Friday, March 30, 2012

D is for Delphinium

Do you have a list of plants that you are determined to figure out and grow? 

I do. 

Delphinium are high on my version of that list. 

I can't tell you how many times I have struck out with delphiniums over the years. 

Given my track record with this tall perennial, you might think that I would have given up a long time ago, but no, it only seems to have made me more determined.

These aren't my delphiniums, by the way. Gosh, how I wish they were! 

The few survivors in my garden are much more straggly looking than these beauties. 

When I consult one of my favourite reference books on the subject of delphiniums, it says, "Hardy and relatively pest and disease free, delphiniums flourish in all of Canada except the Artic."

Great. Now there is a low blow. They apparently flourish everywhere in Canada, but the Artic and MY garden!

Reading on it says,"Planted in groups of three of one color behind medium-height perennials, they give a regal touch to a sunny bed, creating waves of blue, pink or white in a summer breeze." 

Regal flowers swaying in the breeze sounds worth a bit of extra effort, doesn't it? 

So, where the heck am I going wrong?

My reference advises that delphiniums "like full sun, well drained, but moist rich soil". It continues,"Set out plants in May, making sure that the crowns are at ground level and firming the soil around the roots so no air pockets remain. Keep plants well watered until they are established and use a weak solution of 15-30-15 fertilizer every two weeks through the growing season."

Based on this good advice, I need to pamper my young plants a bit more through their first year.

Still, my biggest problem seems to be something else altogether.  I tend to lose my delphinium suddenly and unexpectedly after a few years.

My latest theory on what is behind my lack of success lies in my starting point. I think that I have been setting myself up for failure from the get-go.

You see, I have always relied on Pacific Giants, a series of hybrids developed by a Californian breeder, Frank Reinelt. Pacific Giants were intended to be an improvement on British and European hybrids, which were not robust enough to stand up to the extremes of the North American climate.

Though an improvement on older varieties, Pacific Giants still don't seem to have the might to hold up through the winters in my Ontario garden.

After a little bit of shopping around, I have noted that are other varieties of delphinium available. 

So that is the direction that I am headed in next. 

If, unlike me, you have had good luck with delphiniums, I would really love to hear words of advice!

P.S. Have a great weekend everyone. 
Can you believe that we have snow in the forecast here. 
Can you hear the scream in my head? Nooooo....!

The quoted advice in this post comes from Favourite Plants, expert advice on choosing and growing the best plants which is a compilation of articles from Canadian Gardening Magazine edited by Liz Primeau. Published by McArthur & Company, Toronto. It is a great book to pick up should you happen to see it in your local bookstore.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Oh hello!

A couple of weeks ago, I was shopping in the grocery store, when I spotted bunches of pink and purple hyacinths. I thought that the colors were so pretty together, I bought two bunches with the intent of taking a portrait of them. 

I set up my shot on the back porch and ran inside to grab the camera.

I was shooting away when...oh hello! Where did you come from?

 Mr. Bee entered the scene like a stage actor taking his cue in the theater. 

Still groggy from his winter slumber, Mr. Bee staggered around among the flowers like a sailer trying to find his sea legs.

With all these hyacinths, I am sure Mr. Bee thought he had really hit springtime pay dirt.

I am going to link this post to Kim Klassen's Texture Tuesday's theme "Soft". To create these images I used Kim's Warm Sun and Stained Linen textures. 

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Gosden/Wendell Garden

Cupflower, Silphium Perfoliatum

Why am I about to show you a late summer garden in early spring? 

Underlying the answer to this question is what makes gardening truly interesting. It may be work, but gardening is not mindless labor. It demands knowledge and creativity. Plant size, shape, color, texture, bloom time, and growing conditions are all factors to be weighed and considered.

To have a beautiful garden in the late summer and early fall, you simply must plan ahead in spring. 

Colin and Irene have shaped the garden I am about to show you over a period of about ten years. Colin tells me, "Gardening keeps me humble and creative."

Though he did most of the work removing the lawn, Irene is principally responsible for the garden at the front of the house. Colin sweetly characterizes Irene's role in their gardening partnership by saying, "She is my muse."

Together, these two gardener have gathered an interesting array of plant materials and have built a wonderful area for relaxation at the back of the house, that I know you are going to love. 

There are lots of pictures and so I suggest we head into the garden and take a look around.

The front garden overall

This is Cupid's Dart, Catananche caerulea. Cupid's Dart has tall, papery, purplish-blue flowers 
over a low clump of narrow grey-green leaves.

A few plant facts: Cupid's Dart likes full sun, and will grow in normal, sandy or clay soil, but requires good drainage. It is drought tolerant once established. While it is a short-lived perennial, Cupid's Dart  will often self-sow.

 If spent flowers are removed, Cupid's Dart will continue to bloom throughout the summer. 
Pollinators obviously love it!

Butterfly Weed, Asclepias tuberosa in the front garden. This native North American wildflower is the primary source of food for both adult and juvenile Monarch Butterflies. Plants form an upright clump of narrow green leaves, with showy clusters of flowers in mid to late summer. Butterfly weed needs full sun and sandy soil.

Northern Sea Oats, Chasmanthium latifolium has green flower spikes that mature into a lovely bronze color in the fall. This native grass is tolerant in a wide range of soil and light conditions, 
but it happiest in moist soil with dappled shade.

