Monday, June 21, 2010

A Visit with the Queen

This past weekend we stopped for a visit to the Queen on our way to Paris.

Now, that I have shamelessly hooked you in, let me explain, that we did not glamorously wing our way to Europe for the weekend. The Paris we visited was Paris, Ontario and we didn't "fly" in anything more exciting than a red Toyota. (More on our Paris trip in a later post.)

The Queen we paid a visit was at the Royal Botanical Gardens-after all isn't  the rose, in all its many petalled splendor, known as the queen of all summer flowers?

The day called for rain, so we packed the rain gear and a portable feast for lunch.

Rain clouds failed to materialize however and we arrived to find the rose gardens basking in the June sunshine.

The rose gardens at the Royal Botanical gardens featured two long ponds, with smooth mirror-like surfaces flanked on either side by square beds of roses. I have to say that this rather old fashioned arrangement of roses is not something I would care to repeat in my own garden. While the flowers are lovely, I prefer to camouflage those rather stiff, thorny branches with other perennial partners rather than repeat the flaw in a mass planting. 

Here are just a few of my favorite roses.

Above: The "Tabris" Floribunda rose

The red Floribunda rose "Yvonne Alexander".

Cream dissolves into a blush of the sofest pink in the Hybrid tea"Gemini".

The formal rose beds were encircled by wooden arbors covered in wisteria and climbing roses.

The many petaled shrub rose the "Alchymist".

Even past its glory, the Alchymist was a still a beauty.

Among the visitors to the garden, was group of watercolor artists and their instructor.

The buttery yellow Elina rose had one of the largest flowers measuring at least 4 inches in diameter.

By mid-afternoon, the sun had become so hot it was time for a break.

At the tea house, we sat under the leafy umbrella of a linden tree. My husband Harold had an ice cold beer, while I sipped a lemonade. The dogs discovered the shade under our table and promptly fell asleep.

The Hybrid Musk Rose Belinda

And speaking of shade, we found this pretty rose growing in the dappled shade of an overhanging tree. I think I just might have a spot perfect for it in my own garden.

The rain the weatherman predicted never did materialize. As we dove home in early evening however, heavy grey clouds began roll in over the farm fields. The late day sun streaking through the breaks in the cloud cover provided a spectacular light show. 

Tired by the long day, we decided to treat ourselves to dinner out. Harold had a big steak covered in shrimp and I had delicious balsamic chicken. It was the perfect ending to a pretty perfect day.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Do you trust your gut instincts?

Do you trust your gut instincts? I'd like to say that I always trust mine, but the truth is, I often second guess myself. Most of the time, my first ideas are my best ideas. This isn't to say that I act on them. I usually go around the block first and then return to that first burst of inspiration. 

I may not trust my gut instincts, but I do listen to what my heart tells me is true. For example, when I stand in front of a great painting, I know it is an amazing work of art, without anyone telling me it is so. Figuring out and understanding why it is a great work of art comes sometime later. This coming to an understanding of why something is wonderful is a puzzle that I love to consider and solve. 

I know. What does all this have to do with gardening? Well, when I come across a garden that is breathtakingly beautiful, I often return to it again and again to puzzle out what makes it so special. The exquisite woodland display garden at Lost Horizon's Nursery is just such a garden. 

We planned a visit there early this past spring. On a day of our trip, the thermometer had plunged unexpectedly and a fine drizzle made the cold day damp and miserable. I had been looking forward to the short trip there and was not about to be put off with a little bad weather. Dressed in warm coats and coffees in hand, we strolled through the woodland display garden. These are a few of the pictures we took that day. 

A fine gravel path winds its way through the garden. Rockery plantings tumble over natural stone and spill on to the gravel paths. The eye rolls smoothly over the contour of the uneven landscape and the staggered heights of the plantings.

For most gardeners foliage color and texture are not foremost considerations in planning a garden. The opposite is the case at Lost Horizons. Perfect proof that foliage need not be boring. 

Contrast in the size, color and shape of foliage keeps "green" interesting. Natural stone adds extra textural interest to the mix.

The subtly of texture invites a closer look.

The beautiful architecture of ferns emerging from the soil.

A Japanese Maple adds a slash of color. Evergreens  keep the garden interesting even after the snow flies.

Above, bugleweed was given the freedom to spread into a luxuriously large swath of color. On its leaves a deep rose color melts into the cream, copper, and green. Spikes of blue-purple flowers are a bonus feature.

Vanes of green traverse the surface of Brunette's heart shaped leaves and map out the underlying leaf structure.

Lost Horizons Nursery is located on Highway 7, two miles west of Acton, Ontario, on the south side. From the 401, take Highway 25 north and go west on Highway 7 to Crewsons Line. The nursery is on the south west corner of Highway 7 and Crewsons Line. Hours of operation are Wednesday to Sunday 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. from May until October (weather permitting).

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Garden Fashionista in Bug Bite Gear

I have a bit of a cold and am in a bit of a cranky mood on account of biting insects and the unpredictable spring weather we have been experiencing. 

