Woodland wonders

There is weirdness in the woods.

It is amazing to me how these things happen naturally but try as we might, we cannot reproduce such marvelous oddities in our own gardens.

I suppose we can create outrageous topiaries and contort trees into espaliers, but I love searching for strangeness out on our walks.

It often means you have to look down, rather than up; these little details can get lost in the big picture.

How does this happen?   It is so perfect.

Moss ring toss!

Little caped crusaders!

I always find these little spring-time surprises so endearing.  To my eyes they look like miniature flashers, or super heroes!  They are, in fact, bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), a woodland ephemeral that appears throughout eastern North America, and extends as far south as Mexico.   It’s name refers to the blood-like secretion that comes from its roots and fleshy stems (hence, ‘sanguin-aria’).

It always boasts pristine white blooms, with single or double rows of petals with bright yellow stamens, and its round lobed leaves all but disappear in the heat of the summer.  If you place them in a shaded and moist part of your garden, make sure you remember where they are when you’re planting narcissus or digging in the area in the autumn.  The fact that you’ve skewered these dormant beauties is bad enough without having their blood-like juices dribble onto your tools!

Buy your ticket now!

I remember Mark Cullen from years ago when he first began appearing on the CTV morning show, Canada A.M., as their gardening expert with then host, Dan Matheson.  He and Dan seemed to have such an easy rapport, and despite the newsman’s apparent lack of affinity for plants, Mark always ensured that the spot remained ‘on point’ and managed to make sure the viewer learned something.  I liked these gardening segments, much like the show Canadian Gardener with the odd couple, ‘Bob and Dave’, where two opposing personalities tackled gardening together and had a lot of fun and laughs doing it.
On my earliest visits to Toronto, I happened upon the plant nurseries under the Cullen name and realized that this guy actually had plants in his blood.   And when I saw his book about composting in the city that was co-authored with one of my heroes, Lorraine Johnson, I was convinced:  this buttoned up guy was my kind of gardener and didn’t actually mind getting dirty!
Here’s your chance to hear him speak.  Entrepreneurship, plants, gardens and gardening paraphernalia — he knows it all.  And you’ll be supporting Ottawa’s dream of a botanic garden.  See you there!
OBGS Fundraiser
Join us for an evening with
Mark Cullen, Monday April 16th at RA Centre
Mark will present
“An Escape to Reality – the Place of Gardening in Today’s World”
Mark Cullen is one of Canada’s best known gardeners with a familiar style that is distinctly personable. He connects with over one million Canadians every week through various media outlets and he delivers a message that is compelling, fun, informative, inspirational – all based on his organic approach to gardening.
When: Monday April 16th from 7:30 to 9PM
Where: RA Centre at 2451 Riverside Drive, Ottawa – free parking
Clark Hall – enter West end of building, to right off lobby

Tickets: $20 OBGS member, $23 OBGS group member, $25 non-members

Go to their website here to purchase your ticket in advance.

Is it April already?

Hey!  Where did March go and why is April almost half over?!

And still, why does it seem to be taking so long for the trees to leaf out?  I think it was that spell of record temperatures in March that led me to believe that everything would be green by now.  It seems the flower buds on my serviceberry tree have been puffy for weeks now, and yet, still no blooms…

Never mind.  This time of year challenges us to see the beauty and colour without being hit in the face with it.

After a rain, this young alder shows an amazingly apple green trunk.

Here, the sides  facing the sun are already dry and silvery, while the dampness on the shady side brings out the colour.

Although this tree can no longer support leaves, its stump still provides life.  A host for insects hence a food source for woodpeckers and a home for bracket fungus.  A world unto itself.

These spring ephemerals are just beginning to poke their heads through the forest litter, giving very little hint that in a couple of weeks (or sooner!) they will look like this:

And soon, Skye will be able to freely graze again….

In the meantime, there are some stunners already blooming:

Unlike Scilla sibirica (Siberian squill), who bow their blue heads to the sky, these Chionodoxa forbesii (Glory of the Snow) in my spring garden are basking in the sunshine!