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.

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.

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

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!

 

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Winter Garden Tour

Winter Garden Tours

Winter garden tours may seem like a dream unless you live in a warm climate, but today when the sun was out I decided to take a tour of my garden, with camera in hand.  Normally the weather would make this a rather chilly walk, but as the early morning sun and temperatures up to 9 º Celsius had melted the snow on most of my property  while others around were full of snow!

two seasons at once

two seasons at once

 

While this January has not yet seen the record -15º, with the exception of the Hellebore plant in my side garden, I expected everything to be frozen. To my surprise there were so many plants still alive, despite the -4 º temperature nights and warm almost Spring like weather during this unusually warm January in Canada.

 

Who know there would be a lovely green Fever-few (Tanacetum parthenium) plant nodding at me in the wind? In fact, there were parts of the old plant with new growth bursting forth in both the side and back gardens.

 

Feverfew

Feverfew

 

Close to the Feverfew, are the mixed red and green leaves of the Toad lily (Tricyrtis latifolia) which survives being previously buried in many inches of snow.

Toad Lily leaves and Blue Fescue

Toad Lily leaves and Blue Fescue

The snow in the front garden also was inches deep for several weeks, but not long enough or cold enough to kill off the small pink rose bush that bloomed there all summer and was now an inspiring part of my winter garden tour. While there are no flowers, there quite a few dark green leaves and even a rose hip that waved as a reminder of past glory!

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Past the front and through the side gate, leading to the north side yard, revealed even more winter surprises. First my eyes fell on the lovely green crinkled leaves of a Primula, easily recognized despite none of the yellow flowers being evident.

Primula

Primula

Representing the wildflower family, not to be outdone, was one Golden rod.  Bouncing in the wind, its tiny yellow flowers made a statement, despite not displaying their brilliant summer colour. Buried also in the snow, but not down for the count, was a wild weed Geranium (possibly a Dovefoot Geranium).

 

Goldenrod

Goldenrod

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wild Geranium

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I walked completely around to the rock garden as my winter garden tour continued, under the huge Spruce tree, I found buds forming on the heather plant (Calluna Vulgaris) that in early to mid summer would be filled with lovely, tiny, pink blooms.

 

my Heather in bud

my Heather in bud

Heather in bloom

Heather in bloom

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beside this was a Chrysanthemum plant fiercely growing new green leaves, despite the dried flower bud still attached!

 

 struggling Chrysanthemum

struggling Chrysanthemum

 

Not to be outdone was the lovely evergreen fern Dryopeteris erythrosora (Autumn fern).

 

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 Last, but not least, was a Heuchera key lime pie that didn’t seem to mind the cold at all!

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Today, despite the return of real winter weather and -10 º weather the Hellebore is happily bobbing its head and I am bundled up, remembering my inspiring winter garden tour while dreams of seedlings run through my head.

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Poinsettia Plant

 

 At Christmas time here in North America, the Poinsettia plant is a common sight almost everywhere you look. Hardware, department and even corner stores, all carry a wide variety of this brightly coloured plant. Then there are plastic replicas, cards, wrapping paper, brooches, earrings and assorted jewellery . Never have I seen one plant so recognized by gardeners and non gardeners alike.

 

assorted colours

assorted colours

Then, as a gardener, I am embarrassed to say how little I know of this plant except how to care for it. Certainly I know it likes to be evenly moist and likes lots of light, to keep the plant firm and healthy. Then there is the darkening process required to get the lovely colourful flower, which I once successfully did, even if I started so late the pale red petals come out in February, making it a Valentine’s Poinsettia.

 

Right now, there are two different colour specimens of  the  Poinsettia plant, in my living room, and even an all green one that is celebrating its one year anniversary at my workplace. Recently when watering that plant, someone asked me where it came from and of course I replied form the cafeteria, where they tired of it in January.  Then I began to wonder where this plant originated and I realized I had another plant for my inspiration.

 

History of Poinsettia Plants

Poinsettia plants, proper name Euphorbia Pulcherrima, which translates to “most beautiful Euphorbia” and is part of the Spurge Family of plants. Largely composed of herbs, this family contains a wide variety of plants including some shrubs, trees and succulents, in tropical areas.  I was unable to determine who discovered this plant and when that happened but it is known the Aztecs used it in the 14th-16th Century.

