Friday, August 27, 2010

The Kavassalis Garden, Oakville

"No two gardens are the same. No two days are the same in one garden." Hugh Johnson

A Hollyhock from the side garden

On the evening of our visit to the Kavassalis's garden in Oakville, a blonde haired little girl, not much older than 3 or 4, had abandoned her pink bicycle on the sidewalk and despite her mother's entreaties, set off to explore the flowers beds in the Kavassalis's front garden. 

Now, wasn't this same little girl delighted when she was invited in to see the back garden as well. And wasn't she over the moon, when Cathy Kavassalis picked her a bouquet of fresh flowers to take home with her. I tell you, if it was not fate already, a future gardener was born that evening.

Certainly there is lots to discover and admire in Cathy's garden. When you enter the garden from the side gate, among the plantings are sunflowers, hollyhocks (above), brilliant orange-red crocosmia.  And its not just pretty, there are red raspberries for the picking as well.

One side of the allee of daylilies in the back garden.

Cathy has a great way for creating pretty mixes of flower and foliage. Here pink Astilbe (foreground) mix with Sedum (middle), Heuchera (lower right), Ribbon Grass and white Astilbe (distant right).

A closer look at that pink Astilbe.

One of Cathy's Oriental Lilies in full bloom.

A small stream (lower left) feeds the pond, where a male and female turtle swim happily.

A towering evergreen makes a nice shady retreat in one corner of the garden.

Another lovely combination from left to right : Heuchera (Coral Bells), Ribbon Grass and white Astilbe.

Purple Phlox, Sedum and dove colored Lamb's ears.

Isn't this a fabulous little flower? 

This is Spigelia Marilandica or Indian Pink (common name).

A bee on the lavender colored Bee Balm.

A cream colored Rose of Sharon. 

This summer Cathy has been having problems with the Japanese Beetles, who have devouring parts of the garden including this lovely Rose of Sharon. I have yet so see any of these beetles in my garden. How about you? Have the invaders made it to your garden yet?

(Apparently Japanese Beetles were accidentally introduced to New Jersey in 1916, where they quickly become a serious pest. Now they are found in Ontario, Iowa, Missouri, Georgia and Alabama just to name few states.)

The delicate beauty of the herb Borage.

(Below) Cathy lets her cilantro go to flower so she could collect coriander seeds.

Isn't the cilantro flower pretty? I am not sure if this is a bad bug or a good bug, but he certainly looks like a happy bug lost in the marvel of this flower top.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Changing Faces of two of my Favorite Hydrangeas

"Change is the only constant." Old Proverb

I thought I might share with you, the changing faces of two of my favorite hydrangeas. In the half-sun of the back garden, white buds first appear on my Oakleaf hydrangea (hydrangea quercifolia) in sultry days of late July.  

Gradually a mix of large white flowers and tiny white stars open on the conical panicles.

When the weather shifts and cools, the small stars shut their eyes and pink seeps into the flowers.

In the sunny front garden, chartreuse flower buds appear on the Pee Gee Hydrangea (paniculata 'P.G. compacta) in late July.

Here the buds shine in the early morning light. 

In the first days of August, the hydrangea flowers are milky white in color.

In mid-August, the mornings are crisp. The white flowers and buds are tinted with the softest blush of pink.

By late October, crusted with frost crystals, the flowers have turned a soft rose color.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Tiny Front Garden in Kingston, Ontario

 A bee gathers pollen from a pink Rose of Sharon.

How cute is this house? 

I love the handsome black front door and shutters on the upper windows. A double flowering Rose of Sharon located just to the right of the door adds mid-summer color to the small front garden.

The red trim on the windows looks charming paired with the grey of the house and the black of the
window boxes.

 Echinacea is planted under the window boxes at the front of the house.

 Ground covers on either side of a small brick path keep the front garden looking neat and tidy.

