Wednesday, June 29, 2011

June Bouquet

Last summer I participated each month in Noelle's Monthly Garden Bouquet at Ramblings from a Desert Garden but fell off the wagon in late winter when we were four feet deep in snow.  Now it's time to bring back the bouquets!  As I was walking through the garden this past weekend I noticed some Lupine blooms had been knocked down in the wind so I ran to get a vase and my first bouquet of the season was born.

Lupines, obviously, were part of the bouquet but I also added a branch of Spirea 'Goldflame' which is in it's bright golden stage right now.

And for a little added purple I threw in some chive blossoms.

Hello summer!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

After the Spring Rush

While the spring gardening rush effectively ended for me with the planting of the vegetable garden that doesn't mean there isn't much more work to be done.  A regular reader recently asked what sort of gardening can be done in the summer months?  In my experience, other than annual plants, any and all gardening can be done throughout the summer and into fall but there are a few issues to be noted.

Gardeners often line up at plant nurseries early in the season, not just because we can't wait to get outside in the dirt, but also because we know that if we want a particular variety of plant it may not be available later in the year.  To get the best plant selection you need to visit nursuries as early as possible.  That doesn't mean those plant purchases necessarily go straight into the ground though.  I have plants purchased over a month ago that are still waiting their permanent space in a flower bed.  In the meantime they are sitting in a partly shaded location and being watered frequently.  While the plants can live in pots right through the summer season the small pots can dry out quickly so a shaded location and water will help to keep them alive.  If you're not able to get to the garden centre early, don't dismay!  Although the selection diminishes, there are still plants to be found.  In fact, some of the best plant deals come in mid-summer when the nurseries are quiet and they are looking to move their stock.

Last July I found all these plants for a fraction of the cost at a nursery closing sale

 Another issue with summer gardening is heat.  Heat can work both against you, and your plants.  If you have to work in your garden in the high temperatures of summer wear a hat and sunscreen and bring along a cool drink.  Working on a hot day can be unpleasant and even negatively impact your health so think about completing your chores in the early morning or late evening and leave the hot summer afternoons for lounging on the beach.  If the heat can impact your body negatively the same can be said for plants.  Try not to transplant in the middle of a hot day.  Again, work in the early mornings or late evenings or, if possible, wait for a cloudy day when plants won't be as stressed by the hot temperatures.

A side effect of hot temperatures is lack of water.  The ground dries out as the temperatures heat up and it gets harder to dig in the ground.  If you must dig, try watering the area a day before and letting the water soak in.  When you work the following day the digging will be easier.  If you are transplanting, make sure that your plants and trees get a good amount of water when you plant and keep watering consistently afterward.  The hot sun will mean they are losing water quicker and likely their roots will be somewhat damaged from the move.  This means they have less root to take up water and the roots won't be deep enough to capture water far down in the ground.  Watering well and providing a thick layer of mulch will cool the ground and keep your plant roots safe so they can begin to flourish.

As for myself I will be working on flower beds all summer long.  It seems I never have enough time in spring and fall to do all I would like.  Presently I'm still working on planting up my purchases from the spring plant sale in the entrance garden and it could be another month before that bed nears completion.

Sometimes it feels like there is a never ending list of garden chores to complete all summer long.  Like clearing out the invasive bindweed seen below.

Or turning over my never ending compost pile..

What sort of garden chores do you do in the summer?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Native Plants of PEI

It's been a wonderful and relaxing weekend and we ended it today by taking a walk out in the woods.  I've been spending so much time in the garden lately that we haven't been for a walk in some time.  So we packed up our backpacks and drove out to Brookvale ski hill.  During the winter this area is used for downhill and cross country skiing, as well as snow shoeing.  In summer the cross country and snow shoe trails are good for hiking.  I was delighted by the amount of native plants that we saw on our walk today. In case you're not sure what I mean by native (hubby wasn't) it means that these plants are indigenous to North America, or are particularly found in this part of North America.  They have not been brought in from another country in the past.  They have always grown in North America and cannot generally be found elsewhere.

