Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Spring on a Budget

The Rockery at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Hamilton, Ontario last spring.

There is a touch of color in the trees now. 

Though the afternoons have been gloriously warm, the nights are chilly and I find myself reaching for a sweater or light jacket as we head out for our evening walk with the dogs.  

One of the ironies of gardening is that we need to be thinking about the beginning of the next gardening year at the end of the present gardening season. Along with thoughts about adding simple fall flourishes, I have been trying to wrap my head around what I need to add to my flowerbeds for next spring.

Darwin Tulips at the RBG. The orange tulip is Tulipa, 'Daydream'. 
Sorry, I couldn't see an I.D. on the deep magenta tulips.

I  would love to open the glossy catalogues that I received in the mail and order just about everything, but the reality is that I have a limited budget for spring bulbs. So how can I get the most spring color for the least amount of money? Time for a bit of strategy!

And apart from monetary considerations, what would compliment the collection of bulbs I already have?

I absolutely want to add snowdrops, both the common single variety and the more interesting doubles. I have admired them in Carolyn's nursery's blog for a number of years. Recently, I noted that I can now find some of these more unusual varieties of snowdrops through Botanus in Canada.

I also want to add yellow 'Winter Aconite'. Not only do they flower earlier than most other bulbs, they can also handle the shade, which I have in abundance in the back garden. I hope to leave them to naturalize the under huge maple tree. ( Botanus has them on sale. Bonus!)

I love, love blue scilla. I have them in the front garden, and would like add more, so they can colonize the back yard as well. I often find these bulbs on sale in area stores and so I am going to buy them locally to save on shipping. 

I got these Chionodoxa forbesii 'Pink Giant' last year from Gardenimports (I notice they are already sold out at Gardenimports, but are still available at Botanus).

My picture does not due them justice. They were really, really pretty.

More please!

There is also a crisp white, deep sky-blue and a gentian blue options available at both Gardenimports and Botanus if I have any funds left over.

....And while I am still thinking small scale, maybe I should order a few of these 
Anemone blanda 'Blue Star'.

I have no Muscari in the garden at the moment. The blue ones are affordable and relatively easy to find. There is also a pink variety, pale sky blue and multi-toned Muscari that are more a bit expensive, but hard to resist.

Gosh, I am beginning to feel poorer already! 

Better start thinking about some larger bulbs before all my budget disappears.

Narcissus 'Ice Follies' was one of my favourites in my garden last spring.

There always seems to be standard daffodils and narcissus in the clearance bins at local stores, so I am going hold off and wait for the sales.

Narcissus, 'Soestdijk' at Edwards Gardens

Specialty varieties seem disappear early, so I would like to get a jump buying some of these.

Narcissus, 'Thalia' and white anemones, which I admired at Edwards Gardens this past spring.

I adored these simple white Narcissus that I saw on a number of blogs 
and in local area gardens. 

These yellow and white ones were also pretty at Edwards Gardens. Narcissus 'Avalon' or 'Pipit'  are also going on my wish list. 

One of the most beautiful Narcissus in my garden last spring was called 'Amadeus Mozart'. With its ruffled orange cup 'Amadeus Mozart' is as pretty as a summer party dress. I didn't manage to get a picture of it but you can find see it at Gardenimports here.  

Daffodils and Narcissus that will naturalize themselves in the garden seem like a worthwhile investment (over most types of tulips which are good for 3 or 4 years). 

Although squirrels will to dig them up if you don't plant them properly, they prefer tulips as snack food. I plant my bulbs extra deep (about 8 inches) and stamp the soil down firmly with my foot after I bury them. If the squirrels are going to dig them up for fun, I want the little beggars to have to really work hard to find them. 

I see that garden writer, Judith Adams (Garden Making magazine) also recommends in a recent post that you avoid setting bulbs on the surface of the soil as you work. She also suggests that disguise your work with a thorough drenching with a watering can and then add a covering of leaves to hide your buried spring treasures. Read more here.

More spring planning in another post to come....

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Thinking Big!

The display garden at Lost Horizons Nursery. 

Between earth and sky there is a huge, creative canvas for a gardener to play with. 

Too often we gardeners to get wrapped up in the small stuff. It is easy to focus in on plants and miss the big picture. 

A garden at its best however, is a full environment, with layered plantings that reach skyward. In this post, I thought I would focus in on thinking big, with a perennial twist. 

