Archive for the ‘Plant’ Category
On Friday, April 12th, a storm moved through, bringing rain and freezing rain and sleet and snow, an altogether miserable day. Just a few days later, on the 15th, we enjoyed a truly beautiful spring day. The sun shone and the temperature rose into the 70s F. Fickle April! Seabrooke and I decided it was a perfect day to hunt for the first flowers of spring: skunk cabbage (symplocarpus foetidus).
We headed out to a moist woodland near here, and sure enough, there they were! Skunk cabbage flowers early in the spring, often while there is still snow on the ground, and the flowers appear before the leaves. Once the big green mounds of leaves appear, skunk cabbage is quite conspicuous. But the flowers are not as easy to spot from the roadside. Can you see them on the forest floor, above?
Indeed, you might not even recognize these as flowers. The reddish-purple spathes have a sculptural appearance. The hoodlike spathe wraps around the flower-bearing spadix. The spadix is covered with 50 to 100 tiny flowers that form a spiral pattern over the spadix.
If you carefully sniff skunk cabbage, you might wonder what the source of its name might be because there is little scent. It is only when the plant is bruised or damaged that the odor for which it is named is released.
Because they flower so early in the spring, there aren’t usually a lot of pollinators around. Amazingly, the spadix is capable of producing heat through a method of respiration, and the temperature inside the spathe can be warm enough for early-season pollinators to take refuge and warm themselves before continuing on to another plant.
While we admired the skunk cabbage, we were serenaded by a Western Chorus frog (Psuedacris triseriata). We also heard Spring Peepers and Wood Frogs. You can listen to the chorus frog as Seabrooke walks through the skunk cabbage woods via this Youtube link:
Posted in Garden, Plant, tagged Black Pineapple, Emerald Evergreen, Indian Moon, Indigo Rose tomatoes, Michael Pollan tomatoes, Silvery Fir Tree, starting seeds, Sub-Arctic Plenty, tomato seeds on March 19, 2013 | Leave a Comment »
This morning, when I awoke, a robin was sitting on the branches of the tree outside the window. He seemed to be imploring me to do something about the weather. A snow storm moved in during the night, and big fat flakes were still coming down. Unfortunately, there was nothing more I could do than assure him Spring really is on its way.
Today, I finally got my tomatoes started. Planting tomato seeds during a snow storm seems like an act of faith and hope. Such tiny seeds! It never fails to amaze me that in just a few short months, these little sparks of life will be bringing forth fruit.
This year, I am starting 7 varieties. I was very pleased with Sub Arctic Plenty last year (reviewed here) and will grow them again this season. I picked up a fresh pack of McKenzie seeds at my local Canadian Tire store.
One of the new varieties I’m trying is Indigo Rose. This is a new tomato that was developed at Oregon State University. The fruits are said to be a dark plum purple-black. I got the seeds by mail order from tradewindsfruitstore.com, in California.
For an orange tomato, I chose Indian Moon. The fruit are described as ripening from green through yellow to bright orange, into sweet, meaty, 5 to 7 oz globes. My seeds came from saltspringseeds.com, on Salt Spring Island in British Columbia. Fiddlegirl added them to her order for me, along with Michael Pollan.
Michael Pollan! Ha! Who wouldn’t want Michael Pollan in their garden? As soon as I saw the listing, I knew I had to try these. A novelty tomato, the fruits are described as striking green and yellow-gold 3 inch pear-shaped tomatoes.
Fiddlegirl also shared with me some seeds for Silvery Fir Tree tomatoes, which she got from wildsomegardens.ca in Warsaw, Ontario. These plants are noted for their unusual, decorative leaves. The tomatoes are an early, bright red variety.
Rounding out my planting for this year are two varieties that I tried last year and felt deserved a second chance (see the review, linked above). I picked up my Black Pineapple seeds from Greta’s Organic Gardens (www.seeds-organic.com) in Ottawa last year. My Emerald Evergreen seeds are from Terra Edibles (www.terraedibles.ca) in Foxboro, Ontario.
Can’t wait for those beautiful, fresh tomatoes! I’ve taken the first step.
PS: I don’t know the origin of my funny intro photo. It just showed up on my Facebook feed, source unknown.
