Monday, July 30, 2012

The Edible Gardens Learning Tour

Mary Sadeghi under her pear trees.

This past weekend, my husband and I went on a garden tour with a bit of a twist. The first distinction was the timing; unlike most garden tours, which take place in June, this one was at the end of July. 

The second and more perhaps more significant twist was the fact that this was an "Edible Gardens and Learning Tour".

Above: Shirley Jeffers and roses growing on her backyard fence. Shirley's vegetable patch.

Organized by the Richmond Hill Horticultural Society, there were 8 gardens on the tour each featuring a wide range of edible foods and methods for growing them. 

I must say, that you would be hard pressed to find a more enthusiastic bunch of gardeners! Everyone was out front and center in their gardens greeting visitors, volunteering information on the food they grow and the environmentally friendly practices they follow.

In sharp contrast to the high-end garden tour that I took about month ago, these gardens were nothing fancy. In fact, I distinctly remember stepping around a clothesline on my way into one of the backyards. There was no self-concious landscape design here! These were just plain, honest-to-goodness gardens.

Joe Celebre's blackberries

This is not to say that there were not moments of pure beauty.

Even everyday, ordinary of things caught my eye as having a beauty all of there own.

 The tomatoes in Joe Celebre's greenhouse.

There were even curiosities, like this intriguing method for getting water
right to a plant's root system.

The arbor leading into Mary's Sadeghi's garden.

The pathway through Mary's garden.

Mixing fruits, vegetables and flowers is not a new concept, but seeing the idea embraced so fully was an inspiration for me. 

I honestly don't know why it hasn't accrued to me to mix things up a bit more.

Tomatoes, grapes growing steps away from roses, I mean, why not?

Linda Lynott's garden.

At least one gardener had gone so far as to plant her edibles right into the flowerbeds. And again, why not? 

Vegetables often benefit from the society of flowers. 

The tomatoes in the Platt's garden.

Even most novice gardeners know that marigolds are a tomato plant's best friend.

Mary Sadeghi 's seating area under the pear trees.

Mary's garden

A few other things on the tour impressed me as well, one of them being how much these gardeners had packed into relatively small spaces. 

Instead of having just a seating area, Mary Hassan made the space multifunctional by incorporating pear trees as shade cover (see above). 

Plantings were layered, fruit growing up and flowers growing out underneath them.

Joe Celebre's figs

Another thing that surprised me was the wide range of edibles.  Figs are not hardy here in Canada, but Joe Celebre had a number of fig trees in his garden. Every winter he digs a long trench in his greenhouse and buries them underground well out of the reach of killing frosts.

The kiwi vine growing in the Platt's backyard garden.

Barb and Bob Platt were growing kiwi. In Canada! Apparently, this new variety of kiwi vine which they acquired from a grower in the Niagara Region, is hardy here in Southern Ontario(zone 5-6). The kiwi is smaller than the standard fruit and lacks the beige, furry exterior, but has the same strawberry-like taste as ordinary kiwi. You just pop them into your mouth and eat them like a berry.

Hope you had a nice weekend too! I'll put a few more highlights up in a second post.

Friday, July 27, 2012

H is for Hollyhocks

Those of you who have followed my blog for a while will know that I have always admired hollyhocks.  Satiny, crepe-paper flowers held aloft on tall, graceful stems; I have wanted to have some of these beauties in my garden for years!

Hollyhocks demand a fair bit of real estate however, and I have never had a spot for them...that is until now. In the last few weeks, I have been busy digging up a bit more of our nondescript lawn and now have a spot in the sun that should be perfect for them. 

Hollyhocks usually act as short-lived perennials, but re-seed themselves each year. The single form are said to be more resistant to hollyhock rust and so that is what I think I will try out in my garden next summer.

For now, I will content myself with admiring them in other gardens.

A stand of hollyhocks at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Hamilton, ON

A private garden in Waterdown, ON

The Royal Botanical Gardens again.

Larkwhistle Gardens on the Bruce Peninsula.

Have a great weekend everyone!

P.S. We finally got some rain. We had a terrible thunderstorm and then it came down in buckets. The garden took a big, thirsty drink. Sadly, a number of area homes caught fire when lightening struck them and now these families are out of house. There always seems to be a little bit of bad to balance any good.

My garden alphabet so far: 'A' is for Astilbe, 'B' is for ButterflyThree 'C's, 'D' is for DelphiniumThe Letters E and F , G is for Geranium and now H is for Hollyhocks

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Dog Days of Summer

I sometimes think that having dogs is like having children who never grow up!

The hot weather we have had for the last month and a half has been hard on the furry members of our family. Dogs who normally jump at the chance to go out in the garden, now prefer to be flaked-out on the cool ceramic tile of the kitchen floor.

On an evening when it is too hot for the dog park to be an option, I sometimes turn on the sprinkler. The oldest two run and jump around like excited children.

 My hubby took these pictures the other night. Can you believe that Buddy is over 12 years old?

Not everyone is thrilled about getting wet. Note the coward caught in the line of fire.

Of course the best part of the whole experience is being towel-rubbed-dry.

Isn't this the life?

