Japanese Anemone: bruiser or bashful?

In my early years, I championed these beautiful perennial plants…..

Fast forward to today and Anemone x hybrida ‘Honorine Jobert’, the white one, has been named the 2016 Perennial Plant of the Year.

Yet if you go to the Perennial Plant Association website and click on “2016 Perennial Plant of the Year“, you’ll find the briefest description of this winner, along with a cheeky come-on to buy their stylish t-shirts…..am I missing something?  Shouldn’t this organization give me some information about this chosen perennial?  Why do I have to go to other sites to learn about ‘Honorine Jobert’ and how it can best grace my garden?

Never mind as I’ll do my own research…

The cultivar known as ‘Honorine Jobert’ was “discovered in the garden of Messier Jobert in Verdun, France in 1858 as a chance sport of A. x hybrida. M. Jobert propagated it and named it for his daughter, Honorine.”

In all honesty, when I first set eyes on A. x hybrida ‘Honorine Jobert’, it was love at first sight.  Adoring everything white, I favoured it over its pink nerdy older brother who seemed to be more commonly available at the nurseries and a more robust grower.  Why is it gardeners always want the plants that are weaker, more refined and less vigorous?

North American sites give ‘Honorine Jobert’ a hardiness rating of Zone 4, while the Royal Horticultural Society in Great Britain gives it a Zone 7 which actually concurs as it means it is “hardy in the severest European continental climates — that is, colder than minus 20.

But my experience has shown me otherwise.  Like the less hardy white-flowered Lenten rose (Helleborus x hybridus, compared with the so-called Christmas rose, Helleborus niger — read Tony Avent’s opus here), this white Japanese anemone has shown itself to me to be less winter-tolerant than its pink relative.  Less vigorous when first planted, but still about to flower, perhaps I should have chopped off its head, allowing the roots to settle in and beef up before the shock of winter, much like they recommend with garden chrysanthemums.  But no – I wanted it all.

So, when it was no more in the spring, I happily went out and settled for Anemone x hybrida ‘September Charm’ and waited for it to be equally temperamental.  But this plant is a thug!  And it does pain me to say that as it is such a beautiful bloomer and is virtually untouched by any insect, disease or anything you throw at it.  It spreads by creeping rhizomes and its roots search out crevasses between flagstones or underneath interlocking stone and settle in, not to be dissuaded by anyone or anything.  Pulling by hand will not remove them — you will need a shovel.

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But wait! What the heck is this about?  ^^ On one of my late summer walks, I spied this giant clump of ‘Honorine Jobert’ in a front garden planting….towering over newly planted flaming Berberis and dwarf burning bush.  What makes it think it can act like a shrub in this protected south facing garden, where I know for a fact, there is no one there to carefully coddle it?

I fully intend to re-visit this garden in the spring and poke around for any evidence that it has come through this weird and wet winter.

I’ll keep you posted.

 

 

 

Just in case you were missing the snow…

A family of towering evergreens wearing their winter cloaks hang their heads….

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…at dusk, they awaken and march through the arboretum…

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This is when an other-worldly pink cast descends upon the landscape.

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In this light, the secrets of the forest become crisp and magical…

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…and the path beckons.

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Anticipatory Grief and pee pads

On February 25th, 2011, we were given the news that our beloved border collie, Skye-dog, had lymphoma.

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“I am extra fluffy.”

She was 8 1/2 at the time and otherwise perfectly healthy.  Despite the grim diagnosis, we elected to move ahead with treatment which meant six months of chemotherapy.

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“Queen of Fluffy”

My first dog Riley died within one month of diagnosis at the approximate age of 10.  She had a cancerous tumour in her chest that stimulated her body to kill off its red blood cells, the ones that move oxygen throughout the body.  I knew something was terribly wrong when she collapsed on her walk for no apparent reason.  There was no cure and so despite several blood transfusions and loads of love, we had to let her go.

When Skye was diagnosed, we were told that with treatment, she would probably achieve remission and stay there for anywhere between 12 and 18 months.  Then we could choose to repeat chemotherapy, but each chance of remission would be smaller and each length of remission would be shorter.  The cancer would win in the end and we would have to say goodbye.

Fast forward 4 years and 8 months and 4 days and she’s still here.  And I have been experiencing anticipatory grief for 4 years, 8 months and 4 days.

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However, last Wednesday,  Skye had a scary episode of the wobbles.  Her head and upper body leaned left, her eyeballs darted from side to side and she basically wanted to fall over.  The condition is called vestibular disease as it affects the body’s vestibular system, which controls our balance.  Like vertigo, it wreaks havoc on our ability to sit and stand without falling over and because the world is spinning, we are nauseous and if we were interested in eating, could not even be successful in finding our mouths to eat or even drink.  As you can imagine, it is not a nice condition.

