Archive for May, 2014


Each spring, the Montreal Botanical Garden hosts their Great Gardening Weekend. The highlight of the event, for many gardeners, I’m sure, is the plant sale. Both plants from MBG growers and from area nurseries are available. Somehow, we’ve always missed this weekend in the past, but on Friday we finally made it out to Montreal.


We arrived about 11:00 AM. The first flush of anxious diehard gardeners who stormed the gates at opening time was done, and the lazier afternoon gardeners hadn’t yet arrived, so it seemed like good timing. Many of the shoppers had children’s wagons or some sort of transport for their purchases. Note to self: Be better prepared next year! As it was, Railguy carried our purchases back to the car while I continued to shop.


Of course, a bonus to this sale is that you can enjoy the Botanical Gardens when you’re done shopping. We first ate lunch at the restaurant, which has the rather unimaginative but accurate name of Botanical Garden Restaurant. Then me moseyed out into the gardens themselves. At this time of year, the tulips are a highlight.


While the perennial beds are just getting started, the flowering trees are spectacular.


Likewise, the vegetable gardens are just being planted, but how about this patterned plot? That’s lettuce!


We didn’t try to cover the entire grounds but just visited a few of the gardens. Here is the Vertical Crevice Garden. Crevice gardens originated in England. This one was planned by the Czech designer Zdenek Zvolanek. It features flat stones stacked vertically on their edges to simulate the open face of a stratified, upthrust rock wall. The alpine plants growing throughout the garden are natives of North America, Europe and Asia.



In the Lilac Meadow, the lilacs are just coming into full bloom. We tried out the Muskoka chairs (or Adirondack chairs, depending on what part of the world you’re from). They were very comfortable, and it was pleasant sitting there, in spite of the whine of lawnmowers and other machinery in the distance. The chairs seemed to be new. The scent of cedar overwhelmed that of the lilacs!


You can sit down by the little lake, too. We watched the swallows dip and weave.


It’s not quite peony season yet, but there were some gorgeous irises blooming. This one is the miniature dwarf bearded iris ‘Ditton Purple’.


We made our way over to the shade garden. Many woodland flowers take advantage of the sunlight available before the trees leaf out and bloom in the spring.


Then we headed home, hoping to beat rush hour traffic out of Montreal, though it always seems to be congested. Here’s my plant bonanza. I spent the weekend getting them tucked safely into the ground.


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Spring Evening, Tree

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I always enjoy seeing all the various spring-blooming bulbs in the garden, the bright crocuses, the cheerful daffodils, the true-blue scilla. But it’s the tulips that steal my heart. I just love their gorgeous rich colours, with flowers held high on graceful stems. Tulips are especially beautiful when they are catching the sun. They positively glow. Here are a few photos of the tulips lighting up the garden right now.







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Three Friends on a Rainy Day

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Epimediums are lovely, airy plants that give the impression of fragility. Not so. Epimediums are tough little plants that can take a nasty winter and bounce back in the spring with a flourish of dainty flowers. There are many epimedium cultivars available to home gardeners. I have three varieties. Pictured above is Epimedium x versicolor ‘Sulphureum’.


It takes its name from its yellow flowers, which look a bit like tiny daffodils. The way the flowers dangle from the arching stems reminds me a bit of fushia’s pink dancers.


The resemblance is more notable in my other two plants. The taller of the two is Epimedium x rubrum, which reaches about a foot and a half in height.


Rubrum features sprays of pretty pink and white flowers, while to its left is Epimedium grandiflorum ‘Red Beauty’, with darker rose flowers. Epimediums enjoy a partly shaded location in the garden.


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Wiregrass Czarina, 24-years young

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Spring Peeper

Spring Peeper

Spring Peeper

Spring Peeper

Would you guess that this tiny frog makes a huge noise? Once the Wood frogs and Chorus frogs have sung the first verse of the spring song, the Spring Peepers (Pseudacris crucifer) and American Toads (Bufo americanus) take over. I strolled down to our wet spot behind the barn the other evening to make this recording of peeps and trills. The peeps are the song, of course, of the Spring Peepers, while the extended trills are American Toads.

