Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Twigs and Bows

My wreath making is almost done. Just a few more orders to go out but nothing like last Tuesday. 

Last Tuesday was our 4-H  meeting (Christmas Party) and wreath/centrepiece pick up.  We host it here at the house as I do the wreaths for the annual fundraiser for the club. We have hot chocolate and juice, gingerbread cookie decoration, a bond fire, and games.  What a beautiful night.  The first night when we had this, three years ago, it must have been 10 below with 30 km winds.  We were lucky this year with only light rain (barely any as it did hold off).

We make 3 sizes of wreaths, 17". 20" and 23"


And Centrepieces

We make the centrepieces at in the church basement in Old Barns with some of the local community members and 4-H members.  With the centrepieces, the proceeds are split with the Christmas Index Program and the 4-H group.

And after all that, Gill and some of her friends got together and make a bunch of the centrepieces to raise money for the Central Colchester Junior High breakfast program.  

It's amazing what you can do with a few twigs and a bow.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Tis the Season

      I have been busy these last three weeks.  Now that all the perennial have been tucked into bed I am out cutting fir to make wreaths.  We are lucky here to have a good supply on our property.  It is easy to just cut lower branches of the fir trees as they are growning, and sometimes we do thin out trees that are close together.  So nothing is wasted. 

     I collect cedar from a massive hedge that Andrew's Dad has on his property and I also raid his white pine trees.  I prefer the white pine as it is the softest of the pines.  I have in the past used hemlock, cypress, juniper, and yews.  I have inserted dogwood, spirea and any other shrub or perennial (sedum) that has an interesting seed head or drying flower that I can find.

      I started the week after Remembrance Day.  It seems early but I need that time to get them all done.   It was a lovely week, so warm, didn't need any extra heat on at all.  During the second week, my hands froze cutting the brush into usable pieces.  Thank goodness for the greenhouse. Now this week we are back to the balmest (is that word?) weather I can remember.

      I have been making these the last few years for our local 4-H club as well as a steady clientele.  Don't be fooled by the quantities in this picture, each wreath is a stack of 5 and that is just one part of the pile.
I have been determined to post atleast 2 blogs a month.  I haven't even had time this month to go for my usual walk and to the local excersize class Tuesday and Thursday mornings.

Maybe next week, then we will be 10 below Just my luck.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Plants are Still Growing

      Now that all the pots were put to bed, it was time to start to clean up the nursery beds.  This is a good project for October.  The days are cooler, everything is usually finished blooming in the nursery and the plants are getting ready to go to sleep for the winter.  Last year, I didn't get the beds cleaned up so spring cleaning was in order, which is perfectly fine, there is really no reason why it can't be left till then.  But I am usually quite busy in the spring and one less thing to do helps out a lot.  Certain perennial are left untouched because they create winter interest.

      As you can see not everything has stopped growing.  I don't thinks weeds ever do.  This Irish moss is a menace to my woolly thyme path.  I am constantly removing it.  I don't understand why any one would want to purchase the cultivated version.

      And why do they feel the need to cosy up to the stems of plants making them very difficult to remove.  I have to say that I think dandelions are at their best in the spring and fall.  The groundsel is growing well too, I think it germinates blooming.  That is one that definitely needs to be removed.

       Here it is the first of November and I still have flowers blooming.  Monkshood, Anemone, and even the Double Marsh Marigold.  I don't think it realizes it is not spring.

      Certainly, Sedums are at their best usually right through winter.  Some hold there colour better than others.  Nothing beats Autumn Joy and Brilliant.  The Sedums are not at their best this year because of all the rain we had,  most of them have flopped over.

      They may not have blooms this time of year, but some plants like certain Euphorbias and Coral Bells, look even better than they do in the summer.

      I had never been particularly fond of Coral Bells but for these reasons I think they are really growing on me.  Now I know there are getting to be quite a few varieties of these just like mega amounts of Hosta but I will try to restrain myself in getting too many more....  I think.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Time for Bed.

     Its time to clean up and put my little babies to bed for the winter.  We are having some really nice days and some miserable ones.  The only problem with the nice days is that it is bringing out the mosquitoes, and they are still hungry. We really haven't had frost here yet, just a little bit that touched the cars but not the ground, the impatiens are still blooming and the tomatoes are still producing although the plants look a bit pathetic.  On the other hand the ground is so wet that the sod moves when you walk on it.

     I take my plants and line them out for winter in rows.  Cutting back what needs to be and grouping them so they are easier to put out in the spring.  I will write in my book where each ones are located in the groups and then remove the tags.  The tags fade and get brittle over the winter so it is just easier to remove them.  I will mark which ones need dividing, potting up to a larger size or need more propagated. 