 

The plant was throughout their habitat region in Central America and tropical regions of Mexico. Record show the plant was part of their daily lives in addition to being beautiful. The sap from the leaves and stems was used to reduce fever and the red coloured leaves found around the flowers, were used as a dye.

 

Traditional Red Poinsettia

Traditional Red Poinsettia

As the 16th century began to draw to a close, legend and fact become mixed. Certainly it is know that the Poinsettia plant, know there as “Noche Buena”, meaning Christmas Eve, was used in Mexico as part of Christmas tradition . From the 16th century the plant was used in Mexico as part of the Christian Christmas Celebrations and that continued in to the 17th century, with the Spanish Conquest of the area. Then the Franciscan Friars also continued to use it, in celebrations and Spanish botanists began to study it.

 

Further research reveals that between 1825- 1828,  the colourful poinsettia  plant was introduced in to the United States from its native growing areas along the Pacifica Coast of Mexico and Central America, by Joel Roberts Poinsett, the United States Minister to Mexico at the time. He sent these plants to President Andrew Jackson for a Christmas display at the White House, where they were named there in his honour. Since then, the plant’s role in Christmas tradition spread throughout the United States and Canada.  In Mexico and Guatemala the plant is still referred to as “Noche Buena”, meaning Christmas Eve.

 

History records that this brightly coloured plant was shipped to Egypt around 1860 and that it is still cultivated there to this day. In this area of the world the plant is called “Bent El Consul”, “the consul’s daughter”, referring to the U.S. ambassador Joel Poinsett.  Perhaps the strangest part of the history of this plant is the legend that follows it.

 

Poinsettia Legend

Legends told over the years do vary, as word of mouth is not the most reliable of ways to record history, but there are some constants that come through each telling of this plant’s legend. During the 16th century the tale records that two small, children, from a very poor family watched all manner of Christmas celebrations in the village. One of these ceremonies was the setting up of a manger scene in front of the church.

 

After the manger was set up people came with gifts to place before the crèche. With nothing to give, these two children decided to pick plants for along the roadside to decorate the crib for Baby Jesus.  The children placed these weeds at the manger and before long everyone teased them about their gift, but on Christmas morning the weeds had bloomed in to beautiful red star shaped flowers of the Poinsettia Plant.

 

The moral of this story was that giving from the heart is the most important and true way to give. Of course one of the Aztec name for this plant was flor que se marchita translated to the flower that wilts) and gardens know that the  noche buena  or Poinsettia wilts within a few minutes after it is cut, making it unsuitable for bouquets…so if the legend was true, it really was a miracle!

 Anatomy of Poinsettia

This family of flowering plants is composed of approximately 300 genera and 7,500 species of flowering plants.  One  thing this family shares is an unusual flower cluster composed called  cyathium , which is a cuplike group of modified leaves enclosing a female flower and several male flowers.

In fact, what we think of as the Poinsettia flower is really the modified leaves called bracts. These bracts serve several purposes. First, they protect the poinsettia’s true flowers, which are the tiny (4-5 mm) greenish-yellow buds in the centre of the bracts.   Also the bright red colour attracts pollinating insects to the little flowers.

 

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tiny yellow flowers

 

 

In addition to the attraction we have to the bright red colours of this plant, most people are also aware of the misconception that the sap of this plant is poison. While the plant does have a thick milky sap, or latex, that is known to be a skin irritant, studies have shown that their toxicity is greatly exaggerated!

 

Eating or ingesting any part of  a Poinsettia Plant will cause digestive problems of cramps, nausea with diarrhea, especially in serious cases. One article I read said in dogs the sap irritates mouth and stomach. Even poison control centre in the United States determined a small child would have to eat over 500 leaves before it would become toxic.

 

A general precaution, with Poinsettia’s and all plants, is to keep them out of easy reach by pets and children alike.

 

Poinsettia care

Poinsettias require little care to thrive through the Holiday season. Water them when the soil feels dry to the touch, but do not over water or the leaves, both green and red, will turn yellow and fall off.

