Hellebore Plant or the Christmas Rose

Hellebore Plant or the Christmas Rose

Recently, while hurrying in from shopping just before my celebration of Christmas, I was amazed to find a plant in bloom despite the cold winter temperatures. In fact with night time getting to -3 Celsius and highs during the day of +2, most of the plants in my garden have long died or frozen. Certainly the white blooms that bobbed in the cold winter winds caught my eye and then after a few pictures, led me to check on this plant which was new to my garden and whose name I remembered to be  Hellebore plant or the Christmas Rose.

 

Day before Christmas garden surprise

Day before Christmas garden surprise

 

Hellebore Plant general Information

This Genus of plants, from the Ranunculaceae (or buttercup) Family, are early-flowering, generally poisonous perennial plant that has large divided leaves. According to folklore hellebore was used in 585 BC. , to poison the Greek city of Kirrha’s water supply, leaving the troops weak with diarrhea and unable to defend  the city  and it is even suspected in the death of Alexander the Great.

Native to much of Europe and parts of Asia, these plants are found naturally growing in areas of England, Spain, and Portugal. They also grow wild along the northern coast of Turkey with the greatest concentration in the Balkans. In North America, based on plant temperature zone, these plants are grown successfully hardy from as low as Zone 4 to the warmer zone 8.

The Hellebores, originally 16-20 species, were valued for their winter and early spring flowers and still are today.  Classic species were known for their drooping white, pink, dark purple, sometimes green flowers on plants which generally grew 12-15 inches tall. These flowers are made up of 5 petals that are not typical, but are unique modified sepals that support the real flower which is in the centre of the “petals”. The hellebore’s real flower is a ring of small cup like petals called nectarines.

sepals and nec

sepals and nectaries

 

Nectaries are special cup or tubular like petals that contain glands that secrete nectar to entice insects, especially bees. This sugary substance not only provides an important food source for the bees in cooler weather, but attracts them for the purpose of pollinating the plants themselves. Both the nectaries and the sepals last a long time and then fall of similarly to petals falling off a rose.

Species/Hybrid colours

Highly valued for their colder weather flowers, Hellebores are now grown and planted with increasing popularity. As a result originally with 20 species, now breeders have begun hybridization of the original 20 species to mass produce an increasingly wide variety of plants with different colour blooms and petal combinations, including double flowered varieties. Now colours range from dark purple through to different shades of green, with multi -toned and even speckled blooms. Of course there are still many amazing single bloom specimens too!

 

solitary bloom

solitary bloom

bloom in snow

bloom in snow

 

 

 

 

 

 

H. Argutifolius or Corsican Hellebore is widely grown for its pale green star shaped flowers and leathery foliage. In my garden, I have the very popular Hellebore Plant or the Christmas Rose, official known as H. Niger. This plant white has pure white flowers in winter, specifically near Christmas  In fact, the blooms on mine opened the day before Christmas and now are covered in snow, barely alive on this January 1, 2013.

 

Boxing Day after storm

Boxing Day after storm

 

H. Orientalis, which is commonly known as Lenten Rose based on the plant’s seasonal flowering time near Easter, has flowers that range from white to creamy yellow. Originally found in the Ukraine, this species is not commonly found in gardens, but is used to create new subspecies due to its hardiness and the ease of which it adapts to new colour formations. Currently the Orientals and hybrids are increasing in popularity and they are seen in gardens everywhere.

 

 

Hellebore Orient

Hellebore Orient

 

 

Growing Hellebores

Hellebores are readily found at your local garden centres or perhaps you are lucky enough to have a friend who will split you off a starter plant in late spring or early fall. The plant may be added to your garden in the summer as well, but as they prefer shade and consistent levels of moisture they will need much closer attention if that is your planting time.

 

Requirements

Moisture

Hellebore plants can grow in any type of soil, but thrive best in soil that is well draining as they do not like to have soggy roots. Once established however Hellebore plants are quite drought tolerant. In addition, they like soil is rich in nutrients, especially organic matter.

Soil

Before planting anything, knowing your soil type is important.  If you want a complete analysis of your soil, there are test kits for general info and site where it can actually be sent away for a complete breakdown in to elements such as Sodium (Na+) etc. For most of us, knowing if the soil is sandy or clay in composition as well as the basic pH, that is good enough.

If you have heavy clay soil, adding some grit, such as sand and mixing them together well with organic matter will provide better drainage as well as basic nutrients. For sandy soil, adding some heavier clay based soil or clay pellets will help prevent the water from running through too quickly.

pH

In either case, it is reported in quite a few articles, that Hellebore plants prefer alkaline soil. This means earth with a pH of over 7.0. However, unless you know the pH of your soil, adding too many additives can cause more problems than it solves. One article I found stated they preferred 7.0 which is in fact a neutral pH and says Hellebores grow fine near evergreens. Evergreen trees and their fallen needles make the soil pH lower than 7.0, but should not be a problem.

Again, testing for pH can be done with a kit purchased at many garden centres. If you need to bring it up, dolomite Lime is suggested and to lower the pH, sulphur is recommended. Certainly checking with the garden centre  were you buy these  products  is best before adding, as the amount needed depends on the test results and the area of soil you plan to adjust.

Fertilizing

Before planting, adding organic compost, such as manure, leaf mold, mushroom compost or lovely rich homemade compost and mixing it in to the soil well will always give any plants a good start. Once they are beginning to show signs of new growth, adding bone meal or a slow release fertilizer will help once the plants are established and before the height of summer’s heat arrives.

