Archive for August, 2013


The sunny yellow flowers of the cup plant (Silphium perfoliatum) look beautiful against a bright blue sky. The sky is the usual backdrop you see when admiring the flowers of this eastern North American native because they top long 8 foot tall stems!

The large leaves that climb the stalks are fused in pairs with the leaf opposite. They embrace the interesting square stalk, giving the impression of the plant stalk perforating the leaves, and form a little cup that captures rain water, thus giving the plant its common name.


I’ve been a bit negligent about providing support for the heavy stalks, and the stems have splayed out from the centre.


The result is a ring of sky-high yellow flowers that dip and swing in a swaying circle.


When I walk by the circle of tall flowers, I am always reminded of a painting by Matisse titled Dance. (Photo Wikipedia)


Recently, while I was sitting in the garden reading, I was tickled to spot this goldfinch taking advantage of the water-capturing quality of the leaves that gives the plant its name. The photo is a bit soft-focus because it was shot through screening.


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I enjoy the spring garden. Everything is shiny and green after the dull months of winter, but beyond that, everything is neat and tidy and in its place, all the little plants just getting started. By mid-August, all that’s past. Now the baby plants are like so many gloriously exuberant teenagers, wild and rambling and definitely no longer under their gardener-mother’s thumb. In the tumble of plants, phlox makes a brilliant statement.


Several of my most vibrant phlox plants predate my arrival as head gardener, and have been keeping company with the ‘Dart’s Dash’ rugosa roses for years. I especially like this standout pink.


This bright purple is very eye-catching as well. It looks good with the yellow spikes of verbascum nigrum.


Its neighbour is the much more sedately coloured Sherbet Cocktail (Phlox paniculata ‘Sherbet Cocktail’).


Pictured above is Norah Leigh (Phlox paniculata ‘Norah Leigh’), which is actually better known for its variegated leaves than its pink and white flowers.


And this is Bright Eyes (Phlox paniculata ‘Bright Eyes’), blooming with the daylily ‘Dallas Star’, just ending its season, and Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatorium ‘Phantom’), just coming into bloom.

Finally, here is an unknown mauve phlox, blooming with purple liatris (Liatris spicata) and Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldstrum’).

Phlox is prone to powdery mildew, which disfigures the leaves with ugly white blotches. I never worry about such trivia. The surrounding plants mostly hide the blotchy leaves, and the plants mostly survive from year to year. It all works out.


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Woodland Pond

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Here’s our dog Pookie, chilling on the porch on a hot summer afternoon. Being a corgi, she’s built close to the ground, and is only about a foot tall. She’s not what you would call a little dog, not like a teacup yorkie or a handbag chihuahua. She has a sturdy round big dog body. It’s just that it’s mounted on very short legs. When it comes to snoozing, those short legs are a real advantage. She can lie on her back quite comfortably without her legs dangling awkwardly in the air. And she often does.


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All in a Row Madagascar

On Monday, RailGuy and I went to see the Mosaicultures Internationales show at the Montreal Botanical Garden. This competition takes place every three years in a different city. This year’s theme for the Montreal show is Land of Hope, emphasizing the importance of protecting the biodiversity of our planet.

We had a wonderful day. The weather was perfect for a walk around the garden. The fifty or so works are spaced along a 2.2 kilometer circuit of the grounds, a very pleasant walk, and the displays were spectacular. Photographs just don’t capture the impressive scale of the figures or the infinite detail afforded by the variety of plants making up the sculptures, but I’ll share some of our favorites here.

The most incredible entry was the amazing Bird Tree. You can get an idea of how gigantic the tree is by the size of the people walking around it. If you look closely, there is a gardener working at the base of the tree.


The Bird Tree Canada

The birds represented a variety of species, readily identifiable.


The Man Who Planted Trees was surrounded by a flock of sheep, galloping horses, and his shaggy dog.


The Man Who Planted Trees Canada.



I loved the Chinese entry of a girl who loved cranes.


A True Story! China


And here is Mother Earth, looking serene, with wild animals, a waterfall, and horses splashing through water.


Mother Earth Canada



Frogs graced the water garden.


Fragile Frogs! United States

This chameleon blended in well with his surroundings!


Disappearing Into Nature Yemen

This is a representation of the Uffington White Horse in England.


Uffington White Horse England

This beekeeper made me think of Natalie!


The Insects’ Garden Belgium

We finished off the day with a visit to my favorite Tiger Eye Sumac tree and a cold one on the patio, which you can see at the left of the photo.


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Daylilies don’t attract many pollinators, but once in a while, a little frog will shelter in a daylily bloom. I came across this little critter on Saturday, when I was making the rounds, deadheading finished blooms. It’s a Spring Peeper (Pseudacris crucifer). You can just make out the distinctive X marking on its back that is the source of its scientific name, crucifer: One who bears a cross. It’s tucked into a flower of the daylily Rainbow Eyes.


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Sunday Snapshot: Red Zinnia


Red Zinnia

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Every tree

Every Tree
carries the snow with its own grace
bends to the breeze with its own sway
etches the clouds with its own stroke
bows to the ice with its own resolve
rights its trunk clenched by its own roots
drenches itself in its own desire
and creates its own spring.

Lois Levin Roisman

(found in Toms River by Dan Fagin)

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Daylilies are like eye candy for humans, but they’re not a big draw for pollinators, in spite of the impression this skipper resting on Broken Heart might give. For bugs, I have other plants. A favorite of both me and the insects is coneflower, or echinacea.


Echinacea mixes well with daylilies and other perennials and is a big draw for butterflies. Two nice varieties for mixing with other plants are Ruby Star and Magnus. They’ve both been reliable bloomers in my garden. In the photo above, that’s Ruby Star near the centre, and Magnus on the far left.


Here’s another shot of Ruby Star mingling with daylilies. The yellow flowers are Heliopsis helianthoides ‘Summer Nights’. Ruby Star stands about 40 inches tall.

Magnus is very similar, perhaps a few inches shorter, and has reddish stems. Here’s Magnus blooming with the plumes of Giant Fleeceflower (Persicaria polymorpha) and a phlox variety in the background. The thistle-like flowers are Echinops bannaticus ‘Star Frost’. To the right is the switchgrass Panicum virgatum ‘Shenandoah’.


For a shorter coneflower, Prairie Splendor is an excellent choice. This clump, being watched over by Charlie Bird (Jake the Rake?) stands about 24 inches tall.


Close to Prairie Splendor is a double echinacea, Pink Double Delight. It’s been in the garden for a few years and has done well. Like its neighbour, it is about two feet tall. Here is a Viceroy butterfly (Limenitis archippus) enjoying the flowers.


I’ve had fun growing some of the new echinacea hybrids that have arrived on the market in the last few years. They feature some unusual non-traditional colours and many have pompom or mophead flowers. One of my favorites is Hot Papaya, which I’ve had for a few years.


New this summer was the orange Marmalade. I added it to the Red and Gold border.


Many ‘green’ flowers have only a slight hint of green. However, Green Jewel is quite emphatically green. I love the complexity of the pattern in the flower head.


This little white coneflower is Meringue. It’s a compact plant, about 18 inches tall.


Meringue was a favorite white until I met Milkshake. Milkshake is about twice as tall as Meringue, reaching 3 feet. I find that, from a distance, the yellow centres of the flowers give them the appearance of egg whites with the yolk in the middle! This flower has a White Admiral (Limenitis arthemis) butterfly visiting it.


Milkshake provides a backdrop for the pink flowers of Secret Romance, another favorite.


I’ll close with this picture of a rather battered Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) on Prairie Splendor.


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