Cottage Blooms

Cottage Blooms

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

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

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Buttercup wildflower

 

 

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cottage blooms

 

 

 

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Roadside garden with Yucca plant

Roadside garden with Yucca plant

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

 

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wild violet

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

 

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Shasta Daisy from garden centre

 

 

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

Gardening Vacation in Nova Scotia

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

 

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

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

 

ocean view from Nova Scotia

ocean view from Nova Scotia

 

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

Dartmouth planter

Dartmouth planter

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

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

 

lovely beach flowerBeach flower

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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Gardening in Nova Scotia

 

Blue Hydrangea in  a Shelburne N.S garden

Blue Hydrangea in a Shelburne N.S garden

 

Blue Hydrangea

Blue Hydrangea

 

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

Memorial garden Digby

Memorial garden Digby

main street Digby NS

main street Digby NS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

Cape Forchu Lighthouse and garden

Cape Forchu Lighthouse and garden

Summer Blooms

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

Lily

 

 

Garden Sale points:

1. is there a spot in my garden for it

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

3. is the price really a “sale”

4.  do I need it.

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

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

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

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Giant Coleus in Planter Box

 

Summer bloom care list

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

1. good water

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

2. fertilizing

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

3. deadheading

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

4. pest control

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

Milkweed and pests

Milkweed and pests

 

 

5. weeding

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

 

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

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

 

EARTH, WATER, SKY

EARTH, WATER, SKY

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

Wildflowers in spring

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

 

Trillium and poison Ivy

 

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

 

happy Dandelion

 

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

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

 

Unfurling Fron

 

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

Yellow Morel

Yellow Morel

 

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

 

Dandelion face

 

 

bobbing Dandeions

 

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

 

Dandelion ...Wishes

Dandelion …Wishes

 

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

 

Mysterious Wildflower     Multiple budded shrub

 

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

 

Jack in the Pulpit

Jack in the Pulpit

 

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

 

Trillium Ontario's Flower Emblem

Trillium Ontario’s Flower Emblem

 

 

Red Trillium

Red Trillium

 

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

 

Trillium and Poison Ivy

 

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

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

Poison Ivy unfurling in a Pine tree

Poison Ivy unfurling in a Pine tree

 

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

 

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Forests in Fall

Forests in Fall are amazing places and recently, I found myself them observing one up close and personal when walking through one of many local conservation areas near my cottage. The air was crisp, the sun quite warm, and there were countless birds chirping and flitting from tree to tree. While most of the forest floor was carpeted with thousands of dry, deciduous tree leaves  the air was frequently filled with the scent of pine from the tall white and red pine overhead.

 

 

Beneath the towering trees, while shuffling my feet through the leaves, I began to notice native plants still thriving despite the mid-November weather. In this area, zoned climate region 5A, with nights recently below -4 ? Celsius and current daytime temperatures this weekend up to 11?, it seems native plants are definitely heartier  than I realized.

Carolinian Forest Native Plants

There are many locations of Carolinian Forests in South Western Ontario. Previously I have written in detail of Point Pelee National Park and Pelee Island (Pelee Island blog August 2012) as l provided information on other locations as well as plants that are native to this eco vegetation area. However, I had no idea of exactly how hardy these plants could be until I witnessed their vigorous state just today.

In fact forests in fall can contain a wide variety of plants still splendid in green. On my recent walk I noticed, a few Golden Rod plants in bloom, dandelions and even a milkweed pod just beginning to burst.

 

 

 

 

Most of the black, pin and giant oak trees as well as the poplar had shed their now brown leaves. The white, red, and scotch pines waved their deep green needles back and forth in the wind, while sending a small cascade of dry needles and pinecones to the ground below.

fallen pine needles

fallen pine needles

 

Also helping these needles and their cones fall to the ground also were a wide variety of aviary creatures…birds of all sizes and colours. In fact, there were many tiny sparrows and chickadees flying from branch to branch with such speed that glances were a treat and photos were almost an impossibility!

Thankfully the native plants below were just waving in the wind, waiting to be noticed. Throughout the mounds of brown crunchy leaves in this primarily oak forest, there were native ferns with deep, rich, healthy green frons. Occasionally there were the tiny, green lobbed leaves of the Hepatica Americana plant, sticking out from the sloped banks above the walking trails that extended many kilometres through this county park.

