Archive for June, 2013


White-faced Meadowhawk (Sympetrum obtrusum) on May Night Salvia (Salvia nemorosa ‘Mainacht’)

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The miracle of spring never grows old or loses its wonder. Just a few short months ago, our yard was bleak and empty. By the end of June, the garden is unrecognizable as that same blank canvas.


The queen of the June garden is surely the giant fleeceflower (Persicaria polymorpha) A hardy perennial, it dies back to the ground each year, but by the end of June, its sturdy, plume-topped stalks stand over seven feet tall. What a marvel.


Another wonder of the early summer garden is the Giant Sea Kale (Crambe cordifolia), which produces huge airy sprays of dainty, sweetly scented flowers that are adored by pollinators. This plant is sometimes compared to baby’s-breath on steroids.


The development of a path through the east border has been one of this year’s projects. A spiral juniper marks the entrance to the path.


The path is lined with young perennials that will make a colourful display as they fill in. The bright red spots are the flowers of a little rose, Oso Easy Cherry Pie. I don’t have many roses as I am unprepared to fuss with temperamental plants that need special attention. The Oso Easy series are reputed to be carefree, and I have been pleased with Cherry Pie so far.


Here’s another new addition, Campanula ‘Sarastro’, a handsome hybrid bellflower.


The silvery stems and white flowers of Lychnis coronaria ‘Rose Blush’ are very graceful. Some of the flowers do have a light pink blush, as suggested by the name, but many appear pure white. Still pretty.


These little daisy-like flowers belong to feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium).


The hostas are slow to get underway in the spring but are reaching their full stature.


Another shady walk is watched over by St. Francis of the bird feeder.


Geranium ‘Karmina’ joined the garden late last summer and has performed well this spring.


Clematis ‘Piilu’ (Little Duckling) tumbles over an old stump.


This Serbian Bellflower (Campanula poscharskyana ‘Blue Waterfall’) sits in a puddle of its own blue blooms that spray over the ground.


Another new project this year is this shady path through the east border. Its construction was preceded by a whole lot of weed and grass removal, admirably completed by RailGuy.


The purple flowers of the reliable catmint Nepeta x faassenii ‘Six Hills Giant’ contrast nicely with the yellow of Lysimachia punctata ‘Golden Alexander’.


The rosy blooms of Knautia macedonica are waiting for the thistle-like flowers of Echinops bannaticus ‘Star Frost’ to catch up.


That’s a little sampling of the late June garden. I leave you with this picture of Joe Crow watching over the west border.


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Pink Peony

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Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes)

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Last year, RailGuy made an exciting discovery. While walking the dog in our forest, he noticed a patch of orchids, pink lady-slippers (Cypripedium acaule). Our woodland is not too floriferous generally, so it was a pretty cool find.

Worldwide, there are about 50 Cypripedium species, of which 5 are commonly found in northeastern United States and Canada. Of these, C. acaule is one of the most common, along with the yellow lady-slipper (C. parviflorum). It differs from other such orchids in a number of ways. While most lady-slippers prefer moist or boggy ground, C. acaule will grow in dry, acidic soil, especially under pine or hemlock trees. Other Cypripediums flower on leaf-bearing stems, while C acaule produces two broad leaves at ground level and a leafless flower stalk.

The flower is formed from three petals. One of the petals is greatly modified to form the pouch, or labellum, while the other two petals are narrow and twisted, one on each side of the labellum. The resemblance to slippers is easier to see in the yellow lady-slipper, which has a rounded opening at the top of the labellum. Pink lady-slippers have a different arrangement. Insects, usually bumblebees, must push through a slit that runs down the front of the labellum.

The flowers have long been compared to shoes, even across cultures. The genus name, Cypripedium comes from the Greek cypris (the island of Cyprus) and pedilon, meaning shoe. The lady-slipper is named for Aphrodite, who is said to have sprung from the sea near Cyprus. Cypripedium is thus “the shoe of the Cyprian’.

An Ojibway legend is the source of another common name, moccasin flower. The tale tells of a young maiden who ran a long distance to obtain medicine to save her people. As her moccasins were shredded, her torn feet left droplets of blood on the ground. Each droplet gave rise to a lady-slipper orchid.

Woodland wildflowers across the Northeast are sliding into decline. One factor is an over-browsing deer population that has arisen since humans eliminated most of their predators. Another factor is the introduction of non-native earthworms, spread, for example, by fishermen discarding leftover bait worms. The worms disrupt the natural leaf mulch blanketing the forest and protecting flowers.


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Drizzly Day

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We have been experiencing some cool, rainy weather lately. The garden can be very attractive on a drizzly day, with plant leaves dotted with sparkling raindrops. Here’s a look at a few plants as they enjoy a misting of rain.




