Thursday, November 10, 2011

More Fungi

This fungi covers the whole surface of a low stump.
Reminiscent of seashell patterns.

A fungi growing on a dead birch tree.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tamarack trees

Tamarack trees belong to the larch family. The word "tamarack" is Native American for "wood for snowshoes". As the name implies, the wood is durable and pliable. It's easy to miss tamaracks in the summer when their green needles blend in with all the other green trees, but at this time of year they really stand out. They are the only tree in Ontario with needles that turn yellow in the fall. In the photo above, several tamaracks form a background for cedars.
The little seed cones are reminiscent of hemlock cones.
The needles grow in tufts like some pine trees.
Tamaracks will grow in a variety of soil conditions but they need a sunny location to survive. If they are planted with other trees that will grow faster than them, chances are that, over time, the other trees will begin to shade the tamaracks and they will die out.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Tribute to Hickstead

Sadly this past Sunday, Hickstead, the best show jumping horse in the world, died of an apparent heart attack at a show in Italy. Hickstead was an amazing horse. Ridden by Canadian Eric Lamaze, he captured the individual gold medal at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. In 2010, Hickstead was named "Best Horse in the World" at the World Equestrian Games in the US. He won numerous world class competitions virtually always with a flawless performance. He was a beautiful dark bay Dutch warmblood stallion that Eric trained from the time Hickstead was 7 years old. Eric said of him: "He's feisty , he knows why he is out there, and he knows that knocking down a rail is not good." Feisty is a bit of an understatement - this horse was powerful, strong-willed and full of energy. I can't imagine what he must of been like to train but for sure it was challenging. But Eric found a way to get inside that horse's heart and head and together they were fabulous to watch. Hickstead would be all concentration as he went around the jumping course and his form was always perfect, every leg tucked up as much as possible over the jumps. You could see that he wanted to have a clear round. Although he was smaller than many of the other horses, he was able to beat them at speed classes. Riders around the world loved to watch Eric and Hickstead because it was such a special partnership. They were just so in synch with each other. Eric was a talented rider from the time he began riding as a young person, but he had challenges in his personal life. He used drugs for a time and struggled to keep his life on track. He came very close to being banned from the Canadian equestrian team for life, but working with Hickstead seemed to straighten things out for him . Now, he owns a training stable and is well respected in the riding community. His relationship with Hickstead helped him so much more than just allowing him to win competitions. Eric has other horses to ride and he will be part of the 2012 Olympic team, but there will never be a horse like Hickstead. If you want to watch Eric and Hickstead, you can see clips on youtube.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Late Season Berries

Here are some berries I spied the other day. These red berries are found on the false Solomon seal plants that are native to our area.

The blue berries are found on the blue cohosh plant that is native to our woods. Looks like a blueberry, but not edible.

These bright berries are peeking through the fronds of my asparagus plants. Asparagus has male and female plants, and only the female plants make berries.

Have a good weekend everybody. We are expected to have more sun. What a treat to have sun in November.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Beech Tree

We have several American beech trees on our property. They are a beautiful tree with lovely form and striking green glossy leaves in the summer that turn a rich orangey brown in fall. The leaves stay on the trees well into the winter, unusual for a deciduous tree. This little one almost looks like a shrub but will eventually grow into a very tall tree.
This tree is about twenty feet tall .
This one is probably about 50' tall. It has lost a lot of its upper leaves but there are more leaves on the lower branches.
Beech trees have smooth grey bark and, with the flaring at the base for the roots, the trunks always remind me of elephant legs and feet.
At this time of year, the new buds have formed ready to open out next spring. The beech nuts , which I haven't seen yet on our trees probably because they are up 20' or so and then the squirrels get them, are three-sided and quite small. Buckwheat, the forage plant that makes white flowers and small black three-sided seeds, is actually named after the beech nut. Originally buckwheat was called beech wheat. Buckwheat isn't a beech and it isn't wheat either so it's a bit of a misnomer.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Phlox and Balloon Flower

I bought this pinwheel-stripe phlox from Veseys a few years ago. This year it's done particularly well. At the outer edge of the clump, some all pink shoots are growing as part of it is reverting to a solid colour. I don't really mind because the pink perfectly matches the pink in the bicolour flowers. I think the whole phenomenon of reversion is so interesting - I would love to know what is going on at the DNA level.
I bought this balloon flower last year but it didn't have time to bloom last summer. The white is very fresh looking and in sunlight is super white. Balloon flowers are not very spectacular but they can withstand drought(didn't water them all summer) because they have a big fleshy root. However, because of the taproot, they have to be transplanted when young and they don't divided well when they are mature. I like them because they bloom later in the season when some fresh new blossoms are much appreciated. Balloon flower also comes in a purpley-blue and pink. The pink ones I have, though, are a bit disappointing as the pink is very washed out. The white and blue that I've seen are much better.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Blue Clips and Peach-leaf Bellflower