The plant likes lots of direct sunlight, as they did come from  a tropical area, it makes sense.  If the Poinsettia is part of a scene or display that is not close to a window, then moving it occasionally to a bright window for even a few hours, will help the bracs keep their bright red colour.

Regular house temperatures  are tine for this plant but be aware it is sensitive to cold drafts and being too close to cold windows.

 

After season Care

Many people discard this plant after the Christmas season, however many gardeners keep this plant and hope they can force it to recolour in the fall.

Basically keep watering the plant through the spring and then place in a sunny window. If the plant begins to get scraggy, leave a branch intact for food production and trim the other back.

Once the last frost is past, the poinsettia can be planted in the garden. New growth in both cases will be deep green and the size of the plant may get out of control so cutting back will be required. Regular fertilizing with a good general purpose brand is also a good idea.

One the summer is past and the weather begins to cool, the challenge of forcing the Poinsettia plant bloom and bracs, becomes the challenge. Starting Oct 1, the plant needs total darkness from 5 p.m to 8 a.m ( 12-14 hours in total) and still good light during the day.  This is required for about 10 weeks until the end of November when you should notice buds forming.

Suggestions:

 A black plastic bag works well. Put the plant in the bottom and merely pull the bag up and twist tie it closed over the plant. In the morning drop the bag down around the bottom of the plant.

If you have a deep, dark cupboard that the plant can be moved in to that will also work  but remember any stray light during this resting period can impact forcing the bloom.

lovley plants

Fall Country Fairs

Fall county fairs

Fall county fairs are everywhere …as nothing says fall like a country fair. In fact the sights, sounds, and smells found there are a reflections of the variety and hard work of local farmers and craftspeople throughout the province. Of course there are rides, candy floss, games of chance and an wide variety of things to eat.

 

Whether it be the rides, the animals,the plant competition or food, there is something for every one.Of course everyone loves something different about fall county fairs, but one of my favourite is to check out the livestock, especially the horses!

 

 

Fall county fairs also have a great deal of gardening displays and in formation. In fact, the Horticulture building has a huge variety of growing things to check out. Frequently there are  plant and design competitions and a wide variety of new annual and perennial plants ideas  for us to try ourselves.  I just looking at the perennial and annual blooms in the competition  inspires me to consider new garden layouts and plants that I can apply to my garden in the spring. In fact there are so many growing things, that they even decorate commercial booths set up around the fairgrounds!

 

Horticulture Building

Fall country fairs would not be complete without a trip to the Horticulture building. There, as mentioned, plants bloom, grow and often amaze! In fact one house plant, the Coleus had many entries in the competition there and the winner was so large, my tiny one at home would  barely measure up…time for me to consider some good organic fertilizer!

 

Coleus in Competition

 

Of course the unusual use of common items can also provide humour as well as beauty!

 

Fall country fairs have the unique mix of farm and city type of growth in that a wide variety of vegetables and house/garden plants are arranged together in many unique ways.

 

 

Vast amounts of Veggies

Fall country fairs also display the widest variety in type and size that I have ever seen. The images below are merely a small sampling of what can be seen.

                                                                                        

                                            

Fall Fairs' vast veggie display

Fall Fairs’ vast veggie display

 

 

 

 

 

                                         Pumpkins to grow Next Summer?

1600 lb Pumpkin

Goldenrod and the Fall Family

Goldenrod and the fall family of plants lend lovely colour to any fall day. Yet,with the arrival of cooler temperature, all many of us can think about when looking at the gardens coming to rest, is the long list of things to be done before the arrival of winter. In fact, I even wrote an article on my chores list, which is hanging nicely on the fridge door, waiting for me to tick things off.

While I have trimmed the shrubs along the driveway and tackled the honeysuckle that was threatening to leave the trellis and head for the neighbouring pine, very little else has been done. When time is available I am currently sitting on the front porch soaking up the warm sunshine and admiring the two pots of mums there.

Not to be outdone are the glorious purple Asters standing tall and waving their heads in the wind. These blooms are just another example of inspiration personified, as the plant traveled from the wildflower patch behind my cottage several years ago, to my city garden.