Pink phlox blooms on the perimeter of this pretty cottage garden.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Dahlias from Butt's Berry and Flower Farm, Rockwood Ontario

"Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it." Confucius

Dahlias are one of my most favorite flowers, yet I have never really grown them. I think that is because I have a ready source of these wonderful flowers in greater variety of color, size and shape than my garden could ever produce.

Starting in late July, there is a veritable rainbow of gorgeous dahlias at my local farmer's market.

I love everything about the farmer's market; the bustle of people, the fresh picked fruit and vegetables, and the stands blooming with summer flowers. With luck market day is warm and sunny. Everyone, it always seems to me, is in a festive mood. In the air there is the smell of chicken kabobs sizzling on the grill, and the delicious scent of fresh baked bread and pastries.

For me the very best part of market day, is selecting the bouquet of fresh flowers that will light up my hall table all week. And, in my humble opinion, the prettiest, fresh flowers at the Brampton farmer's market can be found at Butt's farm stand.

Amanda Oldham (right) with her aunt Robin Withers in front of their dahlias and buckets of glads at Butt's Berry and Flower Farm stand at the Brampton farmer's market.

The Butt family has been growing flowers for four generations, first at their farm in Huttonville and now at their new farm in located near Rockwood, Ontario. 

Starting in 1944, the family began growing glads and strawberries at their first farm on the outskirts of Brampton. When the popularity of dahlias grew in the 1980's, fields were changed over to grow them.

Then slowly over the years, the city began to inch ever closer to the farm. Developers, keen to build houses for a ready market, began knocking on all the doors of farms in the area. "They used to sometimes come in twice a week, pressuring us to sell.", Robin Withers recounts. 

The family finally relented about five years ago, opting to move out far from the encroaching suburbs and bought a farm in Eramosa township. There, they carry on their flower and berry business, driving everyday to the flower grower's clock in Mississauga and coming into Brampton for the market on Saturday.

It one thing to grow flowers for your own personal enjoyment, its another to grow them for a living.

I asked Robin about the challenges the farm faces. "Its very tough."she replied,"We are always at the mercy of the weather."

We were thrilled when Robin invited us out to the farm to see the dahlias growing in the fields.

It was a hot, humid day when we headed down the tree lined road to the farm house, just north of the small town of Rockwood.

I was curious about the rows of small rocks resting on the open gate and fence that marked off the flower fields. I asked Robin later if that was for luck. "No" she answered, "My father just likes to pick them up in the field and put them there."

Chelsea the dog made an excellent field guide on the afternoon of our visit.

Aren't they just magnificent?

Dahlia flowers in a variety of shapes and an amazing range of colors.

They prefer full sun and well drained sandy loam. Plant dahlia tubers about five inches deep, with the eye facing upwards, after the last frost. For best results, incorporate a couple of spadefuls of compost into the soil, when you plant dahlia tubers. Thereafter, feed them only with fertilizers low in nitrogen and high in phosphorous and potassium.

Water dahlias lightly after planting (too much water can cause rot). Thereafter, ensure they have water at least once a week. To encourage good flowering, do not allow them to dry out during blooming season.

Pinch your dahlias for more compact plants and deadhead them regularly. The more flowers you cut, the more flowers the plant will bear!

To overwinter the tubers, wait until frost has blackened the foliage and then dig deep beneath the clump. Lift the tubers carefully avoiding possible damage to the neck near the crown. Each tuber can yield as many as 10 more by autumn.

Use a sharp knife to slice the young tubers from the crown. Discard the "mother" along with any baby tubers showing signs of damage. Bring the tubers indoors and wash the soil from the tubers. Allow them to dry for 24 hours. Label the tuber and wrap them individually in plastic wrap. Place them in plastic shoeboxes and store them in a dry place above freezing temperatures for the winter.

Me, I prefer to get my dahlias at the market. (Less work and all the glory!)

I think going local means more than buying fruit and vegetables grown in your area. 

I say, support your local flower grower and bring home a bouquet of fresh flowers just for you! Place them somewhere you pass frequently, like a hall table or put them on your desk at work. Go on! You desire it (and you help support your local farm family to boot)!