Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Beryl Ivey Knot Garden and Nature's Garden

This week I return in a series of photographs to the Toronto Botanical Gardens. 

Nature's Garden is an area of the TBG devoted largely to native plants.


My picture makes it look modest in size, but in reality, this was a very grand urn.

Begonia 'Yadev' (Million Kisses)

Coleus, Solenostemon scutellarioides 'Rustic Orange'

Rudbeckia subtomentosa 'Little Henry': Rudbeckia subtomentosa or Sweet Coneflower is native plant found in an area that runs from the midwestern states into Texas. It is a tall, upright plant with quilled yellow flowers with brown centres. 'Little Henry' blooms from midsummer into fall and is attractive to butterflies. It will grow in a range of soils types and tolerates moist to fairly dry growing conditions. Full sun or light shade. Height: 80-90 cm (30-35 inches) Spread: 55-60 cm (20-23 inches) USDA Zones: 4-9

The Beryl Ivey Knot Garden is a contemporary twist on a traditional knot garden.

Great Blue Lobelia or Cardinal Flower, Lobelia syphilitica and Lobelia syphilitica 'Alba'

A mix of cream and pink varieties of Echinacea.

A pretty pink Sedum for which I could not find an identification tag.

Tall white Nicotiana spills over the clipped hedges in the Knot Garden.

Nicotiana with Cone Flowers (Echinacea), Russian Sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) and a variegated Miscanthus in the background.

The small trial gardens at the TBG.

An unidentified cultivar of Agastache.

Gaillardia aristata 'Gallo Fire': 'Fire' has red-orange flowers on a compact mound of light green leaves. Full sun. This is a plant ideal for normal or sandy soil with dry growing conditions. Its hardiness is still being confirmed, but 'Fire' is likely to be hardy to zone 4. Height: 20-30 cm (10-12 inches) Spread: 30 cm (12 inches) USDA Zones 4-9.

A colorful mix that includes: Dipladenia, Mandevilla 'Rio', Guara, Guara lindheimeri 'Belleza Early Pink'Anise-scented Sage, Salvia guaranitica 'Black and Blue', Greek Basil, Ocimum x citriodorum 'Pesto Perpetual', Trailing Petunia, Petunia "Surfinia Heavenly Blue', Fan Flower, Pink Ivy GeraniumPelargonium 'Balcon Pink'Spurge, Euphorbia hypericifolia 'Breathless White' and Curly Parsley.

Pelargonium 'Balcon Pink'

Salvia guaranitica 'Black and Blue': has deep cobalt blue flowers and is a tender perennial that blooms from July to frost. Full sun to light shade in rich, loamy soil. Height: 60-90 cm (20-35 cm), Spread: 60-90 cm (20-35 cm). This cultivar must be propagated from cuttings. Hardy Zones: 8-10.

Up shortly are a couple of long overdue posts on my own garden. I also am working on a blog post with more of my experiments with drying flowers.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Japanese Maples

Much of what I know about Japanese Maples comes from simple observation. 

They are relatively slow growing. The little green leafed one I bought five years ago is practically the same size it was when I bought it!

 My own little Japanese Maple

Japanese Maples turn the most fantastic colors each fall. Add in a little sunlight and 
you have pure magic!

Looking over the fence to my neighbour's Japanese Maple.

Chen's garden in Milton, ON

It doesn't take much keen observation to note that Japanese Maples have a 
dramatic presence in any garden.

Chen's garden

Tell me that this area of Chen's garden in Milton, ON would as pleasing if it weren't for the
 large red Japanese Maple you see in the foreground!

Marion Jarvie's garden in Thornhill, ON

And it's not just the color of their leaves. The branches of a Japanese Maple sweep 
upward, outward or cascade downward with such grace.

Private garden in Dartmouth, N.S.

Even in winter, there is a certain beauty in their bare limbs.

Private Garden, Mississauga, ON

Their overall shape can be quite elegant...

Marion Jarvie's garden in Thornhill, ON

or gnarly and sculptural.

Private garden in Toronto, ON

It seems that less is more when it comes to Japanese Maples. Just one is often enough. 

Private garden, Toronto, ON. In the foreground is Acer shirasawanum 'Aureum'

There are also pretty versatile. They are small sized trees that that can work in almost sized garden; even a modest one. (The majority of Japanese Maples grow to 6-15 feet in height, with some reaching as high as 30 feet. True dwarf Japanese Maples can grow as little as 3ft.) 

Acer shirasawanum 'Aureum'

Japanese Maples do however, have a few drawbacks. They can be really pricy. 

Demand seems to have brought the price down on a few common cultivars (Locally you pick up a small Japanese Maple for as little as $25 at Loblaws Garden Centres each spring).  

But anything more unusual is likely to cost you are pretty penny.

Acer campestre 'Carnival' in a private garden in Toronto, ON

And more interesting options like this Acer campestre 'Carnival' (above) are not always readily available. Often you need to track them down at speciality nurseries.

