Monday, 27 June 2022

Topiary with a Purpose

 On the way back from our weekend on the Gulf Islands (see previous post), we came across this strange piece of plant sculpture at the entrance to a lane in the small community of Deep Bay.

Closer inspection revealed the purpose of the window. 

The sign reads: 

I was both amused and impressed. In some communities, local authorities would have chopped down the hedge.

Saturday, 18 June 2022

Denman Island Garden Tour

 After 2 years with no garden events, the news that the Denman Island Conservancy was preparing to hold their house and garden tour in June was too tempting to miss out on:

As their website states, "Denman Island is located in the Strait of Georgia, British Columbia, Canada. it is a small rural gulf island near the east coast of Vancouver Island."

We were lucky enough to have good friends on nearby Hornby Island and fortunately Lauren and Jim were not only willing to put up with us for the weekend, but were keen to join us on the tour. 

We took the little cable-stayed ferry between the islands to get to their delightful retreat.

Amazingly, after the very wet spring we've been enduring, the weather gods smiled on Denman and the weekend was sunny.

The tour included several open houses as well as their gardens, but although nearly all the houses were beautiful examples of west coast modern style with abundant use of natural wood, I'm only slightly embarrassed to say it was the plants that took all my attention. As Denman has a large resident deer population, most gardens are protected at least in part by fencing, but many also had successful deer-resistant plantings outside the fences.

Given the Island's rural ambience and its issues with water shortages, I thought that this meadow garden approach was both practical and in tune with the surrounding countryside.

Pools were popular elements, and I was intrigued by both the colour of the water and the (home-made?) floating island at one garden.

Several properties were on sloping sites that lent themselves to landscaping on several different levels. It is not surprising that Sandy and Des Kennedy's lovingly-tended garden has graced the pages of many gardening magazines.

I'm envious of the way a large garden can have a great swath of the same plant, in this case a dramatic ornamental onion, perhaps Allium giganteum.

The garden seemed to be having a purple moment and lavender spikes of Dame's Rocket (Hesperis matronalis) scattered throughout provided a satisfying unity to a richly varied tapestry.

Along with ornamental grasses, iris and poppies, it seemed a popular choice for for many islanders. At a different garden, another similar palette complemented another appealing home.

As I was admiring the charming cottage and its adjoining perennial bed, I had an unexpected chance to make friends with a resident cat.

At the end of the day, I was surprised when I looked through my photos that I hadn't taken more. Perhaps I was spoiled because Jim and Lauren had taken us to see the garden of a friend of theirs on Hornby Island the day before the Denman tour. It wasn't just that Eva has an enviable eye for composition and colour, but she also has been tending her garden for many years and that maturity shows as it did in the Kennedy's garden.

As we sat on the beach waiting for the ferry back towards Denman and beyond it to Vancouver Island, I thought that those beautiful gardens and the natural beauty of the BC coast were a combination that few places in the world could rival.

Sunday, 27 February 2022

Christmas Gardens in Australia

When Air Canada reintroduced direct flights to Sydney in December, we made a spur-of-the moment decision to visit our daughter and grandson whom we had not seen for two years. There were a lot of restrictions and tests we had to comply with, but it was worth it. An unexpected bonus was missing the deluge of snow that fell on Vancouver just after we left.
Neighbours sent us photos.

Meanwhile we were enjoying warmth and sunshine in Sydney at our daughter's house, almost hidden behind the lush summer growth.

The pink flowers belong to a eucalyptus, Corymbia 'Summer Beauty', that was visited every morning by rainbow lorikeets feasting on its abundant nectar and waking us much too early with their squawking.

Our daughter's garden is a combination of native plants and sub-tropical ones, which make it a pleasant retreat in which to spend our Covid-restricted visit. The rules here in Australia limited our movement much more than those in Canada.

The Trachycarpus palm leaves were worth a closer look.

As well as enjoying the serenity of her garden, we could walk a block away to Rookwood, not only the largest cemetery in the southern hemisphere with over 1 million graves, but also one of the oldest . We particularly enjoyed wandering in the oldest sections among the Victorian-era gravestones.

