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

Planting Bulbs

Planting Bulbs

While there are many things I have posted on that can inspire others to garden, paint, research their favourite flower, just to name a few, one activity that much of the Northern Hemisphere has in common in the fall is planting spring flowering bulbs. My last post gave brief information on bulbs and their origin, leading to this more factual information on the steps to actually planting bulbs and corms.

 

corm

corm

bulbs

bulbs

 

Tulips are merely one of many bulbs, along with Hyacinths, Daffodils and Narcissus that are the most widely known bulbs. The structure of a bulb’s interior is composed of fleshy, modified leaf like layers, which would be easily visible if it was cut in half. Corms such as crocus and gladiolas may look similar to bulbs, but they are basically thick stem like tissue.

Whether you choose true bulbs or corms, be certain they are winter hardy.  Remember then, to provide the proper temperature for  vernalization to take place. Vernalization is derived from the Latin word vernus, or spring, and is the required exposure to cold winter weather which allows the plant to grow and flower. If you live in a warmer zone than an 8, where the temperature outside will not provide the required temp of 5-10 degrees Celsius (40-50 Fahrenheit), then forcing bulbs in your fridge is a good option. Instructions for this will follow those for gardeners who will be planting outside in the flower beds.

Bulbs can be planted almost until the ground freezes, but early to mid October planting allows time for the bulbs to settle before the cold winter starts. There are many things to consider when planning what and where to plant, but with a few basics, anyone can have lovely spring blooms!

 

planting info

 

SUNLIGHT

Despite the deciduous trees having no leaves in the spring, shade from buildings and evergreen trees is still a factor to consider. With a shadier area in the front garden both at home and at the cottage, I was concerned about how this would impact the blooms there. After a bit of digging, into books, I found that bulbs labelled “early flowering” were the best for this situation. Really this classification of bulbs is not based on a specific family, genus or species, but the fact that they bloom and flower with less UV rays than other plants…hence the early designation. I other words, these bulbs, that require less UV are better suited to shadier areas.

SOIL

Bulbs sleep all winter, blanketed in soil, until the temperature there has chilled them for approximately eight weeks below 10 degrees Celsius or 50  degrees Fahrenheit, long enough for their growth cycle to begin. This is an important factor to consider as with planting any annuals or perennials.

If your soil is sandy , like at the my cottage, any natural compost, peat moss, cocoa fibre  or organic aged manure  that can be worked into the soil  will help provide a more even moisture content  throughout the winter in to spring. If the soil is too dense, these additions can also break up the clumps that often prevent adequate drainage.

Basically you need to add anything natural that will help lock in moisture and provide nutrients. Adding clay soil to offset the sandy is good, or vice versa, but remember to ensure nutrient levels are high.

Organic matter, in addition to being a good additive for improved soil fertility, also provides food for earthworms and beneficial bacteria in the soil. These creatures break down the soli and its nutrients so they can be absorbed well by the forming bulb roots and all plants as they grow.

 NUTRIENTS

Certainly the better flowing nutrient laden soil is better for both spring and summer flowering bulbs. In addition to augmenting the soil itself, the addition of blood or bone meal, provides a boost to the bulbs themselves.  Approximately ¼ to ½ a teaspoon can be added to the hole around each planted bulb.

Blood meal as a dry powder made from animal blood that provides much needed nitrogen to the soil. In addition, spread on or slightly below the ground level, the scent is a deterrent to small animals such as rabbits and squirrels. Bone meal is crushed bone that provides higher amounts of phosphorus which is good for root growth, but it may in fact attract animals looking for bones.

A good soluable general fertilizer 10-10-10 can also be added to the soil and then watered or dug in again when the bulbs begin to shoot out of the earth.  This can be mixed with the blood or bone meal and should be in the soil down to below the level of the bulbs being planted.

LOCATION

Again, the sunny spots will probably produce the best blooms with early flowering bulbs the best selection for shadier areas. Evergreen trees will shade all year round but do help even out the soil temperatures close by, evening out extreme fluctuations that can damage bulbs. In addition, spring bulbs planted on a slope will tend to bloom earlier than bulbs in a dip or gulley as warm air rises and cold air tends to settle in lower areas.