Weeping Eastern Pine

Here is a real conversation piece. Walking Stick, Cholla Opuntia Imbricata is not necessarily something you'd expect to find in a Canadian garden! Despite our harsh winters, Colin tells me that he successfully overwinters it in the garden.

What is a late summer garden without Echinacea and Rudbeckia below?

Dolls Eyes, Actaea 'Alba' (above and below)

Dolls Eyes, Actaea 'Alba' is a native woodland perennial with finely cut foliage and white flowers that mature into black-tipped berries. It prefers moist soil and light to moderate shade.

Remember to consider foliage texture, as well as flowers, in your fall garden planning. Here a grasshopper enjoys the early morning sun on a soft, velvety textured leaf.

Throughout the front garden and along the driveway Colin and Irene have incorporated 
a range of grasses which also add texture. 

Just inside the back gate is this tall perennial. Ironweed, Crinta Mammuth is a North American native that has clouds of purple, aster-like flowers held aloft on 75-90 cm stems. Ironweed will grow almost anywhere in sun. Colin pinches his Ironweed back at a height of 3 ft to encourage branching.

Cupflower, Silphium Perfoliatum

Another interesting native, Cupflower derives its name from its 
cup-shaped leaves, which hold rainwater.

Pillar Clematis, 'Mrs. Robert Brydon'. The flower buds of this summer 
clematis almost look like berries.

A closer look at Pillar Clematis, 'Mrs. Robert Brydon'

Colin built the potting table/bar himself.

The pergolas and other structures in the garden are all Colin's design. "We wanted shade, but never liked patio umbrellas, so this pergola was designed with that in mind.", Colin tells me. 

A contractor was hired to do the grading and the interlock, but Colin did all the building himself.

As well as Trumpet Vine, Flamenco which you see pictured here, the pergola is covered with:
 Wisteria, 'Aunt Dee', Chocolate Vine, Akebia Quinata and Porcelain Vine, Ampelopsis gland. brevipedunculata

Colin picked up these great pot hooks at a garden show.

Colin's favourite perennial: Hostas
Irene's favourite perennial: Coral Bells

Perennial to be added to the garden this year: Bear's Breeches, Acanthus, very striking!

The garden they most want to visit: "The gardens of Italy. We saw a series about them on TVO           recently.", Colin says.

Favourite Gardening Book: "Anything by Patrick Lima, especially his Harrowsmith Perennial Garden."

Best advice for the novice gardener: "Don't be discouraged, you will lose lots of plant material. Start of simply, with easy growers like hosta, iris, etc..", advises Colin.

Further information and links:  

Colin and Irene are both members of the Creditvalley Horticultural Society and Colin is the club's President. The CVHS  is located in Mississauga, ON and holds a monthly meetings with a guest speaker on the second Wednesday of each month (except for the months of July and August) at 8pm. The society has a number of community projects, an annual plant sale and garden tour amongst its many activities.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Three C's

Though I love my two magnolias, my ornamental crabapple is hands-down my favourite spring flowering tree. When the flower buds appear, they are a light, shell pink. Then the flowers open to a soft, creamy white. 

And the show isn't over when the flowers fade and the petals flutter to the ground. Bright red fruit add 
color to the garden right into winter.

Another garden 'C' is Columbine. If your garden experiences a bit of a lull between spring bulbs and flowering perennials, think about adding some columbine.


These are Columbine that I photographed last June at Merlin's Hollow, David Tomlinson's 
garden in Aurora, Ontario.  

As the sway in the breeze, the delicate bells always make me think of ballet dancers or garden fairies.

Columbine come in a variety of pastel shades and bi-colors.

The flowers are held on upright stems over a fairly compact mound of ferny, light-green foliage. 

Columbine like to self-seed. You never know where they will turn up next.

The trails of leaf miners often disfigure the leaves of my Columbine, but if you remove 
the damaged foliage, fresh growth will appear.

This Centaurea hypoleuca 'John Coutts' is new to my garden. The plant first caught my eye at the Royal Botanical Gardens and I had to have one. These perennial cornflowers are cousins of common Bachelor's Buttons and have lavender-pink flowers in early summer. 

Centaurea hypoleuca 'John Coutts' forms a bushy clump of divided, grey-green leaves and will grow in most types of soil, in any sunny location. Be sure to leave some room for this plant because these mature cornflowers can grow 45-60 cm wide by 50-60 cm high.

This is another more compact Centaurea that admired last June at Merlin's Hollow.

My Mom always had the common blue form, Centaurea montana in her garden, but I think I rather like this white variety even better. Both Centaurea are really hardy, easy to grow in any type of soil and prefer full sun (although my Mom managed to grow her's in light shade).

Looking though the spring Gardenimport catalogue, I spotted these two really interesting looking varieties.  Centaurea, 'Purple Heart' has white feathery flowers with a purple heart and Centaurea, 'Black Sprite' has dramatic black flowers. (Click the link for further details.)

This clematis is a final gem that I spotted last June at Merlin's Hollow. This is not a vining clematis, but is rather an upright form; Clematis recta 'Purpurea'. A skyscraper of a plant, it stood a good four feet tall in front of me and was covered in tiny white flowers (not fragrant).

Clematis recta 'Purpurea' prefers the soil to be somewhat moist and likes full sun.

Other Letters of my Garden Alphabet: A is for Astilbe, B is for Butterfly

Have yourself a great weekend everyone! 
P.S. Don't forget to enter the book draw in my previous post. Good Luck!