 

compost

compost

Light Requirements

Again, there are differences in opinion here. Generally however, Hellebore plants prefer partial shade and not the midday sun for hours. Suggested locations for planting are near deciduous trees for several reasons. First these trees provide a break for hot sun during the summer and secondly once their leaves fall off, the plants will be able to take advantage of the reduced strength of the sun in the fall and winter months.

Planting near evergreen hedging or rows of conifers, provides a break against the dry and biting cold of winter winds. Provided the hellebore is planed with half a day of reasonable light the plant should be fine.

Disease

Hellebore plants are susceptible a few disease including   blight mold and crown rot fungal as well as Black Spot and Black Death.  Both Black Spot and Black Death cause blacking on the leaves, but the Death is far more fatal. If you see darkening of the leaves or any disease at all, examine the plant closely, make notes and then head straight to a horticultural expert!

 

Hellebore Black Death is a serious disease of hellebores, probably caused by a newly discovered virus, where plants become stunted, deformed and marked by black streaks and ring patterns. This viral disease causes stunting and distortion. In addition, it causes black streaking and netting patterns on the leaves that can also develop on the stems and flowers. All infected plants should be dug up promptly and destroyed as there is no known treatment that controls Black Death.

 

Black Death

Black Death

 

Black spot is generally known as leaf spot and in this plant is caused by the fungus Microsphaeropsis hellebore.  The fungus infects leaves and stems giving rise to roughly round dead, brown spots. Remove all affected leaves promptly and destroy them so they will not be a source of re-infection in the next gardening season. In addition there are also fungicides available at garden centre, which can be effective on Hellebore plants.

 Pests

Hellebore plants are good eating for aphids, mice, slugs and snails. These all prefer the seedlings found from this self-seeding plant as well as the buds on mature plants. Sprays are available for aphids, and traditional course grit may prove to be effective against snails and slugs.

Personal Experience

 

Despite everything, most plant experts agree that hellebores are generally trouble-free, but it pays to be aware of possible problems. As with many other family of plants good breeding practises have resulted in many new varieties that are easy to care for and resistant to most pests and diseases. All this being said, I still love my Hellebore Plant or the Christmas Rose.

Armed with my new found knowledge and an ever increasing fascination of the inspiration gardens have over me, I intend to try several other species of Hellebore plants this coming spring and hope you will too!

 

 

Just a few Hellebore            flowers

Just a few Hellebore flowers

 

 

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.

 

flowers

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

Autumn the Colourful Equinox

Autumn the Colourful Equinox

Autumn is a wonderfully colourful time of year that is enjoyed by gardeners and non-gardeners alike. From the tall stands of drying grasses, to the late blooming perennials, there are subtle earth tones to the bright and bold shades. Certainly in Ontario, Canada where I call home, even the trees shout out their presence.  Each limb is full of coloured leaves that put on quite a show before they drop to the ground, hence the term fall.

Recently, watching the neighbours piling theirs along the curb to be sucked up and taken away, I was wondering about the countless others who were doing the same, or merely admiring the colours of fall. Either way we all know that colder weather is coming. For gardeners the temperature change also means it is time to put the gardens to rest with winter protection of some sort.

 

 

What to do with all those leaves?

Speaking for myself, I leave my leaves alone.  Of course with seven tall evergreens on my property, only the wind delivers them from the gardens around me. In fact if I rake at all, it is to put a layer on my garden with evergreen boughs on top to hold the leaves in place for additional protection. Despite this being my ritual, gardening sources present two different viewpoints about using leaves for winter garden protection.

 

Some believe any disease on the leaves will transfer to the soil and plants that will grow there in the spring, while others believe they will help provide a more even temperature throughout the winter and keep   strong winter winds from drying out the soil. The one thing both schools of thought share is that oak leaves break down very slowly and are best left off gardens and out of any compost pile.

 

Compost

 

 

Speaking of mulch, I think it is very nice of my neighbours to rake up their leaves nicely, for me to mulch. I do not compost them but neatly transfer those soggy leaves in to green garbage bags and put them on my back patio in a sunny spot. Quite by accident (or should I say laziness) I left several bags over the winter until early summer and discovered they had mulched quite nicely. The sun’s rays and the dark plastic helped the damp leaves form lovely rich compost.

 

What a gorgeous view!

Putting all uses aside, today seeing trees full of coloured leaves, the yellows through to red shades, mixed with each other, certainly made me wonder why and how they change to such magnificent shades. Again, I resorted to my gardening books and the internet to find the facts I probably learned many years ago in school and have since forgotten. Fall splendor is nothing more than good, old fashioned chemistry, whether here or on the other side of the world. Yes, the Northern Hemisphere worldwide gets to share in the lovely Fall or Autumn leaf colour changes from September through to late November.

 

 

Photosynthesis

Photosynthesis is a term most of us learned in school, from the Greek words  “photo” or light and “synthesis “which means putting together. This process, describes how most plants and trees make food for themselves. Like many other scientific processes, it is complicated when studied in depth, but has quite a simple explanation. Water in by the roots,  plus Carbon Dioxide from our air are the basics need for sunlight  and the green chlorophyll in leaves , to form two major compounds.

