiful, bright blooms, was fascinating!

 

Vertical gardening in skid wall

 

In addition to being a cool idea, I had three pine skids in my driveway no one wanted. Of course, with no directions on how to begin, they are still leaning against a tree, waiting for an inspiration to kick start me. Now that my garden had driven me to blog, I thought I should check out what was available on line. Eureka…below is the link to an article, complete with a picture and easy to follow directions for anyone to try their hand at vertical planting , turning one of these in to a planter! Away we go!

 

 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/organic-authoritycom/grow-it-vertical-diy-wood_b_1638489.html

 

Certainly trellis and other garden structures are part of good landscaping design, but they are not the only reason for growing up. After reading several articles and thinking of it from a common sense point of view, the vertical way of growing plants accomplishes several things. Growing raised plants saves on garden space and provides shade below if for example, grown on an open pergola. In addition, it exposes the plants to more sun and yields more flowers.

Recent trends use many surfaces to allow for vertical growth, even in backyard gardens where such vegetable crops as cucumbers are being grown above ground on chicken wire structures. Because the plants leaves are less crowded, more flowers bloom and more cukes are harvested.  According to the next site, many other climbing veggies can be grown this way as well.

 

http://www.mercurynews.com/home-garden/ci_20995828/master-gardener-letting-sun-solve-problem?source=rss

 

Remember, when designing your garden, even growing of tradition plants such as clematis, climbing roses and morning Glories can help add a cottage feel to your garden. Trellis, hanging containers and layers of window boxes and slotted wall growth also be part of vertical planting of any garden layout.

Besides the aesthetic, these gardening features can add a relaxing tone, create shade or distract from eyesores like garbage cans, air conditioners or even provide privacy screening from your neighbours. Any way you look at it, vertical gardening is an interesting subject that lends itself to many applications, and to much more exploration…ready, set, go!

 

Xeriscape Landscaping

Xeriscape Landscaping

Certainly after posting a blog or two about the sad shape of my lawn and garden, I began to wonder how that showed the inspiration I claimed my garden gave me. Of course the landscaping information revealed that I was indeed having fun, even if I was “downsizing” the gardens at home.

The front garden looked sad as the before picture below shows, neglect and soon to be blooming Goldenrod had turned the poor garden in to an orphan. As the weather on this particular day was at a cooler, more reasonable temperature, I decided I was up to the garden intervention!

 

Front Yard gone crazy!

Xeriscape Landscaping site in waiting!

 

With garden gloves firmly pulled on, a trowel and lots of muscle, I began to yank and dig my way through several yard waste bags full of weeds. Stopping only once, for a cool drink of water and to take a picture of my progress, I wasted no time in getting back to my beautification project.

 

HALF WAY THROUGH

HALF WAY THROUGH

After several hours, I stood back to see plants I knew and loved actually smiling through! Okay, at least I recognized the Gaillardia, the post flowering Peony, the Sea Holly, the tiny piece of Phlox and some Red Bee Balm. Now the tall grass rustled as the individual stalks had room to move after some brutal thinning out.

 

Front garden Extraordinaire!

Front garden Extraordinaire!

 

Of course some would argue that deconstructing a garden is not really landscaping but based on several definitions that is in fact what I did. If Landscaping as defined by the Encarta English Dictionary is “the enhancement of the appearance of land, especially around buildings, by altering its contours and planting trees, shrubs, and flowers”, then I indeed become a landscaper.

Included in the new landscaping design are Porportulacs Snapdragons and some Stachys Byzantina better known as Lambs Ears. To enhance their growing spirit and of course their vegetation, the dry, lifeless and dusty soil needed help! I added some Triple mix, turned it over and watered everything thoroughly. Then I mulched and watered again so the shredded bark wouldn’t wick away any of the valuable moisture from the struggling plants to avoid there being part of a Lunar Landscape that was out of this world!

Portulacas

Portulacas

Certainly the view through the walls of any dome of the future would be an Earthy one. But, by the time we explore the Moon in seriousness, I’d be too old for the position but it is fun to think of.Xeriscape Landscaping would indeed be a challenge but one I needed to tackle for the challenge itself and to fill the dry corner garden in front of my house.I do have experience at growing plants in dry, dusty, lifeless soil where potholes and rocks are common. In fact, that describes most of my gardens.

Despite the soil differences normally found between my house and cottage garden, this year thanks to very little rain and certainly neglect…they have the same lousy earth. Even as I drove past the farmers’ fields and homes, in this dry summer, I see dust blowing across some empty fields, and between rows of corn and other veggies.

