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.

Monday, December 15, 2014


Some plant combinations we work hard to create, others appear by themselves often producing a better effect than the result of much thought and effort on our part. Here are some examples of combinations that are mostly the result of serendipity.

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) and violas

Sunday, December 7, 2014

A Winter Walk

Pictures taken on December 6th along Dallas Road in Victoria. British Columbia.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Cold Beacon Hill

We are in Victoria, British Columbia, where winters are usually very mild.

However, today things were topsy-turvy with temperatures apparently above 10C at Roche Fleurie, whereas here in Victoria it was a chilly -5C with a dusting of snow. I took the opportunity that it was very sunny to take the following pictures in Beacon Hill, the largest park in the city.

Monday, November 3, 2014

A Most Unusual Break-In

Having been away for two weeks with no one staying in the house, you always feel a bit nervous when you come back, not knowing what to expect. Not that we ever have had any problems since we started living full time here at Roche Fleurie.  This time, however, there was an unpleasant surprise when we turned the corner and first saw the porch. The glass in a window just above the door was smashed.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Last Colours

Leaves seem to be holding onto the trees slightly longer than they usually do. Could it be because of the rain that has been falling relentlessly (as you can see from the water in the field below)? There are still some bright colours, but they will not last much longer. All these pictures were taken in the neighbourhood.

Saturday, October 18, 2014


Several plants only bloom in October such as the unidentified variety of chrysanthemum below, but just now, most of the flowers left in the garden are stragglers that have not yet been killed by frost. Here are some of the ones that were still hanging on a few days ago.

 Chrysanthemum (unidentified variety)

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Plant portait - Perennial sunflowers

The willowleaf sunflower  (Helianthus salicifolius ) is perennial. It is not very demanding as far as soil is concerned, but it requires full sun. It can vary in size a great deal and spreads by creeping rhizomes, covering quite a bit of ground over time.

Willowleaf Sunflower

Friday, October 3, 2014


As some of you will know from previous posts, Roche Fleurie is in a former meadow reverting to forest.  Most of the trees that have volunteered in that meadow are apple trees. These trees all come from seeds scattered by wild animals eating apples. They hybridize on their own, and all are edible. But most are too tart to be eaten raw, although the majority are good cooking apples. In fact, out of the lot some turn out to be quite tasty even raw. Here are a few pictures of some of these apples and what we use them for.

Unnamed apple variety

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Mother and Children

This post is about a memorial garden. It is rather small - just a few columnar trees in a grassy enclosure with a monument in the center. It is on private land but sits right next to the road in a forested area. The public is welcome to stop and visit.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Tomatoes - 2014

As usual we are growing different  tomato varieties this year, both some old favorites and a few new ones. Many are heirlooms and all are open pollinated (meaning that you can save the seeds, and that you will get the same variety from these seeds). I thought I would do a review of these varieties.

First I must say that for us 2014 was not an ideal tomato year. I was reading in the local paper that the summer of 2014 is probably going to be the coldest and wettest in 20 years. Tomatoes like it hot and sunny.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Plant Portrait - Calceolaria mexicana

Calceolaria mexicana is annual. I got it from my friend Glen who grew it from seed. Last year, I put the few plants I had in a container, and it was not particularly successful. This year, I was once again given a few small plants which I decided to put directly in the ground, and they did much better. Glen tells me that it comes back from seed year after year. He has some nice drifts in his own garden.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Best New Plants for 2014

Every year, each of us tries new plants. Some are very successful, others do not do as well. Thinking about the plants we grew for the first time this year, I decided to write a post about the best ones among our own first timers. I restricted the choice to the best three, each of which is a plant I would most certainly keep or even grow more of.

The "first prize" goes to Oenothera (Gaura) lindheimeri 'Rosy Jane'.

Gaura lindheimeri 'Rosy Jane'

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Containers 2014

I like growing things in pots, both annuals and perennials. Most of the time I put only one variety in each pot. As with every year, this last summer, some pots were more successful than others.