 

The first is oxygen which is given off and purifies the air around us, and the second is Glucose. Yes my dear, leaves produce glucose for immediate use as energy and some is stored for later use. Of course unlike in humans, the storage is beneficial and does not increase pants size or cause health issues.

 

Instead the stores are used once the September equinox arrives and the weather changes. While temperature is a factor in slowing photosynthesis, the decreased amount of UV in the suns rays shuts off the green chlorophylls food making ability. Then the stored glucose which is trapped in the leaves begins to turn red. Also now visible are orange carotenes and yellow xanthophylls which were hidden by the green.

 

Colour guide

Certainly leaf colour cannot by itself be a guide to trees but if you are looking for a tree that produces a specific colour palette in the fall, here is a general guideline. Of course checking with a local nursery would certainly help or finding a good sourcebook or on line.

Red Leaf colour

Red Maple trees are known to produce the brightest red leaves, as does the shrub called the Burning Bush.  Additionally a few other maples  including Japanese,  turn a lovely shade of red, as do some oaks such as Red, Pin and Scarlet, Dogwood, Sassafras and Sweetgum to name a few. Let’s not forget the Japanese maple!

 

Sumac changing colour

Yellow and orange Leaf colour

Some of the trees known for yellow and orange leaves are Hickory, Ash, and some Maples, Poplar, Tulip Tree, White Oak, a number of Japanese Maples and Chestnut. Also some Sassafras, Sweetgum, Beech, Birch and Sycamore foliage changes to lovely golden hues tones between the yellow and orange shades.

 

Maple in Transition

 

Season Science

Gardeners always find something to do each season and as we are not weather persons, I will not try and be one now. However, not until the digging bug better known as curiosity, picked at my brain again, did I really think  how Geography of about Equinox, Hemispheres and latitude.

Equinox

Equinox from Latin “aequus” or equal and “nox” which is night is the day in September when the Northern Hemisphere, or half of the Earth, has equal hours of day and night. As the planet we call home, shifts while it spins, we in the northern side get tilted back from the sun’s rays while the south moves forward for more. This means the Southern Hemisphere is planning and planting their vegetable gardens while we are putting ours to sleep.

 

Equinox

 

 

Hemispheres

Hemisphere comes from two very long Ancient Greek words that translate to mean “half of a sphere. Here on the earth using latitude or longitude (north to south division) there are four map based hemispheres.  The North-South the division is the equator and East-West the dividing line is the prime meridian

 

Northern Hemisphere

 

 

Latitude Travels

Combining fall experiences from across the world would be interesting but staggering by volume. Instead, I remembered my globe and decided to follow the approximate latitude of Ontario, Canada to find out what Fall looks like around the world. Latitude is the system of parallel lines that are used to mark a position on the planet, from east to west with the Equator being Zero degrees and the North or South Pole being Ninety degrees.

 

Latitude

 

WWF- World Wide Fall

Fall comes to most of the world but not all at once. In the Northern Hemisphere, September, October and November are considered fall, which is the hottest time for the Southern Hemisphere.  Then during March, April and May when the northern half of the planet is beginning its growing season, people in the south experience Fall.While there is some variation across the globe, East to West and closest to the Equator, almost every continent experiences seasonal foliage colour changes, as the temperature drops and sunlight diminishes.

Using my finger as a pointer, I traced my way through countries from west to east, writing their names on a list as I circled the earth. Then I began digging through my photographs and the wonderful world of Wikepedia , leaving you with the inspirational colours of to leave  you  with an inspirational tour of Autumn around the world!

 

 

Mt Tremblant, Quebec, Canada

country lane Great Britain

autumn in La Rioja Spain

Cacak Serbia

Great Wall of China

Kyoto Japan

Alberta’s Larch trees in Fall

Bulb Beginnings

Fall is a wonderfully time of year to enjoy your garden and for bulb beginnings! Not only are flowers still in bloom without the heat of the hot summer sun, but here in Ontario Canada we enjoy the colourful changing of the tree leaves. Certainly the marvelous Maple shows its yellow, orange and red leaves as the last stage of the life of a leaf. Sumac trees and shrubbery radiate red in their long finger like leaves as does the burning bush ( aka Winged Euonymous alata)

 

Burning Bush

 

 

From trees to small garden perennials, the leaves that are leaving us…do so in a blaze of glory. Even some annuals show off their foliage as I witness first hand at my cottage this past weekend. In fact, intent on cleaning up the garden and cutting down the bare stalks of cone-flowers and other garden favourites, I headed out with spade in hand.

Cone-flowers

Bulb beginnings

Like many a fall or autumn day, the weather gave up another bright sunny day and the plants untimely death was postponed. Not only could I not bring myself to trim things back as cottage season comes to a close, but I finally  prepared to plant the most widely planted fall perennial… spring flowering bulbs , purchased several weeks ago.

 

Bulbs bust out of the garden along the sunny side garden in mass. Even the front garden has its share of purple, white and a few red tulips. Several years ago I planted white, pink and purple Hyacinths along the darker side of the house there and each year since they have burst in to wonderful bloom. Today I planted White Narcissus and purple Grape hyacinth spring bulbs whose proper name is Muscari.

 

With each bulb planted, I began to wonder where they originated and what family they were from. Basic research revealed that a vast number of bulbs such as tulips and crocus actually originated in Turkey before they were moved and in some cases stolen. Often research and exploration led to removal and relocation in some cases leading to extinction in the natural habitats.

