Tuesday, 19 June 2018

The Attention-Getters

During the East Van Garden Tour this Sunday, thirteen private gardens welcomed
around 300 visitors between 10 am and 4 pm.
Our garden was one of them. 
Early in the morning, we posted a few "before" images on our basement door. 

For most of the day, we had a steady stream of delightful people
carefully making their way from front to back along our narrow paths.

 Between us we fielded many questions, not just about plants but also our water feature, pergola, irrigation system (hand-watering!), paving and design. Still, most of the questions were to do with plant ID and, although there was interest in a wide variety, some plants drew more attention.

In the front garden, everyone noticed the scent of the two bushes of Daphne 'Eternal Fragrance' flanking the path ....

.... even the butterflies.

The tree hydrangea (Hydrangea aspera ssp. sargentiana) also attracted interest for its sheer size, despite not being in bloom yet.

At quite the opposite end of the scale, the delicate flowers and richly patterned leaves
of Saxifraga stolonifera drew many eyes down to ground level.

 A surprise for me was the number of people who commented on a single remaining Trillium leaf,
 that had turned lime green as the flower went to seed.

In the back garden, the most commented-on plant was Phlomis russeliana. I was surprised that more people didn't recognize this member of the Jerusalem sage family.

I tried to describe its additional virtue of winter structure, without realizing at the time that I could simply have directed them to one of the other gardens on the tour where its seedheads were decorating a shady fence.

Another big hit was Gillenia trifoliata, a not-well-known-but-ought-to-be plant for
shady spaces, where its delicate white petals on their long stems spangle the purples
and soft greens of surrounding foliage.

 Various Astrantia, also brightening the shade, drew a lot of attention ...

... particularly one vigorous seedling that I assume to be a hybrid of 'Shaggy' and 'Ruby Wedding' since it marries the white of one with the crimson of the other.

Two clovers were at their peak, puzzling quite a few visitors who couldn't quite believe
they belonged to the family of the common invader of lawns.

Trifolium rubens
Trifolium ochroleucum
Next to the latter, another Astrantia, pink-flowered 'Roma',
was appealing to a crowd of bees as well as humans. 

Hydrangea serrata 'Yae-no-Amacha' attracted the foliage-lovers. I'm a bit worried that
it's showing its dislike of too much sun, but the effect is certainly unusual. 
It will look even more spectacular when the flowers deepen to a more vivid blue.

Finally, the beautiful marking on a Hydrangea relative, Schizophragma hydrangeoides 'Moonlight', in the shade along the side of the house caused a few keen-eyed people to stop and admire.

Monday, 30 April 2018

The Joy of Spring

Spring has been slow to arrive this year, and I realize it's almost two months since I last had anything to report. However, at last the garden has started to leaf out and from March onward the early bloomers have created some sparks of colour among the bare patches of soil. Snowdrops are always among the first, and I find that I've gone from having none to having too many. One of my tasks will be to remove a few of the self-seeded clumps that are now crowding other plants and to thin out many of the remaining ones.

The cluster of purple crocus in the background suffered in rainy March, but whenever the clouds moved off, the little flowers hauled themselves upright and opened to enjoy any brief sunshine.

Corylopsis pauciflora is a regular March delight with its delicate yellow bells dangling like earrings from every twig.

Hellebores, blue Anemone blanda and the little cream stars of species tulip, Tulipa turkestanica are gradually filling in the space beneath.
Anemone blanda is just one of the small wood anemones I have scattered around the garden. The green flower of A. virescens isn't one of the most noticeable, but its ruffled little parasols are charming.

Willows are at their best in these early months when their catkins emerge in various colours. Always the first is black willow (Salix gracilistyla 'Melanostachys) The bamboo curtain behind it contributes to its pared-down oriental  elegance.

As the flowers age, they go from furry black...

... to fuzzy grey. Both stages combine nicely with the red stems, and by the time they are grey the acid green of new leaves adds another complementary colour.
This is a plant I tried to turn into a lollipop by retaining only one long stem and clipping the top into a ball, but it resisted and eventually won the day. Now I let it do what it wants but confine it to a pot in hopes of controlling its spread. I just don't have room for the large specimen it would like to become.

Salix nakamura var. yezoalpina, a creeping willow, is slower to show signs of life. But over the 10 days between April 20 and 30, brown beads on the stems gradually burst open to reveal small cotton buds that then expand quite rapidly into chunky yellow candles surrounded by shiny green leaves.

Among the last to bloom is Salix helvetica, whose sea-green foliage will now make it a feature of the garden until the onset of winter. This is such a neat compact plant that I wonder why it hasn't become more popular. Probably the word "willow" makes people think of a huge weeping tree, which this relative definitely isn't.

 As April comes to an end the sweet scent of Skimmia and Daphne infuse the air. The former is by our back steps, and the latter flanks the front path so that we can inhale their fragrance as we come and go.

Both the Daphne suffered broken twigs in 20016's winter snow and still look ragged. I've been reluctant to tackle re-shaping them as I've read that they don't respond kindly to pruning.

Almost the last  Erythronium to open and to my eye the prettiest is 'White Beauty', looking like a miniature turk's cap lily. Behind it are the milky leaves of a Brunnera, spangled with its tiny blue flowers like forget-me-nots.

Another spring white is Enkianthus perulatus, showing up well against the red background of the house.

Finally, thanks to a few really warm, sunny days, ever-reliable 'Spring Green' tulips have also opened, just as all the foliage in the back garden begins to fill all the bare spaces.

Monday, 26 February 2018

A New Year but a Slow Start

A combination of factors has kept me from recording any changes in the garden since 2018 began. They comprised a brief winter break in Mexico, followed by a bad head cold that kept me indoors, followed by snow that buried much of the backyard.

Only my little metal cat seemed to shrug it off.

  The snow is still around, but in spite of it, the usual harbingers of spring are showing their determination to bloom. I covered most of the hellebores during the nights that the temperature dropped below 0ÂșC, but when I uncovered them today, several had blooms already pushing at their prison walls.

Frilly Kitty
 Peppermint Ice

Cherry Blossom

The stems of Narcissus 'Rijnveld's Early Sensation were smothered by the snow, but as it begins to melt they are struggling to stand upright once again.

Some of the crocus are doing the same.

Gipsy Girl

Cyclamen coum along the side of the house also got flattened and is having a harder time to getting up again.

 My Daphne has some broken twigs, but most of the other woody plants held up well under their burden. Skimmia 'Magic Marlot' even looked extra pretty.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

November doldrums

We were away for all of October, travelling in Indonesia (see my travel blog), and returned to find the garden preparing itself for winter.

With the exception of a few blue spires of monkshood (Aconitum carmichaelii 'Arendsii'), foliage colours of green, russet, gold and silver dominate the backyard.
A new acquisition this year, Cotinus 'Young Lady', a compact form of smokebush, is among the clearest golds, with dark red slowly seeping out between the veins.

Similar colouring infuses a native currant in a corner of the vegetable garden, although more of it has already deepened to red.

In front of the house, Disanthus cercidifolius, which looked so vibrant at the end of September...

...is now a scrawl of bare branches above the dying foliage around its base.

Not all is in decline however. This is the moment for Mahonia 'Winter Sun' to shine. Its buds are already bursting with the promise of winter flowers that will lure Anna's hummingbirds to join the juncos and chickadees who are enlivening the garden every day as they hunt for bugs and seeds among the debris.