The Blue Clips campanula (campanula carpatica), which is also available in White Clips, is one of my favourite plants. It grows into a mound no more than about 8" high but given good soil, adequate moisture and at least half day sun, it will have lots of blooms over many weeks. It's hardy to zone 4 but I have lost some plants if the spring or fall is overly wet. Not a problem as they are readily available in the spring at garden centers for a modest price. Many seed catalogues also offer the seeds and they are pretty easy to get going and will bloom the first year after seeding if you get them started early enough. They make a great front of the border edging plant.
I haven't seen the peach leaf campanula (campanula persicifolia) at the local nurseries. I bought mine from Rockwood Gardens through the mail a couple of years ago. I'm really happy with it. It is a spreader but I have it where it has room to spread. I haven't watered it all summer and even though we've hardly had a drop of rain all July, it is doing just fine. It blooms in June but still has the odd flower now. The flowers come out along the stem which grows to about 2' high. It doesn't flop over because the stems are very stiff. It's a lovely mauve colour and I have paired it with a scabiosa of similar colour. Definitely hardy to zone 4. It enjoys lots of sun.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Japanese Iris

I planted some Japanese Iris down by the ditch a couple of years ago and now they are starting to spread a little bit. This one has a double set of petals.
This pretty iris is Berry Gold , a hybrid from Dominion Seeds. I believe it is a cross between a Siberian iris and a Japanese iris. The leaves are almost yellow which contrasts really nicely with the purple. It is also planted in the damp soil by the ditch with some other Siberian iris which aren't blooming for some strange reason.
This Japanese iris is similar to the Berry Gold but it's bigger, deeper purple and, as it matures, the veining in the falls becomes more distinct.
Another Japanese iris with double petals. It flopped over after the rain so I had to hold it to get a picture. The purple veining is very attractive.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Yellow Flowers

Every now and again the plant breeders come out with a plant that is so good that it stays popular for years. Stella D'oro daylily is one of those plants. It is one of the first daylilies to bloom in the summer and it blooms almost all summer long. At a tidy 2' high, it fits into any garden. Totally trouble-free - I have it in both dry and wet conditions. Super easy to divide although it doesn't have to be divided if you don't feel like it.
This is coreopsis Early Sunrise. I started it from seed last year but I have seen it sold as plants. It's planted in a dry area and seems quite happy there. The flowers are very vibrant. I think I'll grow some more next year. It's about 18" tall, so it's a relatively small plant. Not at all invasive.
The evening primrose, on the other hand, is very pushy, but I love the lemon coloured flowers. I have it planted in a dry spot with poor soil mixed in with sedum Autumn Joy, and in a situation like that it's quite controllable. I also planted some between our trees and the road where I am establishing a garden full of stalwart plants that are able to muscle out the cow parsley, thistles and any other weeds I don't want around.
This is a cousin of Stella D'Oro called Black-Eyed Stella, although it should really be orange-eyed Stella. It's just as reliable as the all yellow variety, but it grows a bit taller. For some reason, it's not as readily available but it's also a very good rebloomer that starts blooming early in the season. It's actually more orangey than the photo makes it appear.
We watched a travel show filmed in 2010 with Samantha Brown. She was travelling to different Asian countries, and I found it most encouraging to see how well Viet Nam and Cambodia are doing. The cities were much more prosperous than I would have expected and in the rural areas farming was well underway. There were, of course, areas of poverty but , as someone whose main images of those countries date back to the Viet Nam war era, I was pleasantly surprised by how well the countries devastated by that war are doing. People really are resilient.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Lamium ground cover

Silver Beacon lamium makes a great ground cover. Here it is making a "skirt" for some hostas. Although it is a vigorous grower, it is shallow rooted, so it's easy to pull out any that is growing where it shouldn't be . Lamium will grow in shade or sun, but will bloom earlier and more profusely in sun. It can also be tucked into a collection of plants in a pot to give added interest all summer long. At the end of the season, replant it in the ground and it will be ready to use the next year in a pot.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Potted Veggies

