Friday, December 27, 2013

Abkhazi Garden

In a previous posts, I mentioned that I would show pictures of a public garden in Victoria which I like particularly: the Abkhazi Garden. Not only is it a beautiful garden, it also has a romantic history.

It was created by an actual deposed prince, Nicholas Abkhazi, who married an heiress, Marjorie (Peggy) Pemberton-Carter, who had lost most of her property in the war, when both she and her future husband were interned in prisoner-of-war camps. In 1945, Peggy bought a one acre lot in Victoria, had a house built, married Nicholas Abkhazi and they set out to create a garden.

A path that leads to the Garden House

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Merry Christmas

Regular readers will know we are not at home just now. However here are pictures of the house and garden taken a few years ago in the middle of winter. When snow gets as thick as in the picture below, you have to climb on the roof to shovel it off because if the weather warms up and it rains, the snow can get too heavy for low pitch roofs and they might collapse.

Roche Fleurie in Winter
The porch after a snow storm with the snow blower waiting by the door.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Government House Gardens

This is one of my favourite gardens in Victoria (you will see the other one in a future post). Government House is the official residence of the Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia (the Queen's representative in the province).

The gardens are maintained by a group of volunteers who do an excellent job. One problem they have to deal with is deer. Some seem to live in the garden. After a while, you notice there are plants you would expect to see there, but are not. For instance, there is not a single hosta to be seen. I take it that it is because of the deer. I have only seen one or two dianthus,  probably because the soil is too acidic for their liking.

Let us go in by one of the main gates, checking the size of the tree on the right.

Sunday, December 15, 2013


In one of the French blogs I follow (Un jardin à Pouzioux), François was saying about a month ago that he had had an attack of cyclamenitis. It is a disease I am quite familiar with, as I suffer from it as well. I don't know what it is about cyclamens that makes them so attractive. In my case, it might be in part because they are not easy to grow in our Ontario climate, and a gardener always loves a challenge. However I love them just as much in Victoria B.C. where not only are they not difficult, but they can be a weed!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Dianthus amurensis

I have been going through the tedious work of sorting the pictures I took over the last 12 months.  I am not very good at discarding, so there is a lot to sort. I promised myself that next year I will sort  them as I take them, but it might be wishful thinking as I am too busy at the time of the year I take most of my pictures. However, while sorting I came upon pictures of Dianthus amurensis and thought that this one plant deserves its own post.

Dianthus amurensis

Monday, December 9, 2013

Ten More Garden Gates

Here is another set of ten garden gate photos taken in Victoria, British Columbia. Gates hint at the gardens they hide. They insure the gardens' privacy, but at the same time they tease the passerby with a glimpse of what might be discovered on the other side, the hidden side. Whether inviting or forbidding, the gate emphasizes the garden boundary and functions as a hinge between private and public life.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Ten Garden Gates

One of the things I like about Victoria B.C. are the garden gates. There are gardens all over North America, but few of them have gates like they do here. Just about every garden has a gate, and they rival with each other in originality. You have gates in all styles - some are practical, some are sophisticated, some are old and battered, many are romantic (in the "Come into the Garden, Maud, I am here at the gate alone" style). Here are ten of them. You can click on any picture to enlarge it.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

In Bloom on December 2nd

All of those among you who garden in mild climates will not be particularly impressed by these blooms. However, if you consider that just now Roche Fleurie is buried under snow, many degrees below the freezing point, you will understand why they impress me. All these pictures were taken in Victoria B.C. on December 2nd.

Iris unguicularis

Thursday, November 28, 2013


One of the reasons we no longer have any pets is that for the last six years or so we spend part of the winter at the other end of the continent, more specifically in Victoria, British Columbia, where all of Lorne's immediate family lives. We go to visit family and also to escape part of the winter cold as the climate is much milder than in the Bruce Peninsula (although winters there are less sunny).Winter skies in Victoria are often grey. However, contrarily to Vancouver (which get 1,589 mm of precipitation a year) Victoria is rather dry (with 608 mm a year). Before long, we will be setting out on our annual migration West. Here are a few pictures that were taken in Victoria last winter.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


Nimrod's high priestess is away for a few days (even high priestesses need a holidays sometimes), and we have the privilege of officiating during her absence.