Green plants were growing thanks to many pumps, wells, miles of pipe and huge agricultural watering system. Along the side of the roads I drove today, the scrub trees were beginning to dry and crunch as the lack of rain is showing. Despite the resemblance to the lunar landscape, with potholes, rocks, dry soil and no vegetation, fields that have been left to fallow for the season give us the reality check of how lifeless spaces can drag us down.

Even this fact is not lost on country homes both large and fancy to the small clapboard homes that have housed farming families for decades. I noticed that flowerbeds show life with coloured blossoms throughout their contours and even when no garden exists, a pot of marigolds or geraniums can be seen on the porch. Of course there are many landscaping features in place you’d least expect…wagon wheels. Tractor wheels and even old machine parts with vines growing on the. Then there are the gardens growing in bathtubs and even in wash tubs.

 

Washtub planter

Washtub planter

 

Certainly the plants in these containers, live well despite often being neglected in out of the way places, and not having their roots firmly set in Mother Earth. In other words, to make certain our vegetation survives we need to think “lunar” and go for drought tolerant plants. Actually this area of Horticulture is called Xeriscaping or Xeriscape landscaping and is gaining popularity.

Weeds are generally far more drought tolerant, thanks to their good root base, but as I am planning this design and not letting nature blow things in whilly nilly, some research is needed. Currently I know that Purple Coneflower and other members of the Echinacea family thrive and bloom well with little water. Other good low water plants are Bee Balm, Yucca, and all the Sedum family just to name a few.

Bee Balm

Bee Balm

Purple Coneflower
Purple Cone-flower

 

   

 

 

                                             

As I have mentioned in the past, both the library, bookstores and the internet are a great source of information on these and other  plants that thrive on little water. Listed below is one of the many sites I have checked out for lots of gardening information and more on drought tolerant plants.

www.torontobotanicalgarden.ca

Despite summers scorching heat and with many garden centres selling off the last of their stock, finding and planting these may be challenging. Still, if your summer will be centred close to the garden and a good end of season sale can be found, by all means give it a shot…if inspiration can come from even on sprout surviving and you are up for the challenge…take a chance at Xeriscape landscaping and turn in to something out of this world!

Future gardening site!

Spring’s bloom

 Springs’s Bloom

Perennial Daffodil

 

Inspiration can come to us from many things with results we may least expect out of the clear blue sky! Who knew this would happen for me recently when my garden’s rising shoots were the beginning of a new plant and a new idea that had never crossed my mind. While gardening guru I am not, certainly I have lots of experience in the field, in weeding lawns, gardens and wondering what that funny coloured bug was. As I type even now the question pops up… what words of wisdom could I share?

Wisdom, learning and sharing garden thoughts, joys and failures, certainly connects us and often makes us see the world from a brighter place. If nothing else it can make us look outside of ourselves, breathe a little deeper and relieve stress even for just a short while!

Spring’s bloom is a time to enjoy nature’s beginning without worry. After all, do plants stress about wearing the season’s latest styles, or if their blooms are big enough? No they just grow and provide pleasure for us and food for assorted bugs and often provide the inspiration needed for us to start our very own growth.

While seeing buds bloom and shoots grow might not be what inspires some to branch out, for some reason it was the muse I needed for a new start. Whether my blog takes off in any way to be as lovely as a flower is yet to be seen, but certainly it is my hope.

 

 

Trillium welcomes Spring

 

So far it may seem like yet another site, but I hope to peak your interest of gardens and nature with pictures, facts, hints and inspirations…all with a sense of fun! Certainly most of us can all use more fun in our stress filled lives and as we dream, plan and work in our lives and gardens. In fact, where would we be without all those parts of our lives…how could we bloom where we are planted, to quote an old saying.

Speaking of blooms, daffodils, hyacinths and tulips are up and ready to burst! Despite the unusual weather…from shorts in March and early April to parkas the next day, the poor defenceless plants and bulbs have survived! In fact, with the last of the snowflakes finally leaving us this week and the sun’s warming rays, there is a glorious crop of spring flowers along city streets and country roads and in awakening fields.

Spring’s bloom in the field of my country estate has tiny violets and other wild flowers coming to life. As I write this looking out over my garden, masses of deep purple and red tulips are just waiting for a bright sunny day or two to open. Okay, 1.8 acres does not an estate make, and the Ottawa Tulip Festival has nothing to worry about, but my tulips are lovely as you can judge for yourself.

Remember, there are flowers everywhere….just keep your eyes open…and enjoy!