Thursday, 3 October 2013

Fall colour

It's only the beginning of October, but we've had such wet, cool weather for the last week that it feels like much later in the fall, even though the deciduous trees have only just started to change colour.

A few stalwart plants are continuing to bloom in spite of being soaked. Several stems of Aster 'Little Carlow' ( which isn't little) have snapped and the whole plant is leaning precariously on the adjoining Hydrangea quercifolia 'Sikes Dwarf' (which isn't very dwarf.)However, the combination still manages to look good.

I'd like some more asters, but will be careful to select shorter varieties. Even though I shortened the stems of 'Little Carlow' twice during the summer, it still got too leggy. It's a fabulous colour, though, so worth the trouble of staking.

In the background, Persicaria 'Fire Dance' is still blooming, as it has for weeks now. Interspersed among its blooms are the seedheads of Phlomis russeliana, too dark to see in the photo above.

Actaea 'Brunette' has finished flowering, but it also has attractive drooping caramel-brown seedheads with an added bonus this year of foliage that has unexpectedly gone from dark brown to a rosy pink. Note to self: don't rush to cut it back at summer's end.

There are still a few slightly bedraggled flowers on Rosa 'Darlow's Enigma',

while Clematis rehderiana has leapt from the fence into the pear tree, producing a whole new flush of flowers in both locations. The red hips are on Rosa 'Lykkefund'. I planted these two together, hoping for just this effect.

Unfortunately the cool weather has greatly reduced C. rehderiana's usual heady perfume, but the little bells with their turned-up edges are delightful anyway.

Another great combination, not planned, is that of Penstemon 'Garnet' draping a few remaining flowers over an ornamental clover. I bought the clover for its crimson flowers, never suspecting it would have such dramatic fall foliage.

In the front garden, Nandina 'Plum Passion', one of this year's purchases, is demonstrating why it is so named. I'm hoping it will become more bushy as it settles in.

A late planting of sunflowers in the vegetable garden is fighting against time to open some flowers before the first killing frost.

The flower hanging head downward, whose stalk got pushed over early in its life, was first to bloom, probably thanks to heat reflected from the paving below. I squatted under it to get a close-up.

Monday, 30 September 2013

Quirky Stuff

On a visit to Yale, B.C., I liked this attempt to make a plain wooden fence more attractive. Not a real flower in sight on the property, however.

And in my neighbourhood, a gardener who figures that one scare owl is not enough.

There were more owls than my camera could capture in one photo...but no crows. Maybe it works.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Let There Be Light

Back in March I wrote about the impact on us of the new house next door, particularly the light lost from Michael's workroom. We have somewhat solved the problem by having a skylight installed. It's called a sun dome and is a silver-lined tube that extends from the roof through the attic space to the ceiling and directs natural light into the room. There's a clear plastic dome on the roof and a diffuser at the ceiling end. It has made quite a difference.

I took this photo on a sunny day. It's not as bright, of course, when the sky is cloudy.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Plants still in Pots

After planting Hydrangea serrata 'Waterfall' in the garden last year and watching it sulk, I dug it up and stuck it in a large pot, thinking it might not be everything I had hoped for when I bought it. Perhaps it knew it was under threat, as this summer it has put out some truly pretty flowers. If I can find the right place this time, it's going to be a keeper after all.

I also had a rose cutting that spent last year quietly growing in a dim corner and clothing itself in small, neat, immaculate foliage. Unfortunately, I couldn't remember what it was or where I'd got it. This year, it bloomed with exquisite little pink flowers and I recognised it immediately.

It's called 'Immensée' these days, but I knew it as 'Grouse', one of a series of groundcover roses all with English bird names. As far as I know, I had the only plant in BC, which I had planted in the gravel outside the front gate of our former farm. When we drove by the old place a couple of years ago, it was thriving still, and I snitched a cutting so that I could have it again myself. I have no idea where I can put it in the garden, but I think it might do very well trailing from a larger pot, at least for the time being. One of its parents is 'The Fairy', a compact little plant, but the other is a huge rambler. Considering that plus its official name, it might soon overwhelm even a large pot. We'll see.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Looking Like a Garden

Plants that I bought two years ago when I was starting this garden are showing their maturity this year. As they came into bloom in July, a number of them actually filled the space I'd allotted to them. Although there's still quite a bit of bare earth, it's hardly visible from some angles.