Here is a review of what I grew in pots in 2014 and how well they did. The most successful was an alstroemeria. The variety, Fabiana, has variegated foliage which adds interest even when the plant is not in bloom.

Alstromeria 'Fabiana'

Monday, September 1, 2014

Three More Unusual Vegetables

A few weeks ago I had a post about Achocha, a vegetable the Inca are supposed to have eaten. I grew several other uncommon vegetables this year. Some of them are not very well known simply because they don't deserve to be, but others I am pleased to have discovered. Here are descriptions of three vegetables new to me.

Little melon
Little watermelon

Monday, August 25, 2014

Botanising at the Beach

This afternoon we stopped for a few minutes at a beach on Lake Huron. There were families with dogs, kites and beach chairs, swimmers - everything that you would expect on a hot day by the water in August. However, in the sand dunes leading to the water there were also interesting plants that are not very obvious, although they are very attractive.

Singing Sands, Dorcas Bay on Lake Huron, Ontario

Monday, August 18, 2014

Mostly Moss and Sedum

You would not expect mosses that like moist and shady conditions, and xeriscape plants that have the opposite requirements, would grow well together. They do, however, in our  Hobbit Garden.

It is called the Hobbit Garden because it is made up of small plants, and they are all growing on top of a stone wall that is only about two feet tall. Both the plants and the setting are diminutive. I wrote a post about it last year, but Hobbit Garden is more settled this year and worth revisiting.

Part of the Hobbit Garden

Monday, August 11, 2014

Not just red and pink

I let a lot of annual poppies self-seed, mostly in the vegetable section of the garden. At first glace, you would think that there are only lots of identical pinkish opium poppies (Papaver sommiferum) and red  corn poppies (Papaver rhoeas). But when you have a closer look, you realize that hardly any two flowers are alike.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Achocha or Caigua?

Had you presented me with these two names a couple of years ago, I would not have had a clue what you were talking about.  In fact these are two names used for a single South American vegetable, Cyclanthera pedata, which is supposed to have been grown by the Incas. I am growing it for the first time this year, having got seeds from my friend Glen.

Achocha, Caigua
Cyclanthera pedata

Friday, August 1, 2014

A Conversion

A few years ago, friends retired and bought a house in a village. They were quite pleased with the house but not with the in-ground swimming pool. Being keen gardeners, they resented the fact that almost half of the lot was given over to the pool and the cement patio surrounding it. They decided to transform it into a garden pond.

The new pond

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Plant Portrait - Biennial Clary

There is only one drawback to this plant (Salvia sclarea turkestanica):  it is biennial. It germinates and grows one year and, the second year, it reaches maturity, blooms and dies. I grew it for the first time last year and it turns out to be a stunning plant.
It is not attacked by any diseases or insects. In fact it attracts many pollinators. It is easy to grow and requires no special treatment. It is big, but it does not need staking. In spring its large leaves are attractive, and later on it gets completely covered with flowers for at least two months.

Biennial Clary (Salvia sclarea turkestanica)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Some berries will have to wait

Fortunately our black currants are still not ripe. The white currants and the gooseberries are almost ripe. However, ready or not, a few of them will have to wait as some birds, some kind of native sparrow, have decided to build their nest right in the middle of the berry patch. They are not interested in the berries, just in the extra protection afforded by a thorny gooseberry bush in the middle of an enclosed garden.

'Pink Champagne' white currants

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

An Outing

I belong to the local gardening club and last week we had a bus trip to visit two gardens, one of which includes a nursery. We left at 9AM, had lunch at the garden-nursery and were back around 5 PM. The day was beautiful, but this means the pictures are not as good as they would have been had the day been less bright and sunny.

Earthbound Gardens

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Pavement Gardening - edge of the path

Here is yet another series of rock garden plants I grow among the stones on the garden paths. However these are some of the ones I grow only on the edges of the paths, because they cannot be stepped on.