PREPARATION

Beyond the soil preparation, there are a few basics that can be prepared in advance. Collecting clean spades and trowels as well as blood/bone meal or other fertilizer helps cut down on the actual planting time. Also knowing the location to plant, whether it is in an existing garden or part of a new garden design, and proper spacing of all bulbs to be planted, is vital for enhanced garden design and good spring growth.

METHOD OF PLANTING

There are basically two methods of planting, both of which require the gardener to know the depth of planting. As a general rule of thumb the bulbs or corms are planted with the fine tip up and to a depth of approximately 3x the height of the bulb itself.  Checking the package or growing directions at the nursery will also help. Good gardening practise is also never to plant in even numbers as it seems odd number produce a more natural look.

 

1. Using a spade or small shovel, one large hole is dug at the required depth for the assortment of bulbs requiring that depth. Using a tape measure or judging by eye are the basic way of measuring the depth. Then a small bone /blood meal or natural fertilizer is spread lightly in the whole before placing bulbs.

 

grouping in one large hole

 

If space allows for any smaller bulbs/corms to be planted, once the bigger bulbs are partially buried, spread more nutrients and add those buds.

 

smaller bulbs above

 

2. This method is similar but uses a small trowel or a bulb planter. There are short handled manual bulb planters that require you to be on your hands and knees and many long handled versions where you stand and use your feet to force the tool in to the ground.

 

bulb planter

 

 

 

 

 

There are many of both types available at local garden centres, many of which have the depth scale right on the tool. Again, nutrient supplement is added to the whole once the soil is removed, before the bulbs are added.

larger bulbs in place

best individual holes

small bulbs indiv

 

 

 

 

 

 

FINAL STAGES OF PLANTING

After bulbs have received their nutritional supplement, been spaced properly in depth and between each other, soil is filled in around them. Then mulch on top will provide an extra measure of winter protection and keep the temperature and moisture levels more constant. Finally a thorough watering will ensure the ground there has adequate moisture for the  bulbs to get started once there is a spring thaw.

REFRIGERATOR BULB GARDENING

If you can purchase at garden centres or by the Internet, spring bulbs that require vernalization, never fear as your fridge is near! There are many articles on what is called forcing bulbs and sometime the misconception that they have to actually be frozen.

Basically the easy version is as follows:

-good soil

-pot 13-18 cm deep  ( 6-9 inches)

– few inches of soil in bottom so bulb is ad required depth

-add bulb and cover well (with nutrients to be watered in later)

-water thoroughly

-put in a plastic bag with one end open for ventilation

-place in the back of the fridge

-check on it every week to ensure it does not get too dry

-after approximately 6-8 weeks  there should be small shoots

-bring out of fridge in to partially lit room for a few days

-water with fertilizer and then bring to a brightly lit room or window ledge

-enjoy!

Final thoughts

Remember, while many things seem to go wrong, bulbs are very forgiviing. In fact, once I planted my bulbs upside down and although it took some extra time, they did bloom. Only when I thinned them out a few years later, did I realize the pointed tip was facing down!  🙂  Happy planting!

Holland  Commercial Tulip Farming

Holland Commercial Tulip Farming

 

Anatomy of a Flower

Recently after writing numerous articles on flowers, I came to realize how little I remembered of their anatomy. While the words stamen and anther floated off in the foggy parts of my brain, none of the public school science class came along for the ride, so as usual I decided it was research time again, knowing, there would be so much data my brain would swell!

Certainly I was not disappointed at what I found out, but never in my wildest dream did the anatomy of a plant, or pollination seem so exciting. Or perhaps I should call the article, the sex life of a single plant! Okay, laugh all you like, but I did come to learn about the male and female parts, the sperm cells and the ovule.

Unlike in humans, most of the time these parts are in the same plant, but occasionally there are plants that hold one sexual part, waiting for the opposite part of the same species. In neither case does conversation or interest play a role. Appearance on the other hand is almost everything, as the attraction of insects to a lovely looking bloom is the first stem in a complex cycle.

 

While each plant has many complex  cycles, such as root, nutrition and cellular growth just to name a few, I am just exploring the role of the flower in  ensuring the plant propagates. Not all plants flower or spread by seed, but those that do are the most common in our garden and are enjoyed by both people and insect populations. Surely the terminology of the anatomy of a flower and steps of plant sex are complicated, and so several diagrams will follow, as well as some photographs of lovely blooms.