 

As hybridization of wildflowers to domestic species, plants are acclimatized from countries around the world and xeriscaping becomes more popular, once common field flowers like Goldenrod and the fall family are spreading to gardens everywhere. Certainly one example I have grown personally is Goldenrod, which grows in mass behind my country home as well as in the front and back in  the gardens of my permanent urban residence.

 

In fact, recently a city dweller went past my tall stand of yellow blooms and proceeded to tell me that despite being pretty, I should not be growing it “as people are allergic to it.” In defense of the wrongfully blamed plant, I proceeded to give her a mini lecture based on information I read, as a hay fever sufferer.

 

Goldenrod Pollen

 

Goldenrod’s pollen is heavy and sticky and can’t be blown by the wind . In fact the bright yellow need to attract insects to spread the plants pollen. On the other hand, Ragweed’s pollen is lightweight and spreads easily in the breeze. Combine this easy of movement with the larger number of spikes in its surface and it is easy to understand why Ragweed is considered the main respiratory irritant of hay fever.

 

www.gpnc.org/goldenro.htm

 

Despite having this information, I had little else to add except bees, wasps and other assorted bugs love the flowers. In fact, until I took several photographs of the yellow flowers, I had no idea of the mass of tiny buds that each golden stem or rod contains.

 

Golden Rod

 

When I explored further I found that this “wildflower” with many species, has been prized as a garden plant in British gardens and now in American ones since about 1980. But in many other countries including China and Germany it has become an invasive species that is causing problems with the areas natural habitat.

 

With a natural habitat consisting of both domestically grown plants and now some wild country relatives, my garden has become a family affair. In fact, when I checked in to the “Family” and Genus of both the Goldenrod and the Aster, I was surprised to learn that they too belong to family Asteraceae , as did the Chrysanthemum in my last Post.

 

 

Certainly I can see the similarity in the bloom of the star shaped mini-petaled Aster and the more heavily laden Mums, but the tiny florets of the Goldenrod  and fall family, seen entirely unrelated until I read further on this Family.

Asteraceae are mostly  herbaceous plants, but there are also some shrubs, trees and even climbers in the family. One characteristic the plants in this family share is something called inflorecence. Here is where I got the connection as inflorescence is a group of cluster of flowers  arranged on a  stem, main branch or group of branches. Chrysanthemums, Asters and Goldenrod all have flowers that are grouped along a naim stem of smaller stems off the main one.

 

Golderod Florets

 

 

According to data there are 41 invasive weeds worldwide that are classed as Ragweed plants, all of which are also part of the big Asteraceae family. The flower clusters along the stems in this case are not pretty as they do not need to attract insects to spread their pollen. On a dry windy day is it estimated that this wind-borne pollen is transmitted many Kilometers. In addition, each plant is estimated to be able to release over a billion grains of pollen in the late summer through fall which spread the plants growth and makes it the number one allergen of Hay Fever.

 

Ragweed

 

Armed with a picture of one big Fall Family in my head,  I decided reading more about what characteristics this family has was a good idea. However, further reading on plant classification  and trying to connect the dots between family, genus, species, etc, revealed an overwhelming amount of information. Of course not only was it fascinating, but it was very complicated with one thing leading to another, as if the seed of an idea has sprouted more branches and definitions than my poor brain can comprehend.

 

One thing I did get was the plant world is composed of families where the plants are not all the same size, shape or colour but they share a set of growing conditions. Keeping this in mind as I continued to read, helped me to relate this to humans across the world and the differences that make up our one global family.

 

Goldenrod and Fall  family of flowers  provide not only lovely blooms but also the inspiration for further research in to the nomenclature of botany .Certainly my condensed version  will amount to shrinking all the information on the evolution of life, in to a few hundred words…but that’s another post to write…think I’ll give it a go!

 

 

 

Chrysanthemums

All along my street  this fall I notice gardens  blooming with sedum, tall grasses, Zinnias, roses and then of course there are the hardy Chrysanthemums. Now that the extreme heat and humidity of summer has passed, leaving much more pleasant weather for us to enjoy, it is as if the plants recognize it as well. Fall flower gardens are amazing!