Native Americana Hepatica

native fern in November

 

 

Nature in Harmony

Nature works in harmony with itself, when man does not interfere, which is evident as see by trees, helping everything for purifying the air to providing homes and food for living things of all sizes.

Hearty plants are aided by natural windbreaks and mulch. Full evergreens change the flow of cool winds that blow through all forests in fall by diverting it around the trunks directly and through the branches and needles as well.  Deciduous tree also diver the strong breezes as some of them in this conservation area where I walked, are up to three meters around.

On the ground, below these trees, the thick leave layer provides insulation to plants there like a multilayered blanket. This layer also provides a moisture barrier for worms and other insects as well, as countless bacteria and fungi that do most of the work in breaking down the organic matter of forests in fall.

Soil microorganisms mineralize or chemically convert organic compounds in to simpler forms, once the fungus family have begun the process of what is known as mineralization. Mineralisation is the biological process in which organic compounds are chemically converted to other simpler organic compounds or inorganic forms, such as carbon, ammonium or phosphate,  which are basic elements required for plant growth.

Mushrooms and toadstools

Regardless of the time of year, woodlands have trees and plant life in various stages of decomposition.  In fact, my walk through the Backus Conservation Area forests in the fall, revealed logs rotting away everywhere. These natural sources of compost eventually break down completely and add to the soil levels of the forest floor.

Before that happens, the breakdown delivers nutrients to local plants through the surrounding soil as well as to the parasitic plant forms that grown on the decaying wood. Many varieties of mushroom and other fungi were thriving well in the in the grown in the damp, shady areas on the forest floor, despite the colder November temperatures. On my walk I found many such life forms whose colour and variety were amazing.

 

 

 

After further investigation, I discovered that toadstools are not an official plant genus or species, but are part of the Kingdom of Fungi. As with all Kingdoms, this one has many Family, Genus and Species, which include mushrooms, mold, yeast, lichen, rust and truffles.

Fungi Kingdom

Forests in the fall contain many fine examples of this Kingdom as I witnessed firsthand on my walk. There were mushrooms that grew directly out of the rotting wood while others had stems. In addition to the interesting shapes the colour range was amazing as I noticed green scaly mushrooms and large almost flowery looking orange ones that looked like some alien flower species.

 

 

These wildly coloured and unusually shaped living things where but the tip of a huge subject that now intrigues me. In fact, off I go to research the fascinating subject of Fungi. After all, Mother nature’s gardens are certainly inspiring…especially forests in fall!

Goldenrod and the Fall Family

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Goldenrod Pollen

 

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

 

www.gpnc.org/goldenro.htm

 

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

 

Golden Rod

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

Golderod Florets

 

 

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

 

Ragweed

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

Pond plants of Point Pelee National Park

Pond plants of Point Pelee National Park

Pond plants of Point Pelee National Park are amazing.Recently I  observed these pond plants, up close and personal as I was travelling throughout   South Western Ontario. In addition , I had the pleasure of seeing a wide variety of  garden, both traditional garden, an natural ones along and under waterways and many lovely pond plant. While to home gardeners, their own private space is treasured as a source of joy, peace and sometimes inspiration, to the adventurous the world of nature contains this and more.

Several weeks ago I saw native cone-flowers and other Carolinian woodland plants including poison ivy, wild grape vines and Queen Anne’s lace on Pelee Island. While marsh areas or wetlands both are part of  Canada’s Carolinian Eco system, on the island the marshlands have been dramatically reduced to a small section near the north east shoreline.

Pond plants of Point Pelee National park, on the other hand,have lots of room to grow  as, according to their literature, the park is approximately 80% marsh. This southern most point of mainland Canada also has a spit that juts in to Lake Erie similar to that of the island but is shorter in length. Composed of glacial sand, silt and gravel, the point here is approximately 4.5 Km wide at the north and approximately 7 km in length.

 

Point Pelee National Park

The point was named Point Pelee or Bare Point by the French explorers who discovered it, as the east side was rock and had no trees. After researching the history of the area, I realized my collected data would make up a book and that there are already many on it. However, from this information and a sign in the park itself, I learned that the park is designated as a protected area Category 2 by the international body IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources).

After further reading about the IUCN’s mandate of conserving biodiversity, and information on the park’s wetlands,  I really began to think about the significance of the diversity there. Point Pelee National Park is not only a significant Carolinian forest tract, but the ponds and pond plants there are home to a valuable aquatic ecosystem.