First, the weather was too darn hot! In the final days of May the thermometer climbed over thirty for the several day in a row. It was so warm in our bedroom at night, that I felt that I was lying on a baking sheet cooking in an oven. I was just not mentally prepared summer heat in the month of May. 

Then, the first days of June brought rain almost every morning. 

The rain was most welcome as it has been a very dry spring, after a snowless winter. Everything was simply parched after such an extended dry spell! 

Next door, the damage caused by the lack of rainwater was all to apparent in the trees that the Region of Peel planted late last fall. Sadly, they are crispier than Kentucky Fried Chicken! Unfortunately, the early June showers arrived too late to revive them. 

Knowing how slowly the wheels of government turn, I am sure we will have to wait months for them to be replaced.

The rains brought cooler temperatures with them, which was a very welcome relief! Today however, it was almost fall like. This serves to make wardrobe selection in the morning challenging. Shorts and sunglasses or warm jacket and long pants?

Meadow rue in the back circle garden

On top of being cooked in May, I was also eaten alive! The early spring heat brought out the black flies in great numbers. Now if you ask me, black flies are far worse than wretched mosquitoes. Before they bite their victim, black flies like to torture you first by ping, ping, pinging into your face and eyes. Then, when they are just out of site, they like to sink their teeth into the back of your neck or bite you just behind your ears. 

I went out to weed the garden and they were on me like a pack of voracious wolves. After a just a couple of minutes, I was ready to wave the white flag of surrender and hand over my garden to them. I beat a hasty retreat to the house and my husband mopped up the blood tricking down the back of my neck from the open bites. He was horrified to see that, in a matter of minutes, that I had amassed fifteen bites on my face and neck.

The very next day, he arrived home from work with a mesh headnet. Not unlike a ski mask, the mesh "bag" slips over your head to prevent insects from biting. Though I was grateful for his thoughtfulness, I slipped the headnet over my head and felt completely ridiculous. 

"Oh, this is attractive don't you think?" I asked him, striking a model's pose, "I look like I should be robbing a convenience store, not gardening!"

"I can just imagine", I continued,"our neighbors calling the police to report a suspicious character lurking in our backyard."
You too can get outfitted with similar bug armor at Lee Valley Tools!

Despite my ungrateful rant, I did appreciate his gift. The black fly bites had by then swollen up into large, itchy red welts and so good looks be damed, I put on my face mask and headed back out into the garden. Thankfully, black flies are at their worst for only a few short weeks.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Christie Classic Antique Show

As well as a visit to the Royal Botanical Gardens, we managed to squeeze in a visit to the antique show at the Christie Conservation Area this past Saturday.

The crystal glistened like diamonds in the bright afternoon sunlight.

Twice a year, over 300 antique dealers pitch their display tents on ten acres of park land. 

My husband loves the thrill of the hunt for that special widget. Though I like pretty things, I am less interested in acquiring antiques these days. I have come to realize that even inadiment objects can make demands on your time. They need sorting, placing, polishing and dusting. I have enough housework as it is!

And I look at things like dainty teacups, with those fine handles that are impossible to hold comfortably and think to myself, "They survived all these years to become antiques, because no one ever used them!! Those pretty rose covered teacups sat in the back of someone's china cupboard, just as they do in mine, maybe seeing the light of day for some very special occasion, but generally, they languished in the dark recesses of the cupboard largely forgotten!"

While my husband searched for all things scouting- boy scout hats, badges, books, etc., I amused myself snapping pictures of the displays that caught my eye...

and by people watching. 

And I have to tell you, that people by the strangest things! I saw one woman with a section of tree trunk with a taxidermy squirrel poking its stuffed head out a knot hole. In its mouth was a real acorn. God forbid see decorates her living room with that thing!

With the popularity of gardening there were many garden antiques like this vintage watering can and this bird house below.

An antique garden gnome. $350?? WOW! Gives you a whole new respect for that saucy little fellow you may have out there in the garden, doesn't it!

Many dealers incorporated pretty summer annuals into their displays.

Charming and unusual displays also caught my interest.

An old teddy bear has the photo of a child next to its heart. 

What a flirt with red cupie doll lips and those clear blue eyes, under those thick black lashes!

It did not take me long to feel utterly overwhelmed my the sheer size of the show. After all, there are only so many occasions, in the space of an afternoon, that you can bear to find yourself standing in front of an antique object, asking, " Now do I really love this bowl/cup/pot/etc. enough to spend the next 25 years of my life dusting it?" or the other all important question, "Do I actually have a use for this darn thing?"

So, did I buy anything in the end?

I did. 

I bought some dessert glasses that were only $5 each and therefore not so very precious that I would hesitate to pull them out. I plan to use them for summer berries and ice cream.

I also bought a turquoise bowl. Okay, it does not entirely fit comfortably into my practical criteria, and lord knows that I will have to dust it, but I do have a use for it. Next spring, I plan to use it to display some of my collection of easter eggs.

And I bought some marbles. 

An odd purchase, you are no doubt thinking and no, I have not "lost my marbles." I just that I have a decorative glass jar that will look great filled with these inexpensive glass collectables. 

And besides, it gives me something fun to search for at the next antique show.