The first of the plants I stumbled on was Bunchberry or Cornus canadensis.

This plant is the smallest member of the Dogwood family.  It has creeping rhizomes that allow it to create small colonies such as the one in the photo above.  A closer look at the flowers reveals they look just like the flowers on a larger dogwood tree.

Also carpeting the forest floor was numerous varieties of ferns.  I must have seen a half dozen species today and I'm not even sure what they all were.  Unfortunately I did not look closely enough at this colony of ferns to be able to identify them after the fact. 

There are several ferns which form colonies and have a similar shape to this plant.  I would need to have an identification book on hand to be able to know what these ferns were.

Due to this fern's distinctive shape I was easily able to identify it from photos.  It is the Sensitive Fern or Onoclea sensibilis.

The fern below looks very similar to the Sensitive Fern but the leaves appear to be individual rather than joined.  I haven't managed to identify it yet.

In addition we saw Cinnamon ferns and Bracken ferns.  

Overhead there were many trees that caught my attention.  The first was this Striped Maple (Acer pensylvanicum).

The distinctive leaves are almost impossible not to notice.  They are so large (up to 1 foot wide!) and the shape is unlike any tree I know of.  Despite the large leaves it is not a large tree.  Rather it grows only to 15 - 30 feet tall.  The other distinctive feature is it's lovely striped bark.

The trunk on this tree is small but you can just see the stripes that identify it.
The other tree I spotted today that made me squeal with delight was this blooming Alternate Leafed Dogwood (Cornus alternifolia).

Another small tree that only reaches about 20 feet the leaves are also quite distinctive with many veins rippling the surface.  The flowers are unlike most dogwoods, clusters of blooms that turn into berries later in the season.

This diminutive tree is also known as the Pagoda Dogwood and is often used in ornamental plantings.  It's branches form horizontal layers and it's flat top is reminiscent of Pagodas.

I have saved the best for last.  Heading back down the hill on the last leg of the hike we discovered a secluded grove that held an amazing sight.

This is a clump of Pink Lady Slipper (Cypripedium acaule).  I wish I could show you the extent of this grouping but my crappy camera phone really didn't do even marginal justice to these beautiful plants.  

Camera phones can be frustratingly fuzzy
There were literally dozens of these plants scattered across the forest floor, all in full bloom.  A very rare sight that I exclaimed over to my husband who couldn't understand the significance.  The pink lady's slipper is the provincial flower of Prince Edward Island and is named after the flowers distinctive shape which looks like a dainty slipper.  They require a very specific habitat, usually in the mossy undergrowth of hardwood forests.  Lady slippers are part of the orchid family and like many orchids are very difficult to propagate.  The seeds require contact with a beneficial fungus in order to survive and transplanting is often difficult as the plant has very few and very fine roots that don't transplant well, in addition to requiring a specific environment to live in.  So you can begin to understand just how amazing it was to come across such a large grouping of these flowers.  We hiked over 8 kilometers today and only saw these orchids in one very small grove.  They obviously have just the right habitat in which to live and multiply. 

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Strictly Triumph

This week is all about Triumph.  Oh there's always some minor glitches that occur but the overall sense of wonder that I'm feeling overrides everything.  Some of you may remember that I planted a Red Oak last spring.  It was a large tree and somewhat expensive for me.  But I pampered it and loved it and it grew beautifully throughout the summer.  During fall it looked like this.

The leaves turned a bright shade of red and I was thrilled with my purchase.

But come spring when the snow melted I was mortified to find the voles and mice had done a serious amount of damage to my beautiful tree.  The bark was eaten clean through, right around the trunk.  I did look for signs of life as the weather warmed but it appeared as though the tree was dead.  I have given up looking over the last month, resigned to the fact that this tree had not survived.  

