Monday, 19 December 2011

The New Front Door

It's been a while since we've made any progress that affects the exterior of the house, but we finally have new front and back doors. The front door in particular was ugly, either with or without its aluminum screen - so ugly that it never got into any photos and I had trouble finding a "before" image. This is the best I could do, cropped from a larger image of the porch:

It was not a welcoming sight. The opening was not standard, which meant we couldn't go with a pre-hung door, but on the positive side it allowed us to design our own replacement. The drawback was waiting for it to be manufactured. Finally, it arrived last week, and I spent hours in the basement painting the exterior and clear-coating the interior. Yesterday, Randy the carpenter installed it, and this morning we attached our new letterbox beside it. (The old door had a mail slot.) So now it looks like this:

From the street, it complements the house.

From the inside, it completely changes what was a very dark hall into a much more pleasant space.

When I originally photographed the hall from the stairs, I had to open the door to get enough light.

                                                             Not now!

These last two photos also show the changes to the floor, walls, and the stair rail. We've had to replace the newel post, but found all but one of the original spindles intact under the sheathing. Needless to say, the stair treads are among the tasks still to do.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Last gasp in the Garden

It has always been my aim to have a garden where interesting things are happening all year. Still, I didn't really expect to have so much colour when the garden is little more than just one year old.
Early in November, the shapely Corylopsis that came from the garden of old friends, Audrey and Robert, turned golden.

In front of it the flowers of Persicaria amplexicaulis 'Fire Dance' floated like tufts of bright pink chenille.

Across the way, the dying leaves of Hosta 'Krossa Regal' glowed a deeper gold beside 'Stormy Seas', my all-time favourite of the plum-coloured heucheras.

In the same area Cyclamen hederifolium has sprouted delicate little pink blooms on slender stems above its beautifully marbled leaves.

My two Scotch Briar roses are still in pots as we haven't yet prepared the ground for them, but their fall colour is stunning against the green of a clump of thyme.

Equally bright in the front garden is Enkianthus perulatus. It has grown considerably since I photographed it, newly planted, last year.

A close-up view shows the subtle variation in the leaves.

As a contrast we now have a Japanese maple in a large pot. The white string temporarily attached to a couple of branches is to persuade it to a more interesting shape.

Hydrangea 'Beni-gaku' continues to impress me with its deepening leaf colour.

And there are still a few flowers determined to keep opening, such as these rain-soaked, fragile blooms of rose 'Darlow's Enigma'

Note: By the middle of the month, all the leaves had fallen; only the cyclamen were undaunted by several days of cold, sleet and light snow.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Our neighbourhood

Last year the weather through October was alternately windy and rainy. As a result, leaves didn't remain long on the trees. This year it has been relatively dry and calm, and the fall colour in our neighbourhood and elsewhere has been stunning. Regrettably the maples on our block merely turn brown, but elms on the next street over formed a golden canopy over the cars and a matching carpet under them.

 Also last year, I posted lots of Halloween pictures. This year I'm putting up just one because it is so ambitious: a pirate ship that occupies most of the front yard on a nearby street.

We made a point of walking by on the night itself. In the dimly-lit bow of the ship, a large mechanical spider dropped from the deck level and reeled itself back up. There were various appropriate sound effects. A dry ice machine enveloped the steps to the front door in swirling mist. Children brave enough to reach the front door were greeted by residents dressed in pirate gear brandishing cutlasses...and candy bars. It was all very impressive.

On another theme altogether, I've been noticing a renewed interest in topiary in the Vancouver area. Here's a great example of a living fence not far from my home.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Canyon Trip

In mid-October the weather was so nice that we decided to take an overnight trip up the Fraser Canyon to Cache Creek and back through Logan Lake and the Nicola Valley. Here's a link to a map of our route  

We travelled along the north side of the river to Hope, continued north on Hwy 97 (yellow) to Cache Creek, and returned through Logan Lake (grey) to Merritt, then Hwy 5 (green) back to Hope.
Since the road hugs the Fraser River, the scenery is spectacular, both along the river ...

and through the rocky crags of the canyon. This is just one of several tunnels that the road runs through.

Trains run constantly along each side of the river. It used to be that the Canadian Pacific had its track on one side and Canadian Northern on the other. Nowadays they share the tracks and all eastbound trains run on one, all westbound on the other. No doubt it's both safer and more efficient.

I love how the blue of the containers in this last shot echoes the blue of the water.

Looking up at the mountains is as impressive as looking down at the river.

