Sunday, February 27, 2011

Color Essay #8: Pretty in Pink

Pink can be dramatic...

and it can be subtle.

Dahlia in the field at Butt's Berry and Flower Farm, Rockwood Ontario.

It ranges in intensity from almost red to...

Buckets of lilies at the Kingston Farmer's Market.

soft pastel shades.

Farmer's Market flowers gathered into a white pitcher

Pink can stand all on its own.... 

The Garnet Garden, Oakville, Ontario. (see the garden here)

and it plays well with others.

Have you ever noticed someone at a garden center or nursery, standing in line with an odd or unusual purchase?

I remember seeing this well dressed couple, with a cart filled with rhododendrons and azaleas in full bloom, waiting to complete their purchase at the sales counter. I swear that they must have strolled down the nursery isle and randomly selected bushes that just happened to catch their eye, rather like they might have done if they were shopping for shoes or clothing. I am sure that their purchase decision was fueled primarily by the visual appeal of the bushes in full flower. Rhododendrons and azalea are spectacularly beautiful, after all! 

The azaleas, in particular, would be a challange to grow sucessfully here in Ontario. Our winters are harsh and our summers are hot and dry. Though I have not had great success with rhododendrons myself and am therefore no expert, I at least know from my failings, that rhododendrons need soil amendments to prosper. The fact that there was nothing in the cart, but the bushes themselves, lead me to think that the happy couple were complete novices about to make a potentially expensive mistake.

Not only novices fall prey to the allure of a flower in bloom. I have come home from the nursery, on more then one occasion, with an impulse purchase having been enticed by the arresting face of some winsome blossom who called out to me, "Buy me, I am so pretty!" 

I have been burned by these beauties so many times however, that I am a bit more cautious these days. I consult plant tags and consider growing conditions. If for instance, the plant needs lots of moisture, I give it a pass, no matter how attractive it is. 

I am also am more than little wary of unknown plants that could turn into nasty, hard-to-eradicate, garden invader. When in doubt, I consult one of the nursery personnel or pass altogether, until I have checked out a plant's references.

In today's post I have gathered pretty pink flowers from my own garden and elsewhere as noted, beautiful temptresses all.

The first pink flowers in my garden are bleeding hearts. (Dicentra spectabilis)

Another early summer beauty. Columbine (Clementine "Rose" Aquilegia)

Hollyhocks in the Lucy Maud Montgomery Garden in Norval, Ontario (see the garden here)

Bee Balm (Monarda 'Marshall's Delight') One of my favorite Bee Balms in my 
garden is this pretty pink variety.

Perennial Sweet Pea or Everlasting Sweet Pea (L. latifolius)

Everyone knows annual sweet peas. Well, this is the perennial version. I used to have it in my first ever garden and definitely want to add it to my current garden. 
Now, to be honest, perennial sweet pea can get a bit messy looking, and so it is a good idea to watch it carefully in spring and make sure that it is neatly restrained by its supporting trellis. Like the annual flower, it likes full sun. Unlike its annual cousin, it does not have a scent. I have read that it can self seed prolifically, but I have never had a problem with it. 

Lavatera in a Georgetown, Ontario garden (see the garden here)

My Mum used to grow this old fashioned annual. Last summer, I saw it growing in a private garden in the nearby Georgetown, and I was reminded just how pretty it is.  A cousin to Hibiscus and Hollyhocks, Lavatera has dark green foliage, and large blooms, that put on a great show all summer.

This is one of my prettiest daylilies.

(Papaver orientale)

I already have red oriental poppies, but I like these even better. I saw this soft pink variety at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Hamilton and think that they are stunning.

Oriental Lilies in my front garden.

A Rose of Sharon helps to keep pink going all summer long in this private garden in Kingston, Ontario.

Deep pink sedum flowers in my back garden.

In early fall, this Burning Bush initially became hot pink in color.

This is the third of my Stylish Blogger Award posts. This one goes out with my thanks to the blog Elly's Tuin. Elly gardens in the Netherlands, and though I am only just getting to know her, I think that she is someone who appreciates the soft beauty of the color pink.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Fasten Your Seatbelt Color!

On Monday, I was very long winded. Today, I am keeping it short and sweet. 

I love color! Enough said!

This is the second of My Stylish Blogger Award Posts. 
This one goes out with my thanks to the blog All Is Amazing.

Monday, February 21, 2011

What was my mother thinking? (Stylish Blogger Award, Part 1)

What was my mother thinking when she brushed my hair back off my high forehead, fastened it with a barrette and sent me off to school to have my class picture taken? What a terrible hairstyle that was!

Of course my mother had her work cut out for her, when it came to arranging my hair. Her own hair had big round curls, but my mother passed none of those curls to me. There was not so much of a wave in my fine, brown hair, let alone a curl!