As the grasses and wildflowers grow in the meadow area the trees become hidden so we are unable to see from a distance how they are getting along.  So this week we did a tour and closely inspected each tree.  This is what we found.

That looks like new growth on that tree.  And yes, it's the oak.

Look at those pretty red oak leaves.  It's a miracle!  How did this happen?  Well, the trunk of the tree has a flared root at the bottom and from that root sprouted a whole new tree.  In addition, below the ring of gnaw marks on the trunk sprouted new branches.   From a distance you can see that the entire top of the tree has died.  Still a huge loss as this tree was approximately 5 or 6 feet tall.  But the fact that it didn't completely die is amazing.

And definitely something worth celebrating.  Isn't nature wonderful?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

My Spring Vegetable Garden

The last month has been a mad rush of gardening.  Trying to complete so many tasks in a short period of time.  Why the hurry?  If you plant a vegetable garden you will know that most vegetables are annual plants.  That means their entire life span is lived out from spring to fall.  In order for these plants to have the time to grow from seeds and develop into mature plants they must have as much time in the ground as possible.  So I rush through spring, turning over beds and planting the seeds of lettuce and carrots and various annual flowers so that they may have enough time to sprout and grow and then flower and fruit.  The benefit of an annual garden is that you are able, each year, to start fresh with a clean slate.

Last year my vegetable garden was brand new.  The area consisted of lawn at the start of April but over the lawn we built 5 raised beds and created one in-ground bed.  The garden thrived but it was a small space so this year I was set on expansion.  In addition to the existing raised beds several new boxes were added including a 4 x 8 bed which was built specifically for my new strawberry plants.

Strawberry plants happily at home in the straw!

I liked the idea of putting strawberries in a raised bed because, as a ground cover, these plants would have been constantly trying to escape into the lawn if they were planted in-ground.

I also find the raised beds to be really good for root vegetables.  The soil I mix is quite light and I have never had an easier time pulling carrots so this year I added one entire 4 x 4 raised box just for carrots.

The other benefit of a raised bed is that the ground in them warms up faster than the earth below them.  Tomatoes like to be warm so all the tomatoes were placed in raised beds.  We are growing indeterminate tomatoes this year which require some form of trellising so the added benefit is that trellising was easily attached to the boxes.   Lady luck was with us this spring as we found enough wood in the garage, left by the previous owner, to build all of the trellising for free.

Not all the beds added were raised boxes.  A sod cutter was rented and many in-ground beds were added this year.  Perennial vegetables such as rhubarb and asparagus were put in these beds as well as plants that don't root deeply such as spinach and lettuce. 

Lettuce planted in-ground.   Surface roots mean I
didn't have to dig the beds as deeply.
 Like my raised beds I kept the in-ground beds approximately 4 feet across so I can reach in from either side without having to walk all over them.  They will require a lot of mulching and edging to keep the grass from invading.  Perhaps in the future we will remove the grass and put bark mulch or gravel around the beds but it is one step at a time for now.

And since I can't have just vegetables in my vegetable garden flowers like nasturium, borage, and lilies were added for colour.

These annual cosmos were started indoors for early blooms
The final piece of the puzzle is this very large, square, in-ground bed.

This was hubby's idea.  I wasn't sure what I would do with this at first and considered planting in rows like a traditional garden.  But then I thought it would be easier to break it into squares and paths were added.

It has become, inadvertantly, a herb garden.  Chives that were getting overrun by weeds in other parts of the garden were brought here.  Lemon balm and oregano from the plant sale moved in.  Basil seedlings needed a place to live.  Dill, and cilantro seeds were planted.  It has also become slightly overrun with flowers.  Chamomile, zinnias, bachelor's buttons, dahlia tubers, feverfew, marigolds and cosmos seedlings have all moved in.  Last but not least, a cherry tomato and pepper plant that followed me home from the nursery also are living in this spot.

