Sunday, June 29, 2014

Pineapple Weed and Pigs

Pineapple Weed (matricaria disoidea) is a native annual flower in Eastern Canada.  It's fairly common but it hadn't graced our property until this year when I noticed it today by the side of the road. I have a fondness for pineapple weed, not only because it smells so good (citrus and pineapple blended together), but because it brings back happy memories of summer.  When we were young, a neighboring farmer allowed the locals to swim in the stream that ran through his property.  He even brought in sand to make a little beach where the stream widened to make a small pond. Almost every day in summer, unless it was raining, we would go for a swim in the pond, or perhaps we would venture further upstream, and sit under the six foot waterfall and have our shoulders and back pummeled by the cold, fresh water.  If we wanted the stream to ourselves, we would go right at suppertime when everyone else had gone home to eat.  Either way, with company or alone, it was always a refreshing spot.

OK, but what about the pigs? and the pineapple weed?
Well, the walk over to the water took us down the farmer's lane way, which always had a good patch of pineapple weed growing in it. Our little feet tromped on the plants releasing the aromatic oils, and I would get lovely wafts of the pungent smell as I bent over to inspect the funny looking flowers.  Were they really flowers? Hum, I wasn't sure. 
At the end of the lane, was an all-purpose barn used for storing implements and hay, and for many years, sheltering several pigs.  Often we would stop in at the barn to say hello to the pigs, who always seemed to be eating, and never bothered with us.  The farm dog would join us, and bark incessantly trying to get the pigs' attention. But they had a job to do, they had to eat, so eat they did. In spite of our cool reception, we enjoyed watching the pigs. I suppose it's comforting to watch an animal so happy in its food.
We always visited the pigs on the way out to swimming, which was probably wise, as we undoubtedly picked up some aroma from the pig barn, and a good swim would freshen us up.
 I smiled today when I saw the pineapple weed and remembered other encounters I'd had with it, and I'm thankful to that farmer who gave us so many happy days swimming in his pond, trampling his pineapple weed, and hanging out with his pigs.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Let's Be The Judge

 I managed in my own unique way to first hurt my right foot in May , and then just as it stopped hurting, to hurt my left foot last weekend.  I have been spending considerable sitting around, putting my feet up! Time to look at some pictures of Regent's Park.  While we were in England, the Chelsea Flower Show was on.  We didn't go to it, but I watched a couple of interesting TV shows that were filmed there. To amuse myself this afternoon, I thought I could do a little judging myself and rate some of the gardens that I photographed at Regent's Park.  Out of a scale of 1-10, I give this view a 6.  I like the colours, but I find the arrangement rather clunky.

 This one I give a 2.  The black Mondo grass I find most unattractive, especially paired with the purple heuchera.  I do like the red geum popping  up, though.

  A 7.  A very, pleasing quiet colour scheme with just a little punch from the yellow grass and other yellow plant in the back.  It needs to fill in, but I think it will be very nice next year.

 The top of this urn probably looked better when the tulips were blooming, but right now the heuchera flower stalks just make it look really messy, and the magenta daisies look a little lost. A 3.

 I really like this collection. Unusually coloured iris that isn't flopping is attractively paired with a peachy heuchera.  A dark olive something in the background echoes some of the darker iris tones, and the airy, fluffy something softens the border between the iris and the heuchera.  I give it an 8.

Spiky and round.  I like this one, too. The white flowers at the front get your attention, but then your eye moves to the middle ground to the astilbe (?) and finally, the euphorbia (?) at the back warrants a look.  And I'm partial to variegated Japanese fountain grass, anyway. 7 or 8, I think.
Public gardens are a great way to get ideas for your own gardens, to see what you like, and what you don't like.  And I find it encouraging that even professional gardeners don't always get spectacular results.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Canada Anemone and Astrantia

 Canada anemone is an attractive native plant that turns up in damp, sunny locations. 

 Clumps of it grow to about 18" high, and the spiky leaves are interesting structurally even when the flowers fade.

Astrantia (Masterwort) is not grown as commonly as some perennials, but it does well in a part-shade location with rich soil that stays moist. The flowers are  white with either a greenish , pinkish or reddish tinge. The blooms are about 1" across and occur in groups.  Each flower has a rounded umbel of small florets framed by papery heavily veined petals.