Acer campestre 'Carnival': The foliage of  'Carnival' emerges with pink and cream and gradually becomes green with white margins. 'Carnival' has a spreading habit and is slow growing (8 feet in 10 yrs) It needs a sheltered spot and is best suited to shade. 'Carnival' likes evenly moist, well-drained soil. USDA Zones 4a-8b.

Acer palmatum 'Koto No Ito' in Marion Jarvie's garden in Thornhill, ON

Possibly the best way to find a particular Japanese Maple is to search for it online.

Acer palmatum 'Koto No Ito': 'Koto No Ito' means harp strings. This cultivar is also known as the Dancing Monkey Tree because of the way its leaves dance in the wind. 'Koto No Ito' turns a lovely yellow with a hint of orange in fall. Mature size:10 year size is 5 to 6 ft. Width is 3-5 ft. USDA Zones 6a-9b.

I happened upon these four Japanese Maples while poking around in a local nursery called Lost Horizons. Unfortunately for me, they are guaranteed hardy only to Zone 5. 

They are starting in the top left:

1. Acer palmatum 'Butterfly': A variegated cultivar with bluish-green leaves edged with white.
2. Acer palmatum dissectum 'Seiryu': Lacy green foiage that is red tipped.
3. Acer palmatum 'Grandma Ghost': Cream and pale green leaves with pink veins (this image shows its fall colors).
4. Acer palmatum 'Beni otake': A vigorous upright tree with a bamboo silhouette. It has large purple-red leaves and strap-like leaf lobes.

A Japanese Maple in the Lost Horizons Nursery Display Garden

Linking my last two points: Japanese Maples are an investment, so you will want to take note of the hardiness of the maple you are considering buying before you make your purchase. 

In northern climate zones like mine (6b), you will also want to make sure your maple is sited in a protected location. Even the more hardy varieties of Japanese Maples will often suffer winter damage here or perish mysteriously. I had one little red Japanese Maple for a number of years, and then one winter, it up and died.

Acer palmatum dissectum 'Viridis'

Here are some general notes on growing Japanese Maples that I have gathered from a variety of sources:

Japanese Maples are categorized according to leaf type. There are two main groups of Japanese Maples. Probably the most familiar Japanese Maple is Acer palmatum, with its cascading branches of finally cut leaves in 5 to 9 parts. A second group is Acer Japonicum, with leaves that have 7-11 fingerlike parts.  There is also a third group of trees: Acer shirasawanum.

Toronto Botanical Gardens, Toronto, ON

Site selection: It's hard to imagine, but try to consider a Japanese Maples's mature size when you site them. Select a sheltered spot where your tree will not be buffeted by strong winds.

Sandy loam with some organic matter is ideal, but Japanese Maples will tolerate a wide range of soils. A soil with too much organic matter however, can actually affect the desired coloration of the leaves. 

In terms of light requirements, a general rule is to choose a sunny spot with afternoon shade. Leaf color can also serve as a useful guide to help you determine just how much sun is appropriate for your Japanese Maple. (Note: The amount of light will affect your maple's leaf color.) Red and variegated leaves need a respite from the hot afternoon sun. Green varieties tolerate sun best, but still can be scorched by too much sun. Golden leaves need a bit of sun to keep their color from turning green.

Japanese Maple in Chen's garden near Milton, ON

Planting: The best time to plant a Japanese Maple is in early spring and in the fall, when the tree's roots have to best chance to get established. (Note to self: Avoid clearance sales mid-summer, when any new tree will have to struggle with heat and possible drought. It's a case of false economy!)

To plant your new maple, dig a hole bigger than the root ball and back fill with 1 part peat moss to 3 parts soil. Water it well and mulch the area to keep the roots cool and ensure water retention. Use only moderate amounts of fertilizer such as a transplanter with a ratio of 5-15-5.

Care: Japanese Maples like moderate moisture and good drainage. Extreme drought can affect foliage color of red maples in particular. Once established, it is a good idea to apply a light fertilizer in early spring (4-12-8 fertilizer or 15-30-15 water soluable mixture both work). 

Japanese Maple in Chen's garden near Milton, ON

Pruning: Any major pruning should be done before the leaves unfurl and the tree is dormantNever prune in spring when the sap is rising. Lighter pruning can be done in June afer the first major flush of growth takes place. Ensure your pruners are razor sharp for a good clean cut. Begin by pruning away any dead ot diseased branches. It is also a good idea to cut away any scrubby growth or twigs that cross. After that, it comes down to aesthetics. Stand back from your tree and consider every cut carefully. Never use wound dressings or black sealing paint, as they lock disease in rather than keeping it out.

Diseases: Aphids, leaf-cutters and rollers may appear as pests in spring. If that happens, seek an organic control at your local nursery. Mildew can be a problem where there is high humidity.

