On Monday, it was still bitterly cold but bright and sunny, a good day for a drive, and we set off for the Montreal Botanical Garden. The MBG features a set of linked greenhouses that are like paradise on a cold winter’s day. The photo above shows a model of the greenhouses and gives you an idea of their layout. Each house features different plant species. We especially wanted to see the Butterflies Go Free exhibit, which opened February 20th and runs until April 27th.
When you step into the first greenhouse and are enveloped by the humid, earth-scented air, it is easy to leave winter behind.
This vivid orchid is xLaeliocattleya Ptarmigan Ridge ‘Mendenhall’. What a beauty!
Check out these fiddleheads! They belong to a tree fern.
You can get an idea of the size of this tree fern from the person standing to the right.
Here’s a bit of information about tree ferns provided with the display.
You can walk behind a waterfall and look out over a pond featuring two sculpted cranes.
Here’s yet another reason for banning plastic water bottles!
Look at these monster cones! They belong to a cycas.
I’ve gotten lazy about taking down information. The digital age makes it easy to record whatever information is on offer and read up on topics at your leisure back at home.
The begonia room may be my favorite. There are so many diverse varieties of begonias with all manner of interesting leaf patterns. One of my favorites was the one shown above. The leaves look green in the shade, but when lit by the sun, they are fired with red.
And how about this swirly pattern? This rex begonia is appropriately named Escargot.
After the warmth of the other greenhouses, the bonsai room felt distinctly cool. The bonsai are just awakening from a dormant period and many, such as this Chinese Elm, featured tiny leaves, just beginning to show.
Our last stop was the butterfly exhibit. It’s totally wonderful, with a large, bright, two-storey structure filled with beautiful flowering plants, a tall waterfall and brilliant butterflies everywhere. What a pleasure.
Here’s the chrysalis house, where you can look for emerging butterflies. The butterflies are easy to observe and photograph, a great spectacle. A helpful full-colour guide is included with your admission so you can identify different species. I’ll leave you with a few photos of some of the butterflies, and a giant moth!
Posted in Animal life, Garden | Tagged asian swallowtail, atlas moth, blue morpho, Butterflies Go Free, cobra moth, cycas, giant fiddleheads, mendenhall orchid, Montreal Botanical Garden, pink rose butterfly, rex begonia escargot, rice paper butterfly, Spanish moss, tree ferns, winter greenhouse | 6 Comments »
In the tiny hamlet of Oxford Mills, Friday evenings are Mudpuppy Night. The open water below the old mill dam offers an unusual opportunity to encounter Ontario’s aquatic salamanders in winter habitat. Dr. Fred Schueler, who has surveyed the mudpuppy population at Oxford Mills for a number of years, shares his expertise with visitors. You can learn more about the event at his website linked here. It is reported:
Since 1998 Mudpuppy Night in Oxford Mills’has been taking observers to the only place in Ontario where Mudpuppies have been repeatedly observed in large numbers throughout the winter, the longest-running winter hempetological outing in Canada.
Seabrooke and I had been trying to coordinate an outing for much of the winter and finally made it to Oxford Mills on the evening of February 21st. It drizzled for much of the day, but late in the afternoon the rain stopped and the sun came out just in time to set. We joined an intrepid group from the Kingston Field Naturalists who had made the long drive to attend.
The mudpuppies can be seen on the rocky bed of the river, highlighted by Fred’s flashlight. A few are gently netted and placed in a cooler so that visitors can get a better look at them.
This was a return visit for Seabrooke and I. We first attended Mudpuppy Night in 2011. You can find additional photos of the mudpuppies at my earlier blog post linked here.
Mudpuppies are amazing. This information is provided on the Mudpuppy Night website:
Mudpuppies, Necturus maculosus, are foot-long permanently aquatic Salamanders. They retain the gills and smooth skin of larvae as adults, and go undetected in many water-bodies because of their secretive habits. Mudpuppies are slow and cautious, though they can swim nearly as fast as a fish on occasion. In May females deposit 50-150 eggs on the underside of a flat rock. The female guards the eggs, and attends the larvae after they hatch.
About 25 years ago herpetologists realized that Mudpuppies are active, and feed actively, all winter, because they can be caught in baited minnowtraps in the winter but not in the summer. Mudpuppies were long famous for having more DNA in each cell than just about any other animal, and this winter activity has shown that the abundant DNA provides Mudpuppies with the array of temperature-adjusted enzymes they require to remain active in water from 0°-32° C. Mudpuppies are fairly common in the Ottawa River and its major tributaries, north to the Arctic Watershed, and the Canadian range extends through southern Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba.
Seedy Saturdays are seed-exchange and gardening events that pop up all across Canada in early spring. Maybe there is a Seedy Saturday near you! For a listing of events and more information visit Seeds of Diversity, linked here.
I didn’t really need any seeds. I placed a catalogue order that covers most of my needs. However, the weather was inviting for a drive, and I couldn’t miss the opportunity to see a wonderful phenomenon: hordes of excited gardeners coming together to talk and buy seeds and get ready for another year in the garden. Finding a parking spot was tough. At some displays, you had to wait your turn to belly up to the seed packets and seek out your favorites. Besides seeds, there were also vendors selling organic products and garden supplies.
Of course, I couldn’t pass up the chance to pick up a few packets of seeds myself. I get a kick out of growing an assortment of tomatoes and I got three to try this year. Captain Lucky, the packet says, is an indeterminate, potato-leaf, mid/late season tomato with green/yellow/pink medium to large fruit. Cool! Nebraska Wedding is a yellow/orange tomato that I have tried in the past and liked. Information online reports that: Nebraskan brides were given seeds of this tomato as a wedding gift. It was said to have been brought from MN by pioneers in the late 1800s via covered wagons. And it thrived in cold, windy Nebraska.” And finally, Ozark Sunrise, which is described as a beautiful anti-oxidant-loaded purple beauty.
I also got some Lemon cucumber seeds to try. They were recommended by Alain at Roche Fleurie Garden. You can check up on Lemon cucumbers here. All in all, it was a fun outing.
We have experienced some extremely cold temperatures this winter, but the garden has been well protected by a deep blanket of snow. There is so much snow that many of the seedheads that would otherwise be adding some decoration to the yard have long since been beaten down and buried, with only the strongest stems still erect. I took a yardstick out and measured the blanket to be about 28 inches deep on level, undrifted ground.
I know a number of persons of my generation who eschew Facebook, seeing it as too invasive, too…well, I don’t really know. While I don’t have anything like the number of “friends” my offspring can brag of, I do enjoy an interesting array of brief posts that flash by my page daily, sourced from I know not where. One that came my way this winter was a quote from the thirteenth-century Persian poet Rumi, presumably taken from The Soul Of Rumi: A New Collection of Ecstatic Poems as translated by Coleman Barks.
And don’t think the garden loses its ecstasy in winter. It’s quiet, but the roots are down there riotous.
How perfect is that? Now, whenever I pass by the garden I think of the riotous roots, preparing for spring.