Last fall we rebuilt some of the veggie planters that I use for my garden. I didn't get the planters refilled with soil before planting season so I decided to plant some of the veggies in pots. It's worked quite well, although I am still planning on filling the planters. Above is a sampling of the vegetables in their pots. Hard to see them in the group photo so I thought I would let them each have a turn in the spotlight.
This is a Tiny Tim cherry tomato. It has lots of blooms and should produce well. It is more dwarf than Sweet Million.
This is a buttercrunch variety of lettuce. I bought a flat of them in early May. It is pretty much at its mature size. Lettuce needs to be picked according to age not size, as it tends to get bitter no matter what size it is if it is getting old. Secret to lettuce is give it lots of room, lots of water and fertilize regularly.
I started this Gypsy pepper plant from seed and it is already setting fruit. It is the third year that I have grown this variety and it always sets fruit before any other variety that I have. It makes a yellow banana type pepper with a mild taste. It seems to manage the ups and downs of weather better than a lot of peppers.
For years , I had the mistaken notion that celery was hard to grow. Not at all true. I buy a half-flat or a full flat at the garden center and before I know it I'm picking small stalks of celery. It is usually pest free(had to blast some aphids with onion juice one year) and just keeps chugging along all summer. It seems particularly happy with morning sun and shade in the heat of the day. Water and fertilize regularly to keep it growing quickly - it will have better taste.
Bright Lights Swiss chard has become a real favourite. The red, orange and yellow stems are so attractive. I have been gradually thinning this pot and by the end of the summer it will only have one or two large plants in it. Swiss chard is great as a flavour accent in salads. I also use it in my homemade pancakes - yes, Swiss chard in the pancakes (cook the Swiss chard first, chop and mix into the batter). It's a good way to get veggies into your family.
Finally, the homely Romaine lettuce. Useful for its sturdiness and ability to take more heat than leaf lettuce. I always like to plant different varieties of lettuce so that a salad looks and tastes more interesting. I also have some red oak leaf lettuce but it doesn't get a picture because it's already bolting and starting to look ratty. I have replanted some red lettuce and leaf lettuce for a fresh crop later in the summer.
I hope this will encourage anybody who only has a little bit of space that you can still grow great veggies in pots.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Paper Beads

These paper beads are about an inch long. I got in the mood to make some a few days ago and have enjoyed the colourful patterns that appear on them. I am planning to use them as decoration on some crafts I hope to get done later on. As spring approaches I am starting to think about some ways that I can incorporate the garden flowers into some crafts. We'll see what happens. I started a papier mache vase but Snap kept trying to eat it as it was drying by the heater so I've decided to let that one go.

I had a little chuckle last night when I was searching the local library site for books by Aline Templeton. The search asked me if I really meant "alien Templeton". I haven't read any of her books yet but I hope they are not "alien"!

For some very attractive flower pictures, check out She lives in the Quinte area. I just found her site the other day when I was looking for gardening blogs.

Anybody interested in the writing process, check out Louise Penny's blog at She is a successful mystery writer from Quebec. Also a nature and dog lover.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Signs of Spring

Last fall I planted some grass seed over an area that we had covered with fresh earth. None of the seed had sprouted before the snow came and I assumed that I had just wasted the money spent on it, but this morning I saw that it has sprouted and even grown under the snow. A good start to spring!
I heard my first robin this morning and saw geese yesterday and today. The flock of redpolls is still coming to the feeder and enjoying the seed I throw on the ground. Most days there are around 50 of them. I have never had so many and never had them stay so long. I'm wondering when they'll be heading north .
Our truck-driver son is on his first long-long haul. So far they have travelled to Florida, up to Ohio, and now are on their way to Alberta. It certainly is the grand tour.
We watched a show on the Irish emigration last night. Apparently half of all Ontarians have Irish blood in them. In the Laurentians where I grew up, most of the families that weren't French were of Irish descent. On the show, one family was describing how whole villages of Irish people resettled together in Canada much as the Scottish people did in Glengarry. The English , on the other hand, didn't seem to do that which makes those of us of English background feel at times rootless in Canada. Perhaps the English were never very good at community which is why they were always travelling around to distant places expanding the Empire. My mother was telling me the other day that one of my British aunts was sent to boarding school when she was 5 years old. It seems so cold and unnatural to send your little ones away at such a young age.Not surprisingly, she never had a close relationship with her natural family and adopted her husband's family (our family) as her real family.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Prodigal Son

My Version of the Prodigal Son

Once there was a son of a wealthy farmer. He was a healthy young man, full of vim and vigour, intelligent and adventurous. After all, he had always been well-nourished and taken care of. He had never known abuse or any real danger. As he approached manhood, he became restless. His father seemed stodgy and boring, careful in his farming, and not very exciting. He was loving and kind, but sometimes his son found his concern for him rather smothering.