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Having already been dealt a blow to her mobility a couple of years ago with a condition called spondylosis, the effects of vestibular disease are not at all welcome for my lovely old dog.

Hence the pee pads.

On Day 6 of recovery, Skye now trundles around the ground floor, with my help holding her up and straight, on a pathway made of pee pads, she trying to convince me that she can go outside to pee.  I say “Nope, sorry.  Not yet.”  So we trundle out of the living room, through the dining room, into the kitchen where the back door resides, out again into the front hall and then back into the living room, where she flops down on her plastic and pee pad covered makeshift bed, exhausted from the effort and I’m sure, disappointment.

You see, as a border collie, not only is she sensitive but she is also easily shamed.  Training a border collie means saying something once and they understand.  It doesn’t mean they’ll do it mind you, but they do understand.  In their minds, they will first contemplate the universe, consider the pros and cons, and make their own conclusions.  If you have created a bond with your border collie, this will all take a split second as the bald truth is, they only want to please you.

So that moment I took teaching her how to use the outdoors as her washroom has stayed with her, and she considers any deviation from that to be heresy.  Hence the anxiety centering around toileting indoors, on pee pads.

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……and I’m back to anticipatory grief……

We all know it isn’t forever and we all wish for our dogs’ lives never to end, but we all know they will.

All I wanted was more than one month.

I was gifted so much more.

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Fearless and flawless leaping.

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Traveling to weird and wonderful places …

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Or not going very far at all…

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Does she see what I see?  A full life, a life of love and care.

1584 borrowed days.  And counting.  Maybe grief can take a holiday for now…

 

LES QUATRES VENTS: PART II

I was reminded by a reader the other day that I had promised an additional entry on this iconic garden.  I had visited it way, way back in 2013 but somehow my second installment never made it onto the page….

IMG_4719Let’s try again.

Time and space made me realize I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was left unsettled by this garden.

It is perched high above the surrounding valley, with views reaching down to the St. Lawrence in what was, and remains for many, the playground of the well-heeled.

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When the gardens at Les Quatres Vents were created in the last quarter of the 20th century, Francis Cabot’s horticultural, historical and architectural aspirations were reflected through these landscape expressions.  This level of excellence was made possible through wealth and high-society connections and Cabot’s creations mimicked the famous gardens in England, France and Japan, drawing upon (literally, physically and ideologically) the most influential gardeners, artisans and horticulturists of the day.

All this was taking place during the gardening boom in North America, when the work of contemporary British gardeners like Rosemary Verey, Penelope Hobhouse, Christopher Lloyd and Graham Stuart-Thomas were being heralded for the first time to us colonials.  More than this, the historical gardens of British icons like Gertrude Jekyll, Vita Sackville-West and Russell Page were being documented in lush picture books that beginner gardeners began to devour (much to the delight of the big publishing houses in New York and London).  Cabot’s hedges channeled those in almost every English estate garden, while his languorous half-circle stone staircases reflected those designed by the famed British architect and “taste-maker” Edwin Lutyens.

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He sought their advice and held to it strictly …..

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…witness the rose garden under-planted with pinks (Dianthus), a la Russell Page’s instruction.

There are allees, precisely clipped hedges and regimented sight-lines galore, which in my mind are a stereotypical fetish of the male gardener.  Think Lawrence Johnston of Hidcote Manor fame.

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But I ask you, when is rigidity visually pleasurable and when is it claustrophobic?

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When is repetition satisfying and when is it predictable and formulaic?

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And when is monumentalism awe-inspiring and when is it simply exhibitionism?

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There were moments in this garden when I couldn’t help wondering, “Where is the authentic spirit of the place? Where is the place I can sit and feel at peace near the mouth of the St-Lawrence, without feeling the uncomfortable imposition of prestige and power?”

There were moments when I thought I had found that place …. but the question remained:  were these choreographed moments where the garden designer had anticipated the blurring effects of time or simply nature triumphing over artifice …?  And did it matter?

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In this new 21st century world where we are loosening our grip around nature, letting plants be what they intrinsically are without shaping, coddling, orchestrating and overseeing, it was the moments where wildness seemed to win where I found the most pleasure…

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But there were also dream-like “garden” moments that were clearly the result of intensive construction projects.  The relative instant gratification they must have provided Cabot is almost breath-taking.  Take his homage to the Japanese garden.

