November 26, 2008

november blooms ..

this flower is in bloom today .. it is a vibirnum bodnantense .. there are two of these flowering shrubs in the winter flowering shade garden .. one lives in a a light filled area that gets a bit of sun from time to time in the afternoon .. the other lives in the front yard, at the base of a small cedar tree, in a relatively shaded raised bed .. there was more light there until the cedar branches started growing longer and sweeping downwards .. now there's a bit more shade than this little guy likes .. so, time to prune back cedar branches ..

it's always interesting to me to see how different plants respond to different environments .. for instance, in this shaded garden the amount of light makes all the difference between how these two vibirnums perform .. the one that receives more light has maybe 30 blossoms on it this year .. the most i've seen on it .. the other has three .. i just read some notes i had from 2000 and this same vibirnum, with three blossoms, had fifteen that year .. and, i know of another vibirnum bodnantense that lives in full sun, and explodes with hundreds of flowers, usually a bit later in the season .. so interesting .. the subtleties of this garden have endeared me to it since i first began to recognize them with phil .. even now, seeing a witchhazel bud cracking open to reveal the tiniest bit of colour puts me into a state of complete wonderment ..

this vibirnum that i took the pictures of put out flower buds weeks ago, and they are slowly, slowly opening to eventually show us what they've been hiding in there .. a deciduous shrub, vibirnums drop their leaves in autumn .. the round, plump pink and white flower buds stretch out eventually forming little circlets of flowers dangling, as if in mid air, from the tips of branches .. and the fragrance .. oo-la-la .. when i came around the corner of the house this morning a wafting of intense perfume curled around me .. how delightful to bask in the fragrance for just a few seconds ..

here's a shot of buds opening .. another flower on the same shrub .. i love these guys ..

and, although not blooming yet, here is promise of many blooms to come on the witchhazel (hamammelis mollis 'pallida') .. she is loaded with these curls of flower buds .. i can hardly wait until december, january, or whenever it decides to open .. naturally, i'll be taking photos ..

now, on to a wider view .. today was the day that i managed to clean up the last of the leaves and fir needles in front and down the side of the house .. the leaves go into the bins, and the fir needles onto the pathways to make them soft for walking, and keep the weeds at bay .. and still there are many thousands of leaves and needles to rake on the other side of the house, but they'll be there when i get back next week ..

November 25, 2008

dividing primula .. or is that polyanthus ..

i was dividing, and moving and replanting primula today .. they are a stunning blue colour with a brilliant yellow eye .. there were clusters of them here and there throughout the garden desperately in need of being separated .. i pulled five or six single plants from each cluster i dug up, and planted them in a number of different places around the yard .. the beauty of perennials ..

i'll have to look up the difference between primula and primrose .. for some reason, i believe they are different .. ah, found it in "primroses and spring" by doretta klaber, written in 1966 .. she says: "primrose is the english or common name for primula" .. actually, the other name i was thinking of is polyanthus .. these are the primroses that we can buy in the grocery stores and nurseries early in the year, to add bright colour to our gardens after many grey, overcast, and often rainy days of winter .. so, to carry on .. today i was dividing, and moving and replanting polyanthus .. as i went through the motions i recalled having read somewhere that primula like to have their crown above ground .. and, i've noticed, in the past, that when i happened to bury the little crown a bit too deep that the plant started to get moldy .. unless i lifted them right away they just disappeared .. so i am careful to keep the crown just above the ground .. i dig a hole, three or four inches deep, let the roots fall into the hole and then fill in from the bottom of the roots up .. as i firmed the soil around the plant, i was reminded of when i was twenty something, working in an nursery in ontario, and the fellow who owned the nursery instilled in me that plants need to be firmly planted so as not to be falling over, or wobbling about .. i took his practical advice to heart, and have since planted plants securely, firming the ground around their stalks .. i believe this does give them a strong foundation from which to grow .. it's good to have these gentle reminders come, more often than not, at just the right time ..

this, i believe, is a true english primula .. i don't know which one .. i found it last year in a garden, with about 100 others, and brought it home .. this coming spring (2009) will be its first performance in my garden ..

yesterday, i spent the afternoon building another bed in our yard, and planting about 30 primula 'wanda' around the base of a rhododendron .. i feel excited to see the outcome in the spring ..

it's the little things ..

November 21, 2008

windy day ..

i love my vocation .. there's nothing like going out to the garden shed in the morning, loading up the wheelbarrow with gardening tools, and then heading out the back path, through the woods to work .. or, down the gravel roadways .. how fortunate i feel i am to be in this position, rather than heading off to the 9-5 every morning in the midst of so many other bodies .. i have done that, in the past, and it was perfect at the time .. however, i have since managed my way to where i am now, and am so pleased with the outcome .. this photo below is of the path through the woods at the back of our house .. there are a couple of small trees down across the path further along, but i'm able to lift my wheelbarrow right over top .. after that, we're free wheeling ..