Of course, the annual poppies are a great space-filler, but a few of the shrubs and perennials are doing well too, like white Hydrangea quercifolia 'Sikes' Dwarf' and purple-leafed Eupatorium rugosum 'Chocolate'.

In the background are the purple flowers of a Monarda that I think might be 'Donnerwolke'. The hot pink is Phlox 'Starfire'. From a distance it's hard to see its leaves, which are as dark as those of the Eupatorium. In the mid-ground there is a single stem of Lilium regale, which deserves a close-up.

And so does 'Beni-Gaku', still my favourite hydrangea.

The whole plant of 'Beni-Gaku' is lovely at this time of year as the colour of the older flowers begins to deepen to a soft brick red, matching the tones of the leaves, while the younger flowers continue to be a mix of lipstick-pink, white and blue.

In the background is a young tree hydrangea, Hydrangea aspera sbsp. sargentiana, which will eventually tower over everything else.

After two and a half years of patience, my long-awaited lavender hedge along the front sidewalk has finally become a reality.

 It's amazing how many people pause to enjoy it. One day I spied two little girls running their hands along the row and then through their hair. Too cute.
This area is a challenge because the roots of the street trees suck all the moisture out of the ground. At the same time, their canopy casts shade over it for part of the day, while the rest of the time it is in morning or strong afternoon sun. In winter, the sun is so low that the shadow of the house puts it in all-day shade. The lavender has coped well, although I notice it's a little less vigorous right underneath the closest tree.
Since I took the photo above, the flowers have died and I've clipped the bushes back hard.

This is the first of two clips it will get. The second one will be after it has leafed out with new growth, when I'll tidy it a bit more to even out the line.

I've tried various plants behind it, the most successful being my two compact little daphnes, Daphne 'Eternal Fragrance', either side of the path to the steps.  (They are not dramatic plants to look at, but walk by and the perfume stops you in your tracks)...

...and two thistle relatives: Echinops 'Taplow Blue' and Eryngium giganteum (Miss Wilmott's Ghost), see my post of  August 7, 2012 for photos. I got around to photos a bit too late this year. Even so, I rather like the bumblebee on the dying heads of 'Taplow Blue'.

All these plants prefer poor, dry soil.
Sedum 'Autumn Joy', which seems able to cope with just about any conditions, is doing well just behind the daphnes.

The pink flower in front is a verbascum, also content with its location. It may not last because it breaks my rule of "no untidy plants". In its favour, it's been blooming for months with the help of some deadheading along the way.

The bed of thyme near the back door that Michael planted with several different varieties has filled in nicely this year. I've put our rusty metal kookaburra, a gift from cousin Sal, in there to provide a little extra interest.

Also at the back, our new pergola is now fairly well covered in runner beans.

The beans are a temporary measure until I can get the more permanent vines I want.They hide the new house next door, and especially its large outside air conditioner/heat exchanger which is very close to our fence. Unfortunately, the screen doesn't do anything for the noise of this object, so we are looking into various sound-proofing options. The owners claim they don't hear the noise (!), so any solution will have to be on our side.

In the middle of the back garden Bouteloua gracilis 'Blonde' is doing a fine job once again in our rusty urn.

I'm increasingly fond of this unusual version of mosquito grass. You can see why it has its common name with all its little "mosquitoes" flying at the top of those airy stems. In the species, these are dark grey-brown and look more like their namesakes – a good reason to prefer 'Blonde' even if its way of catching the light wasn't enough.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Other People's Gardens, Part 2

Another summer means more garden tours. The East Van Garden Tour this year featured a number of small but ingenious gardens that gave me some new ideas about how to manage limited space.

Unfortunately, late afternoon wasn't the best time of day to photograph this garden, but there's still enough detail to see how cleverly a very narrow space has been planted.