 

 

Chrysanthemums, or mums to most gardeners, have been on my mind lately as pots of them are everywhere you look. Whether it is a local mall garden centre, a nursery, hardware mega store or even a small local department store, there are racks of their brightly coloured blooms.

Recently I rode my bicycle past yet another garden where they were bursting in to bloom, and realized how little I know  about this well know and lovely fall plant? Just where did these mums come from originally and how did they end up on in our gardens?

 

Potted Mums

Years ago I regularly watched a show on HGTV called Flower Power that explored these and many more questions. In each episode the host, who was and still is a well known garden expert, would present a synopsis on a different flower. I also enjoyed the photography of the plant’s country of origin as well as its many varieties.

While I am not an expert, with many gardening resource books and the internet at my finger tips investigation should be a breeze. Perhaps now is the time for another plant   adventure, inspired by many gardens this time, not just my own.

 

Chrysanthemums

 

Chrysanthemums or mums are herbaceous perennial flowering plants that are native to Asia and northeastern Europe. They are related to marigolds, zinnias, dahlias and sunflowers, by being from the same family Asteracea. Originally cultivated in China as a flowering herb, as early as the 15th century B.C, it is believed the early forms were Chrysanthemum Sinese and Chrysanthemum Indictum. In addition to a wide variety of uses the blooms were incorporated in to their artwork and are still to this day.

 

Chrysanthemum indicum

Chrysanthemum Sinese

 

 

 

 

 

 

While I was unable to determine the range of this flower and its spread, records say the flower was brought to Japan sometime in the 8th century. There it took on as equally prestigious status as in China, by becoming an important symbols used widely in festivals, and artwork. In fact, they were embraced by the Emperor as his official seal in the 12th century and it remains even now a symbol of the Japanese Imperial Family. In addition, during the 18th century Japan created the Grand Order of the Badge of the Chrysanthemums.

 

Imperial Seal of Japan

 

The name Chrysanthemum was given to this plant genus in the 17th Century with its spread throughout Europe, by the Swedish naturalist Carolus Linnaeus. Linneaus is considered to be the father of modern plant classification. The name Chrysanthemum is derived from the Greek word Chrynos which means “gold” and the word Anthemon which means” flower”. The original flowers were small, yellow blooms,as shown above but exploration eventually revealed about thirty species that were documented.

Chrysanthemums extended through Europe and to North America. In 1846 the Stoke Newington Chrysanthemum Society was formed, becoming the National Chrysanthemum Society in 1884. In addition to meetings etc, they held three shows yearly at the Royal Aquarium in London until 1902 and then at the Crystal Palace. Despite interest in the Chrysanthemum in North America, I found no information on society’s formation until the 1940’s

Read more: http://www.nationalchrysanthemumsociety.co.uk

 

1902 Garden Show Poster

Plant Description

General

The many varieties, colours etc. are vast, to an ordinary gardener these plants are separated in to two groups, the exhibition plants grown primarily for floral arrangements and the hardy plants grown by gardeners across Canada. The plants range in height from about 15 cm to 150 cm with deeply lobed leaves.

Bloom

The flowers have been classified internationally in to 13 different bloom forms including daisy-like, pom-pom, spiders and the more traditional garden variety of single and double blossoms. The more exotic and taller varieties require more stringent conditions of temperature and care, including staking due to their height. Generally these are commercially raised to show off in florist bouquets and for Chrysanthemum enthusiasts up to the challenge.

Mums primarily bloom in lovely shades of bronze, lavender, white, pink, purple red and yellow. Of course, as new hybrids are developed, the variety of sizes, blooms, shapes and colours grow.

 

 

http://www.plant-care.com/hardy-chrysanthemums.html

 

Plant Usage

Ornamental

The chrysanthemums are the second most popular flower sold after the Rose. With thousands of cultivars in different colours, heights petal size and formation there is something for everyone. The garden hardy mums survive in zones 3-9, produce lots of small blooms and require no staking. The exhibition varieties are grown primarily by collectors and for the Florist industry, requiring much more detailed care.

The variety of colours, hardiness even of individual flowers from the small pom-pom to the larger exotics is one of the reasons this flowering plant is so popular. Once cut, the chrysanthemum flowers have an excellent survival time which makes them an excellent choice for all types of flower arrangement. In fact mums are often the flower of choice for sculptural elements in flower shows for example.