Posted in Garden, Plant, tagged climate change, extreme weather, flowering tobacco, Kingsey Falls Quebec, nicotiana, nicotiana sylvestris, Parc Marie-Victorin, record temperature, seed catalogues, Thompson and Morgan seed, winter blizzard on February 9, 2013 | 2 Comments »
What a rollercoaster ride this winter has been! We’ve had plenty of snow and strings of extremely cold days punctuated by record-breaking thaws. On Wednesday, January 30th, the previous Ottawa record of 5.6 degrees C was shattered when the temperature climbed to 11.6 C. Today, just over a week later, a major snowstorm has been sweeping through. The thaw had reduced our snow cover to a few inches. The photo above was taken in the morning as the storm was settling in for the day. By evening, we had a fresh mantle of snow nearly a foot deep.
It’s a taste of the winter weather extremes we can expect as climate change continues to take hold. There’s a good article on the role of climate change on winter weather linked here.
Fortunately, RailGuy and I didn’t have to travel anywhere today, and, except for periodic episodes of snowshovelling, spent a pleasant day indoors by the fire. It was an ideal day for a little winter gardening, browsing through all those delicious seed catalogues that arrived over the last month or so and imagining the return of the green world. It’s time to get seed orders placed.
One of the plants that has caught my eye when we have visited other gardens over the past few years is a flowering tobacco variety, Nicotiana sylvestris. It’s the white-flowered plant in the foreground of the border pictured below. This planting was featured at Parc Marie-Victorin in Kingsey Falls, Quebec, which I wrote about here.
Nicotianas (pronounced nih-koe-shee-AY-nah according to Fine Gardening magazine) are fragrant annuals suitable for full sun to partly shaded areas of the garden. Smaller varieties are usually available at most places that carry bedding plants in the spring, but I have never come across this larger member of the family, Nicotiana sylvestris. Consequently, I decided to try growing my own from seed this year, and have ordered a packet from Thompson & Morgan. After extensive perusal of the catalogue, I settled on Amaranthus caudatus ‘Fat Spike’ and a few other choice varieties to round out my order. I’ve dispatched my order and now I can sit back and dream of a perfect garden…without having to lift a finger. At least for now.
Posted in Local, Plant, Trees, tagged Carya ovata, Cladina rangiferina, Corydalis sempervirens, frontenac arch trail, gananoque trail, Polypodium virginianam, reindeer lichen, Rock Dunder, rock dunder trail, rock harlequin, rock polypody, Shagbark Hickory on October 15, 2012 | 1 Comment »
We have hiked out to the Rock Dunder lookout several times and promised ourselves to get back in the autumn to view the fall colours from this spectacular platform. A combination of bad weather and competing events postponed our return visit until this weekend. With the autumn leaves now rapidly giving way to the forces of rain and wind, we made a hike a priority and revisited the Rock Dunder trail last Friday.
It was interesting to visit the rocky woodland in a different season. The reindeer lichen (Cladina rangiferina), which was shrivelled and dried up in the summer, is now springing back to life in brilliant silver patches.
With less vegetation attracting attention, the trees themselves were more conspicuous. I hadn’t noticed this Shagbark Hickory (Carya ovata) on previous hikes.
The green fronds of Rock Polypody ferns (Polypodium virginianam) brighten rocky surfaces.
Patches of Pale Corydalis (Corydalis sempervirens), also known as Rock Harlequin, were growing amongst the lichens and mosses. This dainty looking plant is actually very tough. It produces pretty, tubular pink and yellow flowers held on long stems across the summer.
The effects of our hot, dry summer could be read in the number of dried out oak seedlings and brown juniper shrubs along the trail. Those junipers that survived the summer were now thriving after recent rains.
I noticed this patch of silk in a half-curled leaf on the trail. It’s probably a hiding place constructed by a spider.
Finally, we reached our destination, the Rock Dunder lookout, and were rewarded with a beautiful view. It was a cool day, so cool that we spotted a few snow flakes, and the open rock surface was windy, but we stopped long enough for a quick lunch and a hot cup of coffee. Here are a few photos taken from the lookout. Rock Dunder looks out over the northeast arm of Whitefish Lake, north of Gananoque, Ontario.
Posted in Environmental, Local, Plant, Trees, tagged arisaema triphyllum, Arnprior, asarum canadense, asplenium rhizophyllum, bidens cernua, boardwalk, calciphiles, calcium hydroxide, Charles Macnamara, Eastern hemlock, Goodwin's Bay, Jack in the pulpit, lime kiln, Macnamara Field Naturalists' Club, Macnamara Nature Trail, nodding bur-marigold, rock lichen, rock tripe, sap wells, springtails, tree burl, tree burr, walking fern, whitewash, wild ginger, yellow-bellied sapsuckers on October 4, 2012 | 4 Comments »
A couple of weeks ago, RailGuy and I headed up to Arnprior, north and west of Ottawa, to hike the Macnamara Nature Trail. The trailhead is just outside downtown Arnprior, in an industrial area. The trail runs in part through the property of Nylene Canada Inc. At the trailhead, you can pick up a helpful guide. It highlights 19 stops along the trail with information about the natural and human history relevant to each location.