      They will be covered with insulation and leftover fir boughs from making wreaths in November.  I have learned over the years what plants over winter well with this method and what doesn't.  Many of the grasses don't over winter in pots (some do) so they are either healed in the garden or put in the unheated greenhouse.  The cactus, sedums and sempervivum are also placed in the greenhouse (unheated) mostly to keep them dry.  I have been keeping the creeping phlox there too because the mice like to get into them under the fir boughs.

      Now for something completely of the wall, or should I say up on the roof.  This is Puddle, Gillian's cat.  How she got on the garage roof I'll never know, I only know while I was arranging my plants, I heard this thump and here she was half way up looking absolutely terrified.  She krept right to the top and sat there and cried. Anyone who has been here before knows our house and garage roofs are at a steep pitch.  I didn't know how to get her down, but I knew enough to get the camera because no one was going to believe me.

      I went and got a ladder and stood it against the greenhouse, hoping she would come down the roof and use the ladder.  She would not come down when I was watching so I sat on the bench under the tree and waited.  Didn't take long and she carefully came down.

      But of course she didn't use the ladder, she punched a few more holes in the plastic and jumped to the baggage wagon. Well, at least she is down and I didn't have to call the neighbours in a panic.

Looking pretty smug isn't she.  I bet she won't try that again.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Lichen the Caboose

     I really like moss and lichen, even though there are no flowers, the textures are amazing.  We were out in the woods over in Masstown at  MacElmons Pond a week ago and I wish I would have brought my camera because I seen so many types of  moss.  Maybe this winter I'll research some various types that grow in NS after all, I think they are nature's perfect ground cover for the shade. 

     I always said that all plants have their place.  And I still stick to that belief.  We were out in Alberta last year and went up to Mt. Edith Cavell.  The rocks there had the most amazing lichens on them.  The colours were wonderful.  I took pictures because I though I would do a collage of just lichen on rock.  But I just have not had time.

     Lichen and mosses belong on trees, rocks or in the woods, not on the garden art.  Anybody who has been to our nursery knows we have a rather large piece of garden art.  Ok, so I collect plants, I admit it, Andrew collects Trains ( and anything related to them, hence the rather large and orange piece of garden art.  Oh and yes, the tractor and lawn mower are also orange.  I guess orange and green go together.

      It is a good week to give the caboose a good cleaning since it has been humid and raining for most of it.  Andrew started on Monday evening and it was surprising how little effort it took to get it off, just a little elbow grease with the car brush and a push broom (worked great).  The power sprayer cleaned it off after that.  My job was to just stand there and raise and lower the bucket on the tractor so he could scrub.  I can handle that.

      The caboose stands just across a drive way from the nursery, beside the woods, some of the maples actually over hang which does cause him some concern especially when the wind blows.   Anything that is concerning comes down. 

      There, at least one side is nice and clean, since it is starting to get dark, we will finish it in the next few days.  For having such a thing in the yard, I don't find it looks out of place.  The most common question is how did you get it here and "why?".  A few people don't say anything at all.  So either they have been here before, have heard about it or simple just don't care.  They are probably just too interested in the plants.

I am posting this on Friday.  The sun is shining although Mother Nature is giving us a good taste of what winter will be.  From what I hear, summer is back on the weekend.  Oh well, it is Nova Scotia.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Empty Space Where You Once Filled With a Hosta

      Remember when the tree came down this spring?  I had all my mini hosta around the front of the tree.  The spruce had provided enough shade for them, but now, I wasn't so sure.

      Looking back I did quite a bit of plant moving this year. 

      So out came the mini hosta this spring.  I was just making more work for myself.  The ferns, lungwort and a few other assorted plants were moved out to the edge of the bog making room for a mini hosta bed. 

       I had, of course, added to my collection.

      So no mini hosta, no tree.  What to put there.  Andrew and I talked about adding another tree.  Evergreen?  Tall? Short?  Couldn't decide.  Couldn't decide all summer.  So I put in a few dwarf iris, clematis, cortusa, almost using it as a holding bed until I could figure out where they should really go.


      The main hosta bed, that was added to just last spring 2010 (grasses moved), had become too crowded.  One hosta just blended into another.  They needed spacing.  And because there were many very large ones (ie: T-Rex, Bressingham Blue, Big Daddy) in the middle and small (not mini) around the edge, the bed looked lopsided.  I had toyed around with the idea of moving hosta that preferred more sun to that bed out front (ie: Pedmont Gold, August Moon,).  That bed does get more sun but I have a Kentucky Coffee Bean tree at the corner of the garden that in just a few years will cast a lot of shade on the area anyway. 

      So out came the small to medium sized hosta (Citation, El Nino, Halcyon, Kathryn Lewis, Tatoo) and in they went in that small bed.  I think they look pretty good.  But I know that even by next year some of them may be too close together.

      Now for the large hosta bed.  It looks like Swiss cheese around the edge.  All but 3-4 needed to be plucked out and shifted even a few inches, I tried to alternate the blue and solid coloured ones with the variegated types.

       There, much better.  But I bet that by next summer it will need to be done again.  Some of those Blues have not reached their full potential yet.  There were still 2 large hosta in the upper garden that I could not accommodate in this bed.  If I expand it, it will be on the lower side toward the road.  But that is enough for this year.

     Yet the grass and daylily bed is getting a bit crowded  and I do have new acquisitions of grasses to find homes for.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Judging Them All

There is nothing like a good flower show.  You know it's summer when the Exhibitions start and the exhibits are full of flowers.

14 years ago, the was a need for Horticultural Judges, I remember the dates because over the 2 years to train, I was both pregnant and a mother to my daughter.  At that time a call went out to garden clubs over the province to find people interested in being judges.  We learned everything from judging flowers (annuals, perennials, dahlias, gladiola) to various types of flower arrangements and vegetables.  In detail.

Over the years I have judged them all.  But dahlias make me nervous.  There are so many types and the exhibitors of dahlias are very competitive.  Usually, in the major dahlia shows, they have their own trained judges.  That suits me fine.  Not saying I can't do them but in those type of competitions, we will leave it to the professionals.

Flower arrangements can be very simple.

To very elaborate.

And there is nothing better than seeing the children enter.  I always try to write a short comment on the back of the tag.  They are the future of the exhibits.  I have encouraged my daughter and her friends to enter over the years.  Gill is always excited to come away with prize money.


And some even manage to take home a few ribbons

This has been a hard year for flowers, all the rain we have had.  Many of the annuals really took a beating.  The exhibits have been down in all the shows I have judged at and exhibited in. A lot of it can depend on the year.  This year I went over to my Uncles and found two beautiful Glads in his garden that I knew would place well.  One received best in the show (for that category); he was quite happy.

It takes a lot of volunteers to keep these shows going, as well as setting up, having people there when the exhibits are setting up to help people find the right categories, keeping everything fresh during the week and cleaning it up in the end.  In many cases it is a labour of love.  It brings great joy when they see the hall full of flowers.  Pick a few flowers next year and try exhibiting.  It really is a lot of fun.

Friday, August 26, 2011

I'm Your Huckleberry

     Last fall, Andrew noticed this plant over in our uncle's woodlot, next to ours.  I figured at that time, it might be a native highbush blueberry.  We kept our eye on it.  Late this spring it produced flowers very similar to blueberries.  Yes!  It was a highbush Blueberry.

      Andrew was over the other night and brought back a few berries, they liked a bit like blueberry, similar in size but they were almost black.

     OK, out comes the Flora of NS (old version but still good).

     There are two species of Huckleberries in Nova Scotia.  According to the NS Wild Flora Society, Gaylussacia baccata (Black Huckleberry) is found in sandy, rocky barrens or on the edges of dry woods and lakeshores.  Our two plants that we found were on the edge of a 'sand pit'.  This is just a vein of sand that runs through the property.  I use the sand in my soil mix for my perennials and we have also use some in our vegetable garden to loosen up our clay soil.  The fruit of the Huckleberry is smooth, black or bluish and sweet and the leaves turn to a brilliant red in the fall.   There is also an abundance of blueberries and creeping blackberries in that area.

     Back we go with the camera to take a few pictures and to just see what else was out there  We kept going on our tour back over to the cranberry bog to see how the cranberries were coming along.  There is going to be an amazing crop this year. I could have swore I took a picture of the cranberries but I can't find it anywhere even in the 'trash'.  I must be losing my mind.  The low bush Blueberries are quite abundant also and do they ever taste good. 

     Every time I go over there we find something new, this is the area that we found the orchids.  There was an abundance of cotton grass (pictures blurry, not posted) and may small Viburnum cassinoides (Witherod).  These, like the huckleberry, will turn colour in the fall.  I must try to collect some seed when the fruit turns dark blue.

     There seems to be a streak of blue running through this blog, but that will change to red when the cranberries are ready.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Daylily Delight

I am but an amateur in the field of Daylilies.  But I know what I like.


My perfect daylily must be medium to large plant (I have a big property), must be brightly coloured (no washed out colours for me) and must bloom for a long time.  But I can make exceptions.

Prairie Blue Eyes

Daylilies are a diverse group on colour and form from many years of hybridization by both amateur and professional daylily breeders.  I don't know who has the most varieties, Hosta or Daylilies.  They emerge early in the spring with wonderful grassy leaves coming up at a time to cover the dying foliage of spring bulbs.  They are clump forming, are not aggressive spreaders and are easily divided.  Very low maintenance and work well in a perennial garden or with shrubs. The colours are amazing.  What more could you ask for.