 

Anatomy of a flower

 

Anatomy of a flower

                     A.  Peduncle                         E. Petals                  

                                         B.   Ovary                               F. Anther

                                         C.   Style                                G. Stamens

                                         D.   Stigma                            H. Sepals

Each flower bud is attached and supported by a peduncle or in common terms, a stalk or stem( see A above). The stem gives support to the developing flower from the elements and insects so it is not destroyed before the seeds are formed. From this stem grows the Sepal ( H), which is a leaf like part that protects the maturing bud and supports the base of the flower once it is open.

Each boom is composed of petals which make it visually attractive and often pleasantly scented. While the number in each bloom varies, as do the styles and shapes, their purpose is the same . Despite any physical differences on the outside, their role is to attract insects in to the flower. Once there, the insects collect pollen on a body part, often the legs and transfer it when they go in to the bloom of another plant.

 

Stamen

The Stamen is the male flower part and is composed of two parts:(F)  Anther                   and (G) Filament.

There they go…the little honey bees, looking for nectar and moving pollen by landing on the Anther. Now the Anther, or male pollen producing reproductive organ of the flower, blows in the breeze high atop the Filament.

The Filament is a thin stem that provides support for the Anther making it easier to be seen and for visits by local insects. The Anther has two lobes, both of which have spore making sacks called Microsporangia. The micro spores inside split by mitosis, so both the nucleus and cytoplasm are identical …an exact duplicate of the parent plant in each grain of pollen. Once the pollen is mature the Anther then opens for transfer by wind, water or the general bug population.

 

Anther, Filament and Stigma of a Hosta

 

Technically the male part of the reproduction equation here, in brief comes down to the Stamen is a tiny Filament with a bumpy two segmented Anther on top. The usually pale yellow pollen maturing there is then released to carry the plants genetic material, with each grain of pollen containing cells that eventually for sperm cells. Yes, that is what they are called and they do travel in search of the Ovary.

Pistil

The Pistil is composed of single or multiple units that are separate or fused. Each unit is called a Carpel.

Each Carpel has four parts:    the Stigma ( D)

    Style    (C)

   Ovary  (B)

                 Ovule (inside B)

 

Stigma

The top of this section or the Stigma can be long and slender to feathery in appearance. In addition to receiving the pollen transferred by insects, the Stigma also rejects the pollen of other species preventing mutation. Once on a compatible Stigma, the sugary fluid formed there causes the pollen to germinate.

 

Style

The Style is a tube-like portion between the Stigma and the Ovary that can be short or lengthy. Germinated pollen on the Stigma grows a pollen tube that carries the sperm cells by drilling its way through the nutrient rich Style carrying the sperm cells towards the Ovary. . In some cases the style is responsible for self-incompatibility, causing pollen tubes to fail.

Ovary

The Ovary is the female reproductive organ of the flower and the part of the Pistil that hold s the Ovules. Once the pollen tube reaches here, the now grown sperm cells are delivered to the ovule.

 

Stigma, Style and Ovary

 

Ovule

In seed propagating plants, the ovule contains the female reproductive parts and consists for three parts. There is an outer layer, a nucleus and inside the nucleus is the actual egg cell which is the site of the fertilization. After one sperm achieves this, the ovule becomes a seed cell that forms other seed. The second sperm cell changes and grows to become the food supply for the embryo.

 

In addition, the plants have stores of starch, protein and oils as food for the developing embryo and developing seedling, similar to the yolk of animal eggs.  There are also other terms and complex steps that are referred to in the same terms at human sexual reproduction, such a placenta, and umbilical cord.

 

 

Life Cycle of a Floral plant

 

 Conclusion

I have spent quite some time sorting through the facts before writing this article and the only real conclusion I have is that describing the parts of a flower that are involved in its sexual reproduction, as complicated as trying to explain the development of a human baby.

Of course the other obvious part of this conclusion is that life is a miracle , no matter how many terms and books describe the science behind it.

Now I admire the lovely blooms of my garden and feel even more connected and inspired to share their enthusiasm…time to smell the roses!

 

Nice Anthers!

 

 

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!