 

Spring flowering Tulips

 

I was surprised to read that Turkey had areas stripped of bulbous plants, and that tulips were not all from Holland originally. Certainly as usual this fact led me to  dig deeper in to the origins of two of the more commonly found spring flowering bulbs.

 

Tulips

There are many spring flowering bulbs that are planted in the fall, but probably one of the most recognized is the Tulip. Tulips belong to the Liliaceae Family, Genus Tulipa, and have at least 109 species. They are found in Turkey and are indigenous to mountainous areas there as well as in central Asian countries of Afghanistan and Pakistan, specifically the Pamir Mountains.

Under the Ottoman Empire, which was founded in Turkey approximately 1299, commercial cultivation of the flower began. Approximately when the empire reached its peak at 1590 covering parts of Asia, Europe and Africa, tulips began to arrive in northwestern Europe. There is some confusion as to who introduced them to European but it was definitely politically connected and took place approximately 1559.

By 1573 tulips were seen planted in Vienna in several garden, eventually via private gardens the bulbs made it to the Netherlands officially in 1594.  For many years the bulbs were cultivated but on such a small scale that eventually they became highly coveted and a Tulip Mania began. This mania peaked 1636-37 when bulb trading costs were reportedly higher than a tradesman’s yearly salary! Despite the high prices, tulips changed hands rapidly, until the trade ground to a halt and commercial cultivation on large scale began.

 

 

Holland Commercial Tulip Farming

Crocus

Crocus, another widely popular spring flowering perennial flower actually grows from corms. From the Iridaceae ( Lily) Family, genus Croci with 80 species, these flowering plants are native to woodland, scrub and meadows in Central and Southern Europe. They are also native to, North Africa and the Middle East, on the islands of the Aegean, and across Central Asia to western China. Like the tulip, crocuses were also native to areas of Turkey.

Cultivation and harvesting of crocus was first documented in the Mediterranean, notably on the island of Crete. The first crocus seen in the Netherlands, where crocus species are not native, were from corms brought back in the 1560’s from Constantinople by the Holy Roman Emperor’s ambassador and by 1620, new garden varieties had been developed. Slowly from there commercial cultivation began and these plants also spread across the world.

 

Crocus

 

 

 

Bulbs and Corms present day

Thankfully with hybridization, research and mass growing fields bulbs of most types are economically priced.  Worldwide gardeners can certainly enjoy the blooms of perennial bulbs, whether they are spring blooming such as those in Canada and the United States.

For those of you who live in tropical areas or those who are above Zone 9 or who do not have the required temperatures of approximately 0-4 degrees C, tulips and many other spring bulbs would have to be forced in the refrigerator.  Of course, if your country has a mountainous region, such as Turkey, where most of the tulips, crocus and other spring bulbs originated, naturalized planting and garden planting may both be possible.

While there are a great many things to consider when planting bulbs, even the new garden can successfully plant for a wonderful spring bloom filled garden. As with most plants, the sun, soil and nutrients are all factors to be considered and knowing your garden’s details will help you when purchasing individual bulbs at local garden centres.  Certainly the staff there will be happy to assist you if the information on each bulb display does not have all the information you need.

Even local supermarkets often sell packages of bulbs in their florist area or even within the produce section. Usually there is printed information on these packages stating planting depth, light requirements, planting depth and plant height when in bloom.

 

My next article will cover all the basic information any gardener would need to plant these lovely perennials. In addition I  would be happy to answer any questions left for me under Comments.

Before long, armed with your trusty garden tools , helpful information and enthusiasm, your hard work will be rewarded in the Spring, with an inspirational  flowering garden to be proud of!

Purple and double pink tulips

 

Plant Family Classification

Recently I have been busy researching and writing all manner of plant related areas and have developed a new realization of how plants are connected from the past to the present, and from one part of the world to another, just as we are. Until now, it never occurred to me that the mums on my porch are possible direct descendants of one, on another porch, in another country long ago or that someone in a distant country may be watering their own pot of mums.

 

 Certainly being inspired by my garden has led me on some unexpected paths. Even in reading about many of the common plants I have written about, the Asteraceace family keeps popping up. With my curiosity peaked, I began to look at the connections between plants and have discovered the scientific classification of all living things. While we humans are on another branch… all life on this planet is a part of the tree!

Perhaps my condensed version of plant classification will interest you to read on and provide you with a basic understanding of plant names you see printed everywhere.

 Classification

Taxonomy, from the Greek words “taxis” or arrangement and “nomia” which means method, is the name given to the academic method of classifying all living things. This method groups organisms that share characteristics and gives each group a name. Then the scientific community has placed these groups in a hierarchy based on their order of importance, which shows where that group fits in the big picture.

The biological classification is very complicated once you delve in to it, but on a simple level it gives the relative connection between organisms or plants. To do this, it uses taxonomic ranks, including, among others (in order from most inclusive to least inclusive): Domain, Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus and Species. Living things are classified into five kingdoms that are Prokarya, Animalia, Plantae, Fungi and Protoctista. Of course we are far down the Animalia branch, just as the plants in our gardens are down in the Plantae branch, but today I am checking out plant classification while leaving the humans being…

 

 

 

 

Read more at Buzzle: http://www.buzzle.com/articles/classification-of-living-things.html

Plant classification beginnings

 

Aristotle to Pliny the Elder:

Historical records reveal that early forms of organism classification begin with Aristotle (Greece, 384-322 BC) who began some of the first recorded plant studies. One of his students named Theophrastus (Greece, 370-285 BC) continued the work and wrote a publication classifying 480 plants including Crocus and Narcissus which are still used today. Pliny the Elder (Rome, 23-79 AD) wrote a 160-volume work which described a large number of plants even giving some Latin binomial names.