The four kilometre long trail (five if you include the optional sidetrail to the marsh lookout) is well-marked and nicely maintained, with benches thoughtfully placed at the top of a few modestly demanding climbs. Near the trailhead, there was quite a bit of traffic and commercial noise, but we weren’t far along the trail before the sounds of industry fell away and the quiet of the forest prevailed. Comprised mostly of deciduous trees, the woodland is open and pretty.
A section of the trail travels through the upper reaches of the wetland and features a sturdy boardwalk. At the edge of the boardwalk, we spotted the red berries of Jack-in-the-Pulpits (Arisaema triphyllum). You can readily see the source of its scientific name, three-leaves, triphyllum.
The remains of an old lime kiln provide evidence of early industrial activity in the forest. The kiln was built by the McLachlin Lumber Company in the mid-to-late 19th century. The rocky ground, part of the Canadian Shield, is mainly marble and limestone. The igloo-like kiln was stocked with firewood and used to heat broken chunks of rock. When water was added to the burnt rock, it produced slaked lime (Calcium hydroxide), a product used as mortar in brickwork or as paint (whitewash).
Not far from the lime kiln remains, a set of stairs allows hikers to get a close-up look at the rock face.
There are a few points of interest here. In the little den formed by the facets of rock, there are piles of oval droppings. They are evidence that the den has been popular with porcupines over many years.
But the main attraction is the colony of rare Walking Ferns (Asplenium rhizophyllum). Their name is derived from the manner in which they reproduce. Whenever the long, pointed tip of a leaf-like frond touches down, a new frond can sprout up. A parent plant can thus create several generations of fronds via vegetative reproduction as it ‘steps’ across the rock. Walking Ferns are calciphiles, lovers of calcium-rich soils. Walking Ferns can be found in shady spots on limestone ledges and in limey forest places.
The rock also features a foliose lichen, perhaps an Umbilicaria species, known as Rock Tripe.
Back on the main trail, I notice this burl, or burr, high up on a tree. It looked for all the world like a small animal with its limbs wrapped around the tree. Burls are tree growth in which the grain has grown in a deformed manner. They are the result of some sort of stress suffered by the tree, perhaps from an injury, virus or fungus.
We followed the sidetrail to the marsh lookout. To the east, the wetland is more marshy, while to the west, it is swampy, with trees growing into the wet area. Off in the distance, you can just make out Goodwin’s Bay and the Ottawa River. The marsh floods in the spring when the Ottawa River rises, carrying a flush of nutrients into the wetland.
There were splashes of bright yellow flowers sprinkled through the wetland, Nodding Bur-Marigolds (Bidens cernua).
There was quite a bit of diversity in the forest groundcover. Some areas of the forest floor were dressed in a variety of ferns, while other regions featured a groundcover of club moss. One section of the trail was bordered by the heart-shaped leaves of Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense).
When we came to a stand of Eastern Hemlock trees, we looked for the work of Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers. We had a family of sapsuckers nest in a large, old maple tree this summer, and I often saw them flitting about the garden, where their preferred tree to tap was a little locust. I didn’t know that sapsuckers are partial to hemlock trees until I read it in the guide. Sure enough, the neat rows of sap wells that the sapsuckers drill were readily apparent.
After passing through the hemlock grove, we continued back to the parking lot. These are just some of the highlights of our hike. The Macnamara Nature Trail was named after Charles Macnamara (1870-1944), a naturalist and photographer who loved these woodlands. A gifted amateur, he identified six species of springtails (Collembolans), and one species is named after him. The trail is a wonderful memorial to Macnamara. The guide book, provided by the Macnamara Field Naturalists’ Club, really enhances visitor understanding and enlivens the hike. This was one of our favorite hiking trails, and it is well worth visiting.
Posted in Garden, Plant, tagged Agastache black adder, Anemone hupehensis 'Pink Saucer', angelica gigas, Artemisia stelleriana 'Silver Brocade', Aster dumosus 'Pink Bouquet', bluebeard, Calamintha nepeta 'Blue Cloud', Caryopteris x clandonensis 'Longwood Blue', cleome, echinacea Green Jewel, Helianthus 'Lemon Queen', lemon queen sunflower, ornamental grasses, Panicum virgatum 'Shenandoah', pennisetum alopecuroides piglet, pennisetum alopecuroides redhead, Piglet fountain grass, Pink Bouquet aster, Rainbow Knockout Rosa 'Radcor', redhead fountain grass, shenandoah switchgrass, silver brocade artemisia on September 15, 2012 | 5 Comments »
As we move into fall, the garden begins to take on an overripe, languid feel, an aging beauty going to seed, in this case, quite literally. However, it is still a beautiful place to stroll and take in the sights.