 

 

 

 

 

Culinary

Both the leaves and flowers are used for seasoning in several ways throughout the world. Flowers are used in many Asian countries to make tea, flavour rice wine and to add aroma to soup. Tiny flowers are also used as a garnish and the leaves are boiled and eaten as greens.

Insecticide

If you use environmentally safe insecticides, you may have seen the word Pyrethrin on the label. Pyrethrin, from crushed Chrysanthemum seed, is an organic compound used in a liquid, oil or powder form, as an insecticide. Specific to the nervous system of insects, this compound kills or repels most plant insects, while being far less toxic to birds and mammals than many synthetic insecticides.

Environmental

While we all know mums as well as all flowering plants brighten up both gardens and any room they are placed in, NASA took things one step further. They included this plant in their Clean Air Study and determined Chrysanthemums were one of the top 10 plants most effective in removing Formaldehyde, Benzene, and Carbon Monoxide from the air inside a building.

 

Medicinal

Alternative medicine maintains there are many medicinal health benefits from the Chrysanthemum, especially when steeped in to a tea. Traditional Chinese medicine promotes the tea as a great way to prevent sore throats and fevers of a cold and to lessen the symptoms when you have a cold. In Korea they use it as a stimulant to keep you awake, while Western holistic and herbal medicine touts the tea as a treatment for atherosclerosis and varicose veins.

Externally the steeped flowers are squeezed to remove excess water and then used as a compress to treat a variety of eye ailments such as dry or itchy eyes, blurry or diminished vision as well as the reducing the inflammation of acne.

While studies have shown some effectiveness to these treatments, more data is needed for most traditional medicine doctors. In addition, adverse reactions to consuming and even handling chrysanthemums have been recorded. Symptoms range from upset stomachs to skin rashes, while the vast majority of people have no reaction what so ever.

Read more: Health Benefits of Chrysanthemum Tea | eHow.com

 

Summary

Summing up the centuries of history, lineage, usage and beauty of Chrysanthemums really is impossible, therefore I won’t attempt to. Instead I’m going to fill my car up with beautiful mums and take them home. Then no matter where I sit in my garden their lovely blooms will brighten my day…and I can imagine a Buddhist monk watering his plants generations ago, on a sunny porch in Tibet!

 

 

Fall Garden Plans

Fall Garden plans

Sitting on my back patio with the sun shining on my face is certainly a lovely way to enjoy a warm September afternoon. Not to be outdone are the flower blooms that wave in my general direction. With each view, I try to hold the moment, all too aware of how fast life moves and how much our need to take charge pushes things forward, often too fast to treasure.

Yes, soon enough the cooler weather will be here, accompanied by a long list of gardening chores to be done. Of course there always seems to be the need to do everything in the correct timeframe add so much pressure that I usually get stressed out and forget something that really needs to be done, like digging up my Dahlias before  the arrival of hard frost.

 

White Dahlia

 

Red Dahlia

 

 

 

 

 

 

As a result I have decided to do first is to list items I should do or need to do. Then from this list, I think I will number the chores with numbers perhaps from 1 to 4 in order of importance. Of course, as with most things in life, what is important to each individual person may vary.

In fact, as I valiantly dig up my Dahlia tubers and begonia corms each fall, I know of at least two fellow gardeners who let them rot and replant them each spring. Their explanation to me was they had little time and could afford the replacement costs. With time often being a precious commodity, I certainly understand this point of view but for myself, a thrifty person, I prefer to save money and enjoy the blooms I have grown to love from year to year.

Sedum Autumn Joy growing in sidewalk crack

Preparing Fall to do list

If you have a fall routine or set pattern that works for you year to year, then you are ahead of the game. For the novice or over extended gardeners, perhaps  starting a   “ to do list “, and posting it front and centre on your fridge or bulletin board  for further updates would be a good idea. Don’t forget to mark the importance to you. I have marked only a few now but will update that later.

