Friday, 16 December 2016

Morning frost

With the garden under ice and snow, there's nothing to do but worry about the survival of my more tender plants, even as I admire the beauty of the street tree outside our windows.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Winter monochrome

Snow has come unexpectedly in this first week of December, changing the garden completely to a black-and-white composition.

 Some shrubs are looking decidedly unhappy, bowed down with chunks of the white stuff, which is more ice than snow thanks to a partial thaw and freeze. Enkianthus perulatus has a starring role again after its fall splendour, since its thin, wiry branches have held up better than most others. The red of the house as a backdrop highlights its elegant shape.

Elsewhere the berries of a Skimmia japonica and the last rosehips of Rosa gallica 'Versicolor' provide a little Christmas colour.

Fall Brilliance

Since my last post, too many other tasks  - and some enjoyable travel - have demanded my attention, but I did get a few opportunities to record the jewel colours of fall.
Among this October's highlights were the barley-sugar leaves of my little Japanese maple,'Waterfall', backed by dark red Sedum 'Autumn Joy'.

A little later, both were echoed by Rhododendron schlippenbachii and Enkianthus perulatus against the backdrop of our house.

Hardy Begonia grandis tucked into the corner behind the Enkianthus was still flowering with bright pink flowers changing to seed pods. Meanwhile its leaves had begun to turn from green to yellow. Soon it will disappear altogether, to be forgotten until late spring. It has to be one of the slowest perennials to wake up from its winter sleep.

 On the other side of our front path, Hosta 'Blue Umbrellas' and Hydrangea 'Beni Gaku' behind it are contributing to my autumn palette of dark red and gold.

Much as I love hostas, most are a regular disappointment for me at this time of the year because they just don't die gracefully.  In the back garden 'Krossa Regal', probably my favourite in spring and summer with its strong blue presence, collapses into a spineless heap in October and has to be cut to the crown.

At least that allows Heuchera 'Blackberry Ice' a bit more space to shine in.
And there's actually a lot more going on to distract from the uncooperative plants. Aconites are still blooming in electric blue, Hydrangea 'Sikes' Dwarf' in front is slowly changing colour, the burnt orange of leaves on Stewartia pseudocamellia stands out between the flaming reds of its companion blueberries and both get an extra boost from the yellowing foliage of Sanguisorba 'Finale' behind.

There are softer caramel colours on Rosa pimpinellifolia behind the back fence and Paeonia mlokosewitchii under the pear tree on the right-hand side. Between them, leaves on the last two stems of 'Casablanca' lilies have turned acidic yellow. Assorted plants that remain green tie everything together. Whether it's the contrast with their neighbours or a trick of the autumn light, their colours seem more intense than usual.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Playing catch-up: July - August

I've had too many other commitments these last couple of months to do more than take a few photos as the garden moved from the profusion of June into a more challenging period, with roses turning brown, peonies shedding petals and hostas suddenly displaying punch holes of slug damage. This is when I usually start thinking about late-blooming perennials whose growth will disguise the decline of their forerunners. I can't do much about the fading roses, other than pull the old petals off the ones that don't naturally drop them. Almost all of my roses are once-blooming, so there's no point in cutting them back. A little forebearance now will bring the reward of bright rosehips later on. In fact, Rosa pimpinellifolia, the earliest to bloom, is quick to transform flowers into shiny black hips.

Rodgersia 'Maurice Mason', looking so sparkly pink in my last post, greeted the start of August by changing to rich red.

Hydrangeas started to dominate both front and back gardens. In the front, my favourite 'Beni-Gaku' was at its peak in July

... and still looking good in a month later.

Rosa glauca behind it flowered in complementary colours,

... but also changed from month...

... to month.

 Cornus alternifolia 'Argentea' now dominates this north-western bed. I'm hoping I can control its growth so that there is room for these three plants to continue their harmonious association.

 Farther away , Allium sphaerocephalum, having started two-tone...

... gradually became entirely purple.

At the same time Nandina 'Plum Passion' by the east fence produced flowers that matched the house across the street from ours.

I'm debating whether to keep these Nandina. They have the advantage of a narrow profile and evergreen foliage with leaves in a pleasing mix of dark green and purple, but in this location they seem to succumb to mildew by the time August rolls around. And much as I like this house and flower combination, the orange colour doesn't play nicely with most of its seasonal companions.
I had planted several 'Golden Splendour' lilies in front of them, but I dug them up once they'd flowered. They are such a bright yellow that they set my teeth on edge.

In a different garden with different companions they'll be much happier - and so will I.

The northeast corner of this bed has seen a big change as Rosa 'Dupontii' went off to UBC Botanical Garden and I replaced it with Enkianthus 'Red Bells'. It's a difficult location that gets shade all winter and hot afternoon sun most of the summer. Roots from the street tree suck moisture from the soil in all seasons. I gambled on the rose getting enough sunshine at the right time to encourage bloom, but it grew lanky and flowered sparsely there. The Enkianthus should cope better as long as I give it enough water while it's young. It seems tiny right now, but should eventually get to about 6 feet.

With its red stems, pretty dark pink flowers and red-gold fall foliage, it should give me something of interest in that anchor spot for most of the year.

The leaves of Rhododendron schlippenbachii,  perhaps reacting to the same dry soil (even though I try to keep it well-mulched) are making quite a statement up against the house. It may not reflect best gardening practice but I rather like the combination and the rhodo seems to cope.