All these beds and would you believe one bed created with the sod cutter was left untouched!  I ran out of energy and it has been covered with a mixture of newsprint, cardboard, boxboard, straw and compost.  It will sit until next spring when I can dig it over and expand the vegetable garden some more.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Summer Solstice

It is that time of year and the summer solstice is here.  But it doesn't feel much like summer at all in these parts.  It is still raining off and on and very cool.  I looked at my blog from this time last year and I found this post.  Roses and potentilla were blooming, veggies were beginning to grow, apples were beginning to form.  In comparison, it appears that we are several weeks behind where we were at this time last year.

The rosebuds are still tight and not quite ready to open

Only weeds are adorning this potentilla right now
The good news is that the vegetable seedlings are growing.

Nasturtium seedlings are beginning to reach up

Lettuce is sprouting
Despite how far behind we are in some areas there are flowers who have appeared regardless of the weather.

Lupines are in full bloom

Chives have blossoms

Lady's Mantle
All is not lost but I am impatiently waiting for beach days to be here again.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Triumphs and Tragedies

You might remember a couple of months ago I spoke about having to do a training session at work.  After some postponements the session finally went ahead this week.  Tragically? I don't think I have a calling as a teacher.  I wasn't mortifyingly bad, and I'm happy to report I didn't pass out, but there's a reason I prefer the printed word.  My mouth distinctly resembles two left feet and I paused, blanked out, repeated, tripped over and otherwise garbled my words.  Even though I had written much of my presentation on notes, so I wouldn't miss anything, I managed to miss information anyway in my haste to get through the session.

The Triumph is that all things must come to an end.  I survived in body, though maybe not in mind, and got through the afternoon.  The wretched experience done I was able to walk away, proud that after a rough start I did manage, by the end, to gather my wits and talk legibly.  To soothe my bruised ego I took myself to the nursery for some retail therapy.  Training was held in the town of Summerside so I visited a nursery I don't often get to and loaded up the truck.  What?  You didn't expect me to buy just one did you?

Oh you did?  Hubby thought the same thing.  He was a bit surprised when I asked for help to unload the truck.  What can I say, I was feeling REALLY sorry for myself.  So sorry that I splurged on this very elegant Rhododendron elepidote 'Catawbiense Album'.  This variety was initially bred in 1886 and has stood the test of time to become well loved and known as Ironclad (so hopefully I won't kill it).  I took one look and fell in love.  When we lived in BC there were rhododendrons everywhere you looked.  I don't see them as much on the east coast and I miss them.  The entrance bed has a bit of shade so I thought a rhodo would suit perfectly and when I walked into the garden centre and saw this I knew it was coming home with me.

I think this will look beautiful coupled with pink Astilbe's 'Visions' and white fringed hostas I also purchased.  Now if the weather would cooperate and warm up I could actually get outside and plant these new flowers.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Introducing the Sod Cutter

In my last post you saw a partial list of my new plant purchases.  They've got to go somewhere and in an attempt to decrease my time spent digging I rented a sod cutter this year.  If you haven't used one before, a sod cutter is a gas machine that cuts off the top layer of grass and soil.  It does not remove tap roots or turn the soil.  I chose to rent this machine because sod removal was exceedingly time consuming last year.  I considered just renting a rototiller but tilling the ground would have meant that weeds and grass would have still been in the beds and required removal by hand.  I also worried about hitting hidden objects with a tiller.  Thus far this season I have found glass, 6 inch long nails, scrap metal, pop bottles and a penny in the dirt.  Not to mention rocks. 

We rented the machine for an entire day and worked like we have never worked before.  I had imagined that rolling up sod and moving it to the compost would be a fairly easy job.  Not the case.

It is insanely heavy. So I thought I would give the sod cutting a shot since it looked like the easier job.

Nope, that wasn’t easy either. The sod cutter is a heavy machine and although they say it’s self propelled I’m not so sure about that. I had to push my entire weight behind that thing to make it move and even then I couldn’t seem to get the blade to dig in and cut. So back I went to hauling sod around.