So the son demanded his inheritance money and went off on his own leaving behing his father's outdated, quaint, but foolish ideas. The son was going to have FUN, to really LIVE, to take the world by storm. It would be a blast.

When the son left, the father's heart was heavy and aching. He missed his son right from the start , and he also knew that what his son was chasing after would only lead to unhappiness. Every day the father longed for his son to return.

Meanwhile, the son went on a tear. He laughed uproariously with his buddies, he flirted extravagantly with the girls, and tossed around exceedingly clever ideas. It was deliriously fun to be free, to be in charge, to make all his decisions by himself, for himself, to be king of his life.

But one day, it all changed. His money ran out, his friends disappeared. He realized that he'd never really cared for them, or they for him. Had he used the girls or had they used him? The booze left a nasty taste in his mouth and an even nastier mood in his brain. He felt so alone. And so week after week, he dragged around barely scrapping by, and growing more and more bitter.

One morning, he saw a herd of sheep being led down the road and suddenly he was overwhelmed with homesickness for his father's farm and, even more so, for his father. He felt so alone and lost. He couldn't afford to buy a donkey, but he determined to go home anyway on foot. As he walked mile after mile, memories of time spent with his father came as vignettes to his mind. He remembered his father's hand on his shoulder, his look of concern when the son was troubled, his big smile when he greeted him. And slowly a feeling of dread began to grow in the son's heart. How selfish he had been, how wasteful, how mean, how unlike his father. How could a father possibly want a son like him? Of course, he wouldn't want him anymore. And yet the son kept walking because he wanted so much to hear his father's voice even if it was angry, even if it would reject him. He wanted to see his father; he wanted to be near him. Perhaps he could hide when he got to the farm, and just peek at his father from his hiding place.

Back at the farm, the farmer had tried to put on a cheerful face for his family and workers, but his gaze would naturally turn towards the road, staring long into the distance trying to pick out the smallest dot that might be his son returning home. Finally one day, he saw a small shape in the distance. As he squinted to see better, he thought even from afar that he recognized a way of moving. Clutching his shepherd's crook so hard that his knuckles blanched, he stared not wanted to blink in case what he saw would disappear like a mirage. He began to feel dizzy, his breath almost stopped. But it was, it truly was his son, he knew it was his son! He dropped his staff, and gathered up his robe in his hands and ran, his sandals slapping on the hard ground, his eyes fixed on his son. As he got closer, he saw that his son's face was downcase and that he wouldn't see him coming. He tried to call out to him but his breath was all but exhausted. Finally just as they were about to meet, the son looked up. His face froze with fear when he saw his father, but his father just grabbed him in his arms and sobbed with relief.

" My son," he cried. "My son, you have finally come home."

And the son's heart melted into his father's love.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Gypsy Horses

Often at Christmas, we get a jigsaw puzzle to work on over the holidays. This year I picked out one that had this beautiful picture of Gypsy Vanner horses on it. A poster of the picture was included with the puzzle which was a nice bonus. I really like the Gypsy horses with their feathery legs and round bodies. They are pretty much a scaled down version of a work horse but they have more energy and are suitable as riding as well as driving horses. They have only been available in North America for about 15 years but they have been used by the gypsies in Europe for a long time. They can be a solid colour but the black and white piebald colouring is particularly popular. The horses in this pic are yearlings and they are having fun, running and nipping at each other as they play.

I was given Susan Boyle's book, "The Woman Who I was Born to be" and I found it a great read. She is so down to earth and unpretentious. She has had her challenges along the way - she suffered some brain damage when she was born and as a result has some learning disabilities that made school and work difficult. She has loved music all her life and grew up in a musical family. When she was young, she had a big crush on Donny Osmond, and one of the special thrills of her new life was that she actually got to meet him. Her faith in God is very important to her and has been her refuge when life has been overwhelming. It sounds like she has been able to assemble a good group of people around her to support her new career, and she is excited to be getting professional singing lessons that are allowing her to improve her voice. I was also given her Christmas CD "The Gift" which has some really nice songs on it.