Monday, July 21, 2014

Tree and Shrub Flowers

Earlier this spring I was struck by some interesting tree and shrub flowers.  When we visited Chantry Island there was a Chestnut Tree beside the beach in Southampton; the others are on our own property. 

Chestnut flowers are absolutely amazing as far as flowers go; this tree was heavily laden with fat spikes of blossoms.

A close-up shows some of the delicate beauty of the blooms.

Our neighbours have some hybrid poplar trees, so we also have 'poplar fluff', (which comes genetically speaking, from the Cottonwood tree, used in breeding the fast growing hybrids.  Briefly in late June the white fluff rains down, carrying the seeds.

Getting caught  on smaller trees, shrubs, and in the grass.  In places I've heard people describe it as 'snow'.  It's really a little white parachute attached to a tiny seed.

This Austrian Pine flower is strikingly different.  Pines have a variety of male and female 'flowers' that eventually develop the pine cones.

And finally a shrub, this one the Red Osier Dogwood.  I think I need to pay more attention to shrubs and get to know a few beside the common ones, and search out some other shrub flowers and berries to photography - maybe next year.

Friday, July 18, 2014


Before I forget yet again, I wanted to share pictures of the beautiful orchids we sometimes see around here (if you know where to look for them).  I think of these as orchids of the Bruce Peninsula, but they do grow in secret places along certain roadsides.

This is the Yellow Ladyslipper, a beautiful orchid that is found in swamps and forests, but surprisingly along roadsides sometimes too.  Perhaps my mother's favourite flower.

I first saw these in 1964 when my mother took me as a teenager on a naturalists field trip up the Bruce Peninsula.  I've been going back ever since.

The second one is the Showy Ladyslipper, a little larger, and beautiful pink and white.  It's not as common as the yellow, so you need to know where to look, but you can find it in nature reserves and the National Park on the west side of the Peninsula, and a few cedar swamps around here.

It's nice when you come upon a clump of several like this, though the blooms only stay fresh a few days, so your timing needs to be just right.  Can't find nicer wildflowers than these.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Palisade Cliffs

To continue yesterday's hike, I thought the main trail would be right up on top of the cliff, but it wasn't; it followed the boulder slope at the base of those cliffs.  It was pretty spectacular in places!

The trail passed through a healthy patch of Bulblet Fern, bright green in the morning light.

And past Cedar trees growing directly out of tiny crevices in the limestone.

And then we came out to the open cliffs with dark lichen staining the otherwise light rock.

Another tiny fern, the Smooth Cliffbrake, that grows in tiny crevices and ledges on the cliff face.

Then we stepped through a  gap in the cliff, into a remarkable overhang creating a room known locally as the Devil's Playhouse - amazing rock formations.

And through this to a square room with vertical cliffs towering  60-80 feet straight above us.  You can pick out the pitons used by rock climbers on both the right and left.

This enormous block of limestone had separated from the main cliff, leaving a very narrow crevice.  Often these are much wider, letting you walk through between the walls of rock.

Polypody Fern on top of a mossy boulder down the talus slope - seemingly its favourite habitat.

And finally we ducked down beneath this overhanging rock, through the smaller crevice, and home.  A fascinating exploration.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Palisades Trail Hike

I do take time off from gardening every now and then to get out with my camera.  A week or two ago we headed over to Owen Sound and walked the loop formed by the Palisades Side Trail of the Bruce Trail.  It was a very interesting and somewhat challenging hike!

The Side Trail follows the lower talus slope through a second growth forest, and increasingly among big boulders.  The 'Palisades' refers to a line of cliffs that towers over the southeast corner of Owen Sound.

There were a few nice tall pine trees along the trail too; the cleared landscape has re-naturalized well.

Most of the forest is Easter White Cedar , with lots of ferns among the boulders.

This large boulder was totally covered with a mat of moss.

Northern Holly Fern at the side of the trail.

A vertical boulder wall of Maidenhair Fern.

