Monday, May 31, 2010

Royal Peony and Iris Festival

I have only been to the Royal Botanical Gardens in Hamilton once, which is a shame because this beautiful garden is a short forty minutes drive from our home. 

This past Saturday, I dragged my dear husband out into the heat to take in the RBG's Peony and Iris Festival. We arrived around 10 am and already it was hot enough to fry and egg on the pavement. 

We were greeted by this wrinkly old gentleman, who was strolling through the crowd of garden lovers in search of a shady spot among the flowers.

The first beds we came across contained Siberian and Japanese irises interspersed with other perennials.

Cedar Hill Poppy (Papaver orientale)

Mixed Perennials

The sunlight was dazzlingly bright, but we did manage to capture some of the most beautiful irises.

Odyssey Bearded Iris

Violet Delight Bearded Iris

Fern Fraser Bearded Iris

Gypsy Romance is a rainbow of purple and cream colors.

The peonies were amazingly beautiful. I be hard pressed to pick a favorite, although this classic pink would be a definite candidate.

Rose Queen Peony

You could easily get lost in a study of the folds and curves of  its petals.

The A La Mode Peony was just as exquisite in its simplicity.

 Cora Stubbs Peony

If you have a chance, I recommend a visit to the Royal Botanical Garden's Peony and Iris Festival. You won't be disappointed!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Ancient Beauties

There is a secret garden of wild, native Ostrich ferns that is hidden under a thicket of deciduous trees in a remote part of our little valley. Few people know about it or go there, which is a bit of a shame, because the forest floor carpeted with the bright lime fronds have a magical beauty. As you brush past, a light scent catches in the air. This indescribable scent is fresh the way that lavender is fresh.

The fronds of the Ostrich fern have a soft suede texture.

The fronds of a fern may seem delicate and lacy, but looks are deceiving. Among the most ancient plants on earth, ferns were around at the time of the dinosaurs.
In my garden, ferns light up shady corners and thrive in the dappled light under the protective canopy of a large maple.

The Japanese Ghost Fern is a chalky green accented with streaks of burgundy.

Japanese Painted Ferns are accented are a metallic grey-green with streaks of burgundy.

I love the dark red stems of and fine, soft green fronds of my Lady Fern. While ferns tolerate short periods of drought in my garden, I find they prefer moist soil augmented with lots of organic matter.
To compliment the ferns and add textural interest, I have added a number of shade tolerant perennials that have delicate fern-like foliage. Here are a few of my favourites:

Yellow Fumitory has beautiful silver foliage and is covered with tiny yellow blooms from May to September. Be warned though, it is a rampant self-seeder!

Astilbe, (seen in the foreground) not only has handsome fern-like foliage, it has elegant floral plumes in mid-summer

Dwarf goat's beard has tiny white flowers and is a great rock garden perennial.

Snakeroot fern-like leaves are accented with deep burgundy . It has dainty white flowers not unlike Queen Anne's Lace. Snakeroot readily self-seeds and I often find that it has made a home in unexpected places.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Vintage Floral Tins

I did not set out to collect vintage tins, but I love floral patterns and collectible tins kept catching my eye at flea markets. They were so pretty and so cheap, that before I knew it I had a small collection!

Always looking for new ways to display flowers, I recently started putting my vintage tin cans to good use. 

Old tin cans are not watertight, so I insert a large, wide-mouth drinking glass or small glass vase to hold the water. (Tip: Find inexpensive glass vases at your local discount or "dollar" store.)

 Use the height of the tin to help you gage the proper length for each of the flower stems.

Let the colors of the tin's decoration suggest the flower colors.

This tin cost me a whole $3. Doesn't it look pretty filled with daffodils and pansies! 

 Quince in a red floral tin.

The April issue of Country Living Magazine (as seen above) has, as part of their "A fresh take on florals" feature, a beautiful photograph of modern floral tins. 

Final Photo Credit: Country Living Magazine, April 2010. Photographer: Ericka McConnell Styling by: Sunday Hendrickson

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Flirty Songbirds and Ruffled Clementines

Columbines are short lived perennials in my garden, that self-seed and pop up in unexpected places. Sadly in the last few years, their numbers have dwindled.

Last summer, I was so taken with the delicate beauty of the native Columbine blooming in my backyard, that I vowed to add a few of the newer varieties to my garden this spring.  I went shopping this weekend, hoping that one might catch my eye. 

Songbird "Robin"(Aquilegia)

Songbird  "Robin" (Aquilegia)  with Goat's Beard in the background

Songbird "Dove" (Aquilegia) 

Songbird "Cardinal" (Aquilegia) 

Clementine "Blue" (Aquilegia)

Clementine "Rose" (Aquilegia)

They were all so very lovely, that I wanted more plants than my limited budget would allow. In the end, I decided the most cost effective to re-introduce a variety of Columbines into my garden was a packet of mixed seeds and so, that is just what I bought.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Reptiles in a Canadian Garden???