The first one is a variety of Iberis sempervirens. Normally the flowers are white. However, in this variety, they start white, but as they age, they slowly turn pink. It is a low variety whose name I do not know as I grew it from a cutting I was given at Larkwhistle Garden many years ago. It probably would prefer more sun than the 4-5 hours that it gets, but it seems to manage well.

Perennial candytuft

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

London Pride and other saxifrages

When I think of rockfoils, the genus Saxifraga, I think of the small plants, either the encrusted varieties or of the mossy saxifrages, but not of the relatively big London Pride. Yet, London Pride (Saxifraga × urbium) is the saxifrage that grows best for us. Ours is a variegated variety (Saxifraga×urbium 'Aureopunctata'). It has been growing beautifully here for many years.

Variegated London Pride at the base of a low retaining wall

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Rose in a cold climate

Whoever was the garden writer who quipped that for Canada and the northern US, hybrid tea roses are annual shrubs, was quite right. In our climate, when it comes to selecting roses, the first consideration has to be hardiness.  In many ways, this simplifies your choice as most roses are not very hardy. Here is a review of some of the roses that are grown at Roche Fleurie.

Explorer Rose
John Davis rose on a trellis

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Road Side Flowers - late June

The garden is in an area designed as a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. Because this part of Ontario was always, and still is, sparsely populated, with hardly any industry and no intensive farming, the flora and fauna are particularly rich.

The following pictures were all taken on roadsides, on June 24.

Wood lily

Thursday, June 26, 2014

A Short Stay in Paradise

The garden proper is supposed to be completely rabbit proof. No rabbit has managed to break in for a few years. However the gate is sometimes open for a while, and a hare (the only kind of rabbit we have around here - they turn white in winter not to be noticed on the snow) will sneak in and is quickly chased out.

Last week however, we noticed that not only one of them had been locked in, but he had become familiar enough with the garden to find hiding places and the moment you tried to chase him off towards and open door, he disappeared. He was not interested in leaving. He had a wonderful week or two. No predator could get to him, there were lots of young vegetables. Fortunately for us, his favorite meal is not lettuce, but the clover and grass growing on the small lawn (although he was developing a taste for Swiss Chard).

Like all holidays, it ended too early this morning when, like an illegal immigrant, he was escorted to the border, that is outside the garden fence. He did not seem to be afraid of humans, being used to seeing us plodding around. He knows we are quite slow. You can see he is not slow when you look at is hind leg.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Dianthus Aplenty

There are lots of dianthus at Roche Fleurie, both species and cultivated varieties. We like them very much and, perhaps more to the point, they like the garden with its basic well-drained soil.

From a botanical point of view, there are many species and cultivars of dianthus, but for a gardener's purposes, there are basically three kinds:  the pinks, the Maiden pinks and the Sweet Williams. Carnations are, of course, dianthus, but they really are grown as cut flowers and are not adapted to growing as a border plant.

Most dianthus bloom in late spring, roughly at the same time as peonies, but for a longer period. Dianthus are not only attractive, but also very fragrant, very hardy (some survive in zone 2) and low maintenance plants.

Assortment of pinks

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The opulence of June

June is an opulent month in the sense that it is rich and lavish in all it has to offer, especially in blooms. My first example is the Pink Lady Slipper, an orchid that can hold its own with any tropical ones. This is the queen (reginae), the Showy Lady Slipper (Cypripedium reginae). Ours is a rather darker pink than is usual.

Showy Lady Slipper

Monday, June 16, 2014

Reluctant invaders

My favourite nursery is Grange Hollow, a business run by a mother and daughter team. Not only do they have nice plants, but they are very friendly and always have time to answer questions and give advice. The nursery setting, an old farmstead, is beautiful. Two summers ago I was looking at Blue Star Creeper (Isotoma fluviatilis) growing on the nursery property. They had it for sale, but they warned me it might be invasive. As you know, most nurseries will never tell you that a plant is invasive. They will sell you goutweed (Aegopodium podagraria) as a low maintenance ground cover, without telling you that you will probably never be able to get rid of it or that it is likely to take over your whole garden in a matter of weeks.