Nimrod at rest

Saturday, November 23, 2013

End of the gardening Season

We got up this morning, and it was winter. At least there was snow on the ground and a very cold wind. This snow might well melt before long. However, in a week or two we should have a snow cover that will last till late March. From a gardener's point of view, this is a very good thing as the soil temperature under a good layer of snow is just at freezing point. Three and a half hours south of here, where we used to garden, when snow melted in a warm spell and then when temperatures plunged many degrees below the freezing point before more snow could fall, perennial plants suffered a lot.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Longest flowering plants in 2013

When you look at lists of long blooming perennials, you recognise many that you know, but  would not have included in such a list. They do have a good blooming period, but it is certainly not as long as nurserymen would like you to believe. It might be that they do better in some other gardens, but to say they bloom all summer is an exaggeration. I have not kept actual records of the longest blooming plants in our garden this summer, but from memory, here are the plants that bloomed the longest.  It is mostly a list of herbaceous or shrubby perennials, but I have also included a climber. In fact, our longest blooming plant by far is a clematis: Queen of Holland.

Clematis Queen of Holland

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Beyond hardiness zones

Hardiness zone maps are very useful, but they have to be taken with a grain of salt. If we think a plant could make it in our gardens, we should try it, regardless of what the hardiness map says. I am sure many of you grow plants that are not supposed to be hardy locally. This post is about some of my hardy plants. The most obvious is probably green lavender cotton (Santolina rosmarinifolia), which is supposed to survive in zone 7 to 9 and Roche fleurie is in zone 5 - in other words, our climate is much colder than Santolina is supposed to be able to take.

santolina rosmarinifolia
Green Lavender Cotton and thyme

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Garden Bucket Caddy

There are many garden gadgets for sale, and many are not very useful or are so specialized that they are not worth getting. However, there is one gadget I find particularly handy and use all the time in the garden. It is called a tool or garden bucket caddy and is used, among other things, to carry your tools around, but it has also various other uses.

Caddy over a bucket with knee pad inside

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


I have a few bonsais. They all are hardy trees, except for one Figus benjamina which I take out in summer and must bring back indoor in the autumn. The others don't need to be taken in for the winter, I can leave them outside. In fact, they have to stay out as they need a cold period. However, they also require some handling to get them ready for a winter outside.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Cooking with wood

One of the nice things about fall is that once again we start using our wood cookstove. Most people think it is antique stove. In fact, it is a modern cookstove that uses wood and does not have any electric or electronic component. Using it is rather different from using a standard stove, and you have to get used to the way it cooks. Having only such a stove would be awkward and too hot in summer, so we also have a propane stove. However, at this time of the year and in winter, the wood cookstove is what we mostly use.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Using leaves

Leaves are our main source of humus for the garden. We could easily get manure, but we prefer not to as we are on limestone, and apparently this type of rock filters ground water very little. We are afraid we would pollute our well which is very close to the garden. In many agricultural areas in Ontario, because of the spreading of manure, water from some wells is undrinkable, because it is too high in nitrogen. Our well water pass tests with flying colours and to make sure it stays that way, we only use leaves and leaf mold as soil amendment.

Semi-composted leaves in autumn

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Fog and Rain

I was thinking of writing a post about our climate in the Bruce Peninsula in Ontario.  Specifically I wanted to write about the fact that it is rather on the dry side, despite the influence of the Great Lakes.  Before I started, I thought I should check how much rain we actually get in a year.  I discovered we get a lot more than I thought. However, it would appear that the amount of rain is not as important as how it falls, especially when you compare how much rain falls different places in the world.

Field to the east of the house in October

Friday, October 18, 2013

Tomato Support

In a post I wrote last spring, I mentioned that I was going to try growing tomatoes on a grid this summer. If I remember well, I got the idea from Fine Gardening. I did put up such a grid and found out it had several advantages, but also a few drawbacks. Here is my assessment of this technique.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Plant Pots

I like pots and planters, but it means more work at this time of the year as they have to be emptied and stored away. Some of the glazed ones are supposed to be able to survive winter, but it is all relative. I expect they could survive -5C, but I am very doubtful they would come out intact after a week at -20C.
Pots drying in the sun before being stored for the winter

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Garlic and Strawberries

You might wonder what these two have in common. In fact, nothing that I can see, except that I have spent the day working with both. First, I spent the morning planting garlic and then, in the afternoon, I made a new strawberry bed. Garlic is very easy to grow, so it is a mystery that, in winter, most of the garlic in stores comes from China. Besides, the garlic you grow yourself seems to keep much longer than the one you buy (perhaps because the one you buy is already relatively old when you get it).

Fresh Garlic Bulbs

Tuesday, October 8, 2013


This post is made up of several pictures taken in the last few days of unusual things, at least unusual for me. The first one is a picture of a tree frog. Friday morning, after a storm in the previous night, this tiny tree frog was blown onto a window pane of the porch door.  I think it is actually a Spring Peeper, as it has an X on its back. Their maximum size is 3cm, but they have quite a voice. They start singing in spring even before the snow is all gone.