Fall colours had started to infuse the landscape,

some requiring a close inspection.

Surprise, surprise... it's a rose!

By sunset we were almost at our destination.

We had hoped to stay in Ashcroft, which is a pretty little place, but has suffered the fate of many small interior towns as people leave for lack of work. Cache Creek has more industry, including a dump for much of Vancouver's garbage, but is ugly. However, it does have motels.

The following day we began our way back through the Nicola Valley. This is a more settled, less rugged landscape than the Fraser Canyon. There are signs of abandonment here too, picturesque and a little sad.

Halfway home we took a turn-off from the highway to visit the Quintette Tunnels. This little-known miracle of engineering provided a route for the Kettle Valley Railway from the Interior to the Coast. The architect of this feat had himself lowered in a basket into the chasm cut by the Coquihalla River in order to plot how the track could negotiate the river, which at this point winds back and forth through massive rocks. He achieved his goal by linking three tunnels and two bridges. The site is now a provincial park and the former railbed is a walking trail. It is one of my favourite places to take overseas visitors to absorb some of the wild beauty of this part of the world. The tunnels are quite dark and it's advisable to have a flashlight to negotiate through them, but the views from the bridges in between are awe-inspiring.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Fall flowers and foliage

As we journey through October, the weather is becoming colder, and the fall rains come and go. The garden is slowly putting itself to bed for the winter, but we're still enjoying late blooms on some of the plants. My group of Aster 'Little Carlow' is just past its best now, but its intense violet daisies have been a standout for the last month. Next year I will remember to chop them to half height in June. They'll bloom a little later, but will be sturdy enough not to be knocked over by wind and rain. I've had to tie them up this year, which means they lose some of their natural grace, hence the close-up.

As long as I continue to deadhead Penstemon 'Garnet', it keeps on producing more spikes of lipstick-pink bells, although it has slowed the pace somewhat. This is my favourite penstemon, not for the colour, but because it has this never-say-die quality. It also flops less than many newer varieties in subtler shades. In its one season here, it has grown substantially and is crowding out an oregano nearby, which really needs cutting back. I've left the latter because the bees love its flowers so much, but it's time to find it a home elsewhere.

Aconitum carmichaelii 'Arendsii', buried behind some phlox over the summer, came into its own in early September and its electric blue spires are still standing tall against the fence. It gets less sun here than I expected, but that doesn't seem to have affected its enthusiasm.

On the opposite fence a young Clematis rehderiana has produced a few of its tiny, fragrant, pale yellow bells.

In future years it will cover the fence and the scent of many such flowers will infuse the garden.

I recently bought Japanese anemone 'Honorine Jobert' to add its pristine white into this autumnal mix. This is a plant that normally holds its flowers on tall, willowy stems, but mine is looking disappointingly dumpy. It was potbound enough to need some trimming and untangling during the transplant so I hope that is at the 'root' of its problem and that next year it will fulfill my expectations. These anemones have a reputation for not knowing their place, but I've never known 'Honorine' to outgrow its allotted space. Like the white-flowerd forms of many plants it is less vigorous than its more colourful relatives.

In front of the house, the lavender has grown to more than twice the size it was when I planted it. I've clipped it for the winter, but next year the individual bushes should merge into the low hedge I have in mind.

Also in front, a little onion, that my friend Lambert recommended, Allium thunbergii 'Ozawa', is flowering bravely away against the foliage of Hydrangea 'BeniGaku'. It needs a suitable companion that won't overwhelm it (perhaps a dark-leaved Sedum).

Speaking of 'Beni-Gaku, the leaves on my larger specimen of this in the backyard are turning deep crimson.

Not to be outdone, peony foliage is doing much the same.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Australian chook

 Our corrugated tin rooster, bought in Bendigo, Australia, has found a home on the new fence.

It is in a strategic location visible from inside the house framed by one of the basement windows. There is just enough space below the fence for a plant to grow up beneath it, although I haven't yet decided what that plant will be.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Kitchen complete

At last the kitchen is done. All the appliances are installed, as well as the missing cabinet doors. It's a far cry from the room as we saw it on our first visit to the house, when it looked like this:

The first thing we did was take down the unnecessary curtains. Not long after we put in new light fixtures, but the rest remained as is until we had completed the changes to the exterior. In a couple of months it has gone from this:

to this:


All that now remains is to finish painting the walls and trim (I'm still dithering over the exact colour of yellow for the former) and to repair the chimney (we are looking for one of those old-fashioned circular caps for where the stovepipe was attached; they are hard to find.)