Beautiful, an annual miracle. Near the end of the recording, you can hear a flock of Canada Geese passing overhead. At the beginning and end of the recording are a few notes of birdsong. Seabrooke, with her more attuned ear, informs me that the former is a Song Sparrow, and the latter is a Common Yellowthroat. Thanks to Seabrooke for the photos of Peepers and Toads.

For more on Spring Peepers, follow this link to Seabrooke’s post This ones for my peeps.

For more on American Toads, follow this link to Warts and all.


American Toad

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Once frost kills the grass in the autumn and snow arrives, the horses aren’t interested in wandering from their home paddock. The gates to the larger fields are closed, and not reopened until the fields have a chance to dry out and grass begins to grow. Lately, Czarina and the donkeys have been standing longingly by the gate, and I opened up one of the fields for them this week. At the time, the donkeys were busy observing RailGuy as he tidied up around a bird house.


Czarina noticed the open gate right away. She went and stood just inside the field and looked back for her donkeys. “Guys! What’s keeping you? Come on!”


Soon the donkeys caught up with her and the grand celebratory gallop began.


They took off through the little copse of trees and charged into the open field.


They galloped to! They galloped fro!


Round and round they go!


Finally, satisfied that they had expressed their joie de vivre, their celebration of spring, they settled down to taste the new grass. Delicious!


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Sunday Snapshot: Osprey



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At last the snow has all been washed away and the grass pathways of my garden walk are greening up nicely. The April showers have carried over into May, but when the sun came out in the afternoon, I took a walk around the yard to check out the action. It doesn’t look like a lot is happening, but on closer examination, there is plenty to see.


The spring bulbs are well underway. My favorites are the little scilla, such a gorgeous shade of blue.



The crocuses have nearly finished blooming, while the daffodils are just starting.


The Pasque flowers didn’t quite make it for Easter, but are blooming now. That’s Pulsatilla vulgaris, above, and the hybrid Pulsatilla vulgaris ‘Pearl Bells’ below.


Last summer, I added half a dozen new peonies to the garden, so have been watching anxiously for their shoots. They’re all present and accounted for now, but most just have little red tips poking through the soil. A couple are way ahead of the other peonies. This is Paeonia lactiflora ‘Starlight’ (A.P. Saunders 1949, Herbaceous Hybrid, Single, Cream, 26″ Early). You can see the flower buds forming.


Another early peony is the Fernleaf Peony (Paeonia tenuifolia), which features a display of charming mopheads.


The hellebores are all blooming. This is Helleborus niger. Many hellebore flowers face downward, and you have to lift the blooms to see their pretty faces. Some of the newer hybrids have upward-facing flowers.


And here is Helleborus ‘Peppermint Ruffles’. At least, that’s according to its tag, but the flowers don’t have as much burgundy as I was expecting, thus casting doubt on this attribution. Still pretty, though.


The shoots of spring-blooming Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spectabilis) are well started.


Here’s Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense). It always amazes me that seemingly-fragile leaves can push through a thick layer of leaves and mulch.


This Jacob’s Ladder (Polemonium reptans ‘Stairway to Heaven) is so attractive, it doesn’t need flowers to show off. It’s a selection of Bill Cullina of The New England Wild Flower Society.


All of the geraniums are looking lush, though they won’t flower for a while yet. This one is Geranium macrorhizum ‘Ingwersen’s Variety’.


The bergenias are also early starters. This one is Bergenia ‘Eden’s Dark Margin’. You can see the cluster of purple-pink flowers forming at the heart of the leaves.


And finally, here are some daylily (Hemerocallis) clumps. Although they won’t bloom until July, dayliles get off to a gratifyingly early start, in contrast to hostas, which make you wait for their first shoots. We had a pleasant, sunny day earlier in the week and I spent quite a bit of it resettling these daylilies. Over the years, their roots had been invaded by grass, and lupins and even a few hollyhocks had self-seeded themselves in the middle of clumps. The only way to effectively remove the invaders is to lift the whole clump and dig them out. Fortunately, dayliles are hardy plants,and not offended by this rough handling.


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