Daylily leaves


Barberry (Berberis thunbergii ‘Gentry’)


Hosta ‘August Moon’


Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla mollis)


Ornamental Rhubarb (Rheum palmatum var. tanguticum)


Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum ‘Crimson Queen’)


Hosta ‘Krossa Regal’


Ligularia dentata ‘Desdemona’


Ravenswing (Anthriscus sylvestris)


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Since Europeans first arrived in North America, the history of Canada has been one of exploitation and greed. Beavers were among the first victims of a ruthless no-holds-barred attack on the natural world. Beavers were hunted to the edge of extinction, with beavers completely extirpated from many regions. Fortunately for beavers, the craze for felted beaver-pelt hats fell out of fashion in Europe just in time to save them. Beavers have been able to stage a comeback. Fortunately for us, too, as beavers are a keystone species whose constructions are essential to providing vital habitat for many other species.

Beavers build wetlands. We, on the other hand, recklessly destroy them. In Ontario, over 70 per cent of southern Ontario’s large inland wetlands (over 90% in some regions) have been lost, drained or converted to other land uses, and this loss continues at an alarming rate.

Nothing much has changed in Canada since the early days of European colonization. Canadians don’t respect their land. Canada has one of the worst environmental records in the developed world. Consider this passage from Dr. David R. Boyd:

That Canada has become an international laggard in environmental policy and practice is now an incontrovertible fact. In 2009, the Conference Board of Canada ranked Canada 15th out of 17 wealthy industrialized nations on environmental performance. In 2010, researchers at Simon Fraser University ranked Canada 24th out of 25 OECD nations on environmental performance.

Yale and Columbia ranked Canada 37th in their 2012 Environmental Performance Index, far behind green leaders such as Sweden, Norway, and Costa Rica, and trailing major industrial economies including Germany, France, Japan, and Brazil. Worse yet, our performance is deteriorating, as we rank 52nd in terms of progress over the 2000-2010 period. Even Prime Minister Harper has candidly admitted, “Canada’s environmental performance is, by most measures, the worst in the developed world. We’ve got big problems.”

You can read the full account linked here: Little Green Lies: Prime Minister Harper and Canada’s Environment.

Things have only gotten worse since the Harper Conservatives came to power. Through a series of omnibus bills (C-38, C-45) the Conservatives have removed what little protection once existed. The goal is to allow industry, especially Big Oil, full and unencumbered access to all and any resources they fancy. Canada has effectively become a subsidiary of TransCanada and Embridge and the oil companies they serve as cronyism and monopoly capitalism are given free rein.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, we now have the Ontario Liberals following the Conservative lead. Ontario’s Endangered Species Act is being rewritten and you can bet that what the government euphemistically terms ‘streamlining’ isn’t being done for the benefit of any species but humans. You can read more at the Sierra Club Canada website, linked here.

When land isn’t protected, when vital habitat is destroyed, endangered species have nowhere to go. Extinction is forever.

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Ontario native plants

In recent years, interest in native plants has grown among gardeners, and there has been a corresponding rise in the availability of plants that were once hard to find. Even ephemeral parking lot nurseries feature racks of native plants from columbine to jack-in-the-pulpits. What a boon for those wishing to develop native gardens.

On their Wildlife Friendly Gardening website, linked here, the Canadian Wildlife Federation makes these points and more:

Regionally native plants are those that have grown wild in your area for many centuries. They have co-evolved with, and are therefore adapted to, the local environment and wildlife. Though many of today’s popular garden plants are imported, native plants are making a comeback for a host of good reasons:

Native plants require less maintenance. When planted in a spot that mimics their natural habitat – in terms of lighting, soil or moisture, they typically thrive with less or no need for fertilizer and watering than other plants.

Native plants are less susceptible to disease and pests, having co-evolved with their local environment.

Regionally native plants provide valuable food sources and shelter for the wildlife around them. Many domestic flowers have been bred for showiness and may have lost much of their nectar and pollen producing capacity.

Some wildlife species are entirely dependent on the availability of certain native plants. By choosing plants native to your region you help your local wildlife thrive, let alone survive.

When I visited this garden centre, I was surprised to see that some of the local wildlife couldn’t wait for gardeners to take the plants home. An American Robin had constructed a nest right in the centre of the plants! Mom was very brave, and sat tight even as shoppers walked by the stand within a foot of her. Her mate made forays to the nest to bring her meals. From her neatly hidden nest, she watched me carefully as I took her photograph from a distance. Here she is.


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As I walked along the edge of the garden this morning, I glanced over to see how the rodgersias were doing (quite well), and a pattern caught my eye, a garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis). He/she was a fair size, close to 3 feet in length, but it was the expanded pattern between the stripes that made me look more closely.

Garter snakes are usually rather shy, happy to beat a hasty retreat as soon as they’re spotted. However, this individual was in no rush to move on, and indeed was very cooperative, waiting patiently while I retrieved my camera from the house and took a few photos. It appears that a meal had recently been ingested, perhaps one of the numerous toads that call the garden home, and the snake was loath to move on while it digested brunch.

It’s probably just fancy that suggests the snake is smiling a contented smile.


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