Monday, July 23, 2012

G is for Geranium

Shade can be challenge enough, but dry shade is a double whammy that I must contend with in the back section of my garden. 

Over the years, I have done lots of experiments with different perennials in this part of the garden. I have found that there is a big difference between what will thrive in dry shade and what will merely survive in such conditions. Astilbe, for instance, limps along, but isn't happy at all. If I ever neglected to water it in late summer, it would simply pack it in. 

Some taller varieties of sedum like 'Autumn Joy', which usually come along with a planting recommendation for full sun, have turned out to be a pleasant surprise. They actually don't mind a fair bit of shade.

Geranium phaeum 'Samobor'

One of the plants, with which I have had the greatest success by far, is geraniums. In fact, I have been so pleased with them, I have added new varieties each year.

 In my experience, geraniums are pretty undemanding. Mine are planted in everyday, average soil. I do however, make the effort to mulch the flowerbeds, which helps soil retain whatever moisture there is. 

Even when not in flower, foliage on most geraniums is attractive generally speaking. I do find that some varieties like 'Samobor' (see image below) benefit by having their foliage cutback after flowering. Fresh new leaves emerge within a few weeks. 

Some of the geraniums in my garden readily self-seed. In fact, one of my raised vegetable beds was filled with tiny 'Mourning Widow' seedlings this spring. This is another reason to give varieties of Geranium phaeum like 'Mourning Widow' and 'Samobor' a close haircut after flowering.

Geranium phaeum 'Samobor' has nodding maroon-purple flowers with green leaves splashed with purple-black. I find cutting back the foliage after flowering promotes fresh growth. Flowers appear in June. Height 60 cm, Spread 60-70 cm.

Geranium phaeum 'Mourning Widow' This image is perhaps a bit deceiving. In the bright sunlight the flowers appear purple, but in average light they are actually maroon-purple.  This plant forms mounding foliage and tolerates dry shade better than most. Height 60 cm, Spread 60-70 cm

Bigroot Geranium, 'Geranium macrorrhizum'

I have found that one of the best geraniums for shade is 'Geranium macrorrhizum'. The plant forms low mounds of fragrant leaves. Bigroot geraniums have creeping, underground rhizomes that I often break off and replant in early spring to create new plants.

Bigroot Geranium, 'Geranium macrorrhizum'

Midnight Reiter Cranesbill, Geranium pratense 'Midnight Reiter' 

I have this geranium in full sun and have as yet to try it in shade. From what I have read, Midnight Reiter'  does not mind part shade. It is the deep burgundy leaves that make this cultivar extra special.

Midnight Reiter Cranesbill, Geranium pratense 'Midnight Reiter' is a slow growing geranium with lavender-blue flowers over maroon leaves. Height 25 cm, Spacing 30 cm

Bloody Cranesbill, Geranium sanguieum

This is another geranium that I have in full sun. It blooms alongside peonies and evening primroses in June and makes a nice understory for the other taller flowers.

Geranium sanguieum 'Striatum' is a geranium with a mounded shape. It has blush-pink flowers with darker stripes and also blooms June to September. Height 30-45 cm, Spacing 45 cm

This is a third geranium that I have in full sun at the front of the house.

Cranesbill Geranium, Geranium 'Rozanne'

This is the last geranium that I am going to show you from my garden. Geranium 'Rozanne' is blooming in the garden right now. 'Rozanne' flowers much later than the other varieties I have in the garden and continues to bloom well into late summer-early fall. My only complaint about 'Rozanne' is the fact that the plant tends to flop, when left unsupported.

Geranium sanguineum 'John Elsley'

Briefly, here are a few other geraniums that I have seen and noted in my travels. Above and below are Geranium sanguineum 'John Elsley' which I saw at the Royal Botanical Gardens in May. 

The image below shows John Elsley's proper place at the front of a flowerbed (see lower left corner). At the RBG, it enjoys the company of a Siberian Iris and magenta-colored Centaurea hypoleuca 'John Coutts'.

Geranium syvaticum 'Album' has pure white flowers over green mounding foliage. Flowering May to June.  Often shows good bronzy-red fall color. Height 25-30 cm, Spacing 60-75 cm. 

This is a very pretty geranium that I also saw at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Hamilton, ON.

Geranium syvaticum 'Album'

Geranium maculatum 'Beth Chatto' at Humber Nursery

Geranium maculatum 'Chatto' or 'Beth Chatto' forms an upright clump with lilac colored flowers in May or June. Height 60 cm, Spacing 45cm.

Geranium cinereum 'Ballerina' which I saw at Humber Nursery

This is a ground cover geranium that blooms June to September. Height 15 cm, Spacing 30 cm.

Geranium cantabrigiense 'Biocovo' at Humber Nursery

Geranium cantabrigiense 'Biocovo' has clusters of white flowers with a tinge of pink and fragrant leaves that form a low spreading mound. Flowers June to September. Height 15-20 cm, Spacing 30-45 cm.

If you haven't tried geraniums, give them a go!

My garden alphabet so far: 'A' is for Astilbe, 'B' is for ButterflyThree 'C's, 'D' is for Delphinium, The Letters E and F and now G is for Geranium