Among the graves were many magnificent specimens of trees, both native and from surrounding regions. The tall, narrow ones in the photos above are Araucaria columnaris, a relative of the Monkey Puzzle. I read that they typically lean 8ยบ north in the southern hemisphere and the same degree south in the northern hemisphere, but these seemed to lean in various directions.
Another Araucaria (and my favourite) was also planted in considerable numbers.

This is Araucaria bidwillii, the Bunya-Bunya. Of all the trees in the cemetery, these are the most imposing and I took far too many photos of them.

It is a dangerous tree to walk under from December to March, when the cones are ripe and ready to fall. Each one is about twice the size of a pineapple and can weigh up to 10 Kg.

Rookwood is also home to many other Australian native plants, like this Honey Myrtle (Melaleuca thymifolia

and Purple Hyacinth Orchid (Dipodium atropurpureum)

The orchid is endemic to New South Wales and common in the wild, but has resisted attempts to cultivate it, due to its relationship with a mycorrhizal fungus in its natural habitat.

Perhaps the rarest species in the grounds is the endangered Downy Wattle (Acacia pubescens) that has been gradually disappearing as the city has expanded.

It was one of the first wattles cultivated in Europe, where a specimen was recorded growing in Empress Josephine's garden at Malmaison in France.

Of course, we made time to visit the Royal Botanic Garden in Sydney, which lies right on the harbour between the famous Opera House and the Art Gallery. Both the Gallery and the Garden are free to enter, demonstrating an Australian belief that such cultural experiences should be available to all. It poured rain that day and as I've posted images of the garden on my travel blog in the past, I'll just add this magnificent gum tree (Eucalyptus grandis) near the Gallery entrance.

However, we also had the opportunity to visit Mt Annan Botanical Garden on the western outskirts of Sydney. This 416-hectare garden opened in 1988 with the mission to preserve and display Australian native plants. I hadn't visited since its very early days and the transformation from former grazing land is amazing, starting with a grove of tree ferns near the visitor centre.

Not far away, a giant bee presides over lower-growing plants.

There are large drifts of my favourite kangaroo paws (Anigozanthos),

demonstrating why they got their common name.

and many other plants familiar to most Australians like Old Man Banksia (Banksia serrata) and grass trees (Xanthorrhoea).

Banksias are among the strangest of plants among many strange native species.

Other oddities include a Queensland bottle tree (Brachychiton rupestris),

which has a beautiful green trunk with "eyes" staring back at you.

There's also the Pineapple Zamia, with its characteristic cone-shaped flower. As this specimen wasn't in bloom, I thought it could just as easily have been called Peacock Zamia for those lovely green "tail feathers".

Its label saves me the effort of writing out its complicated botanical name.

Apart from plant labels, we encountered occasional warning signs, important in a country that is home to seven of the world's most venomous snakes.

However, luckily for us the more dangerous ones kept out of our way, perhaps justifiably thinking we were dangerous too.

Thursday, 11 November 2021

Autumn Colours

 I haven't posted many summer photos because I'd only be repeating what I've recorded in previous years - a sign that the garden is maturing after ten years of cultivation.

However, changes are coming this winter so I'll probably have a few different plants to highlight next year.

Meanwhile, in my ongoing quest to create a garden that offers year-round interest, I've been slowly adding more plants that offer fall interest. In fact, this October has been more vibrant than ever.

As always the back garden is dominated by the brilliant blue of the late blooming monkshood, Aconitum carmichaelii 'Arendsii'. Closer to the house, my dwarf oakleaf hydrangea has turned red and gold, and gets an echo in the back corner from the red leaves of Stewartia pseudocamellia and the blueberry beside it. 

In front of the old pear tree, Hosta 'Krossa Regal' has turned lemon yellow and is beginning to flop. 

By November other hostas in this shady bed are turning yellow too and adding a suggestion of sunlight in this shady area.

In the corner by the house, there's another golden echo from Corylopsis pauciflora, which has swapped its pale yellow blooms of spring for its rich gold leaves of autumn, just as the purple of  Aster 'Monch' below begins to fade.

Meanwhile, out front, the sycamore maples on the street, which usually turn a dull brown, are showing brighter colour than usual - just in time for Halloween.