 

 Pre-Linnaean plant taxonomists:

While many learned scientist worked on plants worldwide, I found that records stated that no significant taxonomic works replaced the ancient texts for approximately 1500 years as the visual and physical means were exhausted. With the development of the early optical systems such as magnifying glasses and microscopes, classification began in earnest again, as the structure of organisms could be studied in detail.

 

early compound light microscope

 

 

Globally the botanists and other scientists worked on studying plants and classifying them. I could find no females listed although I am certain they did exist. Instead, I have included only a sampling of the male botanists who impacted the taxonomy of plants through the years.

Andrea Cesalpino ( Italy, 1519–1603),  wrote a book  that described over 1500 plant species, including two large plant families Asteraceae and Brassicaceae which are still in use today.

 

 

 

 

 John Ray (England, 1627–1705) wrote a large number of significant taxonomic works with information and classifications of over 18,000 plant species.

Gaspard Bauhine (Switzerland 1560 m-16624)in his work Pinax, proposed two name classification of over 6000 plants.

In the same time frame, the next major taxonomic works were produced by  Joseph Pitton de Tournefort (France, 1656–1708), which included over 9000 species in 698 genera. History states that these works specifically influenced one young student Swedish student named Carolus Linneaus.

 The Linnaean era:

Carolus Linnaeus( 1707-1778) became a botanist who led the field on plant classifying. He published major works and fully put in to place the binomial naming system that had begun with his predecessors.

 

Many of his works, including the largest publications Species Plantarum ( The Species of Plants 1753) and Systema Naturae were translated to English making them more accessible to the scientific world. In fact, Erasmus Darwin, grandfather of Charles Darwin, translated many of Linnaeus’s published works. Even today, before naming a new plant discovery, Linnaeus’s work is used as the reference point to ensure any name chosen for it, has not been previously used.

The Binomial System:

Based on the largest system of plant identification groups, plant tags in nursery pots would need to be huge! Certainly each plant belongs to a Family, whose name always ends in “aceae”. All members of a particular family share certain groups of characteristics that are not found in other families.

For example, looking up Family names such as – Rosaceae (rose family) or Liliaceae (lily family) provide information and understanding of all the plants in that family. Examples of this information would include data on the plants requirements to grow, the physical characteristics, seed information and more found below the family classification, comes the two levels that make up what is known as the Binomial System.

Whether aware of it or not, most gardeners worldwide are  familiar with the Binomial System as commonly displayed on nursery stock plant tags .Until I looked in to classifications, I knew of Genus and Species,  but generally referred to plants by what is their “common name”. The biggest drawback here is that there are many common names for any one plant. According to one article I read, the White Lily and marsh marigold both have over 200 common names.

Thankfully, the scientific community uses the more precise Binomial system in naming of a plant and for further understanding of the characteristics of the group that plant is classed in. While this system was introduced by several men, it was to Carolus Linneaus who is credited with permanently ensuring the advancement of this system. Expressed in Latin, the twodivsions are the genus and the species.

 

 

Genus:

Each plant family is further divided in to groups of plants that are more closely related, with from one genus to as many as 950 genera (plural). The first part of the binomial system is the genus and it always starts with a capital letter.

 

Species:

Each genus is further subdivided into species. This is the second word in a plant’s botanical name and begins with lower-case letters. Most genera contain two or more species that share most characteristics and reproduce by seed with minor variations. In addition members of a species do not usually interbreed successfully with members of a different species. Species names begin with lower-case letters.

 

Genus and Species name selections:

There are many ways these names were determined, including choosing a name to honour the person who discovered the plants, a famous person they admire or even the country the plant originated from. One good everyday example of this is the Coffee Plant. The official genus name  comes from one aspect of the plant…its use as a beverage….so it is named after Coffea, the Latinized form of the Arabic word for beverage. The species name of Arabica, was given as the plant was thought to have originated in Arabia. So now anywhere in the word you see a plant with the botanical name, Coffea Arabica, you would find the same unique plant.

 

Coffea arabica

 

For the scientific community these classifications ensure that any further identification and research across the world, is connected and all information shared applies to the same plant no matter where it is located. Still plant classification can be difficult as some species in nature closely resemble another, there is interbreeding that produces subspecies and hybrids even in the wild.

 

Subspecies, Variety:

If there is a third word, or short form such as subsp, ssp., or var., in a plants botanical name, that indicates a subspecies or variety.  While these terms are not interchangeable to a botanist, to regular people it means the plant has most characteristics of their species with a slight difference such as in flower color or leaf size. These plants can interbreed to form fertile seeds that will grow in to identical plants.

 

Cultivar: (horticultural variety or clone)

A cultivar is a plant or group of plants propagated by careful breeding for some desirable characteristic. Their name is usually the genus name with the species, followed by the cultivar name in quotation marks.  One example we see regularly are popular ornamental garden plants like roses ,camellias, daffodils, and azaleas where cultivars are deliberately bred for colour and form .Even the vast majority of the world’s food has been cultivated and selected for resistance to disease, improved yields and flavours.