A hedge on the left and a fence on the right leave just enough room for a narrow path and two long strips of predominantly foliage plants. At the far end, a rustic pergola supports a grapevine.

In another narrow space, a paved path leading to a back gate, the gardener ranked pots of assorted ferns alongside the garage, with vines draped above them.

One tiny garden still found nooks for two productive beehives,

... an ornamental birdcage (unoccupied),

a moustachioed statue,

...and this fabulous lily.

Where there was no room for anything but a narrow path, this gardener improvised with a novel window treatment.

Elsewhere, I liked these stepping stones,

...this seat enveloped in greenery,

...a delightful water tank, reminding me of Australia (the gardener is from New Zealand),

...and a lovely royal fern with a convex mirror hung above it to reflect the garden.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

The Garden Gets Exciting

We've had such a good spring with alternating showers and warm sunshine, that many of my perennials are blooming ahead of schedule. In my last post, I mentioned the first flower on 'Rosa Mundi'. Now the bush is in full bloom, and I can't resist taking lots of photos. here are a couple of the best.

One more flower,

and one showing a bit more of the plant. Like many of the old roses, it casts its fragrance on the air, where it drifts through the garden and makes you look around for the source. However, if you stick your nose right into a bloom, it appears to have only a light perfume.

Growing next to the rose is a German iris called 'Midnight Oil'. I'm not generally fond of this kind of iris, but couldn't resist this one with its silky black petals and lavender-blue beard.

 My favourite hardy geranium, Geranium x magnificum is thick with blooms that echo the colour of the iris beard.

Behind it in a shady corner, Gillenia trifoliata is mixing airy white flowers and lacy leaves with the dark foliage of Actaea 'Hillside Black Beauty'. The two have similar foliage and I like the intermingling of the green with the espresso-brown.

Another shade plant, a saxifrage with a flower much like the Gillenia does its own mingling of the same colours.

Phlomis russeliana is a sun-lover with a flower like a series of yellow shrimp cocktails on a skewer. It has big, felted leaves that give some shade to the roots of the Clematis recta behind it that is now a cascade of little white flowers.

When I bought a rusty old tripod in a junk store my idea was to use it as a birdbath, but the birds didn't seem interested. Now I've filled it with a collection of shells as well as water and hope that this provision of more perching places will make it more appealing. Or perhaps it will attract butterflies instead. Meanwhile, it pleases me more.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Beautiful blooms

It's always exciting when the first flowers open on favourite plants, especially if they are ones that have taken a year or two to establish themselves before really putting on a display.
I bought 'Festiva Maxima', my favourite peony almost two years ago. Last year it produced one smallish flower, but this year it has two huge blooms open and more to come.

It's not just the pure white petals with their occasional streaks of crimson, but also its intense perfume that makes it so desirable. The only drawback is that these sumptuous blooms have to be staked or they flop. I prefer to stake them individually with thin bamboo canes that aren't very visible, rather than use one of those circular supports that make the plant look as if it is wearing a corset.

Close by is 'Rosa Mundi', an old, old rose that is crimson streaked with lighter pink and white, a reverse colour scheme of the peony.

This is one of the first flowers to open this year. I'm hoping to get a good picture of the whole plant when it is in full bloom. It was a gift from Jan, a dear friend, just before he died so it has a lot of sentimental value for me as well as being such a stunning addition to the garden.

 Clematis 'Huldine' has just produced its first flower, too.

Only the very early flowers show these grass-green tips; later ones will be pure white on the surface with three distinct purple stripes on the undersides. It's worth growing in a place where you can look up at it from below to appreciate the contrast from front to back.

An extra thrill this year is that we've had a hummingbird coming to the garden every day for the past week. Although it is visiting various flowers, the two that it is most attracted to are  foxgloves and, most of all, this one:

It used to be called Allium siculum. Then the botanists changed it to Nectaroscordum siculum (because they do prefer names that  are more difficult to pronounce). In this case, however, they've changed their minds again and it's back to being Allium. Its common name is honey garlic, which explains its appeal to the hummingbird.