Tuesday, April 15, 2014

In praise of the Aspidistra

Aspidistra elatior is an old-fashioned house plant, which was probably more popular in the 19th century than it is now. At first sight, it does not seem to have a lot to offer. It has no noticeable bloom, and it is rather awkward looking. However it is a plant that is particularly undemanding, extremely reliable and easy to grow. I have grown to like it more and more as time goes by.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Garden Ornaments

I find that choosing and placing ornaments in a garden is interesting, but rather difficult. There are all sorts of ornaments from the reproductions of formal statuary to decorative scarecrows or urns or pots, all the way to garden gnomes. Some work quite well (that is to say, they improve the garden), but many don't. Why does some ornamentation seem attractive, while other ornamentation doesn't?

Plant supports as ornaments (Government House garden, Victoria B.C.)

Tuesday, April 1, 2014


In the pre-Internet days I made a sundial for the garden. Of course you can buy sundials, but the ones you buy are simply decorative. A "proper" sundial has to be made for a specific place, taking into account the latitude and, if it is to go on a wall, the wall "declination". Creating that first sundial required some complex calculations using equations I found in a book from the public library. Nowadays, there are Internet sites that will not only find the exact latitude and longitude for any place, but will do all the calculations you need and design a sundial for any spot you have in mind! So I have just made a new sundial for the garden.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Hardy Annuals from Seeds

What easily grows in one place can be difficult in another. I have tried to make a list of the hardy annuals (the ones you can seed directly in the garden) that grow well at Roche Fleurie where summers are short, but quite sunny and warm, with usually enough rain. As well I have made a list of some hardy annuals that have never done well for us, hoping that readers for whom these grow well might be able to tell me how to go about growing them.

Some hardy annuals

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Seed Sorting

I have all my seeds for 2014. In fact, like most years, I have far too many seeds, and these last few days I have been trying to sort them to simplify planting and to make sure I don't forget any of them. I am also writing out labels for each variety to save time later on. Some of you might think it is a bit late to sort seeds, but this is Canada in a year when the winter has been the most severe in decades. Three years ago, hellebores were in bloom at this time of the year, but as I am writing this, there is still about one foot of snow and a few inches of ice packed on the ground even if both have finally started to melt.

Some of my vegetable seeds and my planting schedule

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Garden People by Ursula Buchan (Thames & Hudson)

I have just read this most interesting book and decided to write a review. It is a collection of photographs taken by Valerie Finnis (of artemisia fame) over several decades. They have been assembled by Ursula Buchan, who wrote the text, providing information about who the people in the photos were, and what their connection was with Valerie Finnis. There is also a series of short biographies of the people mentioned in the book by Brent Elliott, as well as a short biographical essay by Anna Pavord.

A Thames & Hudson book (2007)

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Watering with Cans

I have quite a few metal watering cans. Over many years, I have acquired different models, mostly second hand. They are decorative, but in fact most of these cans get used regularly, all the watering in the garden being done by hand. Over the years, I have come to appreciate how each one pours differently and is adapted to specific jobs, and how some are better designed than others.

Saturday, March 1, 2014


We try various plant combinations in our gardens.  Some work beautifully, others are not as successful. However, I think that the best combinations are the result of a stroke of luck. Many planned combinations, even when they are successful, have a slight staginess about them, whereas the ones nature creates prolifically, in or outside our gardens, can be just right.  This is, no doubt, because our aesthetic sense was learned from nature in the first place.   

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Conceptual Gardens

Last August, we visited Les Jardins de Métis which, every summer, host an international garden festival. The competing gardens are conceptual gardens. These are not traditional gardens but rather conceptual installations. Opinions are very divided about these gardens. Some people love them, but I think a majority of gardeners, fail to see them as gardens or are puzzled by them. Not long ago, I read a post by Chloris about Whether the Garden is an Art Form, and of course conceptual gardens were mentioned. I thought I would look up what these gardens are meant to be. All the pictures were taken in Métis, in Québec, last summer.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Seedy Saturday in Kitchener, Ontario

Yesterday, I attended "Seedy Saturday". This is a yearly event that brings together people interested in growing plants from seed, biodiversity, heritage gardening and organic gardening. It takes place in many cities all across Canada. The one I attend is organized by the Kitchener Master Gardeners group of which I used to be a member. It takes place in a branch of the local public library.