Marion Jarvie's garden in Thornhill, ON

Winter protection: Japanese Maples do best in USDA zones 6-8. They love the moderate climate of pacific northwest. In hotter areas, they will require aftternoon shade and frequent water. It is interesting to note that the Korean Maple, Acer pseudosieboldianum is a full zone more cold hardy than the most common Japanese Maple, Acer palmatum.
 It is recommended that you wrap any new Japanese Maple in burlap for the first three years in a garden. Keeping it watered before the first frost will help guard against water loss in winter. An extra heavy layer of mulch will also help portect the root system during the cold winter months.

Please share your own experience with growing Japanese Maples.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A Garden by Acclaimed Landscape Designer Piet Oudolf


The search for something beautiful to photograph invariably takes me to the Toronto Botanical Garden each fall. 

The Entry Walk Garden by renowned Dutch landscape designer Piet Oudolf is always at its best at this time of year. No matter how many times I visit, it never fails to inspire me.

In the past, I was never a fan of the contemporary landscape design that I found in large gardens and public spaces. It seemed to rely too much on elaborate hardscaping and modern art pieces for its drama. Plants always seemed relegated to a supporting role.

Part of Piet Oudolf's genius has been to shift the focus back on the plants themselves. A proponent of the naturalistic movement in landscape design, Oudolf is known for incorporating native plants and grasses into gardens reminiscent of wildflower meadows.

The Entry Walk at the Toronto Botanical Garden was Oudolf's first project in Canada.

The commission was not without its challenges. The Entry Walk is not a big space- you can walk its length in a manner of minutes.  Located opposite the main parking lot, it's not ideally situated either.

But the tall grasses and the huge stands of Joe Pye Weed Oudolf has incorporated in the Entry Walk's design have a way of enclosing the space, and despite its awkward location, you feel as though you are in a world apart when you are in the garden.

Let's take a look: 

As you will see in my pictures, a striking silhouette is key consideration in Oudolf's plant selection.

Joe Pye Weed, Eupatorium purp. maculatum: Joe Pye Weed can grow to incredible heights and has large rose flower heads in late summer/early autumn. Tough it likes moist or wet, boggy conditions, it still manages to grow well in the Entry Walk's somewhat dryer soil. Full sun or light shade. Height: 210-300 cm (82-117 inches), Spread: 90-120 cm (40-50 inches). Hardy USDA Zones: 3-9 (Note: If you have a smaller garden, you may want to consider Baby Joe Pye Weed, Eupatorium dubium 'Baby Joe'.)

A Monarch Butterfly visiting a Joe Pye Weed flower.

There are no identification tags in this part of the garden, but I feel pretty certain this is Meadow Blazing Star or Liatris ligulistylis (not to be confused with more common Liatris spicata). Monarchs really seem to adore this plant!

Liatris ligulistylis: is a perennial native to the Canadian Prairies and blooms in late summer/early fall. Full sun or light shade. Height: Liatris ligulistylis can reach 1.2 to 1.8 m (4-6 ft), Spread: 30-38 cm (12-15 inches). Average to moist soil. Hardy USDA Zones: 3-7.


Perennial Fountain Grass, Pennisetum alopecuroides: has arching green foliage and soft mauve flowers that turn beige as they mature. Full sun or light shade. This is a grass that is adaptable to a range of soil types and will tolerate dry, average or moist growing conditions. Height: 90-120 cm (35-50 inches), Spread: 60-90 cm (20-35 inches). Hardy USDA Zones: 5-9

Annual Fountain Grass, Pennisetum setaceum 

Clouds of Russian Sage, Perovskia atriplicifolia and Sea Holly, Eryngium

Russian Sage, Perovskia atriplicifolia: has upright greyish foliage and violet blue flowers in late summer/early fall. Bees adore it. Russian Sage prefers full sun and heat. Average to dry conditions. Height: 90-150 cm ( 35-60 inches) Spread: 60-90 cm (20-35 inches) Hardy USDA Zones: 4-9

Japanese Anemone

Japanese Anemone and Mountain Fleeceflower, Persicaria 

Feathery grasses mix with BurnetSanguisorbia 

Burnet, Sanguisorbia officinallis 'Red Thunder' (Rosaceae)


Sea Lavender or Limonium latifolia

Verbena bonariensis and BurnetSanguisorbia 

Verbena bonariensis: Is a drought tolerant perennial that is usually treated as an annual here in southern Ontario. It is a prolific self-seeder, and for this reason, it is often viewed a problem plant in some parts of the U.S. Butterflies and bees love it! Full sun. Height: 90-120 cm ( 36-48 inches), Spread: 38-45 cm (15-18 inches) USDA Zones 6-10

Verbena bonariensis and Mountain Fleeceflower, Persicaria 

For me the delicate clouds of texture and color in Oudolf's Entry Walk Garden speak to modern design's softer side. There is nothing clean lined or hard edged here.

Unlike a traditional approach to design, individual flowers do not compete for your attention in the gardens that Oudolf creates. Instead there is a harmonious mix of lighter notes. The overall effect feels soft, pretty and playful.

I always come away inspired to loosen my grip on convention and incorporate more of the same feeling in my own garden.