Blue Star Creeper

Thursday, June 12, 2014

After the rain

There was bright sunshine and no rain for over two weeks, but yesterday and part of today we got hours of gentle rain. All foliage is suddenly plump and greener, and the weeds have doubled in size overnight. Here are a few pictures of the hiatus between the spring rush and the early summer.

The antique wheelbarrow - a gift from Elizabeth

Monday, June 9, 2014

One rare and a few not so rare

Sunday morning, I went, with my friend Elizabeth, to a conservation area, about 10 minutes from here, to see the annual display of a very rare daisy. Its common name is lakeside daisy (Tetraneuris herbacea) as it is found only in a few small colonies around the Great Lakes in Ontario, Ohio, Michigan and Illinois. It grows on a very thin layer of soil, directly on the alvar (limestone plain). Here is what it looks like.

Lakeside Daisy

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Pavement Gardening 3

Last Spring I did 2 posts about plants that grow between the limestone rocks that pave the paths in the garden. These are mostly rock garden plants or some slightly bigger plants used to edge the paths. The following are new rock garden plants that are blooming for the first time this year, or that were not included last year.  The first one is perhaps the prettiest, the Mount Atlas daisy (Anacyclus pyrethrum). The inside of the petals is white but the back is red. I grew it from seed and it is supposed to be hardy to zone 6 but seems quite happy in this zone 5 garden. Apparently it is not long-lived but self seeds.

Mount Atlas daisy

Monday, June 2, 2014

What is in bloom in blue?

A few blue flowers are open just now at Roche Fleurie, more if you stretch blue to include bluish purple. Blue is a very flexible colour that mixes well with most others.

Mertensia virginica - Virginia Bluebells

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Plant Portrait - Oxalis adenophylla

Most of the wood sorrels (Oxalis) are not very hardy. This is one of the few that can survive very cold winters unprotected (hardiness zone 5). It hugs the soil, reaching about 12 cm (4 in) high. Given the size of the plant, the purplish pink, funnel-shape flowers with dark veins are relatively large at 2.5cm (1 in).  The crumply leaves are grey-green, divided in many segments arranged finger-fashion. The common name, silver shamrock, refers to the colour of the foliage. Both the flower and the leaves fold up at night or in overcast weather and are said to "go to sleep".

Thursday, May 22, 2014


The garden at Roche Fleurie is in the middle of a field reverting to forest. Many of the trees that get established on their own and are reclaiming the field are apple trees. However, in most cases, the apples they produce are not very good. Every spring, I try to graft tastier varieties of apples on these volunteer trees. There are many techniques used for grafting. Here is how I proceed.

"Wild" apple tree

Friday, May 16, 2014

Forest Floor (2)

Three more pictures of the forest floor. Yesterday afternoon, driving in the rain along a wooded area in the neighborhood, we stopped and took pictures of Trillium grandiflorum covering the forest floor. As they age, these trilliums turn pink. However for now they are still all white. It is amazing they are still so abundant in places, as the white tail deer does find them tasty.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Forest Floor

This afternoon, we stopped the car and took a few pictures of the forest floor along the road where acre upon acre of dog-tooth violets (Erythronium americanum) were in bloom. Often, they produce a great many leaves, but no flower. This year seems to be a very good one for them.

I have heard that, in a garden, if you put a stone under the bulb, it blooms much better. I have never tried it, but it would seem likely as the Erythroniums in the pictures below are growing in a thin layer of soil over limestone.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Our very own Weeds

You have not heard from me these last five weeks or so because of Internet connection problems.

We all have weeds. Although some, like dandelions and crabgrass, are common to us all, we also each have our particular weeds. Just like rhododendrons require acid soil, some weeds require the specific conditions we happen to have in each of our gardens. These are our very own weeds, different from those of our  friends and fellow gardeners.

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