After a full day of work we completed the following areas.  The flower bed around the garage.

We created the smiley face bed also behind the garage.

We added more vegetable beds.

In front of the house we added a small circular bed.

And we expanded the entrance bed.

You're probably thinking this sounds like an awful lot of beds.  It is.  The reality is that I will not likely use all these beds this year.  The idea was that while we had the machine in our possession we would cut as much as we could in the time we had.  The machine cost just over $100 for the day so I wanted to get my value out of it.  If I don't use the beds there's no harm done.  Those beds I'm not able to turn over will be covered with cardboard and semi-finished compost where they can wait until I'm ready to make use of them.

Monday, June 13, 2011

New Plants

While on blog vacation I took some time to purchase plants.  You may remember that at the end of May Canoe Cove held it's annual plant sale.  I helped out with this sale and more than a few goodies made it home with me.

LOTS of plants to choose from!
I also visited the farmers market and several nurseries in the last few weeks.  The list of new plants has grown long and lengthy.  My new friends include:

Anemone sylvestris 'Macrantha'

  • Euphorbia
  • Siberian Iris
  • Monkshood                            
  • Martagon Lily *
  • Asiatic Lily *
  • Joy Pye Weed
  • Solomon Seal
  • Hostas
  • Hardy Geranium
  • Lemon Balm
  • Feverfew
  • Blue Spruce 'Neon Blue'
  • Anemone
*Some of you might recall that last year I proclaimed my disdain of lilies.  All I can say in my defence is that I had sale fever.  The Martagon Lilies were half price and they are small and dainty and red which really appealed to me.  I thought I would try them.  Then, due to a catalogue misprint, the mail order company sent me a complimentary package of Asiatic Lilies.  So apparently, I can conclude, that if you proclaim to hate Lilies, the universe will conspire to inundate you with them.

I also have some Surprises.  The thing about a plant sale.  You never quite know what you will end up with.  I took home three pots of an unknown ornamental grass.  Before anyone panics - I confirmed with the donater that they are clumping grasses, NOT RUNNING.  She simply didn't know the name as it was a gift from a friend.  I am intrigued to see if I can identify these in the future.  Another neighbour donated unknown plants that came with her house purchase.  After much searching through gardening tomes she believes they may be Evening Primrose (Oenothera).  I can't resist a mysterious plant so I took this home and will find out for myself.

The final Surprise will be a puzzle for all of us.  A tray full of corms was offered up for sale and the story went like this.  A friend of a friend came from Toronto to live on PEI some years ago.  That person's family ran a nursery and they brought many fancy plants with them.  They later left PEI but left this plant behind.  My neighbour has been growing it in her garden ever since.  Every spring she plants the corm out in the ground, in a sunny spot, and it sprouts large tropical looking leaves.  She described the leaves as looking like that of a leopard.  Yellow, orange and spotty.  This plant has never flowered but the leaves are decorative all on their own.  In fall, she takes the corm inside for safe keeping.  After many years this plant has produced numerous baby corms which she brought to the sale.  I offered to take a corm home and grow it in my yard.  As it grows I'll take some photos and post them here.  Hopefully together we can solve the mystery identity of this plant.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

I Spy

The other evening, when the sun was just hitting that magic moment, in photography terms, I looked up.

There was a great fluttering and chirping in the apple trees.

Was it bees?  No, but if you look closely you can see a bee bottom stuck in a blossom.

It was, obviously, a flock of cedar waxwings.

It was a pretty unbelievable sight.

What were they doing up there?  I was willing to bet they were eating bugs.

But on closer inspection - ' excuse me, it appears there's something stuck in your beak'

They were actually eating apple blossoms.  

Well there's something I didn't know before.

*I can't take credit for these photos.  Hubby is responsible for this amazing bit of photography today.