Tag Archives: plants

Garden tour extraordinaire

If you didn’t go on the Over the Hedge garden tour organized by the Ottawa Botanical Garden Society this past weekend, their only fund-raiser this year, then you really missed out!   This tour was organized by the volunteers on the Board, specifically the dynamo Vice-Chair Monique Oaks.  A vast contingent of volunteers was helping out over the two days, greeting visitors to each garden, selling aprons and t-shirts, offering flavoured ice water and generally providing smiling and enthusiastic faces all along the way.

There were twelve gardens on the tour and I’m embarrassed to say we only made it to half of them.  This was because I insisted on having a leisurely Sunday brunch at mid-day (the outing was my birthday present from my good friend who just happens to be a professional gardener as well, Patti Allen) and we did so at the amazing Heirloom Cafe Bistro in Almonte.  If we had gone out on Saturday as well, it would have been a breeze to see them all (but I was busy having a pedicure and then dinner with other girlfriends!)

The first garden we visited was a small, corner property in Pakenham belonging to Judy and John McGrath.  Judy is a gardener and photographer and the garden is personal, quirky and feels very private.  With beguiling entrances and seating areas, curving beds and miniature water features, this garden reflects a relaxed and friendly sensibility.

Next we moved across the street to the property where Paddye Mann lives and works, joined by her daughter in the neighbouring home, the homes and studio linked by an Asian inspired garden.

What I liked about this garden was the way in which the paths and plantings complemented the existing topography.

River-washed stone, timbers and naturalized plantings all echo the relaxed character of this garden, where a dry stream bed meanders alongside ancient granite bedrock.

An Asian-inspired cedar boardwalk is elevated above the garden, allowing the visitor an easy stroll and accommodating the pre-existing evergreens.

Daylilies, hostas, perennial geraniums, dogwood, coral bells — all these plants have been placed under the canopy of white pines and here, a metal sculpture that mimics the effect of wind rustling grasses gives the finishing touch. 

The working studio affords a view into the peaceful garden — a beautiful still-life from outside as well as inside.

The last Pakenham property belongs to the Bean family and has a lovely view of the Mississippi River.  The garden surrounds the expansive grounds of the stone heritage home called `Glenbeancragge`, referencing the limestone outcroppings that embrace the property and provide a natural home for a vast planting of specimen hostas, or —

— creeping sedums.

Stay tuned:  more to come…

Chanticleer: a pleasure garden

The name Chanticleer to those already ‘in the know’ brings visions of exciting, quirky and multi-dimensional design where seven horticulturists (each responsible for a specific section of the grounds/gardens), as well as many seasonal gardeners, have been creating a world-class masterpiece of plant, sculpture and garden experience for over the last twenty years.  

Path with Papaver rhoeas; photo courtesy Lisa Roper

I recently contacted them by email, asking if I might use some photographs for this blog and was happily supplied with some different photos from Lisa Roper, the horticulturist responsible for the Asian Woods and resident photographer.

Terrace view with Orange Emperor tulips; photo courtesy Lisa Roper

Chanticleer was built as a country retreat on the outskirts of Philadelphia just before WWI.    The owners, Adolph and Christine Rosengarten Sr. (he, a pharmaceutical magnate) then converted the home into a year-round residence some ten years later, thereby making it their permanent address.

Red maple in the morning mist; photo courtesy Lisa Roper

The estate’s website indicates that the name ‘Chanticleer’ was taken from Thackeray’s 1855 novel called ‘The Newcomes’.   Apparently, the building of that fictional estate, ‘Chanticlere’,  almost put the lead characters in the poor-house but upon completion was, nevertheless, a shining star in the county.

Camassia leitchtlinii; photo courtesy Lisa Roper

The Rosengarten’s son passed away in 1990, his will ensuring that the home and grounds were left for the enjoyment of the public as the Chanticleer Foundation.   It is run by an active Board of Directors and the newly developed garden opened to public viewing in 1993.  There are twelve all-season gardeners and groundskeepers maintaining this world-class property.