 

Unfortunately as civilization progresses, all too often the wetlands of Ontario are being filled in . A number of animals and birds can adapt by moving their habitat and following other food sources, but the toads, frogs, fish and minnows just to name a few, cannot live without the water!  Even the pond bottoms are important as the muck there provides food and shelter for many tiny creatures and nutrition for the many pond plants.

Plants wherever they may be, provide interest for the observer, but they also provide food for the insects that feed on them. While  garden pests  at  home are annoying and I wish they would just vanish, I never wanted them to become extinct…victims of a disappearing habitat. Little did I know how my recent kayak trip in this national park would connect me with this reality.

 

Entrance to Point Pelee National Park

A friend and I drove past countless cottages that lined the shore of the point as we headed in to Pelee National Park with kayaks and gear, ready for a day of adventure. Under a glorious blue sky we watched birds soar and nest at a three storey bird observation tower while we prepared to launch. With hats, suntan lotion and life vest on, we seated ourselves comfortably and headed in to a narrow channel as we headed out to see pond plants of Pelee National Park.

Pond plants of Point Pelee National Park

 

 

Following the channel, which ran alongside a raised boardwalk at first, it wasn’t long before we spotted nature’s water gardens…pond plants galore! At the start there were a few white water lilies but as the water passage widened their number grew until white blooms were as far as the eye could see. In fact more flowering plants were seen than I had dared imagine

 

Pond plants of Point Pelee National Park

Pond plants of Point Pelee National Park are amazing!Between the big lily pads of the white flowers whose many petals stuck out like little spikes, there were smaller bright yellow ones with curled up petals. Of course I got my handy, tiny camera out of my life vest pocket and began to snap away!Pond plants at Point Pelee National park are everywhere! Not to be outdone were the smaller but lovely blue/purple blooms of what I later identified as Pickerelweed. Before long the channel tightened and as we rounded the bend, large pink flowers appeared that looked like the mallow in my garden back home.

Pickerelweed flower

Wild Mallow

 

 

 

 

 

 

These tall blooms grew high among the tall cattails as part of a lovely marshland bouquet. The sounds of these plants swishing in the warm wind blowing and the call of overhead birds combined in  nature’s  symphony! While this day had been amazing so far, little did I know there were  more surprises in store, as  I floated along with the pond plants of  Point Pelee National Park.

Before leaving this view behind and turning back past the windsock  that flew high overhead by the main channel back, I decided to risk the small lake ahead. The wind had picked up as had the waves ,but with a little extra energy on the paddles it wasn’t long until I reached Nirvana! There in front of me were pale yellow flowers that rose over a foot out of the water and towered over the biggest floating leaves I had ever seen!

In fact, the leaves were so huge I needed a paddle blade in the picture for scale. Then there were the blossoms themselves, that blew in the breeze so I had to hold one tightly to admire and shoot up close. There were buds waiting to bloom, fully open flowers and an occasional seed head waiting to dry and drop its seeds to the bottom. What these pond plants were was a mystery to me, I hoped to solve later.

 

 

 

 

 

As the clouds rolled in and the waves picked up, my friend and I headed back to the safety of the shallow waters and so our aquatic garden tour had come to a close. Back at the hotel that night, I did some online research and found  all the information I had hoped for and more! The large yellow lily was in fact Nelumbo Lutea and is very rare in Canada!

Not only are the plants rare themselves, but they only flower in July and August with the flowers open from mid-morning to early afternoon. Wow I certainly timed it right! These gems, along with the more common white lily’s ( family Nymphaea ),and the tinier bright yellow Bullhead lily (Nuphar family) are just a few of the spectacular pond plants of Pelee National Park !

Bullhead Lily flower

 

White Water Lily

 

Certainly the need to protect the Carolinian ecosystem as a whole is important, and leaving the marshlands as unique sites of biodiversity is a must! Tempting as it was to take a dry seed head and try and grow in in water at home, I resisted.

Instead I donated extra funds to the park and hope to keep in touch with programmes and support they made need … and I might just be visiting an aquatic garden centre this coming spring, to stock up on my own pond plants!

 

Pelee Island Trip

Pelee Island trips can  be wonderful and defiinately an adventure as mentioned previously, when I  found poison ivy there. This noxious weed is only one among countless found on this quaint island. Certainly the entire island cannot be appreciated in one day, but I did see lovely woodlands, stunning beaches and heard many songbirds. In addition to being a calm, natural spot, I found it oddly exhilarating being at the southernmost tip of Canada.