it's raining today .. and windy .. i was in a garden down the road doing a bit of cleaning around a few shrubs and trees (i.e. pulling weeds, loosening soil, by hand) and putting down a circular mulch of compost around the base of same .. they are out on the boulevard near the road where they pretty much look after themselves .. a little extra attention always helps i find .. anyway, it hadn't been windy when i arrived, but boy, big winds started up about a half hour later, and i began to wonder if it was wise to be working under the swaying trees .. i headed out to the front of the house to watch the waves coming in from the southeast, small caps of white foam adorning their curls .. i don't really mind being out, on land, in big winds, however, i stay alert to any crackings of large branches above, or nearby .. despite the force of it, i decided that i would stay and finish mulching .. the wind blew in a rhythm of subsiding, then surging .. by the time i came to the last of my task i saw a familiar little red truck approaching .. frank and beau had come along to take me and my wheeelbarrow home ..

this is our canine friend, beau .. short for beauregarde .. he's been with us just over seven years, and is a wonder dog .. when we got beau as a pup we decided he would go with us wherever we were working .. he's turned out to be a great companion for me while i'm gardening .. or for frank when he's off landscaping .. we take turns having beau with us .. once we arrive at a yard, beau takes a tour around to sniff out any important messages, then finds himself a spot, lies down, and watches, and waits until it's time to move on .. such a patient soul ..

November 18, 2008

bulb preview ..

i planted 25 of these bulbs today .. it's a narcissus named 'jetfire' .. .. a splash of spring delight to look forward to ..

November 17, 2008

compost ramblings

while many other maples have finished dropping their leaves, down at the pub is one lone tree which has only just begun .. consequently, as mentioned earlier, joe and i have our work cut out for us .. have had for the past few weeks, actually .. if nothing else goes into the wheelbarrow to take to the garden, a rake and broom are essential at this time of year .. 5' tall, 5' across circular wire bins are set up in each of the gardens i look after, all stuffed to the gills primarily with maple leaves .. many attempting to escape through the holes in the bins .. ah, well, in a year or two there will be lovely, workable material to spread among the perennials and shrubs ..

that's the thing i love about composting .. in just a matter of time kitchen scraps, leaves, garden debris, all work together and turn into beautiful, dark, crumbly compost .. magic .. living on a small island, it can be a bit of a chore to get bags or yards of manure or sea soil barged over to satisfy the gardener's lust for mulch .. however, the longer one lives and gardens here, the more apt one is to create one's own "manure," or compost .. easier, by far, than lugging 20kg bags ..

and, for every composter, there is a reason .. as you might well imagine, a large volume of compostable waste comes from a pub kitchen .. on a busy summer's day that kitchen can pump out four five-gallon buckets to be carried up the ramp to the composters .. maybe more .. so, in order to put that waste to use the owners of the pub have recently invested in five rolling composters .. my mission, as gardener, is to have beautiful, usable compost in "just four to six weeks," as the brochure implies, simply by filling and rolling .. well, fortunately, at least i have the winter to work out the kinks .. i'm already counting week 10 (or is it 11), and still no ready, usable compost .. obviously, the key is to get the right proportions of wet and dry .. so far, we're heavy on the wet side of things .. to compensate, i can see swinging way over to being heavy on the dry .. however, i have faith, and know that experience and practice will eventually win out and we will be rolling those composters across the lawn and mulching all trees, shrubs, perennials, vines and annuals to within an inch of their lives .. every four to six weeks ..

cyclamen hederifolium

over the past twelve years i have had the pleasure of maintaining a winter flowering garden .. while the other gardens i look after are being put to bed at this time of year, this one is just beginning to wake up .. thus, my priority at this time of year is to set the stage for this winter's performance ..

in september, a couple of months before the witchhazel transforms to its autumn colour, cyclamen hederifolium begin to show themselves around the garden .. initially, they put up 3-4" tall stalk graced with whorled flower buds, all wrapped up within themselves, showing the lightest of pink or the whitest of white .. a few weeks later, butterfly-like flowers unfurl .. and later still, dark green points emerge, eventually growing into heart shaped leaves deftly decorated with lacey, silver design .. every leaf just slightly different from every other .. these little beauties go on and on, flowering right through to the end of october, often into november ..

the first time i encountered hardy cyclamen was while attending university .. i had a favourite bench in a quiet, woodland setting where i spent quite a bit of time quietly reading, or going over class notes .. .. .. one september day i arrrived at the bench, and lo and behold on the leaf littered ground at my feet were about a hundred of these delightful little flowers which reminded me of house plants i had seen, but much smaller .. i was in the presence of hardy cyclamen .. a few years later while working with phil in his garden these lovely little plants were re-introduced to me as they were one of his favourites .. and now, mine, as well ..

again, i see i'm late to go meet my gardening partner, joe .. she and i will be working down at the pub garden this morning .. no doubt raking more maple leaves .. our work is cut out for us this time of year ..

November 5, 2008

Hamamelis mollis "Pallida" (Witch Hazel) changing colour ..

this witch hazel heralds the magic yet to come in this garden .. it was planted about twelve years ago by my friend, and gardening mentor, phil .. i have an old photo that shows phil standing beside this beauty .. he is taller than the tree .. he had no idea that it would become this large and expansive .. "a vigorous specimen," as he would say .. and every year this awesome tree goes through this lovely transformation as it wends its way toward flowering during winter months .. she is the first of many delights in phil's winter flowering shade garden ..