Here, in no particular order, is the start of my list:

Trim shrubs back         *1

Cut seed heads off plants for saving or discard

Weed

Fix garden edging

Mark site and colours of Begonias, Gladiolas and Dahlias      *1

Bag up yard waste

Clear away base of trees and mulch them

Mulch gardens

Consider fall lawn treatments

Add compost/organic matter to gardens

Planning and planting new spring flowering bulbs

Fall planting  of garlic?

Garlic Clove

 

Review

While your list of fall garden tasks may look different, I hope this one helped get you started. Certainly there are many more suggested things that I have left off my list that will be added as I go and the weather gets colder. Below are several good resources to check out. With their suggestions in mind I will add to my fridge.

www.lanscapontario.com

 

www.canadiangardening.com

 

In fact I forgot to put down clean garage and garden shed where empty pots, planters and window boxes can be over wintered…not to mention storing the lawnmower. While the list seems endless, we only have so much time, so keep that in mind or if funds permit hire a landscaping company to do some of the heavier work. Another option is getting family help which would be a good way to spend time together and ensure the fall garden list is complete before the colder weather hits.

Maple leaf in Fall Colours

 

No, I will not be discussing winter, when Mother Nature is still blessing us with lovely summer like daytime. Of course as the annuals are still blooming, and the perennials to, something I read that could extend the growing season is fall vegetable planting.

Fall vegetable planting

A recent article I read suggested planting veggies such as cabbage which has a 30-60 day maturity and is hearty until frost. In fact cabbage outer leaves can wither in a light frost and the main head would still be fine. Further research has also suggested   other vegetables such as kale, Swiss chard, beets and even radishes could be planted early in September, of course, depending on our climate zone. One site also suggested herb seeds can also be fall sown as well and of course in locations such as B.C that has a more moderate climate, even some varieties of lettuce can be grown outside.

 

seeds

Fall Seeding References

www.your-vegetable-gardening-helper.com

 

www.canadiangardening.com

Check out; What to plant in the Fall and 16 essential Fall garden tasks

 

There are so many suggestions, books and sites to read that I find it overwhelming. As you read any and all information, again you need to prioritize for your time and what  applies to your garden space. Of course after reading about essential falls chores I have found more to do, but in keeping with the seed planting, I think I will look through my seed collection or go to a local nursery and look for seeds of hardy annuals I can put in the garden to over winter before spring weather releases them.

 

Suggested seeds of annuals that benefit from fall sowing are such as sweet peas, mallow, pansies, larkspur, ornamental cabbage and snapdragons as well as any plant that is listed as hardy annual on seed packs or in catalogues. In addition, pansies and ice pansies can be planted now and in addition to braving the cold later falls temperatures, they arrive in the coolness of spring often before the bulbs bloom.

Pansy

Sod it now

Lawns do much better started in fall. The cool air temperatures reduce evaporation and slow foliage growth, giving the roots time to dig in. Typically, lawns sown or sodded in fall grow just enough to look good, but really show their strength the following summer when, thanks to a deep, well-established root system, they breeze through summer droughts. Sod or sow lawns at least eight weeks before the first killing frost.

 

Plant a tree

 

Many trees and shrubs do well when planted or transplanted at this time of year. Both deciduous trees and evergreens can be planted until quite late in the fall. However, according to www.treecanada.ca   poplars, willows, ash, elms, and birches tend to overwinter better if planted in the spring. Further information can also be found on the sites previously mentioned, and at local nurseries. While you are there, check out tree, shrubs, perennials, bulbs and even seed stock.

Remember, anything planted now still needs to be watered well so they can adjust at first and the ground around needs to have a good moisture content to ensure a good start when spring comes. Wait, watering is not on my list but a dry fall can certainly make new growth difficult for all gardens and lawns trying for a new start after winter.

 

Summary

With fall approaching it may seem like the end of gardening season, as I have shown, there is still a good deal of life and planting that can be done. In addition, while the list of fall chores may seem daunting, try to allocate a chore with the time you have at that moment. If you have an hour on a sunny warm autumn day, use it to plant or trim a small plant rather than take on a large job such as mulching which takes much more time and can add frustration to an otherwise lovely day.

Remember Fall or Autumn is merely another season to be enjoyed…plant an ice pansy, plan a bulb garden, or just enjoy a Mum or two…and be inspired!

 

 


Potted Mums