In contrast with the stark spareness of the gardens of the other town homes in its row, our stood apart from the rest for the tangle of growth that threatened to burst the seams of the rough wooden fence. 

This small, contained pocket of green was my own private paradise. I fussed over every square inch; indulged and spoiled every plant. Turns out that not only I was appreciated to the jungle-like lushness of my garden. 

Heading into the back garden one spring morning, I noticed that the wisteria vine was hanging down awkwardly, having become unmoored from its supporting trellis. Standing on a kitchen chair, pruners in hand, I reached up to adjust the vine. As I approached the vine, pruners at the ready, there was a sudden movement inside the tangle of branches. I hesitated. Was my imagination playing a trick on me? Was it just the wind or did something just move in there? Stretching forward to take a closer look at the leafy canopy, I was surprised to see a glassy eye starring right back out at me. I gasped, lurched back and almost lost my footing.

Alarmed, I ran into the house to share what no doubt seemed like a tall tale about a mysterious creature hiding in the branches of our wisteria. Imagining I had discovered a possum or raccoon, my husband Harold went out to the yard to investigate further.

When he parted the branches to have a closer look, he too was surprised with a cool glassy eyed stare. The now startled creature shifted its position and Harold lurched back almost falling.

It did not take long for us to put two and two together and figure out the true identity of the interloper. Our neighbour two doors down kept various reptiles including snakes as pets. I knew about this because I had by chance happened to be present when he had thrilled neighborhood kids by offering them the opportunity to touch a tiny garter snake. I had also seen their pet iguana sunning himself in the window of their spare bedroom.

Turns out that “Iggy”, as we later learned was the iguana’s name, had escaped by chewing through the window screen several days earlier. 

Now, where would an iguana on the lamb choose to go to but the jungle paradise conveniently located just a few doors down?

We were not foolish enough to make any attempts to try to catch the iguana and went immediately to get his owner. Lured out into the open and on to his owner’s shoulders with a treat, we saw at last the true size of our uninvited guest. Iggy’s pale green body stretched some 5 feet from nose to the tip of his tail with a set of 4, 3 inch long claws on each foot. 

Lesson learned: A garden has a way of never ceasing to surprise you!

Hey, at least it wasn't one of the snakes that got loose!!!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Looking back: My First Garden

As a young married couple, we lived in an unexceptional wooden townhouse built sometime in the 70’s. When we moved in, the house had a tiny fenced yard with an uneven a patio of concrete pavers that bordered by scrubby grass. A lonely, common lilac bush was the only claim to the yard’s questionable status as a “garden.”

Our first summer on Falconer Drive, we levelled and extended the patio to a a size that would more comfortably permit a table and chairs. We added topsoil to level the ground and added two steps leading down to at narrow gate that opened up to a common area behind our small townhouse.

I ripped out the grass and crammed every perennial could into the narrow 3 foot beds that I created to frame the new patio.

Lack of space was a constant frustration. When I ran out of horizontal space, I went vertical with climbing roses and vines. Among these was a wisteria vine that I planted near the back door. It expressed its own exasperation with the lack of space by twisting back on itself. Its woody trunk crushed the wooden arbor that supported it.

Acting on a romantic whim, I bought several antique roses including the delicate “Félicité et Perpétué” rose.

Its compact white blossoms opened as a subtle shell pink 
that faded to white in the bright sunlight.

I found it disappointing however, that the rose’s scent was faint and the spent flowers petals did not fall to the ground, but shriveled and went brown on the stems. Brutal Canadian winters took a tragic toll on its delicate French sensibilities, leaving lifeless canes each spring studded with spiky thorns that put up militant resistance to my attempts to prune them.

“Félicité et Perpétué” greatest virtue however was its persistence in the face of the harshest conditions. One could only but admire the exuberance with which it sprang to life each spring. Warm sunny days brought fresh canes which shot up 15 feet, weaving in and out of its supporting trellis. The fine upper most sections of the canes, which reached beyond the limits of the trellis, fell backward to rest on the maize of older established canes in a sort of mutual support society. This backwards swan dive created a waterfall of oval shaped leaves and tiny roses that made you want to forgive the rose's character flaws.

While “Félicité et Perpétué” with its spectacular heft may have attempted to steal all the attention, my favorite rose was its well mannered neighbour the “Ballerina” rose.

With sweet pink roses that resembled apple blossoms, it had a light scent that caught on your hands and scented them with its delicate perfume. I loved the purity of the flower’s simple shape and it remains as one of my all time favorite roses to this day.

After 12 happy years on Falconer Drive, we decided we were ready for a change. There was little that I could still add to my townhouse garden. I was plain out of room!

I wanted a garden without the limitations of our cramped, tiny outdoor space. It is no wonder that I got so excited when I saw the comparatively large property in Huttonville, were we now live.