Lemon Queen sunflower (Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’) dominates the central island. I didn’t get around to staking the Queen earlier in the season, and now she is so well-attended by bumblebees, I am content to let her tumble out over her lesser neighbours.
The ornamental grasses are taking on a starring role in the border as their seedheads mature.
My favorite is probably Redhead Fountaingrass (Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Redhead’), which has already been magnificent for weeks.
Its little cousin Piglet (Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Piglet’) has a softer look, with gently arching stems.
In addition to airy seedheads, the blades of switchgrass add colour interest. Here is Shenandoah (Panicum virgatum ‘Shenandoah’) touched with scarlet.
The various ligularia species have been brightening shady corners since midsummer. Here is Desdemona (Ligularia dentata ‘Desdemona’).
Of course, fall is the season for asters. Here is Pink Bouquet (Aster dumosus ‘Pink Bouquet’) backed by Silver Brocade artemisia (Artemisia stelleriana ‘Silver Brocade’).
By autumn, the annuals have matured and are adding touches of brillant colour. The caryopteris, or bluebeard, is adding a pretty blue and the deep wine-cerise of Angelica is outstanding with phlox and sedum. Here is a selection of other garden highlights.
To visit other September gardens, please drop by May Dream’s Garden Bloggers’ Day roundup, linked here.
My sister and I maintain a tradition in which she gifts me an amaryllis for my birthday, just before Christmas every year. In the deep of winter, I can enjoy the gorgeous bloom just when some sign of new plant life is most needed! This year’s amaryllis is Orange Sovereign. I planted the bulb in its pot on January 3rd, and it is just beginning to bloom.
I was expecting the blooms to be a brilliant orange. To my surprise, the flowers are a pastel melon shade, very pretty. All four flowers should be open in a couple of days. The frosty snow scene framed by the window makes an excellent background for the tropical display.
Posted in Garden, Plant, tagged aconitum carmichaelii 'barker's variety', american winterberry, Anaphalis margaritacea, Astrantia major, chocolate joe pye, eupatorium rugosum chocolate, fall garden, grasses in fall, ilex verticillata, masterwort, miscnathus, Monkshood, pearly everlasting, pennisetum alopecuroides piglet, phlox paniculata sherbet cocktail, Piglet fountain grass on October 22, 2011 | 5 Comments »
Daylilies work well for me because I start to lose interest in the garden later in the season. I love that glorious burst of growth in the spring, the dazzling flowers of summer. By the end of August, I’m ready to move on to other activities.
I’m content to stroll about the garden and not lift a finger on its behalf. I never trim back my plants until spring. Many of them provide winter interest, with interesting seed pods or twisty stems.
I can further justify my autumnal laziness with the fact that the seeds and leaf litter the garden offers will feed and protect a host of insects and birds over the freezing months ahead.
There are still a few flowers to be seen, such as a late-blooming head of masterwort (Astrantia major ‘Sunningdale Variegated‘), above.
And here is a bouquet of Pearly Everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea) tucked in amongst the lowest branches of the corkscrew hazel.
The chocolate Joe Pye (Eupatorium rugosum ‘Chocolate’) is just wrapping up its blooming season for the year.
A few heads of phlox are contributing a bit of colour. This is Phlox paniculata ‘Sherbet Cocktail’.
The last, the very last flower to bloom in my garden every year is this monkshood (Aconitum carmichaelii ‘Barker’s Variety’). The flowers are set off nicely by the new green coat that the house received this summer.
The bright berries of the aptly named American Winterberry (Ilex verticillata ) brighten a shady corner and make a contribution to the garden’s offerings for wildlife.
The grasses are the mainstay of the fall garden. This little cutie is Piglet Fountain Grass (Pennisetum Alopecuroides ‘Piglet’).
The plumes of this unnamed miscanthus species look fabulous when backlit by the sun. This is one of the tallest grasses in the garden, but two others surpass it. Both are new this year, and are only just opening their plumed heads now. Hopefully, next year they will fill out more and reach maturity a bit earlier in the season. You can make out Giant Maidengrass (Miscanthus gigantus) in the photo below, standing to the left of the sunlit plumes. Behind it is the tallest of the three, the native Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii).