Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Christmas Cactus

The wonderful magenta bloom
On schedule, my Christmas Cactus begins blooming just before Christmas -- every year.  The cactus is a cutting of my Grandmother's plant.  I've had the plant since 1979 in one or the other of its iterations.

You can see the buds that have formed.
This cactus had rounded leaves -- not the spiky leaves found so often on the market nowadays.  It sets buds in my 3-season room when the temperature gets cold and the number of daylight hours diminishes.  I'm not sure which triggers blooming -- maybe it's a combination of both temperature and light. Moving the plant to another location, changing the temperature too much, or overwatering will cause the buds to drop.

I used to put the plant outside for the summer until one year I forgot it and left it out until November!  Many of the leaves were frosted but the plant survived.

When the plant gets too big for its place in the sunroom, I take cuttings and start a new plant.  The existing plant is probably the 3rd or 4th cutting generation from the original plant.  I think of the Christmas Cactus as a bit of my Grandmother that lives on.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Gone Native

I've gone native!  Now when I plan for next year’s garden, my mind’s eye no longer drifts to a specimen from a faraway place or a new cultivar limited to only a few customers.  Instead, I dream of Joe-Pye-Weed and black-eyed Susans and the joy of another native spring ephemeral.  I plan bee houses and bug hotels.  I let my leaves and plant stalks stand, and I rejoice at the site of a dragonfly or a new bee.

My conversion didn’t come overnight.  It crept up on me gradually and was scarcely noticed.  It came from rereading Sara Stein and Rachel Carson and from the words of Douglas Tallamy and from listening to David Suzuki.  It came as I looked at my garden and yard, my local area, my city, through their eyes and realized what had been lost. My local ecosystem had been converted to asphalt plains and plants that didn’t belong. Alien plants, sidewalks, paved roads and shopping plazas covered all that once was native and natural. How had this happened? How many species had been lost? Was the original ecosystem forever gone?

At first I complained and lamented that governments and damned capitalists were allowing our natural resources to slip away.  The blame for the situation rested squarely on the shoulders of a populace that did not care.  Letters to an MP, snippy tweets and interruptions into casual conversations were my modus operandi.  I pointed out to all and sundry that others were ruining what was once the glory and abundance of the natural scene.

Soon, I said, there will be no space for wildlife at all.  The natural flora and fauna will be gone forever, I said.  And it’s all the fault of the non-thinking public, I said.  The public has allowed this to happen, I said.

And then, like a slap on the side of my head, I realized that I am the public.  What happens to the local ecosystem is up to me.  Now with clear eyes, I reviewed my garden.  I saw the expensive aliens, the must-have cultivars, and the collection of plants from wherever that I had insinuated into the piece of the environment that I controlled. I noted the lack of any habitat for critters and creatures, and I was ashamed.

So…. I am doing my best to restore a sense of place to my garden.  I am welcoming back the life that once belonged in this space.  I’ve gone native.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Fall Beauty

  Now that November is here, there are different things to see in the garden. Plants that boasted one colour in summer, now show another colour as they succumb to cold and frost.

 The big Sum and Substance hostas that flaunt their huge, chartreuse leaves all summer change yheir appeal as winter approaches.  How wonderful they look with its Fall colours.

 Too soon the leaves of the hosta will become entirely limp as they prepare to pass their nutrients into the soil for next year's growth. The leaves will lie limp on the ground releasing food for the soil as they lie under a cloak of snow. But for now they are in their autumnal gold stage.  The garden is beautiful all year long.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Fungus Amongus

lovely fungus on apple tree stump
Is if moss or lichen?
A wet summer and a wet fall are perfect for a luxurious growth of fungus and moss on trees and stones.

The stump of our old apple tree has an interesting fungus in two areas.  Pieces of this plate-like fungus will be great dried and varnished.  For now, I'll leave it on the stump and watch as it spreads. 

The moss or lichen on the Oakleaf Mountain Ash is a handsome addition to the tree.  It is almost all the way around the trunk now and on the lower limbs.  I wonder if the presence of the growth is a sign that the tree is in trouble?

The Oakleaf Mountain Ash has been a grand tree and has outlived it's predicted lifetime.  We've enjoyed the shape, the height, and the fall colour of the tree for many years and would hate to see it finished.  Wish the birds liked the berries, though.  The Mountain ash berries stick to the bottom of shoes and are tracked everywhere.

A wet summer and a wet fall bring treasures to our garden in the form of fungi, lichens and mosses.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Let Nature Play

Manicured gardens with lovely black mulch between all the plants is one end of the gardening continuum.  My garden is at the other.

I used to be a control freak, but now I eschew a garden completely under the control of a neat gardener. Age has mellowed me to the point that I see that Mother Nature always does it best.  Left to her own devices, she mixes colours and textures in glorious ways.  Take, for instance, the happenstance of combining Virginia Creeper with a wayward Morning Glory.  Incomparable.

Letting Nature do the gardening takes me back to my childhood when I wandered the woods and fields close to our family cottage.  Without the hand of man, all was at Nature's whim.  Now that I'm old and out of the rat race of modern life, I once again appreciate what Nature can do with little or no interference from me.

Let Nature play with your garden.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

October begins

Autumn Crocus
Here it is the beginning of October and no killing frost yet!  Some annuals are still bravely flowering, but falling leaves tell us that the end is near. The melon plants are totally done as are the tomatoes.

The leaves of the deciduous trees are wonderfully coloured this year: vibrant reds and brilliant yellows. One or two red leaves are showing on the Serviceberry.  Can't wait until it's in full colour!

The Miscanthus is blooming, and so are the Colchicums and Autumn Crocus.  You can't fool them.  They know when fall arrives, frost or no frost.  

Monday, September 29, 2014

Lovely Fungus Growth

Several years ago, we cut down our apple tree but left about 8 feet of the stump.  The stump is home to bugs and bees and holds our hummingbird feeder.  It is now beginning to decay.  Much of the bark is gone and look what we found at the base -- a great collection of fungi.  Note that the Solomon Seal has grown right through the top fungus.  Ah, nature does such neat things when we leave it alone!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Goldenrod and Bees

It's goldenrod time and the bees are busy collecting nectar and pollen from one of the last blooms of the season.

Goldenrod is an ubiquitous plant along roadsides this time of year. Goldenrod and New England aster often team up.  They are breathtaking together.

If you're planning to plant along a roadside, be careful that you don't inadvertently uproot a stand of goldenrod.

For many years, goldenrod was blamed for Fall hayfever, but now we know better.  The pollen of goldenrod is much too heavy to land up your nose.  It's ragweed, another fall bloomer, that causes us to sneeze.

There are several golden rods to choose from.  An amazing one volunteered in my son-in-law's garden.  Finding a place in garden soil caused the plant to grow 7 feet tall.  Goldenrod: a
glorious plant for Autumn

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


Saw this dragonfly this morning.  Perhaps he hatched in our pond.  He waited patiently while I tried several times to get a close up shot.  Nice guy.

Perle D'Azur

Perle D'Azur on July 30
Clematis are at their best in July.  Even though they do not feed bees, I can't do without them in my garden.

Some of the oldest varieties are still the best.  Here's a picture of Perle D'Azur in bloom this July.  It is really strutting its stuff this summer.  That plant is about 10 years old and just keeps producing.

Perle D'Azur is an older variety.  It's been around for years.  One web-site notes that the variety came out of France and was first known in 1885.

The clematis grows easily and will extend over 10 ft.  It's a beauty.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

European Paper Wasp?

Saw this wasp on the milkweed this morning.  My ID may not be perfect, but the markings look like it is a European Paper Wasp.  Have they migrated this far from their first discovery in NA in Massachusetts in 1981?  Was found in Michigan in 1994, so I guess it is possible that the wasp may have migrated to Ontario by now.

Sweat Bee?

While working in the garden today, I was visited by a little bee.  He appeared to want to stay on my arm.  After I transferred him to a flower, he came back.

He must be a sweat bee to be so enamored with my skin.

Looked him up and he appears to be Halictus ligatus.  Wow.  Imagine that!

Thanks to Mike for taking the photo with his iphone.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Fly in a Flower

Learning to use a macro lens to record the invertebrates I see in my garden.  This fly was on a peony.  Delighted with the detail although part is missing because of a petal.

Focusing is the difficult part with the macro lens.  I set the camera to take multiple pictures and moved in and out.  Out of 4 or 5 shots, I got this one.  Hurrah!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

June in June

June in June
June is one beautiful hosta.  Not only is the leaf pattern great but the growing shape is full and neat.

Here's June on an rainy day in June.

Not Gone Entirely

Several years ago, I had a lovely, pink tree peony that just seemed out of  scale for my small space.  I dug it up and gave it to a friend.  Deal done, I thought.

About three years later, I notice peony stalks springing up where the tree peony had been.  What the heck -- I let them grow.  The little stalks grew and gave strength to the root.  Now I have a pink, single peony growing from the original root stalk, and I think I love it.
Sometimes what is at the heart of the matter is more valuable than the externals.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Now It's Spiders!

Having a macro lens opens a whole new world.  Our latest love is spiders.  When you can see them super close, you realize the hairy little guys are really pretty.  And look at all the eyes.  Who would have thought that a spider could have 6 or 8 eyes.  No wonder it's hard to catch them.

This little guy we found on the wall of the lanai where we stay in Florida.  He's a hoppy little guy with the cutest striped outfit.  He's quite small and you'd can't see how attractive he is with just your eyes.

Spiders keep many insects in control and are definitely needed in the home and in the garden.  Think twice before you kill them.