Meanwhile, there's more variety in the larger back garden. Globe thistle (Echinops ritro) has been spectacular as usual, continuing to attract bees and other nectar-seeking insects.

Lobelias add some vibrant colour, especially L. 'Victoria' with its dark foliage and scarlet flowers.

Lobelia syphilitica is less vivid, but a lovely sky-blue.

 Lysimachia ephemerum also puts up a spike of small flowers that appears from a distance to be pale grey, a colour I haven't found in any other plant. Even before it flowers, its pale grey-blue foliage is attractive. My plant is young and I'm looking forward to it making a more assertive clump in future years.

Around it and elsewhere throughout the garden, the poppy seeds I scatter in blank spots have all sprung to life at random intervals in various unexpected colours,

... and then shed their papery petals, leaving clusters of attractive seedpods.

Some other annuals also showing off include a pot of Acidanthera, one of my favourite short-lived bulbs,

and 'Phoenix' an unusual climbing nasturtium with toothed petals.

 By July the dark stems of Angelica gigas 'Vicar's Mead' have risen above their feathery purple foliage and put out curious buds ...

that soon open into flat-topped clusters of tiny flowers.

In bloom they are a magnet for bees and later on I'll leave the seedheads to attract goldfinches and other seed-eating little birds. Of course, when a million seedling sprout next spring I may regret my generosity.  
Birds, and an occasional dragonfly are also coming to this area to enjoy the water in my rusty birdbath under the old pear tree.

 On the fence at the back of the same bed, 'Gravetye Beauty', a late-blooming Texas clematis that I bought last year, is producing a few elegant flowers.

...while around the edge, groundcovers like Oreganum 'Kent Beauty'

 and Lonicera crassifolia, a tiny creeping honeysuckle, are providing some low-level interest.

Early-blooming clematis have already gone to seed. 'Willy' is always enchanting with a combination of fluffy and spidery seedheads on adjoining stems.

They get some competition from Paeonia obovata var. alba, which has to have one of the most startling seedpods.

I've been surprised to see flowers on Hellebore 'Pink Frost' at this time of year. They are not pink like the winter blooms but an interesting shade of chartreuse, greener than the sunlit photo would suggest.

Along with all the visual pleasure from the ornamentals, we've been enjoying the produce from our vegetable garden. Young carrots were particularly delicious,

... and with August coming to a close, our apples were almost ready to pick.

Saturday, 18 June 2016

June Bouquet

An unusually sunny spring pushed many plants into flowering ahead of their usual schedule. I had agreed to open my garden this month for the Hardy Plant Group, thinking my roses would be at their best, but most of them had shed their petals and were busy forming hips. What my visitors missed was most of this:

The roses were definitely at their best before the end of May, including 'Lykkefund' in full, scented glory along the west fence,

... 'Ghislaine de FĂ©ligonde', on the back fence,

... and 'Rosa Mundi' anchoring a corner of the back garden.

Thalictrum 'Silk Stockings' had also wrapped up its cloudy mauve display, although the dark stems that its name refers to were still in evidence for those who noticed.

I had moved Verbascum 'Jackie' from the front garden to partner it, hoping that Jackie's purple eye would be a good echo, but the combination wasn't as good as I'd hoped, partly because 'Jackie' seems to have changed colour. I'm fairly sure I remember it having apricot petals.

Most of the peonies were also over, unfortunately, including the dark pink unknown (one of a few plants here when we bought the property), as well as its neighbour, Sanguisorba menziesii.

 'Festiva Maxima' had shed all its petals. It was beautiful in late May, although the hot weather seemed to have robbed it of its usual sweet scent.

At least there were some other perennials to create some interest, like my single bloom of Primula viallii, with Hosta 'American Halo' conveniently providing a backdrop.

Hydrangea nigra, another anchor plant, wasn't yet in bloom, but its stems against emerald-green leaves are its main attraction anyway.

A couple of other hydrangeas were flowering, among them little 'Beni', which opens pure white and gradually changes to a surprisingly vivid lipstick pink.

I've tried to dot bulbs of Allium christophii here and there as accents, but not all of them came up. Those that did were spectacular.

Just as a curiosity I had let another bulb, a small tulip called 'Peppermint Stick', develop its seed pods.

I'm hoping that it will spread itself around as I really liked its cheerful display  There's a photo of it in bloom in my May entry.

One of this year's successes, fortunately at its best this past week, has been the combinations in a long thin bed beside our back path. This relatively new section is currently dominated by a creamy-white clover, Trifolium ochroleucum, which attracted quite a lot of attention.

It shares space with (l. to r.) blue Veronica 'Royal Candles', pink Astrantia 'Roma' and one of my favourite foxgloves,  cinnamon-coloured Digitalis parviflora.

Some poppy seeds I'd scattered under a young smokebush, Cotinus 'Grace', created another good combination. (I'm not sure I'll keep the smokebush though: it has an awkward, leggy growth habit, and I made a vow that I would have no ungainly plants in this garden.)

 One of the poppies had also somehow got over the back fence and fought its way up through the foliage of 'Ghislaine de FĂ©ligonde'. Talk about a tall poppy!

Other little sparkles of colour were provided by Rodgersia 'Maurice Mason' in my darkest dampest corner,

... where it contrasts with the foliage of Ligularia 'Othello',

... and, down at ground level, the curious flowers of Oregano 'Kent Beauty'. My photographs of it do not do it the justice of this one by my lovely daughter.