Late July and Early August can be down times for colour in the garden, and this can be due to the fact that most people have finished buying and planting new perennials.  And the general public tend to purchase plants in bloom, there for they miss out on great plants for later in the season.  Serious gardeners know better.  Daylilies are just one type of plant that can fill this gap.  Some bloom earlier in the season and some later but the bulk of them bloom during this time.

Jim's Pick (foreground)
Frans Hals (behind)

The Daylily is so named because the flower usually does not last more than 24 hours.  This does not make them useful in flower arranging but they do make good cut flowers because unopened buds continue to mature and open over many days.

They come in a range of colours from yellow to orange, all shades of pink and red, lavenders, green tones and almost black and almost white (but not quite).  Blues still elude the breeders although the name 'Blue' pops up in some varieties.

The old fashioned Tawny Daylily that many people would consider a wild or native plant is actually an escape from old homesteads.  Other names for it is Railroad Lily (Andrew likes that one) or Outhouse Lily (gee, where did they plant that one)

Dublin Elaine

Daylilies do cross pollinate easily, and I am not going to get into terms like diploids. tetraploids etc.....  I would have to look them up and try to interpret them (did not do well in genetics in school) and I will leave that to the professionals. They are constantly breeding for ruffles, doubles, colour, fragrance and reblooming or continuous blooming such as the Stella series. Name your combination, it is probably out there.

Seed Selection

 I have played around with seed, purchasing some seed years ago from Garden's North.  I had a range germinate that were from lavender (see above) to reds, yellows and others.  This lavender is really nice.  I have not sold any yet, maybe next year, and I will need to find a name for it.  A daylily breeder would probably cull it out since the newer ones are more frilly or more exotic.  They have exotic prices too.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

An Orchid Surprise

      Andrew took the buggy (my motorized wheelbarrow) up through a few trails in the neighbourhood last week.  He promptly became stuck in an area that use to be an old woods road.  When I went up to help him to get out we found that the old road is now impassible (especially this spring with all the rain).  It was located near a natural bog that we went to every fall to find a few cups of cranberries.  It seemed the bog was expanding and claiming new territory.

      The cranberry vines were everywhere (we found some great cranberries there last year),  and just finishing blooming.  It should be a good crop this year.  The Bog laurel (Kalmia) was also in bloom as well as cinnamon fern.  Among all this was a pink plant I had never seen before.  Upon closer inspection, I realized it was an orchid.  I had never seen them in that area before but we may not have been in the area at the right time of year.

      After getting my sneakers soaked and Andrew out of the mud (not much damage, to the bog, I mean), we went home and got our boots and camera.  After taking some pictures of the orchid (2 in fact) we came home and I did some research (love the Internet).

Calopogon pulchellus
Grass Pink

Grass Pink is actually quite common in Nova Scotia.  It is usually found in lightly shaded sphagnum moss bogs and swampy areas.  In this case it was more of an open bog.  They get their name for a long, grass-like leaf that comes up from the base.  The flowers are on a single stem with 2 or more magenta to pink blooms present. 

The lip of Calopogon is on the top of the flower, not the bottom, as is common with most other Orchids. The  yellow feelers are designed to attract pollinators, when the insect lands the flower then snaps shut and the insect has to crawl out between the lip and the reproductive parts in order to escape, hopefully pollinating the flower in the process

Cypripedium reginae
Showy Ladyslipper

We were fortunate to see the Showy Ladyslipper last year just around July 1st at Smiley's Provincial Park just outside of Windsor NS.  I really know very little about Orchids and had a  gentleman who is an authority on the subject come to my nursery late June of last year.  He was the one who told me of these orchids. We asked at the gate where to see them.  The park attendant told us and if it was not for her we would not have known where to look.  The ones I am familiar with are the Pink Ladyslipper, they were in abundance where I grew up.  The Showy Ladyslipper grows in completely different conditions.

The Showy Ladyslipper grows in a boggy, sweet (limestone) soil.  Cryripedium acaule (Pink Ladyslipper) is more common in slightly drier soils under Oaks or Pines (more acidic soils).  Both are difficult to propagate as the require  a microbial association with the soil.  Crypripedium pubescens (Yellow Ladyslipper) is also a native that likes moist soil even boggy areas and is not as fussy in requiring sweet or sour soil.  This one is more adaptable to garden soils.  It is the only one that I sell and I acquire it from a reputable dealer.  There are other sellers of orchids out there but you should do your research before purchasing.

Getting back to the Grass Pink Orchids I found, this one was also present only in a few numbers.  It did not strike me as a Grass Pink but I could be wrong.  This is where I bow to an expert in the field.  Anyone recognise this one??  There are more orchids out there, and they are sparking my interest.  It is just fabulous when you find something you haven't seen before.