Left to its own devises my hair sits limp and flat to my head like a helmet. Not only does it have no curls, it holds no curls, always preferring to answer the pull of gravity and return to its natural resting position next to my skull. While my hair doesn't hold a curl it does, oddly enough, demonstrate an amazing ability, each morning after a night of tossing back and forth on my pillow, to stand completely on end rather like a crown of sharp spikes. It is astonishing, that when faced with the daily prospect of confronting my early morning hairdo, my husband didn't divorce me years ago.

This is the first thing that you should know about me. My hair and I have always been the most bitter of enemies.

Now, I am sure that you are wondering just why I am showing you this particular portrait of myself. Well, if you look closely, I think that the picture tells the tale. Just look at those clasped hands and that resolute stance. I am willful and stubborn as an mule, which is, by the way, the second thing that you must know about me.

This is me in grade 2. (Love the startled, deer-in-the headlights expression on my face!) Grade 2 was an important year for me, in which I discovered much about myself. For instance, I learned that I can't sing to save my life.

I so very much wanted to be member of the school's "Rhythm Band", a group of singers, who got to play percussion instruments, like tambourines and triangles, at the yearly spring concert. I dreamed about being a member of the band, not because I had early ambitions to be a musician. No, no! It was because I wanted to have a chance to wear one of the really awesome, blue satin capes, that each band members wore during school's spring concert.

But when I was called to the piano for my audition and croaked out the few stanzas of a common children's song, it was determined that I was only a "red bird". You had to be at least a "yellow bird" or preferably a "blue bird" to be a member of the Rythum Band. (This bird designation was a special code developed by our music teacher to describe each students ability to sing, without hurting anyone's feelings. It was a bit silly really. We all knew what the secret code meant. If you were a "blue bird", it meant that you could carry a tune well on your own, if you were a "yellow bird" you could carry a tune with the aid of the piano, and if you were a red bird, like me, well, you couldn't carry a tune whatsoever. As a red bird, there was no hope of me ever wearing that dashing blue satin cape!)

I can also tell you, that was also a terrible daydreamer, as a child. I remember being called upon to read aloud by our teacher, the very stylish Miss Brumwell, whom I worshiped and adored. Unfortunately for me, I had been daydreaming instead of paying attention and had lost my place in the grade school reader. Miss B. reprimanded me, and told me to find my place, before I was called upon next. But even after being given a third opportunity to find my place in the book, I failed to do so.

Frustrated and angry, Miss Brumwell led me to the coatroom, were she spanked me and told me to stand quietly in the company of our outdoor hats and coats, while I contemplated the error of my ways. Big, hot tears of shame, rolled down my freckled cheeks. Seeing my tears, I think Miss B. felt sorry for loosing her temper, because she hugged me, and told me not to cry, just to pay better attention in the future.

It was in grade 2, that I fell in love for the first time. His name was Martin Jones. I remember very little about Martin, other than the fact that he had such blonde hair, that it was almost white in color. Figuring principally in the determination that Martin was as the object of my girlish affections, was the fact that he was my dance partner in our class performance of the English folk tune "Greensleeves". It seems that proximity in matters of the heart, was key for me in grade 2. My mother, who sewed all our clothing growing up, made me a special red dress for the dance performance. It had a full skirt, that ripped beautifully, whenever I twirled around. I think I loved that red dress, almost as much as I loved Martin.

My fourth grade teacher was the tall and slender Miss Conrad. Miss Conrad also did double duty as the schools principal and as the authority figure that administered the dreaded strap, she warranted an extra measure of respect. The strap, a narrow strip of thick leather that cracked down hard on the hands of the badly behaved, struck its mark with a such a loud thwack, that it echoed through the school's hallways. Even we innocents, left waiting meekly at our desks in the classroom, trembling with fear at the sound of it.

Though strict, Miss Conrad was also kind. Every Friday afternoon, she would read aloud to us from a chapter book. How I loved resting my head sleepily on my arms, while a listened to the soft cadence of her voice and the sing-song rhythm of the story's words. For my love books and stories, I credit Miss Conrad.

Sadly, Miss Conrad was also the first dead body I ever saw. She passed away, not two years into her retirement from teaching. I was one of the two representatives of my grade 6 class, elected to pay final respects to our teacher, on behalf of the whole class. My unease was extreme, as I gazed down at her pale, sunken face, as it lay resting on a satin pillow in the open coffin. Poor, dear Miss Conrad! I am sure she would have been touched, to know how well she was remembered by her students.

Last week I was honoured with not 1, but 3 Stylish Blogger awards. As the recipient of a Stylish Blogger Award, you are required to reveal 7 random facts about yourself. With three such honors, I initially wondered, with some trepidation I might add, if this award received thrice over meant I actually had to divulge 7 x 3 for a total of 21 random facts about myself. How could I possibly be that interesting?