The Asian restroom; photo courtesy Lisa Roper

If these photos have whet your appetite, then go here for more.  What makes this garden so spectacular is that it has something for everyone; some sections have a modern sensibility, others are wild and natural, still another reflects the simplicity innate in Asian gardens, and don’t get me started about the gorgeous container plantings.  The gardeners here are top-level designers, using plants for the value of their foliage and shape rather than simply their flowers.  

Enough said — plan a visit.

Meadow flower arrangement; photo courtesy Lisa Roper

Trialing (not trailing) annuals

Remember when I told you that I was going to get some free plants from Proven Winners?  And I was so excited?

 Well they came (last month actually but I didn’t report this right away because … well, keep reading…)

I can’t tell you how anxious I was to see what was in that box.  I recall ordering plants from places like Cruickshanks and Gardenimport, and I was always impressed to see how they engineered the containers and boxes so that everything always arrived in perfect condition.

So I dove right in and this is what I found:

What part of  does someone not understand????

So I took things out gingerly but soil was everywhere, stems were broken and some plants were miles away from even being in a pot. 

Of 18 plants (I say ‘plants’ as opposed to rooted cuttings that had barely made it through WWIII) I salvaged maybe 10 or 12.    *sad face*

I planted them, with their tags adjacent, in one of my nice clay pots out front.  This location is north facing but receives sun in the later hours of the afternoon.  And I am *very* happy to report that it is (somewhat miraculously) filling out nicely.


When everything is blooming, I’ll let you know what they’re called and how they’re holding up….


Terraced garden renovation

Problem:  A south-facing hillside, terraced into four zones and over-run with ever-spreading junipers (an uninspired landscaper’s best friend), periwinkle, creeping jenny, donkey tail spurge, sedum, a collection of bearded and dwarf iris, spiraea, a rejected rose, several peonies and a motley collection of perennials.

Challenge:  This front garden belongs to a plant lover who has little time but lots of appreciation for a varied, rich and shifting display.  It is a garden that is in full view of the neighbourhood, on a busy street and well travelled by pedestrians.  It should have a planting that is enjoyed not only by passersby but by the homeowners, every morning when they leave the house and every evening when they come home. 

Solution:  This location is hot, with soil that drains freely and gets sun most of the day so plants must thrive in this tough environment.  The chosen plants should also have attractive foliage, interesting shapes, must be long blooming or have flowers that are striking while they bloom, and lastly, must be well mannered and easy to control.

Many of the plants here had to be sacrificed, many tamed and others re-claimed.



And another before, showing the extent to which the periwinkle and creeping jenny had taken over:

The peonies and lavender were rescued and now are basking in their new-found independence, sharing space with more well-mannered neighbours like lambs’ ears, various forms of upright and prostrate sedums.  The donkey-tail spurge and creeping jenny have been heavily edited.

A casual flagstone path has also been added to allow access into the bed as well as visual interest.

The junipers had to go; there were at least four.  They are an all-too-common quick fix to cover a space simply for the sake of covering that space and not as part of an overall conceptual design.  But they almost always outgrow their designated area and dwarf everything else; like all plants (especially trees and shrubs), their mature size needs to be considered carefully before they are placed.  And, worst of all, they can be physically difficult to remove since their roots are so expansive and insistent, and their prickly foliage can cause dermatitis.

All of the bearded iris were lifted and culled; many of them were infected with the iris borer, the juvenile form of a pest that feeds on the iris rhizome, making it mushy and slowly affecting it’s vigour.  After a full season readjusting to their surgery and new freedom, they begin to bloom again.

The ubiquitous spireaea that lined the base of the front porch were moved alongside the driveway and the crowded dwarf lilac was given some breathing space.  A PeeGee hydrangea cultivar (the unfortunately named ‘Pinky Winky’) was placed next to the stairs and the giant cedar was removed and replaced with a smaller evergreen (‘Witchita Blue’ pyramidal juniper).

Some ornamental onions echo the bloom colour of the dwarf lilac and the newly planted repeat blooming lilac (‘Boomerang’) is also joining in the display (top right).

