Thursday, February 26, 2015

Nature's Calendar

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We all have some idea of what the last frost date is in our area. Over time a lot of data has been accumulated, because gardeners have paid a great deal of attention to the last frost date. Numerous lists will tell you what that date is for your area. However, these dates are based on averages and only give you an general idea of what to expect. The last frost date  not only varies from year to year, but with global warming it is estimated to have advanced from 5 to 10 days over the last 50 years.  So how are we to decide when to move our tomato or  begonia plants outside? I think it is best to follow nature's calendar.

When can you move tender plants out in the Spring?

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Wild Gardening

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A few years back, visiting the Agawa Canyon in northern Ontario, I saw some very attractive flower beds where garden flowers and native plants were growing together beautifully. It was a particularly good example of what Gertrude Jekyll calls "wild gardening," and I wanted to do something similar.

Wild and cultivated plants at the Agawa Canyon

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Short or Long Days

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I have just read about the effect of day length on blooming.  This might be very useful to know in the garden. Here is what I learned. 

Not surprisingly, plants have a biological clock that tells them when to start blooming. When we reach a certain number of daylight hours, a particular plant starts to bloom. I thought this internal clock triggered plants to bloom when days were getting longer, but in fact some plants are triggered to bloom when days are shorter. We all know about poinsettia that initiate flowers only when the days are short (shorter than 10 hours), but did you know that cosmos react in a similar way?

Facultative short day plant

Friday, February 6, 2015

More Stonecrops

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As I said in my previous post, stonecrops are difficult to identify because the taxonomy keeps changing, and many are very similar.  Another difficulty in identifying them from their appearance is that whether they grow in full sun and in some shade, or whether you are in spring or in mid-summer, they can look very different and change colour entirely as you can see from these two views of the same plant.

(Sedum) Phedimus spurius

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Vagaries of Names

With the Internet, common names of plants have taken on a new dimension. We all know that some plants have various common names, and that some common names (like Dusty Miller) are used to describe a multitude of different plants. However, we and our gardening acquaintances are usually familiar with the one or two common names out of several that can be used. With the Internet, you are in contact with gardeners who live very far from you, and you realize that some of them actually use these names you read about but have never heard anyone use.  

Are these common poppies, corn poppies, corn roses, field poppies, Flanders poppies, Shirley poppies or all of the above?

Thursday, January 15, 2015


Unless we garden in very small areas, we all have "wild" parts of the garden where we expect plants to be able to take care of themselves and compete with the local vegetation. Plants  that can be relied on to do so will be different for each of us, depending on local conditions. I have tried in this post to list some of the ones that can put up with our poor alkaline soil, which tends to be on the dry side in summer and is always wet (when not flooded) in winter.

One of the most interesting of these is the Grecian Foxglove, Digitalis lanata.

 Grecian Foxglove

Friday, January 9, 2015


I have mentioned that the garden is on an alvar. However, I have never properly explained what an alvar is.

Wikipedia describes it as: " a biological environment based on a limestone plain with thin or no soil and, as a result, sparse grassland vegetation. Often flooded in the spring, and affected by drought in midsummer."

Here is what part of the alvar looks like at Roche fleurie. As you can see on the right, a stone pavement, just about as smooth as a concrete floor, which is crisscrossed by crevasses such as the one on the left.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

One's Treasure is someone else's weed

Rereading Margery Fish, a garden writer most active in the 1960s, I was struck how plants can behave differently from one garden to the next. Plants she describes as invasive are not so here, and some I finds invasive she does not. As she puts it: "one can only speak from one's own experience in the gardens one knows". Lysimachia Clethroides, with its shepherd's crook white flowers, was a menace in our previous garden, but M. Fish finds it does not spread much.

Lysimachia Clethroides and Morning Glory

Monday, December 22, 2014

Commemorative Trees

Commemorative trees are usually associated with special events or are planted by an important personage visiting an area. Usually, each one is accompanied by a plaque to remind people of the event.

There are also private commemorative trees planted by individuals to commemorate a family event, like the birth of a child. These do not usually have an explanatory plaque and are mostly or exclusively known by the family. Many years after they were planted, no one remembers why they were planted or what they were supposed to commemorate.

However that is not always the case. The sequoia pictured below is one of several that commemorate a family event which is remembered.