 

Hybrid:

This is a distinct plant resulting from a cross between two species, subspecies, varieties, cultivars, strains – or any combination as well as between two plants belonging to different genera. While some hybridization can occur in the wild, usually it is done deliberately by horticulturalists trying for an effect, such as those trying to hybridize African Violets that produce a blue flower. Unfortunately often hybrids cannot produce fertile seeds or if seeds are produced they grow the stronger strain or plant used. Once I had an odd annual hybrid plant thet was a lime green instead of its usual white and the plants began to revert even before seeds were produced.

Strain:

Many popular annuals and some perennials are sold as strains that are usually the result of breeding and deliberate selection for a certain characteristic like height or flower colour. Again those characteristics can easily disappear in the next generation of the plant, especially if left to pollinate naturally.

http://theseedsite.co.uk/families.html

From the plant world’s point of view classification has gone from B.C. era where studying was done by sight, scent and physical characteristics to DNA studies which are used in Genetically Modifying plants. But, as far as gardeners are concerned whether it be annual, perennials, vegetables or trees and shrubs, how they adorn out gardens and life our spirits is the most important thing.

From garden centres and green house, plants come in all shapes and sizes no matter where in the world we are. The tags generally contain information on each one, certainly the genus and species name, which has more history and information attached to them than we realized. Now when I buy a plant I can almost imagine someone in their country garden on the other side of the world… reading the same plant’s tag !

 

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

 

 

Lovely native Lotus

 

Lovely Native Lotus

Lately I have been reminded of how amazing life is in little ways I all too often take for granted. In fact the one moment that comes to mind today is the collection of memories from my recent trip to Point Pelee National Park. Around one last bend in the water at this beautiful Carolinian Forest, I paddled when my eyes were drawn to tall yellow blooms that popped up a foot out of the marsh. Up close and personal from a kayak, made this discovery breathtaking, and made me realize how experiencing things first hand instead of from a book really makes a difference.

 

 

 

The difference in me translates to a rush inside … the awe of discovering in the wild vs. just reading facts. Seeing and touching the large yellow water lily like flower in in its wild natural habitat and the photos I went away with, inspired  me to satisfy my curiosity  by investigating this mystery plant.

Before I knew it…after just a few strokes on the keyboard and there it was…the Yellow or American Lotus!  Officially called Nelumbo Lutea, this plant is native to parts of Mexico, the Caribbean, and Honduras and across the South Eastern U.S.  While no time frame was given, it seems that Native Americans or first Nations as they are called here carried the Lutea plants and seeds for food as they travelled north.

 

The northern end of the lovely native Lotus existing range is Pelee National park, where I experienced them. Considered rare here, extirpated in Delaware, threatened in New Jersey and threatened in Michigan, these beautiful flowers are yet another casualty to disappearing marshlands. In addition to marshlands, these aquatic plants are also found growing in lakes, swamps and ponds.

Lovely native Lotus bloom

 

 

Like many other aquatic plants, these float on the top while anchored by their roots in the deep muck at the bottom.  From these anchored roots, petioles or leave stems grow up to 2 metres in length , upwards through the water as they support the huge leaves circular leaves that float on the surface.

 

Although all parts of this plant act as part of a natural filtering system that helps clarify the water around it the circular leaves on top accomplish several function. First the leaves provide shade for its own roots as well as small aquatic animals. According to my research these leaves reach up to 43 centimetres in diameter, and certainly based on the size of my paddle, the ones I saw were at least this size if not larger.

 

 

When I first noticed the leaves from my kayak, the size blew me away. I did not realize they were circular and did not have the notch in them as do lily pads.  The petiole of the Lotus is attached underneath the leaf about the middle whereas lily leaves attach to one side creating sort of a rounded heart.

 

 

Lotus leaf overturned

 

 

Certainly watching the water bead up and roll across on the lotus leaves was fascinating, as water does not adhere to the leaves. Trying to capture the beads of water as they rolled back and forth was almost impossible, but of course I tried. While this fact did not seem radical at the time, further digging led me to data stating that the leaves have a slightly waxy surface which helps the small droplets form larger ones. This movement aided by nano scale groves and bumps that also help water movement that cleans the leaf surface.  Fascinating!

 

 

 

It seems then, that the Lovely native Lotus cleans the water through its roots, shades and keeps the water cool for itself and other tiny aquatic creatures, is a source of food and provides a lovely flower to hold the seed pods for propagation. Certainly all plants provide food sources for insects and sometimes even small animals and humans.

 

In this case, Native Americans ate the Lotus in many ways. The rhizomes or tubers were usually steamed or often boiled as were the new still curled leaves. The seeds were eaten raw in their early immature state or roasted and peeled once the harder coating formed on the outside. As these parts and the tubers are primarily carbohydrate based this plant and even the flower ground for the dry seed were an important part of their diet.

 

The large seeds produced from this plant are formed at the heart of this magnificent pale yellow flower bud. After the 18-28 cm flower closes its 22-25 petals for one last time, the somewhat globoid or ball shaped seed pod begins to mature form green to a dark grayish colour. In nature, these seeds are also then eaten by muskrats, beavers and porcupines, while many fall to the bottom as their marble to peanut size makes transportation by birds difficult. Almost impervious to water because of a thick dark outer shell, they can sit on the bottom awaiting germination for years.