Spring Peeper tree frog

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Seed Saving

This is the major seed collecting time in the gardening calendar. Some seeds have had to be collected earlier, but most are only ripening now, in the fall. Ideally, they should be left on the plant as long as possible to give them time to completely ripen. There is a fine line, however, between making sure seeds are ripe and waiting so long that the seeds are blown off in the wind. Some of the ones I collect are for use the next year (for instance, seeds of heritage tomatoes or of annual flowers, like yellow cosmos). Others I gather to send in for the seed exchanges I take part in.

Bottle gentian seeds

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Apple Pie

I have been talking about the fact that there are lots of apples growing in the ditches and in the fields around here. These are "wild" apple trees in that they were not planted by humans, but came from the seeds scattered by animals who ate apples in abandoned orchards. This post is about using some of these apples which are mostly "cooking" apples. The best way is in apple pie. We are going to friends for dinner, and I said I would take along an apple pie. Here is how I made it.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The End of the Tomatoes

In the last week or so, we have had two nights when the thermometer dipped to about +1, which is cold enough to nip sensitive plants like zucchinis and cucumbers. The tops of the tomato plants also got burned, so I decided to take in what is left of them to let them ripen in the house. I also tried a new method of taking them in.

Friday, September 20, 2013


One of the most obvious reminders that winter is coming is the delivery of firewood.  For many years, we cut our own firewood with a friend. However, felling trees is very dangerous, and we now buy it. Even getting it delivered is a fair bit of work. It is dumped in the parking area, and you have to load it into wheelbarrows, and cart it to the woodshed, where it is piled, and some of it has to be split into smaller pieces.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Five Years in the Making

As I mentioned in a recent post, there are many "wild" apple trees around. When we started making the garden, one of these wild apple trees was growing in what was to be the vegetable garden. Instead of removing it, we decided to keep it as a rootstock and try to graft on it different varieties. Some of the grafts took and grew well, but we only had our first apples from the tree this year.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness

Here are a few pictures of the September garden. A time of year when the light is often softer, when fruits and vegetables are finally ripening and roses make a last effort before the cold settles in.


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Concrete Globes

Looking at garden photos taken in the 19th century,  I noticed that several of these gardens had decorative concrete spheres. I decided to try to make some and use them as in my own garden. Here is how I proceeded.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Yours for the Picking

The Bruce Peninsula in Ontario used to be an apple growing area. You can still see old, long-abandoned orchards and, on each side of secondary roads,  many volunteer apple trees. These have been planted by the numerous wild animals who feed on the apples, mostly the raccoons and the bears. These "wild" apples have self hybridized and produce fruits that often are not tasty or are woody. However, among the lot, are some delicious ones.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Kagraner Summer 2

You might well wonder what is Kagraner Sommer 2? It is the name of my favourite head lettuce. It is a type of lettuce known as Butterhead (or Bibb, or Boston). It makes a loose head, that can reach the size of an iceberg lettuce, the most common head lettuce sold in North American grocery stores, but the leaves are much greener, more tasty and somehow more substantial, without being tough. Here is how I grow them.

Kagraner Sommer 2

Friday, August 30, 2013

Heirloom Tomato Review

Late August is a time of the year when you can enjoy tomatoes fresh from the garden. This year, I have tried different varieties, all of them open-pollinated, some determinate, some indeterminate. Here is an evaluation of these new-for-me varieties.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Feast or famine

Growing your own vegetables usually means having none or too many. Our pole beans are now in full production. We had visitors last week, and we were not able to pick beans when they should have been picked.  Now some of them are too big, which means sorting.

Pole beans

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Rill

We just had two consecutive weeks of blazing sun and not a drop of rain. However, this afternoon, a storm broke, and it poured for about half an hour, enough to make a difference, especially for established plants that never get watered by us. This rain gave me the idea of doing a post on our rainwater collection system.

Rill and clapper bridge

Friday, August 23, 2013

Blackcurrant Liqueur

Having had a bumper crop of blackcurrants this year, once we had used some, given some away and made all the jam we might want, I decided to make some crème de cassis liqueur. It is quite simple to make, and the result is surprisingly good.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Predators in the garden

 We have some interesting parasitic wasps that live around here, and August is a good month to see them. They are black wasps that attack other insects. They even attack spiders!

Saturday, August 17, 2013


This post is called Lemon, but it is actually about a cucumber. A heritage or heirloom cucumber that is called Lemon. It is not difficult to guess how it got this name, since it looks much more like a lemon than a cucumber.  But it is slightly bigger than a lemon.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Spuds & Companion Planting

Potatoes are ripe. We grow various varieties. Some do better than others. In our garden you have to make sure to pick them when the soil is rather dry, since our clayish soil is very sticky and tends to stick to the potatoes when wet. You can always wash them, but washed potatoes do not keep as well as those that are left unwashed. The ones I like best are the fingerlings.