 

Wikipedia Pelee Island Aerial

 

Pelee Island Trip

My Pelee Island trip began from Leamington Ontario, home of the Big Tomato Information booth and the largest number of greenhouses in Canada. Despite how much I enjoy Ketchup on fries, I spent no time viewing the area or its tomatoes before heading to the docks. There I boarded the Jimaan Ferry for a 1 hr. and 45 minute trip to the main dock on the island’s west side.

 

Pelee Island Ferry

The ferry sold a variety of items in their gift shop including several interesting books on Pelee as well as the standard nautical souvenirs. On the wall there was a topographical map of the surrounding area, so I got a better idea of how close we were to the U.S. and the number of islands that make up what is known as The West Lake Erie Islands.

 

These islands, regardless of their country of ownership, form what is called an Archipelago. This is the term for a chain or cluster of islands, which in this case support a Carolinian forest eco system. While I was familiar with Carolinian forests, as my cottage is in one such area, until I visited Pelee I had no idea of the range of these environs.

In fact, “Carolinian” itself is a term used to describe a life or vegetative zone in Eastern North America characterized by a predominance of deciduous trees. Over the years since the origin of this designation came in to use in 1859 by J.G. Cooper of the United States, its usage has changed. Now the term is primarily used in Canada, and referred to as Eastern Deciduous or Eastern Woodlands, in the U.S.

Carolinian Forest

The northern edge of the area encompassed is below an approximate line drawn between Toronto on Lake Ontario to Grand Bend on Lake Huron, with the southern extension in to the Carolinas. In this area are pockets of the fertile mixed wood plains, as seen on Pelee Island. The Great lakes modify the surrounding area allowing animals, birds and plant life to survive, that are seldom found in other areas of Canada.

Typical Carolinian forest; trees are a mix of Hickory, Black Walnut,Sycamore, Chestnuts, Oaks and the rarer Red Mulberry, Dwarf Hackberry, Tulip tree and Kentucky Coffee trees. Not surprisingly, Poison Ivy is one of the native vines for this area, while wildflowers, Swamp Rose Mallow, Tall Coreopsis,Wild Bergamot,wild Lupine and Yellow Lotus can also be found blowing in the meadows and wetlands.

 

Yellow Lotus

 

Pink Mallow

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unique animals and reptiles are there as well. In fact the Island is home to the Gray Fox found only in one other location in Manitoba and a Blue Racer snake which is only found on Pelee. There are many more examples of wildlife unique to this area and island, many of which are now endangered species!

Unfortunately Carolinian forests are frequently near large populated areas of Ontario and then are at risk due to loss of wetlands, as cities grow. Even farmland expansion has a downside as it can destroy natural nesting and living areas. Certainly the balance of economy vs preservation of a natural eco system is quite delicate.

On Pelee Island, the farming has declined from 33 farms to less than 10 over the last twenty years as farmers’ retired and new machinery allowed larger tracts to be managed by individual farms. The population has declined as well. Around 1900 had almost 800 residents with 4 schools, 4 churches and 3 general stores. Certainly current transportation and recession issues have had an impact on the islands economy as there are only approximately 275 year round residents with one store, a post office, LCBO, bike rentals a few B&Bs and several restaurants.

As well Pelee Island Winery adds to the islands economy and provides another attraction for visitors. Fishing, boating, scenery and the annual Pheasant Hunt draw many tourists here and countless birders come each spring as migration patterns peak.

But  no Pelee Island Trip would be complete for me until I witnessed the peak …the  sandy one at the end of the island! As a gardener and lover of nature I certainly appreciated the lovely trees blowing in the wind and the birds heard high overhead but getting away was my main goal. In fact I was lookiing forward to leaving the city behind for some beach combing and a calmer atmosphere.

 

 

Beachcomber

Part of the calm I found was in the natural landscape, feeling the sand through my toes and hearing countless birds call from the shore. With the sun high overhead, beach combing was amazing as I headed to the end of Fish Point Park…to wave at the United States and the thousands of seagulls resting on the sandy finger that ends this lovely island.

 

 

Pelee Island was a joy to visit and I look forward to enjoying the Carolinian forest, friendliness of the residents and the lovely blooms of their gardens, in the near future…and of course walk the sandy shores and breath the fresh Lake Erie air!

 

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?

 

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