Soggy allotment garden: Round II

We went to our garden again after a few weeks and found this:

No real surprises; I figured after turning the soil by hand that the weeds would still try to find a way to come up.   But the water!   Holy Never-ending Flood Batman!   Is this garden plot ever going to dry out?

Hey!  Wait a minute … what happened here?  This is the plot directly on our right and it didn’t used to look like that…it used to look like this —

No, not the cleared part — that’s our plot — but the weedy patch immediately to the right!

Here is Ian.  He is my new best friend.  This is why:

Ian has a TRACTOR!   He is a fixture here, a really nice guy and will help you out by tilling your plot for a fair price.  Just as long as it isn’t too wet.  Oh.  That might be a problem…

So, the next order of business before any tilling was going to take place was building up the beds, both in terms of fertility and height — to keep them from remaining waterlogged.  So we ordered some mushroom compost and the truck dumped it here.  It doesn’t look like much but it was almost 4 cubic yards (the gift of an imprecise dumping job after we’d ordered just 2 yards!)

So we shovelled and shovelled and shovelled…. AND it was HOT!  Then we realized that the paths between the beds were still too wet and we needed to cover them with something that we could walk on.  Straw!

Off we went to get four bales.  And in no time, we had made three beds with straw paths in between.

And then …

Go Ian!


He only did one pass since the soil was still too wet.  Big honking clogs of soil were threatening to jam up his tiller.

But it sure beats hand digging!  I’m so excited.  We went back today and under the threatening sky planted our first crops.   Tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, onions, snap peas and we’re giving colourful sweet peas a try.


 More to come!  Stay tuned…

May showers bring June flowers!

We’ve had such an incredible amount of rain this spring my garden is threatening to become a jungle before I’ve had a chance to get out there and edit the weeds! 

This is Hosta ‘Halcyon’ — such an impossible blue!  With Asarum canadense (Canadian Wild Ginger) nudging up against it, trying to get in the shot.  You can see everything is very lush and early for the last week in May.

Speaking of blue — you see here how the camera lies?  This seeded Aquilegia (Columbine) is not *really* azure blue, though I wish it were.   They are notorious minglers, those columbine, and you never know what you’re going to get (thank you Forrest!)

Speaking of notorious — this demure looking cranesbill (Geranium phaeum) is nothing if not insistent.  Gorgeous here but beware!  It will easily over-run your garden if you don’t pay attention.  And it is also one of those varieties that acts as a flag — that is, it will droop and fail in the summer heat, so put it in afternoon shade if and keep it there if you adore the distinct blooms and blotched foliage.

I don’t recall the name of this hosta but the other players include Corydalis lutea (Yellow fumitory), a golden-tipped cedar in the background and the emerging stems of ‘Hewitt’s Double’ meadowrue (Thalictrum delavayi ‘Hewitt’s Double’) that will soon dwarf everything in height, but not in texture.

And until my Itoh yellow peony blooms (called ‘Garden Treasure’), we’ll have to make due with the tree peony …

…and the much less gargantuan, but just as beautiful (in my eyes) Fernleaf peony (Paeonia tenuifolia) …

Yikes! Is this snow in May?

Perhaps the prediction for the end of the world on May 21st 2011 was really all about this….

 No — although it looks like it, it’s actually not snow.  It’s Aspen fluff!

The female trees of the genus known as Populus (known as Aspen, Poplar or Cottonwood) all spread their tiny seed in clouds of fluff.  Light as air, they burst forth in May and travel by wind, creating ever widening stands of these short-lived trees. 

Aspen (often called ‘Quaking Aspen’ — Populus tremuloides) is one of the most important species of tree in the boreal forest, providing habitat, food and protection for many varieties of insects, small mammals and birds.  Although they are not trees commonly used in ornamental landscapes (it’s even hard to find aspens at the nurseries), they are often planted to act as fast-growing windbreaks in farmers’ fields or statuesque focal points in public parks (although other trees, like fastigiate oaks, might be a better choice for the latter).