My next thought was, that it might be fun to do three posts, each inspired by the blogger who had given me the Stylish Blogger Award.

And so, that is just what I am going to do.

If that breaks any Stylish Blogger Award rules, so be it. Rack up one more factoid! I am not good at following rules.

Today's post is in honour of a school teacher who lives in Washington, D.C. She is the author of the Casa Mariposa blog and I both admire and envy her beautiful writing style. Her post on the subject of a class science experiment is among my most favorite pieces of her writing. Her role as a teacher and mentor to her students has inspired today's school days theme.

Up next, is a Stylish Blogger Award post inspired by the blog All is Amazing and on Friday, a final post to cover off my award from a gardener in the Netherlands, the author of the blog Elly's Tuin.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Color Essay Number 7: Purple

I have been honoured with a Stylish Blogger Award by two blogging friends and as the happy recipient of this award, I am duty bound to reveal seven random facts about myself. I hope the my good friends will bear with me a few more days, before I share a little bit about myself. Spare time is in short supply at the moment, and I want to have the opportunity to take a few pictures to go along with my big reveal. For today, I will go with what I already had in the works.

I do not consider that I have  nearly enough purple on my garden, and so this post is as much a wish list, as anything else. Here are some of my favorite purple themed photographs of the past summer, with flowers from my own garden, and elsewhere as noted.

Purple first appears in my garden with tiny violets and hyacinths. The violets self-seed in both sun and shade.

'Odyssey' Bearded Iris at the Royal Botanical Gardens, Hamilton, Ontario

These are not my irises, but I do have ones that are very similar. I made the mistake of planting my irises in a somewhat crowded bed and they became too shaded to prosper. I am thinking of adding a new garden bed this spring, to see if I can do better by them. To make a statement, irises need to be massed into a sizable clump.

Isn't this stunning? These are large clumps of Japaneses Irises at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Hamilton, Ontario.

Clementine "Blue" (Aquilegia)

Columbine self-seed in my garden. I find that they like half-sun. Too much shade, and they do not perform well.

I have many birdhouses scattered throughout the garden, but of all them, this one which is right beside the front door, is the most popular with the birds. Do you think they like it best because of the pretty purple clematis?

Too common to be extraordinary, I still have to include hostas in my parade of purples, because they are so darn dependable and easy to grow.

A little plant lust here. If you ever get the chance to visit New Brunswick or Prince Edward Island in early summer, you may be amazed to see wild fields of these stunning flowers. Unfortunately, Lupins are tricky flowers to grow here in Ontario.

Balloon Flower (Platycodon grandiflorus) from my own front own garden. This is a tall, sun loving perennial that blooms late in the summer. It is also available in white and pink varieties. (See also the double flowering variety in the header photograph.)

This is a shot from the Kingston, Ontario farmer's market. I love those purple mini-eggplants.

This is a mixed summer bouquet that I bought at the local farmer's market. 

You need lots of sun for lavender. Some varieties are also not so keen on our harsh winters here in Canada. It is my favorite scent and so I really want to find a spot to squeeze some in. Among my ambitions for next summer is a visit to one of the large lavender farms here in Ontario or Quebec.

Bi-color Monkshood (Aconitum). Monkshood likes sun to afternoon shade and moist soil. It can become floppy if there is too much shade. It resents transplanting. Caution: Highly toxic.

When I saw these Monkeshood at a farmer's market in Kingston, Ontario, I was blown away with just how pretty they were gathered into a bouquet. I have the same variety in my own garden, but it is taking its good old time to clump up. (They are fairly shaded, and perhaps this is why, they are so slow to mature.) This will be their third year, and so I am hoping I will get a decent show out of them for the first time next summer.

To end a Beautyberry (Callicarpa Americana) that I saw at Edward's Gardens. I love the purple berries.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Spring Flowers in Vintage Tins

I originally did a post on arranging flowers in decorative tins way back at the time when I was a baby blogger talking away to myself. I think the post on vintage tins got one comment and two views! 

As there is nothing much blooming in my snow covered garden, I thought that I would re-show this, my favorite method, of displaying spring flowers for Garden Blogger's Bloom Day.

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

Old tin cans are not watertight and so, when I want to display flowers in them, I insert a wide-mouth drinking glass or small glass vase to hold the water. (Inexpensive glass vases can be found at most discount stores).

I use the height of the tin to help me gauge the proper length for each of the flower stems.

Quince flowers in a red tin.

To arrange flowers in really small tins, I use a florist's water pick 
inside the tin to hold the water.

This tin cost me $3. Doesn't it show off the daffodils and pansies nicely?

To see what is blooming in other gardens around the world on this Garden Blogger's Bloom Day, visit May Dreams Gardens. Many thanks to Carol for hosting this event.