Tuesday, August 13, 2013


In 2011 I bought a package of seeds for dark red hollyhocks, a variety called "Cassis". I planted these in a flat and, in the fall, transplanted them where they were to grow. I had quite a few plants from this single package, so I decided to put them in two different spots. Last year they produced a few blooms, and this year they are well-established.

Looking at them more carefully just now, I realized that the ones on the east side of the garden are not quite the same colour as the ones on the west side. I am at a loss to account for the difference.

Monday, August 12, 2013

In Bloom

Here are pictures of some of the plants that are in bloom at Roche Fleurie at this time of the year.  One of my favorite is Dianthus amurensis. While the vast majority of dianthus bloom in early summer, this large flower species wait till later in the season to put out a show. It has now been  in bloom for about three weeks.

Dianthus amurensis

Thursday, August 8, 2013


On our way home from eastern Québec, we stopped at the Montreal Botanical Garden where there is a special exhibition of monumental sculptures made with plants. It is a bit like three dimensional carpet bedding. It is, in fact, an international competition with works by teams from North America, Europe and Asia. Some of the sculptures are huge. The frog below is one of the smallest ones.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Lower St-Lawrence

As you saw from my post on the village of Millbrook, in which I included pictures of some old Ontario houses, I am interested in old buildings, especially old houses.

Driving back home from our visit to eastern Québec, we followed the St Lawrence, and I thought I would now give you an idea of what old Québec houses look like in the lower St Lawrence region.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Métis Gardens

We have been visiting my parents in eastern Quebec. They happen to live close to one of Canada's most famous gardens, les jardins de Métis, which were created by Elsie Reford in the early 20th century on a small peninsula that juts out into the St. Lawrence river. The gardens are best known for their meconopsis, the blue poppy, for which the cool local micro-climate is ideally suited as well as for the gardens's gentians and rhododendrons. Unfortunately, the blue poppies and rhodos had finished blooming by the time we visited, but many other plants were at their best. The gardens have been public since the 1960's. (Click to enlarge)

Allée royale, Métis Gardens

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Unusual plants in Millbrook

We are on the road again and have just visited Nate, his garden and his humans, in the village of Millbrook, near Peterborough, east of Toronto in Ontario. Millbrook has numerous attractive Victorian  houses and public buildings all around a mill pond. The garden we visited, boasts of interesting, unusual plants.

Nate patrolling his garden

Tuesday, July 30, 2013


The most striking flowering plant we have blooming at the end of July is Crocosmia "Lucifer", which is a fiery red. There are many other cultivars of Crocosmia, mostly yellow and orange, but the majority are not as hardy as "Lucifer".

Friday, July 26, 2013

Lake Superior

We spent the last 4 days visiting friends on Lake Superior. Besides the impressive scenery we saw some interesting plants and one unusual garden. Here are some pictures.
Lake Superior

Sunday, July 21, 2013


Larkwhistle is one of the most famous gardens in Ontario, and it is here, on the Bruce Peninsula. It was created by the garden writer Patrick Lima and his partner John Scanlan. Every summer it is open to the public on Wednesdays and weekends. This is the garden's 38th year, but unfortunately it is also the last.

It is a garden that has inspired numerous gardeners, many of whom have made the trip up the peninsula once a year, sometimes from distant places, to admire the mixture of flowering plants, mostly perennials, and vegetables. If you are within driving distance, it is well worth a visit, especially since this is the last year it will be open.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

A Bit of Chaos

Summer is poppy time, and our garden includes lots of annual poppies. I like the informality they create by sprouting in all sorts of unexpected places. Just like forget-me-nots in the spring, poppies in summer create a bit of chaos. They soften all edges and bloom generously - too generously all the neat gardeners will say! But they are easy to remove and are difficult to control as the annual poppy is a plant that does not take to regimentation.

Common red poppies

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Update on Chipping Sparrows

One week ago I indicated that some Chipping sparrows had built a nest in the garden, in a spot where you have no choice but to walk right by it.

The mother produced four eggs and has been sitting most of the day for a week or so, taking a five or ten minute break every now and then, in order to feed herself and stretch her wings. This last weekend, the eggs hatched and now the babies seem to be doing well. Covered with fluffy down, they seem to sleep most of the time.

Chipping Sparrow chick

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The village

I have read various gardening blogs recently, that pointed out the fact that gardeners are always showing pictures of their gardens or of their plants, but rarely the context of the garden; that is to say they tend not to show the city, village or place where their gardens grow.
Roche Fleurie is in the middle of fields and forest, but there is a village where we shop and go regularly. I thought I would show you the village.