Clumps can be divided in spring and should be kept well-watered until established. It is hardy to zone 4.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Particularly Purple

 Siberian iris are often a rich blue-purple.  They are happy growing in moist soil in sun or part-shade and are very cold hardy.  Plant a few bulbs, and they will gradually grow into a generous clump. Beautiful by a pond if you have one.

 Bearded iris are always interesting, but they do have a tendency to fall over in wind and rain.  A poorer, sandy soil can keep the growth in check, and make them less floppy.

 Floss-flower (Ageratum) is a tidy plant that can be easily tucked into any empty spots in an annual
 bed, or in a planter box or hanging basket.  Not many flowers come in a soft lilac colour like it does, and it looks lovely paired with lemony yellow flowers . Also works well with other purple or pink flowers.

 Morning glory flowers only last a day each, but they are so pretty.  I was trying to think of a place where they could climb, and finally settled on running some strings down from the apple tree branches.  The morning glories are planted in pots at the bottom of the strings.  The light is not optimal, but it is enough for some blooms.

 Sun shining through an iris. I know, it's really more pink than purple.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Spots of Colour

Hostas make wonderful ground cover, but sometimes all that green is just, well, too much green.  I have tried to break it up a little by interspersing a few  bits of colour.  A couple of iris poke through between the hostas.  Further back, a couple of pots of cosmos are tucked in between the hostas, their pots pretty much hidden by the arching hosta leaves.  The pots also act as a mulch keeping weeds at bay, and maintaining moisture in the ground.

The other day, I was surprised by a flying spot of colour.  A male ruby-throated hummingbird came by to get a drink from the hose as I was watering the garden.  After his drink, he positioned himself at the end of the spray and had a thorough shower, ruffing his feathers so the water could get everywhere.  Finally, he flew to a nearby branch and preened himself.  Then, off he went, all spiffed up and ready for some food.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

New Foals

 My neighbour has two new foals and they are twins! The odds of having twin horses is 1 in 10,000 and the odds of them surviving is quite small, but these two are in good health at two weeks old.  The father is all black so the little filly looks like Dad, and the little colt looks like Mom.
The babies have some crookedness in their front legs, but hopefully they will straighten somewhat as they mature.  
 They are named Bonnie and Clyde.  Clyde has a pretty spiffy tail.

Mom is super friendly and didn't mind us playing with her babies.  She wanted a few pats herself, a little TLC for all the hard work she is doing.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Some Interesting Paintings

 We visited the Courtald gallery in London and enjoyed their excellent collection.  We were allowed to take pictures so I decided to post some of the paintings that, to me, seemed a bit unusual. This one is by Claude Monet and reminds me of the Canadian Group of Seven paintings that were done in Algonquin park.  I had to take the photos on an angle to minimize glare.

 We've all seen the Sunflowers and the self-portrait minus an ear by Van Gogh, but this is a much gentler painting with lots of space and tranquility.

 Another painting by Monet.  Very simple, but so well done.

 I love this painting by Henri Rousseau.  Many of his famous paintings feature fantastic jungle scenes with tigers and other exotic animals, but this is a picture of where he worked as a customs collector.
 What an imagination he had!

I was really struck by the expression of this portrait by Gainsborough.  It is a picture of his wife and he managed to capture so much personality in the portrait.  Unfortunately, the glare detracts from the photo, but it is a very special portrait.

 This is the stairwell of the gallery.  It's as pretty as a picture.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Tree Peony

I've had a tree peony for about 8 years now.  Every winter it suffers die back because, at zone 4, it is really at its northern limit, but it spite of that it usually manages to put out one or two blooms.  These blooms, which opened yesterday, were knocked over by the rain so I picked them.  Tree peony flowers don't last well in the hot sun so the flowers will actually do better in the house. A shrub with lots of blooms must be really spectacular as the flowers are about 8" across.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Park Crescent, London

 Raining hard this afternoon, so no gardening.  Some more pictures of London.  Park Crescent is near Regent's Park, my favourite park in London.  I really like the sweeping curve of this row housing which is now used as offices.

 The white finish brings so much light to the landscape.

The black railings are perfect against the white pillars.

Look at all those chimneys!  This building is across the street from Park Crescent, and Regent's Park is a short step away.