 

 

 

 

Poison Ivy Spreading on Pelee Island

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

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

Point Ivy rest in Peace

 

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

Poison Ivy spreading on Pelee Island

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

 

Poison Ivy with disease

 Poison Ivy Spreading on Pelee Island

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

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

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

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

Poison Ivy Friend

 

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

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

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

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

 

Pelee Island Fish Point Park

 

 

Other sources of information:

www.ontariotrees.com

 

www.oardc.ohio-state.edu/weedguide

 

Enhanced Species: Poison Ivy

 

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

 

Water Flora

Water flora was not a subject I had considered until recently. After writing the article about vertical planting, I felt motivated to explore more aspects of the world than my everyday locations. From our regular routes along streets whether on foot, by bike or car, we see the commercial and official faces of business and homes, so my goal was to find something unique like water flora.

Part of the unique or unusual is just finding what makes me feel good, even though it might hold no interest for anyone else. To capture this feeling, I took a lovely floating trip on a local river. Besides enjoying the shallow but cooling water I got to see so much life. In the kayak, not only do I get to see water flora and nature relatively undisturbed, but I get to peek into people’s backyards. I will admit, that my undercover stealth work started years ago and I still love it!

 

When my mother, sister and I went to the East coast every summer, we took many trains that wound their way through secret spots behind houses. Being an avid gardener even by age 11, I appreciated looking at gardens normally never seen. There were mounds of rusting old cars and boats, with an occasional pond or fountain that would fascinate me! 

As a teenager, I began to notice green house, scarecrows, sunflowers, veggies and all sorts of growing things. Now, years later, my snooping involves GO trains and floating by in my kayak admiring the  back yard gardens of huge homes. 

Such riverfront backyards show a personal side of the families that live here, as children’s playhouses, lawn chairs, old docks and boats of all shapes and sizes come and go.  There are also lovely, tiered gardens, tennis courts and broad expanses of beautiful green lawns.

 

Certainly as I drift by in my kayak, these lovely landscaped yards filled with blooming annuals and perennials are a lovely treat. Combined with the splendour of tall flowing willow trees, bobbing wildflowers and, interesting wildlife, my voyages are always memorable. Of course, Mother Nature providing the best water flora of all!

wild Forget-me-nots

 

lovely water flora

lovely water flora

 

 

 

 

 

For me, not many things are cooler than paddling around a bend, listening only to the wind, and discovering new blooms and birds. Certainly some of the wildflowers are not new to me and some normal garden perennials are even in the tall blowing grass of abandoned spaces all along the river.

Not to be outdone are the occasional wild iris and other aquatic plants found peaking their blooms up from the water’s edge. Once I even saw a raccoon washing his lunch. Everywhere I look there are swooping birds looking for a fish snack and big birds that just stand and scoop, like the White Egret and the Blue Heron. There are also Canadian geese, ducks galore and swans bobbing up and down the river and even out in to Lake Ontario.

White Egret and Blue Heron

 

Not to be outdone by a bird, I decided to add a new page to my memories and brave the waters of Lake Ontario. After braving waves galore on my way out of the harbour, my arms seemed to find the pace needed to glide the kayak out past the freighter break wall to wide open water. Wow, what a view…all around and even below!

 

Kayak voyage

 

 

Yes, below when the sun shone, was an underwater garden or amazing water flora. The clear water below was home to lovely greenery growing on the rocks, tall plants beyond that and fish smoothly swishing between them. From my viewpoint both the fish and the lovely green vegetation were magnified by the water to look larger than life.

 Water Flora in Port Credit Harbour

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Regardless of their size and whether I have any idea of the species of life in the aquatic garden, as the picture shows, they are amazing! In fact I was so enthralled at aquatic landscaping that I checked the net for further information, and to my amazement, the term I thought was my idea, is in fact a real subject with countless websites.

Below is one listing that has a great deal of information and many photos that shows the setting up and progress of underwater or aquatic gardens’.

www.aquatic-gardeners.org

 

Another interesting site is:www.tfhmagazine.com. On this site, in the search box type aquatic gardening and the first result found, aquatic gardening nano bears further reading. Here you can learn about plants and whether the tank should be left only for the plants or include fish.

At the moment, I am leaving water flora of gardening until I have the time and space. Who knows, what the future brings, as lunar landscaping is certainly out of my range, maybe aquatic gardening with amazing water flora would be a whole new world…do plants live longer when they don’t need a garden hose to water them?

 

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

 

 

Spring’s bloom

 Springs’s Bloom

Perennial Daffodil

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

Trillium welcomes Spring

 

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

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

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

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