 

 

lotus seed head

 

 

The sites below have a great deal of fascinating info on the seeds, plants and other aquatic plants.

www.floridata.com

www.victoria-adventure.org

The Yellow or American Lotus I have been describing is hardy to zone 4 unlike its Asian cousin Nelumbo Nucifera, which is tropical.  The Nucifera ranges in colour from white to dark pink as is the national flower of India and Vietnam. From a Wikipedia photo I find it amazing to learn they are the only two plants in this species and are a half a world apart! In many Asian countries these aquatic plants are commercially grown, providing blooms for the florist industry, while the seeds, stems and other plant parts are a food source that is even exported to markets here in Canada.

 

 

Sacred_lotus_Nelumbo_nucifera

 

 

From this genus of plants, composed only of these two geographically separated plants, there are now hybrids of different colours. Despite their resemblance to the water Lily family, they are not related, except perhaps by beautiful flowers rising from the water’s surface.

 

From the large saucer shaped leaves that roll water across their smooth top, or that cup skywards, through the scented flower stage, to their shower head shaped seed pod, this native beauties are amazing! Currently with hybridization and export of plant materials worldwide, blooming flowers of all  species,sizes and colours, are popular in backyard ponds and water features.

 

In addition to plants themselves, seeds to almost anything are also available on line. For the novice and even the experienced gardener directions on how to plant and even winterize lilies and other pond plants can be found on many sites.  Both Sheridan Nursery’s sites, as well as Canadian Gardening, are good  sources of data.

www.sheridannurseries.com

www.canadiangardening.com

 

 The general directions may apply many plants, but in my mind but nothing could rival as seeing the wild Yellow Lotus, freely blowing in the wind! Of course as an avid gardener I wish I could grow one in a pond in my yard but then again I don’t have one. Maybe a big barrel would do…no nix that! Maybe water gardens in the wild are more my style!

If inspiration has grabbed you, you have months to plan and dream about the ponds and aquatic plants in your future…good luck and happy gardening!

 

 

 

 

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!

Landscaping Plans for your Garden

Landscaping  plans  and ideas boggle my brain, so after finally getting my lawn in better shape as seen  below, I switched my brain to the garden. Of course my garden already exists,as battlegrounds where weeds compete with my perennials. Now the garden even has a  huge representation of grass, which makes it  sound like a lovley balanced space. Truth be told, the front is a mess of weeds, grass and some  mystery plants I once knew.

 

Landscaping plans gone mad

Truthfully the front garden has gone berserk…certainly not very inspiring. Of course since gardening is usually a joy for me, I have been motivated to take action. The first step is to get landscaping done at my house is not to create any more gardens but to plan out what each existing one is doing, other than being overgrown.

If you have a new house or an older one in need of refreshment…something to perk it up, then landscaping plans would be the first step. If you have a general idea of size and what your budget is, there are many routes you can take to get started. There are countless professional companies you can hire to sort out or plan your entire yard, or just the gardens. Searching your yellow pages by hand or via a computer search is a good place to start. In fact the listings below will put you in touch with countless resources at your finger tips.

www.landscapeontario.com     and   www.home-landscape-plan.com

The first site is amazing! It lists contractors, garden design plans, helpful hints and even plant resources and more. The second site also has a great deal of info to browse through!

Don’t forget  there are a great deal in books found at your local bookstore or library. The cool thing about books is that you can carry them around and hold them up to see how things might look Currently this is the best option for those like myself, who are caught up in the costs…okay I am cheap, hiring myself seemed to be the best plan.

Speaking of books and planning, I just happen to find a great book I had forgotten, staring  at me from the hall bookcase. Landscape Planning by Judith Adam, published by FIREFLY BOOKS is full of great information that applies to Canadian gardens, and pictures galore that go with it. I also am enjoying Judith’s sense of humour and her common sense approach to gardens  and landscaping.

 

 

In the book she lists her ten elements of Landscaping Design.

Elements of Landscaping Design

1.Personal style – we know what we like

2.Planning  by light, elements, soil. plants and location, self vs contractors etc

3. Lines of Definition-marking the perimeter of yards and gardens with curves and straight lines

4.Space Division – beds, patios, walkways, shrubs, grade changes and arbours just to name a few.

5.Scale and Balance – from the size of trees and plants to stonework and patios etc

6.Garden bones-prominent plants and structures for all seasons

7.Planting Style- what you prefer for example, Japanese, English country garden for overall or individual areas of the garden

8.Colour Choices-themes by colour and season that enhance and excite

9.Succession Planting-flowering tress, shrubs and perennials for all seasons including evergreens and features for winter interest

10.Architectural features-walkways, benches, trellis, gates, fences, bird baths, sculptures and more

For further information please visit my Ten basics of Landscape Design page on this site.

 

Spacing Requirements

 

Now I have come to realize the limitations of what planning I had put in to the front flower bed. Right now it is overwhelmed and under loved! It makes sense  when we are strapped for time we neglect many things including our poor plants!  Keeping this in mind, whether your landscaping plans include hiring a professional or landscaping on your own,  try not to get carried away with the  size of the beds and shrubs if you have limited gardening time.

In fact, if budget is also a major factor, try forming small beds . Other items to  consider are the amount of sun you get, what type of soil you have, and whether you want perennials that give you a good return on your money vs short term annuals. Of course if you are new at gardening and want to get the feel of things before sinking your teeth in to perennials, annuals will let you try a wide variety of plants until you get the soil/sun thing worked out.