Eventually we headed uphill to rejoin the main Bruce Trail, and had to do a little boulder scrambling - see where the white blaze is leading us!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Mulch, Mulch, Mulch!

Having shown you some bits of our garden, I feel obligated to comment on how much mulch we use - since sometimes I feel like I've done nothing but spread mulch and weed for the last two months!  I see lots of posts about gardens, and hear lots of complaints about weeds - my answer is: 'Mulch as much as you can!'

Our small veggie garden is mulched with a shredded cedar bark this year, which was quite cheap.  None of the mulches eliminate weeds, but they reduce them dramatically, making weeding this a 15 minute task rather than two hours!

My new raspberry patches created this spring are mulched the same way, a few weeds yes, but only a few.

For paths I use clean wood chips, bought by the yard from a local sawmill, again quite cheaply.  They're easy to get and easy to spread and very effective for several years (this is a fresh coat).

Ditto for my favourite sitting area.  When it's in the shade like this, you get virtually no weeds a all.

This is a third mulch, the one we're using on the flower beds this year, and yes it's a little bit more expensive.  I buy all these mulches by the yard using my little dumpy (but very useful) trailer.  I've found that my old manure fork with it's thin sharp tines (from my grandparents' barn) is the best for handling all these, but I use that big purple scoop for spreading this finer mulch between the flowers.

Here's a bit of this mulch spread along the front edge of the garden.  Even just a clean edge on the front of the flower beds makes a big difference.

We've also used straw (not hay!) in the past, and the best of all, dry mulched leaves.  The neighbours have a lot of shade trees and use a landscaping service to do their lawn.  That service comes by in late October and mulches and scoops up the leaves for their final fall clean-up, and they need to get rid of them somewhere - so we just got them to bring it across the street and dump it for us.  We has a pile 18 feet long and 3 feet deep two years ago, and all FREE!  It lasts right through the winter quite effectively.

But last fall we had that early snow in the 3rd week of October, and the fall clean-up never got done, so we got no leaves - thus the mulches I had to purchase this year.  But if you don't mulch your gardens and you do a lot of weeding, try it; it makes a BIG difference.

Friday, July 11, 2014

More Flowers

There are a lot of other flowers in bloom  in the garden at the moment too, but many more still to come.  We're just at a point where the colour scheme will shift from whites, pinks and blues to bright yellow.

We don't grow roses, but we do have one pasture rose bush that is covered in flowers right now.

Bleeding Hearts

We've had a lot of iris, especially these beautiful royal blue ones, along with white, deep purple and yellow, but they're just about over now.

The Vervain isn't a spectacular flower itself, but it's a magnet for butterflies and it adds a wonderful fragrance when you're nearby.  It self-seeds readily, so our original patch is now scattered plants through much of the garden.

White Foxglove
The first of many Brown-eyed Susan variations is in bloom.  In a week or two the garden will have shifted from white, pinks and blues to dominantly yellow with large patches of these or similar bright yellow flowers.

And the very first daylily to bloom, just a Stella Doro, but the forerunner of many bright blooms for weeks to come - just look at the buds on this other daylily ready and waiting!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Hosta Collection

The backbone of our garden is the hosta collection, I think over 300 varieties when we first moved them here.  Hostas like shade, so the dappled shade along our old stone fencerow was the perfect place for them.  They are virtually all named varieties, collected by the Head Gardener here 10-20 years ago.  And this is the season when they look best, just as they are starting to bloom. 

Here are a few pictures from our collection - one of my favourite groupings, so dense you never have to weed here.

Another group under the old hawthorn tree - there are over 20 different varieties in this picture alone.

Another flourishing patch under the old apple tree.

 Some of the larger hostas down at the end of the row, and a closer look at two of the largest.

A couple of my favourite.  Notice how the colour variations are the opposite here.  The hosta on the left has yellowy in the centre of the leaves and green on the edges; the one on the right is the opposite.

And my favourite view of the garden (in spite of all our colourful flowers out in the sun beyond), along the long line of hostas in the shade, and my sitting spot under the old apple tree.  I like 'green'.