Giant Silver Grass, Miscanthus sisensis 'Giganteus' in the display garden at Lost Horizons Nursery. Height: 250-300 cm Spread: 90-120cm Care: Full sun/part shade & average soil

When it comes to considering large scale gardening options, the natural tendency is to think of trees and shrubs.

Certainly trees, which tower over our heads, humble us with their sheer scale. It is impossible not to marvel at the grandeur of a forest's vaulted green cathedral. 

Additionally both trees and shrubs offer permanent architecture, which is especially invaluable in winter.

There is however, another often overlooked, option when it comes to drawing the eye upward. Tall perennials have a valuable contribution to make to the garden alongside that of trees and shrubs. 

Large scale plants are often slow to get going in spring and so fall is a great time to take a look at some of the alternatives. 

Miscanthus sinensis in the display garden at Lost Horizons Nursery. Height 150-210 cm, Spread: 80-90 cm Care: Full sun/partshade & average soil

There is something Jurassic-Park-cool about large perennial plants and grasses. It is easy to imagine dinosaurs in ancient times wading through drifts of similar grasses.

Let's face it, when something is this big, it just seems to demand your respect!

For whatever reason, I find tall plants particularly fasinating. I have been taking notes all summer with the hopes of adding more of these tall skyscrapers to my garden next year.

Now, I know many of you have small gardens and may think that these big-scale perennials will never work within your limited space. 

For sure, they do take up some room, but many like this Cutleaf Coneflower, Rudbeckia nitida 'Herbstsonne' have a V-shape. This often means that they don't take up much more ground room than standard perennials.

Others like this Culver's Root, Veronicastrum virginicum below shoot straight up on tall, lanky stems.

Culver's Root, Veronicastrum virginicum album in David Thomlinson's garden called Merlin's Hollow. Height: 120-180 cm Spread: 75-90 cm Care: Full sun in normal, sandy or clay soils.

And at Larkwhistle Garden.

Here is a quick look at some of the other attractive, tall perennials.

Joe Pye Weed, Eupatorium purpureum is a perennial that springs immediately to mind when you think about tall plants. There are a number of tall versions of Joe Pye Weed, as well as dwarfs. Height: Dwarf grows 70-75 cm Larger varieties grow: 210-300 cm Care: Part shade to full sun. Prefers moist soil.

White Joe Pye Weed, Eupatorium altissimum 'Prairie Jewel' Height: 90 cm Spread 40 cm 

Actaea Cimicifuga simplex Atropurpurea in Lost Horizons Nursery. Height: 180 cm Spread 60 cm Care: Full sun to part shade.

Mullein at Larkewhistle Garden

There are two varieties of Mullein are grown at Larkwhistle, Verbascum olympicum (Greek Mullein) and Verbascum bombyciferum (Turkish Mullein). 

Mulleins are a biennials plants, which produce leafy rosettes in the first year, and flowering stalks in the second year. Verbascum olympicum is the branching Greek relative of the North American native Verbascum thapsus, which can often be seen growing in fields of wild flowers. The second variety of mullein, Verbascum bombyciferum is thickly coated with downy wool and has clear yellow flowers. Both mulleins prefer sun and light, sandy soil.

Sneezeweed, Helenium at Larkwhistle Garden. Height: 75-80 cm 
Spread: 45-60 cm Care: Full sun, average soil.

You don't tend to think of perennials with small delicate flowers as having the potential to be tall, but here is a perfect example of one.

This is Meadow Rue or Thalictrum. Height: 150-180 cm Spread: 45-60 cm 
Care: Average soil. Prefers moist conditions.

Cup Flower, Silphium Perfoliatum at Lost Horizons Nursery. Height: 120-240 cm Spread: 60-90 cm Care: Full sun to part shade.

Ironweed, Vernonia Gigantea is another tall, North American native which has purple aster-like flowers. Height 180-210 cm Spread: This plant as a v-shape and is 90-100 cm tall 
Care: Full sun and average or moist soil 

Actaea Cimicifuga simplex at the gate leading to the display garden at Lost Horizons Nursery. 
Height: 1.1 m Spread: 1m Care: Part shade to shade.

A closer look Actaea Cimicifuga simplex

Can you smell the fragrance of this beauty right through the computer screen? 

The scent of these small white flowers carries on the slightest breeze...perhaps a mix of honey and vanilla, with the addition of some other mysterious spice. 