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Cabot’s Japanese garden, like its inspiration on the other side of the world, combines stone, water, temple and plants.  There is no question that it creates a place of contemplation where the furthest thing from your mind is artifice or incongruity (if this Asian art is new to you) …… and yet, in this Quebec countryside, it is exactly that.  It tries but it is not an authentic Japanese garden experience.  But, isn’t imitation the sincerest form of flattery?

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And then there were the plants….

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As Cabot himself characterized it, his garden had to be a “greater perfection.”  A skilled stonemason constructed the terraces, walls and stairs; a craftsman borrowed from Japan built the tea house; visiting professionals were asked for input on the plants and gardens.  Cabot sought instruction from the very best and when he couldn’t do some of the practical stuff himself, he hired those who could.

Many of these plants are moisture lovers that require cool summers and humous-rich soil.  And so, in order to grow these spectacular Asian beauties (Rodgersia, Primula, Lilium, Iris, Meconopsis), soil was moved, trees were planted, water was directed and misters were rigged.  It is the perfect man-made environment.

So isn’t that what a garden is anyway?

Perhaps it’s just sour grapes.

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Still, I choose imperfection.  Because I am.

I will visit what is presented as perfection, with my eyes gazing up and down in awe and my mind overwhelmed with the logistics.  But I will feel at home with much less.

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Is it over?

Is the gardening season over?

IMG_2060I think not!

There is still plenty of colour that belies the end of the gardening year.

This glorious plant is likely Chrysanthemum ‘Red Chimo’, also known as Arctanthemum articum ‘Red Chimo’ or Chrysanthemum articum ‘Red Chimo’.  Poor chrysanthemum.  The powers that be can’t seem to decide what to call you.  First chrysanthemum, then Dendranthemum, and for this species, now Arctanthemum.  Never mind.  This cultivated variety of Arctic chrysanthemum is dead hardy at zone 3 and is the pink/purple/mauve version of the species that appears as pure white.

I favour the singles since the doubles just remind me of the seasonal annual “mums” that we can find at every garden centre in September.

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In contrast, these hardy mums are loose and natural and shrub-like and a perennial that we should all embrace as part of our late season gardens.

Chill.  Don’t cut everything down.

Even this Geranium ‘Rozanne’ wants to shine in the luminous light of September.

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And the wild New England aster is giving its all ….

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There is magic in these seasonal shifts…it is everywhere and doesn’t need our hand.

I don’t think there is anything more beautiful than a fall leaf tapestry…

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…even if it’s poison ivy!

I miss our walks in the autumn woods but Skye isn’t able to walk this far anymore.  Another kind of season….shifts and changes.

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Now we rest … and take a load off….

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That’s okay; we don’t have to be anywhere…

Goldenrod shouldn’t be roasted and eaten with Thanksgiving dinner

Poor parsnip.  All it wants to do is be eaten.  And it should be!  It is loaded with nutrients, vitamins and cancer-fighting anti-oxidants….but its toxic sap just keeps grabbing all the headlines.

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But wait a minute?  What’s this?  The only other yellow plant more maligned than wild parsnip is the ubiquitous goldenrod, Solidago canadensis.  Believed to be the wild botanical culprit that causes our autumn sniffles and itchy eyes — but isn’t! that credit goes to ragweed — goldenrod is actually cultivated in Europe as an ornamental and used in decorative plantings alongside ornamentals (like grasses, sedum, Joe Pye weed as well as rudbeckias, asters and echinacea.)

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Best to know the difference between the two — wild parsnip, as well as its relatives giant hogweed (uber toxic sap), dill, coriander, carrot, parsley, Queen Anne’s lace, and others — are members of the Apiaceae (formerly Umbelliferae) family.  They share the same flower-structure, which appears as a flat-topped umbel:

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So be aware, but don’t be fearful.

After all, parsnips are yummy with your Thanksgiving dinner!  Goldenrod, not so much.

The last days of summer…

The dog days of summer…

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…….

It’s been hot.  Too hot for black dogs.

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So hot that shade is barely shade.

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The snappers wind their way, prehistoric bodies smeared green with algae and lumbering from water to grass, grass to water.

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There are surprises in the woods…..I recall someone who went mushroom hunting and ate those he found on a log, differentiated by those *next* to a log.  Was it these that were poison or the others?  Thinking you are right is not the same as being right.  He could have said this as he recovered from his hospital bed.

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…and more surprises in open spaces.  The straw-coloured grasses sway in the shifting heat that at one moment is thick with moisture and then the next, light with hints of autumn.

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The grasses and lily pads are choking the pond, making the ducks work extra hard to power through, bobbing for food and then relaxing on the logs that have been placed there for that very purpose.

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  The milkweed is ready.  I cannot resist the urge to pull the silken stuffing from their pods and set each seed free by waving them over my head.  Like nature’s bubble machine.

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