 

Perennials

 

Assorted annuals

                                          

 

 

 

 

 

Next steps

Now what you might ask? Well  you can go check out the books and site, or visit a local garden center for hands on help with what plants may suit your needs and go from there. Me, I have decided my  city property has  too many gardens to keep up with and they are  all suffering as a result.

I get overwhelmed looking at all the weeds/wildflowers that now call my yard home, so downsizing and compartmentalizing is the way to go. Of course that may sound destructive, ripping most things out and shrinking things, but when there is only so much time to go around, I think of it ultimately as good time management.

First I have to just focus on a small area or section of each garden so the overwhelming mess doesn’t get me discouraged. I try to pick  a section of garden that is manageable to tidy well and mulch in a few hours. Once this is tackled then I move to the next section, and before the week is out I have one tidy, good looking garden.

To make all the approximately eight gardens look good is too big a task, as they are suffering after several years of neglect, so my landscaping plans include time management. Remember picking one small garden area at a time  means, more time to admire the lovely flowers in bloom and to make garden art like my scroll sawed Garden Shed sign below. 

Scroll Sawed Sign

 

For further information on scroll sawing, visit the great site listed below:

www.woodworkingtipsforwomen.com

 

 

 

Weeds or Wildflowers: the debate continues

Organic gardening, while great for the health of the planet, certainly takes some good planning and hard work. Just look at the number of hours I have been preoccupied with the green shoots of grass that are sparsely spread across sections of my lawn. But I certainly couldn’t help it when the bald spot is there catching my eye every time I go in or out the back door or drive up to the house. Now of course my house, even though it is in a big city, is really a cottage stuck in a time warp. Now the one thousand square foot bungalow is surrounded by tall pine trees and tall weeds.

Okay the garden weeds can have nice shaped leaves and often even pretty flowers but their odd shapes and height make for one messy looking lawn. Although not a very neat person, this horticultural mish-mash has been driving me crazy! In fact, I learned a thing or two about myself as I followed my own steps in the Save the Lawn Project. From this experience I reinforced my ability to work hard at something I love…being outdoors. What I had not realized was how little patience I have for some repetitious chores. Yes watering the same area over and over, day after day is trying, monotonous and keeps me from the inspirational garden I really want to be working on.

While inspiration for this blog started after staring at the new growth in the cottage garden, not all of the greenery was a plant we value, as a garden treasure. Certainly some weeds almost fool you in to believing they are real plants. Others are just scraggly, spiky things that can make you sneeze or even give you a rash (we won’t even mention the poison ivy).

After a current weeding session at the cottage, which is in farm country, I decided to surf the Internet to try and identify some of the weeds there. Below is a listing related to field and crops that has a lovely WEED photo gallery. Who knew!

http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/IPM/english/weeds-herbicides/gallery/index.html

Of course we all have our very own weeds that we hate and sometimes even ones we love. Certainly Dandelions are cool looking with their lovely yellow bloom and even their dreamy looking white fuzzy seed state. Then there are the dubious weeds like forget-me-nots that have escaped from the garden and other self seeding plants such as the herb lemon balm which spreads everywhere and anywhere. I guess as someone once told me, they believed if it had lovely blossoms it was a wild flower and not a weed.

Pretty lawn weed

 

Dandelion Seeds

 

 

 

 

 

 

Based on this definition, many unwanted growing things are weeds. Another term used to help us decide what may or may not be a weed is: a plant considered undesirable, unattractive, or troublesome, especially one growing where it is not wanted, as in a garden. Just think of how complicated and messy my yard would be if the lawn was full of assorted, unwanted plants and my garden was full of lovely thick lawn grass…how uninspiring would that be!

Certainly as I want to motivate you all to have lovely, organic inspirational areas to play, sit, and dream in, what I described would definitely not be a motivating space. Without a doubt my yard temporarily falls in to this less than desirably category, I am using this blog also to get myself in gear and take simple steps that will give me the meditation space I so need. In fact as I recall the need for peace in my garden and realize how obsessed with weeds and other stray things I have become, I realize everything growing has its place…just not in my sod or my garden.

While things grow everywhere and anywhere, it seems they are literally rooted in ways that often make removal difficult. Take for example the tap root of a dandelion that anchors it firmly and also sends out a new plant if every tiny bit of root is not removed. Then there some like the plantain that has numerous hairy roots that cover a wider range of soil to anchor their base. Creepers, like Creeping Jenny, are also tough as they often have above ground laterally growing roots that also root from stem nodules. No wonder with these and even more means of thriving and spreading, unwanted vegetation can run amuck!

Certainly I am growing a new respect for the tough weeds that grow and flower everywhere and anywhere they choose. In fact, I realized that their fortitude was a good example of how being tough can help with one’s self preservation, especially when taking on new challenges. Who knew such unwanted greenery was a means to self enlightenment. Certainly this sounds like something Buddhist, but maybe after checking the library or the Internet to learn more about them, you will respect them for their stamina as well, even as you yank them out by their hair.

With the memory of pulling out my hair after many a weeding session still fresh in my mind, despite any inspired at those solitary plants that grow in the toughest conditions with poor soil and water levels, I am not starting a weed garden anytime soon…at least not on purpose! Of course maybe it would become a new trend that could start with one single, lovely beach wildflower…or is that a weed…judge for yourself!

 

 

Beach Wildflower