Friday, September 14, 2012

Fall Magic

Summer may be over but, I think the garden still has some magic yet to come.

There is still a few phlox blossoms.

The roses have rallied and have decided to do an encore.

They are scattered here and there throughout the garden...

Not enough blooms for an impressive show, but when gathered into a bouquet 
they are still quite presentable.

The sedum have begun to flower.

Once fresh and white, the hydrangeas are now pink and brown-spotted, but they are still beautiful.

Yes, I think the fall garden still holds some magic for us yet.

I am going to link this post to May Dreams Gardens Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. To see what's blooming elsewhere, please click the link.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Late Bloomers & other treasures at Lost Horizons

Do you have a garden muse? 

I have several in the books that I like to flip through for inspiration, but I have to say that the ones that inspire me the most are the local gardens that I can actual go and visit. The pictures in a book are a delight to the eyes, but a garden speaks to the soul! 

The display garden at Lost Horizons Nursery is one such garden muse. Though I have been there many, many times I always discover something new along its rambling pathways; a new plant, a pretty plant combination or an interesting play of textures, shapes and colors. I always come away determined to do better in my own garden (and a little poorer having filled the trunk of my car with plant purchases!). 

Gathered here are some of the images from recent visits, with a focus on perennials that shine late in the gardening season.

The red flowering plant in the right, middle foreground is Mountain Fleeceflower, Persicaria 'Firetail' Height: 60-90 cm Spread 45 cm Care: Will grow in a variety of soils, full sun to part shade.

Miscanthus sinenis 'Variegatus' Height: 150-210 cm Spread 80-90 cm 
Care: Will grow in a variety of soils. Full sun.

Rudbeckia triloba 'Prairie Glow' This is a new selection with bi-color blooms. Height: 120 cm Spread: 60 cm Care: This is a short-lived perennial with a tendency to reseed. It is easy to grow in average, moist, well-drained soil. Full sun. 

Dogwood berries have been left for the squirrels and chipmunks that visit the garden. Cornelian Cherry Dogwood, Cornus mas Height 6-9 m. Care: Sun/part shade

Annual Poppy

Persicaria virginiana 'Lance Corporal' is a woodland plant with apple-green leaves. This plant has dark flower spikes with tiny red flowers that appear in late summer. Height: 40 cm 
Partial to full shade Spread: 30 cm 

 Acer campestre 'Carnival' is an award winning Hedge Maple with green leaves edged in white (on the right). Height: 3 m Spread: 2 m

The display garden has a variety of Phlox paniculata

This is a native variety of Cardinal Flower, Lobelia siphilitica. It has bright blue flowers in late summer that are a magnet for butterflies and hummingbirds. Height: 91 cm Spread: 61 cm Care: Full sun to part shade in average, moist or wet soil.

A pretty combination of colors and textures.

Cassia marilandica is a native plant found in moist areas. Yellow pea flowers are followed by these incredible seed pods. Height: 180 cm Spread: 120 cm 

Japanese Anenome

Salvia sclarea is a short-lived perennial that will self-seed around the garden. It has fuzzy leaves and soft cream and mauve flowers. Height: 100 cm Spread: 40 cm Care: Sun and gravelly soil.

Salvia koyamae is a little known Japanese species of salvia. It has heart-shaped leaves and soft buttery-yellow flowers in summer. This is a woodland plant that spreads by rhizomes. Height: 60 cm Spread: 40 cm Care: Part sun to shade.

I bought this woodland plant and promptly lost its plant tag. Can you I.D. it?
(Update: Thank you Janneke and Joy for the I.D. This is the Kirengeshoma palmata. Height 90-120 cm Spread: 75-90 cm Care: Likes moist soil.)

Corydalis ex.'Du Fu Temple' has sky blue flowers with a blush of mauve and blooms from spring into late fall. It will readily self-seed in the garden. Height: 30 cm Spread: 30 cm Care: Part sun to shade.

More Information and Links:

Lost Horizons Nursery has one of the most beautiful display gardens in Ontario. The nursery itself, offers over 3000 plants from around the world, many extremely rare. Visit the nursery's blog here.

To visit the Lost Horizons website click the link.
Lost Horizons Nursery and Display Gardens are located just west of Toronto on Highway 7, two miles west of the town of Acton, Ontario.

For complete driving directions click here.  In the off-season their hours are more limited. Right now, I believe they are Wed.-Sun. 10-5pm.